There’s been a heavy rotation of Marcus Alan Ward with his bouncy, funk-fueled “Little Sunshine” and plenty of Welshly Arms’ soaring blues-rock hit “Legendary.” I’ve also enjoyed discovering Archie and the Bunkers’ punk ballad “The Traveler” and the horn-hopping “We Always Finish” by hip-hop duo FreshProduce. Add in tunes from Wesley Bright & the Honeytones, The Modern Electric, Samfox, Walker OG, Uno Lady and others from this issue and you have the makings of a killer Spotify playlist of local music. (We did, so check it out.)
But underneath all that, I’ve been listening for something else too. Something deeper about what our music says about us.
Despite the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and our Alan Freed/WMMS/Springsteen-at-the-Agora past, it’s often hard to define Cleveland as a music city. We’re not what Nashville is to country or Seattle is to grunge or New York is to rap.
“The Cleveland sound was once Pere Ubu and Rocket From the Tombs, all those punk bands,” says Teddy Eisenberg, co-founder of Sixth City Sounds, a local music advocacy group. “But now it’s diverse.”
He points to the Nirvana-style slacker rock of Cloud Nothings, the Black Keys blues-rock of Welshly Arms, and strong hip-hop beats of Paper Paulk. “That makes it difficult because we haven’t latched onto one sound,” Eisenberg says. “[We’re] constantly inventing new sounds and ways of being.”
Yet Eisenberg believes that diversity is also part of our strength. Like our culinary scene, which went underappreciated nationally for too long, the building blocks are here, he says. Consider resources such as vinyl record maker Gotta Groove Records, venues such as the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern and the Grog Shop, and the affordability for both artists and music fans.
“Everywhere you look, there’s a great show or innovative fest or coffee shop popping up,” he says. “Nowhere is it easier to come and dive right into the music scene.”
Putting it all together into one harmonious mix, however, will be the challenge for Eisenberg and others. “It means something to be from Cleveland,” he says. “We have the opportunity to make music a core part of that Cleveland identity, and I think that’s what’s most exciting to me.”
12:00 AM EST
April 2, 2018