Cleveland Metal Holiday Food Drive – NIGHT DEMON, BREAKER, SHOK PARIS, LADY BEAST, RESISTANCE, And More!
December 5, 2017, a year ago
Despite mainstream public's perception, metalheads are good people, often donating their time/efforts for charitable events. There are big name endeavors, often in memory of a late musician: Ride For Dime, Bowling For Ronnie, Iron Maiden's Heavy Metal Truants bicycle ride, but for the last nine years, college DJ Bill Peters (celebrating 35 years on the air, every Friday night) has amassed a free, all-day event, to support the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Friends of the Cleveland Kennel (animal rescue for dogs & cats). 2017 represented the first time bands from outside the state of Ohio were included, most notably, headliner Night Demon, who recorded a 90 minute set for a live album. Also on the bill, of note, were local legends Shok Paris and Breaker, the later performing with their original line-up (welcome back visiting bassist Ian Shipley) for the first time in 30 years! Out of towners Lady Beast (Cruz Del Sur recording artists from Pittsburgh) and LA based Resistance (Metal Blade), not only played for free, but paid expenses out of their own pockets. The pantheon of ‘80s Cleveland metal was in the house, onstage and in the crowd, including members of Destructor, Purgatory (Mushroomhead), even Joe Gizmo & The Spudmonsters. Fans from all the big Midwest cities (Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit) were also in attendance, as well as far flung travelers, from Texas, NYC, even Canada and Europe.
The Beachland Ballroom actually features two stages, the main, elevated one and another, at floor level, in the tavern. Bands rotated stages, so there was never supposed to be a dull moment, although there was some (unintended) overlap, causing the sold-out crowd (legal capacity reached, since no money was involved) to shuffle the narrow walkway, further restricted by the prize tables displaying the goodies for the ongoing raffle. Granicus, a Seventies era hard rock combo (down to just one original member, on drums) kicked things off. Their debut was released on RCA, back in '73, sort of an early Foreigner sound (no keyboards though) and while they are still active and writing/recording new music, the best moments were when original singer Woody Leffel joined them, for the final four numbers. Talk about the Fountain Of Youth. The guy struggled to walk across the venue, but once onstage (reliving past glories), he was shimming/shaking and interacting with the two guitarists. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, there was Radiatrix. The young, two-guitar foursome recalls the first wave of thrash. Nice to see a new generation adopting the same (im)moralities of bullet belts and radioactive warning tape guitar straps.
Cruz Del Sur recording artist Lady Beast drove in from Pittsburgh. Singer Deborah Levine has half a head of black hair, the opposite side (split down the middle) white. She bounces around a lot onstage and when not, often pinwheels her hair. Great twin lead traditional metal, at times, veering towards speed. Rather than just plug their new album (which came out Nov. 17th), they touched on the back catalog: a trio of full-lengths and one EP. "Lady Of The Battle" was up early, before treating the growing throng to the initial live airing of Vicious Breed". Also on offer, "The Devil's Due", "We Are The Witches" and current lyric video "Every Giant Shall Fall". Wish I had a dollar for every Flying V onstage tonight (beginning with Lady Beast), could have bought a couple of beers, even back home, at inflated East Coast prices.
Have long been friends with Shok Paris, going back to the days on IRS Records, when I was tour manager for two stints (opening for Savatage, then Lizzy Borden), as you can see in the accompanying photo gallery. We've run into one another, usually in Cleveland, but also tagged along when they played Headbangers Open Air, in Germany. "On Your Feet" is a call to arms (although everyone standing in the crowd already, a zealous fog machine pumping out theatrical smoke. The set not only worked through their trio of ‘80s releases ("Streets Of Pleasure", all three title tracks, even "Go Down Fighting", which was originally on a compilation, then issued as a single and eventually, re-recorded, with Vic Hix on vocals, for Steel & Starlight) but also offered three new songs (of nearly two dozen already written): "Full Metal Jacket” (which has been laying around a while), "Up The Hammers" (dedicated to the Greek fest they played in 2012) and "Metal On Metal" (coincidentally, the name of Bill Peters long running radio program). Hopefully they'll all see the light of day on a rumored GoFundMe release. Hix was not only in fine throat, but jokingly pointed to Ken Erb, as the guitarist handled the solos. "Burn It Down" and perennial closer, "Run But Don't Hide" were a robust send-off. Sounded great and looked like they were having fun.
Resistance, Metal Blade artists, came in from Los Angeles. A twin guitar quintet, with a heavier, traditional metal sound, were barely visible on the tiny tavern stage, the crowd growing by the minute, in anticipation of what was still to come. Somehow they managed not to clobber one another, moving within the confined environs. They opened with "Metal Machine", which kicks off the album of the same name. In fact, most of the evening was culled from this summer's release, "Battle Scars" and a scorching cover of Riot's "Swords & Tequila" (did they know that's one of Peters' all-time favorite bands?) being the lone exceptions. "Hail To The Horns" even got some additional vocal support, the frequent rotation on the host's radio show rendering it an easy sing-along for many in attendance.
Back in the main room, it was time for Breaker. Was told several times throughout the night that word on the street was that this was really "the event" for many of the older locals, those who grew up with the hometown legend, but were less familiar with newcomers Night Demon (despite the premise of witnessing a live recording). Having lived in the city, for a decade, back then, was drawn to the twin lead, Euro-metal of Breaker, eventually throwing my hat in the ring as roadie and (lousy) drum tech. Reunited with Ian Shipley, who always provided visual energy, in contrast to the studied proficiency of guitarists Michael Klein (who had retired due to tinnitus) and Don Depew, tonight was one of those "what could have been" moments. The songs have been first rate and in Jim Hamar, an international talent who could never be replaced. Once Shipley and Hamar split, Breaker soldiered on, but were never the same and (sadly) the ‘80s window of opportunity came crashing down. Any troubles have long been paved over (Hamar having re-joined the band, after striking out on his own, with Rotterdam, then giving up performing for a long while), but this was a chance for Shipley's kids to actually see their dad onstage. The singer told a story about the first time in the studio, where the demo tape deteriorated, leaving just "action" usable, Hamar saying, "We don't play this one a whole lot." A good portion of the set was off their only album: Get Tough, although there were others (released on the expanded version in 2003). The concluding run, the last four, were about as good as it gets (always heavier live than on disc): "Lie To Me", "10 Seconds In", "Blood Money" and "Still Life", a hint at the beefier direction they might have continued in, had everyone stayed around. Who are these guys, the heroes/friends of my youth, now bald and gray bearded. Thankfully, they still kick ass!
Sandwiched between Breaker and Night Demon (on the tavern stage) might not have been the most enviable slot, people grabbing a bite to eat, a drink/smoke or hitting the restroom between the two most widely anticipated acts. To say nothing of the ongoing family reunion glad-handing. Female fronted Olathia have undergone a few personnel and stylistic changes. Tonight, Chris E was backed by a couple of new faces, but didn't seem to affect the performance. An intriguing mix of modern metalcore and infectious power metal, "Hellhound" remains their best tune.
The 24-song Night Demon set included a couple of surprises, but a full report about their set is available elsewhere on BraveWords.com
A fun night, but hopefully most donated food items and/or ponied up some cash (direct, or via the raffles) for a worthy cause. If not, there's always next year, the 10th anniversary. See you there?