Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Most people believe that the summer season officially gets underway with Memorial Day Weekend. But here in Cleveland, some would say that it actually begins one weekend earlier. The weekend BEFORE Memorial Day Weekend is the time when many people make their way over to University Circle where they take part in the festival known as the Hessler Street Fair.

The Hessler Street Fair actually predates the Woodstock festivals, having its roots in a simple block party that took place in the area around Hessler Road. By 1969, it had become an all-out party with many people from outside of that area showing up to take in the festivities. And decades later, Hessler Street Fair is one of the biggest events throughout the entire Greater Cleveland area, and the event that many people (myself included) consider to be the unofficial beginning to Summer here in Cleveland.

Like the original Woodstock Festival, the Hessler Street Festival also has a political undertone to it: While Woodstock was created to provide just a few days of peace and harmony while the Vietnam War was taking place, the Hessler Street Fair was originally held to cover the financial costs being amassed while trying to fight University Circle Inc as UCI tried to buy and tear down the houses on Hessler Road so that the land could be used by University Circle and Case Western Reserve University. 43 years have passed and the residents of Hessler Road are still fighting. Money raised from the vendors who take part in the festivities will go to help defer the costs of fighting in court to keep Hessler Road the way it is.

The largest part of the Hessler Street Fair is the musical entertainment. The special part the music is that most of the bands contain at least one person with some connection to the street. It is this “home grown”  idea that makes the entertainment so special. And each year, the Hessler Street Fair always has some of the best music of any festival during the summer season throughout all of Greater Cleveland.

This year’s main stage entertainment will include: Jah Messengers, Charlie Mosbrook, Morticia’s Chair, Katty Whomp Us, George Foley and His Rhythm, plus a lot more. On Saturday, May 19th, the featured band of the night will be Into the Blue, a Grateful Dead tribute band made up of members of Sultans of Bing. On Sunday, May 20th, the featured band will be Carlos Jones and the PLUS Band. These bands, as well as many others (including the JiMiller Band) will be part of this year’s event.

If you happen to be a history buff and would like to know a little bit about the fair itself while you are attending the event, just step over into the Hessler Street Fair Museum, located on the grounds of the fair. There, you will see and hear all sorts of things that will take you back in time to some of the more historic parts to the festival. You can even sign the visitor’s book located inside the Museum to let future attendees know that you were there.

As always, the Hessler Street Fair is pure family fun. Along with things to do that will make the adults happy, the event also includes plenty of things to do that will entertain your children. Inside Harmony Park, you’ll find: Balloons from Flower Clown, face painting, scavenger hunts, puppet shows, Mr. Bill Does Magic and much more. So bring the whole family for a day of fun.

The Hessler Street Fair is a two-day annual event that takes place the weekend BEFORE Memorial Day Weekend and will take place May 19th and 20th, 2012. For complete details on the festival, including directions, check out the website for the event. Come out and join in the fun as the Hessler Street Fair celebrates 2012 and beyond.

ImageCleveland’s own Alan Grandy has spent more than two decades performing his own music on his own or as part of some of the many bands that have made a large impact on the local music scene over the years. Whether part of Terrible Parade, the Jehova Waitresses, or most recently Sputnik, Grandy has had a large part in making the Greater Cleveland music scene what it is today.

To give people a reminder of what Alan Grandy has accomplished over the last quarter century, he has put together a 19-song collection of some of his best material, entitled El Grande. El Grande features music that was selected by fans over the years that truly helped shape the musical legacy of one of Cleveland’s most creative singer-songwriters, Alan Grandy. The collection focuses on the three main time frames in Grandy’s career- the Terrible Parade years, Grandy’s solo material and his most recent work as part of Sputnik.

When someone puts together a collection of an artist’s musical history, they usually work chronilogically, from beginning to most recent. However, El Grande works in the exact opposite way, featuring Grandy’s work with Sputnik first and then going backwards. The listener gets a chance to experience what Grandy sounds like today and then gets to hear where he came from, musically.

Alan Grandy’s most recent work has been as part of the band Sputnik. Sputnik not only features Grandy on guitar and vocals, but Jay Bentoff on bass and vocals, as well as Jeff Harmon on drums. This trio features a light rock style to their music. Sputnik’s music can be found on two releases: 2004’s Underradar and 2003’s I, Cosmonaut. The El Grandy CD gives each release equal time featuring two songs from each release, including the song “Alienne,” a track that made its way onto the DVD release of the short-lived series Wonderfalls.

The middle part of El Grandy features four songs from Alan Grandy’s solo release entitled Acrowno’stars. The four songs featured from that release are rather sparse in their production quality, featuring mainly Grandy and his guitar; although, the songs “Drunk” and “Leslie’s Lonely Day” do feature Grandy’s future Sputnik band mate Jay Bentoff adding either vocals (“Leslie’s Lonely Day”) or e-bow (“Drunk”). In fact, Grandy and Bentoff would later redo  “Leslie’s Lonely Day” with Jeff Harmon  as part of Sputnik on the I, Cosmonaut CD.

One other song from Grandy’s Acrowno’stars, “Disconnected,” comes from his time in the popular Cleveland band the Jehova Waitresses. The version that’s included on both Acrowno’stars and here on El Grande is a solo version with only Grandy and his guitar. While it sounds kind of flat without the rest of that band behind him, the solo version allows Grandy to shine more than he could when the rest of his former band mates filled out the sound on the album version of “Disconnected,” which was included on the Jehova Waitresses album Perfect Impossible.

The largest amount of time is spent on Alan Grandy’s time in the band Terrible Parade. Eleven of the nineteen songs on El Grande are taken from various releases from that group. In fact, the compiled songs from that band feel like a compilation on their own. And with the different members who were part of that band during its history, the eleven songs on El Grande that came from Terrible Parade contain a good amount of variety that help keep this compilation refreshing.

The first three Terrible Parade songs (“Soul Sister,” “Ed McMahon Says,” and “Telephone Man”) have the same feel to them that would later show up in the songs by Sputnik. However, the song “Sometimes I’d Rather Be Alone” is probably the song with the most rock and roll quality to it. And “My Horoscope” has a feel that seperates itself from the rest of the material on the CD by going in a slightly different direction , melodically. The song is very full-bodied, having a lot of layers to the music, making it the song that would probably catch the ear of the listener the most.

El Grande from Alan Grandy is a very strong release shifting directions from song to song and changing feelings in the music from group to group. The collection of songs on the album gives a very good indication of what Grandy has been up to for the last twenty-five years or so. El Grande is the perfect place to begin to start discovering the talent and music of one of Cleveland’s best singer-songwriters. The album is also a good indicator for things to come from this talented musician.

The summer months in Cleveland present the opportunity to take in a concert or two in an outdoor setting. That was the plan for Sunday Night, June 27, 2010, when Cleveland folk-rock singer-songwriter Cletus Black was to take to the stage for a concert on the Mill Creek Falls gazebo stage in Cleveland……….but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. So to keep the audience (and the band) dry, the concert was moved one hundred feet indoors inside the Slavic Village Neighborhood History Center. Although the outdoor gazebo was designed and built to accommodate the use of electricity, the “History Center” is too small for music amplifiers. The band changed instruments and downsized from a five-piece band with electric guitar and bass to a quartet with Cletus Black on vocals and acoustic guitar, Kevin McCarthy on background vocals and (for this situation) percussion, Dave Morrison on harmonica and background vocals, and Rod Reisman on drums.

Cletus Black is known in the city of Cleveland for his mix of folk, rock and blues in his musical blend. In fact, he is currently promoting his newly released CD entitled One More Card to Play.

One More Card To Play follows in line with Black’s previous releases in that many of the songs on the new album are actually stories set to music. It’s the little moments in life that most of us take for granted that Black seems to put into song: falling in love (“Baby Hi”), falling out of love (“I Find You Gone”), being pushed too far (“One More Card To Play”). One of the songs included on this release (“Straight to Baton Rouge”) is actually the continuation of another one of Black’s songs,  “Creole Witch,” which appeared on his Black Ice CD from 2001. It was even during the performance that Cletus Black and the rest of The Revue did something they had not done until that particular performance- they played “Creole Witch” and “Straight to Baton Rouge” back-to-back in order to tell both parts of the story at one time.

For the concert, the new release of One More Card to Play happened to be a large part of the playlist. Along with “Straight to Baton Rouge,” some of the other album tracks that were played included: “Baby Hi,” “Hold on Tight,” “Love Is On the Fade,” “Behind the Ritual,” the album’s title track of “One More Card to Play,” and a song that turned out to be very apropos to the evening’s setting- “Don’t Push the River,” as we happened to be only a few hundred feet away from the tallest waterfall in the entire area of Cuyahoga County.

While the band The Cletus Black Revue is named after Black, the other musicians involved with the outfit are all fine musicians in their own rights. That’s why after leading the group for over an hour, Cletus stepped aside to allow Kevin McCarthy (usually the lead guitarist) and harmonica player Dave Morrison to have their own time in the spotlight.

With the special circumstances that the audience was under, the concert ended up being very heavy on the original material that night. However, there were times when the band chose to stray from the original material and went with a cover tune or two. During the show, the band played a Robert Johnson song; and for one of the last songs of the night, the band launched into a version of the Johnny Cash song “Ring of Fire”. “Ring of Fire” was the one chance for the evening when the audience was able to sing along with the music, especially since the majority of the songs were unknown to the intimate crowd that was there to enjoy the night of music.

While it would have been nice to hear the electrified folk-rock that the band is used to playing in concert, the change of venues from the outdoor gazebo to the “History Center” made the makeshift acoustic concert that much more enjoyable. Plus, the situation gave several concertgoers even more incentive to purchase music from the band so they could hear what the band would have sounded like had the weather been more cooperative. Sometimes, however, bad weather can be a blessing in disguise.

Cletus Black is currently promoting his 2010 release One More Card to Play. Along with this new CD, the singer-songwriter has a whole library of music to choose from, including his 1999 self-titled disc, possibly the strongest disc in the collection.

To learn more about Cletus Black and his music, check out his website at You can also find him on MySpace at