You want to be really scared on Halloween? What’s scarier than a bunch of college-radio DJs and their fans? OK, not really — but still, the “first annual” Halloween Masquerade Ball being thrown by Cleveland State radio station WCSB 89.23 FM at Cleveland Public Theater at 9 p.m. Saturday sounds like a lot of fun — and it’s free.
For that great price, you get a five-band lineup with station DJs spinning between sets. And these aren’t just “show host has a friend in a band” type bands either. Three diverse Cleveland bands — dark, ambient Fragments, smartass one-man act Mr. California (songs include “The Butt Song” and “Retard”) and raw, punk-driven alternative rockers Sun God — will be joined by Indianapolis ’80s punk legends Zero Boys, playing one of their occasional reunion gigs, and My Dad Is Dead, the long-running project of former WCSB DJ and local alternative-rock pioneer Mark Edwards.
Like so many Clevelanders, it seems, Edwards has now relocated to North Carolina. That’s where he recorded his new album, A New Clear Route, his 13th full-length in his 23-year recording career as MDID. With drummer Scott Pickering and bassist Billy Buckley backing him up, and Brian Paulson (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Beck, Dinosaur Jr.) handling production and engineering, Edwards offers 11 new songs in a style that will be familiar to longtime MDID fans — tense, dry, sinewy instrumentals topped by his aching, unvarnished vocals with lyrics that make it sound like he’s working out his thoughts for the first time while he’s singing.
Opening track “Carolina Blue” addresses his relocation. “I’ve had good friends in Cleveland town but I never felt quite right/I miss them now but then the sun comes laughing out of night/Cleveland, good old Cleveland,” he sings, and “Cleveland city of struggle and decay, Cleveland/I still think of you every day.” On “Manifest,” he sings, “America’s rising up from its slumber,” and it sounds like he’s grappling to identify the current national zeitgeist, as he picks his way through thickets of wiry guitar chords. On “Walls” and “Map in a Box,” he gropes in the same way to define his own motivations — familiar territory for him. New Clear Route makes the most of the directness and lack of affectation, coupled with a keen sense of rock dynamics, that MDID has always been known for.