Back in the early and mid-'80s, before indie rock became a catch-all term for anything your mom or that metal kid down the street never heard of, the musical form included a truly independent cadre of open-minded musicians whose collections contained everything from Creedence Clearwater Revival albums to Mission of Burma 45s. It gathered the scraps of punk, post-punk, classic rock, garage, and old-fashioned pop, forming an identifiable but unclassifiable sound. Cleveland's Death of Samantha were part of that underground movement.
Formed in 1984, the band played its first gig at a Ground Round in Parma Heights, where singer and guitarist John Petkovic worked. "They threw chicken wings at us," he recalls today. "I got fired right after that show."
The band recorded for the same label as Sonic Youth (before that band took indie rock to whole new levels). They palled around with Dinosaur (before they were forced to add "Jr." to their name). And I was even at a Replacements show where Paul Westerberg replaced the chorus of "Left of the Dial," his classic ode to college radio, with the band's name.Death of Samantha released four albums before breaking up in 1990.
This weekend, the original quartet will play together for the first time in 25 years. "It's not like there was any bad blood," says Petkovic, also of Plain Dealer culture-writing fame. "All of us have been really busy."
Indeed, everyone has been involved with other projects over the years, most notably Petkovic with Cobra Verde and guitarist Doug Gillard with Guided by Voices. Bassist David James and drummer Steve-O round out the band, all of whom still live in Cleveland but for Gillard, who's a New Yorker.
Their Friday show at the Beachland Ballroom will span their career.
"This wasn't about [marking] 25 years," says Petkovic. "It just kinda turned into that."
POETS IN MOTION: Youngstown rockers Deadbeat Poets are ending the year with a blitz. First off, they recently released A Deadbeat Christmas, a four-song EP of holiday originals. They're also up for the title of Coolest Song of the Year 2011 on Little Steven's Underground Garage for "The Man With the X-Ray Eyes," which claimed the weekly title back in March on the radio show hosted by the right-hand man of Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano. (You still have a couple days to vote for them at undergroundgarage.com.)
Finally, on January 12, the band kicks off a 10-day tour of Chemnitz, Germany; Helsingborg, Sweden; and other European cities we had to spell-check.
BRAIN DRAIN: While Machine Gun Kelly has been hogging most of the hip-hop scene's buzz lately, others have been making noise too. The busiest is the eight-deep Mr. 101 crew from Canton. Like MGK, they're predominantly white; unlike him, they play more of a funky, rock-speckled version of hip-hop. (So yeah, it's more on the rap-rock side of things.) They released their debut album, Brain: The Cerebral Balance, a month ago, following a headlining gig at the Pro Football Hall of Fame concert and opening for MGK. You can see them at Legends Bar & Grill in Canton on New Year's Eve.