Music » Soundcheck

Metal of Honor

Shirt's AFIM Award could have an extreme impact on the band's future.


In the liner notes of Shirt's debut, Anthem of Self-Destruction, the band thanks "whoever came up with the word 'fuck'" and "the sweet weed that keeps us from killing anyone." But after recent developments, Shirt might have trouble maintaining its Dick Cheney-like surliness. Last month, the Cleveland-by-way-of-Florida metal band received news that it had won the prestigious Association for Independent Musicians' award for Best Independent Release of 2002 in the Extreme Rock category.

Granted, we normally pay about as much attention to music awards as we do the warning on our Marlboros -- Milli Vanilli won a Grammy, for chrissakes -- but the AFIM Awards are nothing to cough at. Considering that most of the best metal bands are on independent labels these days, and that no big-budget marketing campaigns were used to sway voters -- as is the case with most major awards shows -- the AFIM Awards are surprisingly legit.

And the Extreme Rock category is among their most competitive. Last year, Kittie beat out such big names as Soulfly and Electric Frankenstein, and in 2000, Neurosis took home top honors. This time, Shirt topped power-metal favorites Iced Earth and industrial forebear Foetus, among others.

How did Shirt celebrate?

"Burned a bowl, I think," one of the dudes says from a conference call in West Palm Beach, where the band divides its time with Cleveland, which is the home of its label, Latticesphere Records.

And what does the award mean? Says singer/guitarist Todd Deason: "Kittie won last year, so if history repeats itself, I guess we're getting sex changes and gonna be rock stars."

We didn't think that the Warehouse District needed another nightclub, but that was before we visited newly opened Traffic. The club has billed itself in recent ads as "Cleveland's largest, most elegant upscale nightclub in the Warehouse District," and for the most part, it lives up to the hype.

Traffic boasts a subtle elegance, with deep blue lighting, a constellation of disco balls, and cool lighted Lucite tables on its ground level. Upstairs is a mammoth dance floor with close to two dozen subwoofers beneath it, so you can feel the music without it getting too loud. A big waterfall is being installed above the first-floor landing, and video cameras capture all the action, which is then projected on TV screens downstairs.

Still, with a host of fine clubs like Spy and the Velvet Dog already doing solid business in the area, Traffic is smack in the middle of one of the most competitive nightlife districts in town. What's going to really set it apart from its rivals?

"Personality will separate us," club owner Ferris says. "I have eight bartenders, I can line them up 10 deep, and you're able to get a drink and still move around when it's packed. That's why I named it Traffic: There's a lot of traffic, but the traffic flows. I have a nice upscale crowd, a good-looking crowd, and it's not a dark club. It's a brighter, happier atmosphere."

The benefit of enhanced lighting?

"Ugly people don't come up here," Ferris says with a laugh at the side of the dance floor.

For us, he made an exception.

"My mom don't like the way I live/She says I take but I don't give," bellowed D.R.I. frontman Kurt Brecht on the band's classic hardcore anthem "Couch Slouch." Now, 17 years after dropping that cut, D.R.I. is proving Ma wrong by helping put together a tribute CD, We Don't Need Society, and selecting a variety of big names to cover its songs. In addition to such notables as Mr. Bungle and Ratos De Paroa, D.R.I. chose locals Victory Flag (who's doing "Gone too Long," off D.R.I.'s classic Four of a Kind) and Sappy Bell (Definition's "Tone Deaf").

"The thing about D.R.I. is that they were the first to cross over -- punk, hardcore, metal -- they combined it all, and a lot of bands followed suit," says Victory Flag guitarist Greg Van Krol. "I've gone and seen them before I was even playing. It's a great honor to be paying tribute to these guys. They appealed to everybody."

Yeah, we know that a band assembling a tribute album to itself is lame, but D.R.I. is one of the greatest hardcore bands ever, so it's justified.

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