- Billy and Jimmy: Young men with unlimited ambition.
Last week, Soundbites was invited to a low-key grand opening of Revolution (3415 Brookpark Road, Parma), which was formerly a sports bar called the Goal Post. Co-owners Billy Morris, Jimmy Maler, and David Romweber have recently transformed the place into a hip live music venue. While the finishing touches are still being put on the 200-capacity club (the men's room had some graffiti on the walls and no hand towels -- the women's room was reportedly clean and well-equipped), a fishtank-in-a-TV, martini bar, and a 250-pound cast-iron gargoyle give the place a unique ambiance. In addition to fresh coats of paint, the club has a new sound system and new lights. Morris, who plays in the band Kidd Wicked, and Maler, who plays in Dizzy Park (they both used to play together in Spoyld), are optimistic that the club will lure the best local talent and become a place that people will go regardless of who's playing.
"We're local musicians, but we've traveled all over the country, and we know what it's like to be treated good and what it's like to be treated bad," Morris says while directing the flow of incoming amplifiers at the newly opened venue. "We're going to treat everyone really good. For instance, the bands that play here will get paid, and all the headlining bands will get a case of beer in their dressing room, so they don't have to go to the bar and wait for a beer."
The owners also have plans to turn the house next to the club into a recording studio and broadcast the concerts held at the club over the Internet. In addition, they hope to hook up the eight TV screens to show rock videos as well as footage from live performances, and they plan to feature local bands in the jukebox (at present, it's filled with the usual suspects -- classic rock like Bruce Springsteen and Lynyrd Skynyrd and alternative rock like the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Ultimately, the success of the club hinges on whether patrons will be willing to drive to Parma to hear live music.
"We didn't want to be in the Flats," Maler explains when asked to justify the club's location. "We wanted to be in a suburban area, and this place is so accessible to the East Side and the West Side -- it's right off 480. The location is great. We wanted to have a relaxed concert club without having to compete with the Flats."
Originally a house party, the 10th annual "$1.98 Worst Gift Exchange" has turned into a yuletide anti-tradition of sorts. At the irreverent gift exchange, patrons are asked to wrap their worst gifts and bring them to the event, which this year will be held on December 18 at the old Highland Theatre (376 Market Avenue, Akron). Santa Claus will launch the items into the crowd, and the winner (or loser, as the case might be) takes home whatever he or she can grab. Over the years, the exchange has yielded some oddball presents, ranging from demonic elf nightlights to malfunctioning crumbcatchers and other failed inventions.
"Some people go out of their way to find really bad gifts," says organizer Michael Devine, who also plays guitar in the King Dapper Combo. "One of the best ones was a cocktail shaker yo-yo. It was a yo-yo with these glasses attached to the side. You do the yo-yo thing, and it mixes your drink for you. But then somebody also bought all these old funny valentines. We launched them, and they ended up being in a collectors book for $95 a pack.
"One of the first ones was held at a VFW hall, and now we really watch what we launch out. One of the bartenders got hit in the head with a big deli pickle, and that was the last one we had there. It's actually a great way to meet other people, because you can try to find out who got you the bad gift."
In addition to the gift exchange, the event will feature live music from the Vultures, Missile Toe, the Balboas, and the King Dapper Combo. All the while, Christmas-themed B-movies like Santa vs. the Martians will play in the background. Tickets are $9, $7 with a gift, and you can get more information by calling 330-375-1823.
Rick Danko, a former member of the Band, died in his sleep on December 10, a mere nine days after appearing at the Diamondback Brewery. The singer-bassist was 56 years old and heavy, and he sweated profusely during his performance at the Diamondback, but club promoter Jim Wadsworth said he didn't appear to be struggling with his health.
"It's a sad thing. He was a nice guy, and there wasn't any indication that this would happen," Wadsworth said. "I got to talk to him for about an hour. He was a very likable guy and had lots of good stories. It's a hard life, and I don't think people fully appreciate how hard it is to be on the road all the time and play music. It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of patience."
Wadsworth also added that Danko, who was arrested for possession of heroin in Japan in 1997, "appeared to be clean and sober" and spent most of his offstage time relaxing in his Winnebago parked on the street in front of the venue.
Akron's Strip will play at Peabody's DownUnder (1059 Old River Road) on December 17 to celebrate the release of its second album, Home for Wayward Girls. Led by photogenic singer Laurie Styron, the band, which also includes bassist Gerard Dominick, guitarist John Gmerek, and drummer Tony Rockich, alternates between driving rockers ("Lead Me On") and bluesy ballads ("Kill"). Styron has a great voice, but tends to wail too much (she's got a background in opera, after all). She actually sounds best when her voice is grittier (her scatting toward the end of "Too Hard" has echoes of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey).
"I think we're one of those bands that plays both commercial rock and alternative rock," says Dominick, who grew up outside of Pittsburgh. "We can play both real sonic electric shows and acoustic shows, and a lot of bands I've been in in the past haven't been able to do that. With Strip, we have so many doors open to us. We can play in a metal bar, or we can play Borders."
The Mike Farley Band, Dave Brooks & a Cast of Thousands, and the Andy Johnson Explosion will open the show, and tickets are $6. For more information, call 216-241-2451. -- Jeff Niesel
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