We may be the tarnished buckle in the Rust Belt, but Cleveland has always been a great performing arts town—especially in the fall, when local stages, concert halls, clubs, and movie theaters come alive with new offerings. This year is no exception, with more bands, concerts, films, plays, and special events on tap than anyone can possibly keep up with.
So our critics have done the hard work for you, digging through the schedules and picking out the best of the new season. Still, there's so much to choose from that we will be presenting it in two parts. This week, a look at music, from death metal to classical, and art house films.
Rock & Pop
You know summer is over when the big outdoor venues scale back on concerts. Blossom Music Center still has two shows this month: The classic rock act Journey plays on Sept. 22, and the country group Zac Brown Band is slated for Sept. 29. Other outdoor facilities are shuttered until spring. But the rock clubs are as busy as ever, with plenty of great concerts lined up through the end of the year.
Historically known as one of rock's most volatile acts, noisy Scottish alternative rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain play Cleveland for the first time in 15 years. The Reid brothers have written songs for an as-yet-unrecorded new studio album, but you'll hear just the hits at this show at House of Blues (Sept. 21). Guitar slinger Steve Vai, who's played with everyone from Frank Zappa to David Lee Roth, is currently touring behind a new album of mostly instrumental music. He's also at House of Blues (Sept. 24).
On a romp designed to break the record for the fastest tour of the United States and D.C. (51 dates), the Melvins Lite will make a quick stop at the Grog Shop (Sept. 25). Don't let the "lite" tag fool you; these veteran sludge rockers have churned out quality sludge rock for nearly three decades now, and their "lite" is still plenty heavy. Early in his career, classic rocker Eddie Money found a fan base in Cleveland, and the singer hasn't forgotten that. He always includes Northeast Ohio on his itinerary, and his current tour includes a stop at the Tangier (Sept. 28).
Former Bauhaus/Love and Rockets bassist David J is playing material from both his group and solo work on his current tour, which includes a stop at the Phantasy Nite Club (Sept. 29). He'll be backed by a Portland, Oregon-based band that he's been collaborating with.
Now that she's a mother, Ani DiFranco doesn't tour as much as she used to, making her concert at the Kent Stage (Sept. 29) all the more highly anticipated. Given that the show is only a few weeks before the election, you can bet the left-leaning singer-songwriter will have a few things to say about the importance of voting.
On a reunion tour that has already included a high-profile appearance at this year's Lollapalooza, alternative rockers the Afghan Whigs come to the Beachland Ballroom (Sept. 30). Their Ohio-born, R&B- and soul-infatuated front man Greg Dulli sounds better than ever, thanks in part to the fact that he quit smoking a few years back.
October will bring a lot of big names, starting with death metal veterans Morbid Angel. Touring in support of last year's Illud Divinum Insanus, they'll be at Peabody's (Oct. 2).
Bearded blues rockers ZZ Top are coming to Akron Civic Theatre (Oct. 3) in support of their recent album, La Futura, which paired them with veteran producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Slayer). Rubin made the band sound raw and raspy, much more so than it has in recent years.
Cleveland hip-hop icons Bone Thugs-N-Harmony recently reunited to mark their 20th anniversary. They plan to play their 1995 album E. 1999 Eternal in its entirety for a special show at the Agora (Oct. 6). Touring behind Americana, their first studio album together in nearly 10 years, Neil Young and Crazy Horse are on an extensive tour that arrives at the Wolstein Center (Oct. 8).
SoCal punk rockers Social Distortion have always drawn well in Cleveland, so House of Blues has booked the band for two nights (Oct. 18 &19). Indie rockers Silversun Pickups recently released their new album, Neck of the Woods, to wide acclaim; they will also be at House of Blues (Oct. 21). Pittsburgh-based rapper Wiz Khalifa has moved up to arenas, and he performs at Wolstein Center (Oct. 23). Southern rock revivalists the Drive-By Truckers always seem to put on thrilling, epic shows when they play the Beachland Ballroom, where they return on Oct. 24.
Meat Loaf is slated to play the State Theatre (Oct. 24) on his tour to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Bat Out of Hell, an album that originally came out on the locally based Cleveland International Records. (Meat Loaf has even promised to donate a portion of ticket sales to the Steve Popovich Legacy Foundation, in honor of the label's late founder.) New York's The Toasters proclaim themselves "North America's longest-running ska band." Whether or not that's really the case, they're a great old-school ska and reggae act definitely worth catching when they play Now That's Class (Oct. 27).
Long-running local metalheads Mushroomhead host their annual Halloween show at the Agora (Oct. 27). Still playing arenas after all these years, Canadian prog rockers Rush return to Quicken Loans (Oct. 28), a venue that they sold out on last year's tour (the Cleveland show was recorded for a DVD release).
November is a month for survivors, starting with '60s singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, who has experienced yet another resurgence in popularity with the release of the documentary Searching for Sugar Man (opening at the Cedar Lee Theatre Sept. 21). He hasn't toured much over the course of his career, but he's hitting many of the cities showing the film, and will play at the Beachland Ballroom (Nov. 3).
Earlier this year, Madonna began touring in support of her most recent album MDNA, and controversy immediately followed (the show includes a staged gunfight and sexually explicit content). She brings the tour to Quicken Loans (Nov. 10).
Created for a '60s TV show, the Monkees have somehow endured. Touring as a trio in the wake of the recent death of founding member Davy Jones, the band plays the Lakewood Civic Auditorium (Nov. 17) in celebration of its 45th anniversary.
The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based band Mustard Plug has been together since 1992 and toured relentlessly throughout its career. The band plays Now That's Class (Nov. 18).
Dayton hardcore heroes Miss May I played the main stage all summer on the Warped Tour. Now, they're headlining the Alternative Press Tour, which includes a stop at House of Blues (Nov. 24).
December brings Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, hot off their summer tour with country stars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. They'll play their radio-friendly power pop at House of Blues (Dec. 5). And what would the holiday season be without the Trans-Siberian Orchestra? The prog rock ensemble brings its annual Christmas show to Quicken Loans Arena (Dec. 26) for two performances. —Jeff Niesel
Classical & Crossover