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Pop Perfectionists

Pinback at 9 p.m. Wednesday, October 8 at the Grog Shop

San Diego's Pinback - multi-instrumentalist producers Rob Crow and Armistead Burwell Smith IV - features two of indie rock's most innovative musical architects who've constructed opulent albums with titles like Summer in Abbadon and Nautical Antiques. The songs are as complexly structured as the math-rock of Shellac but as polished as Cocteau Twins' pop. And they're all recorded from the safety of home studios.

"We do everything ourselves in our bedrooms and backrooms, but we still pick apart every piece, every beat to make it exact, because we're total mean taskmasters," laughs Crow in a recent phone interview. "We enjoy everything about the process, but it's kind of what Zappa said about recording [Captain Beefheart's] Trout Mask Replica. That if it was done any other way, there would have been a number of suicides involved."

Pinback prides itself as a perfectionist of pop art, evidenced by its 2007 magnum opus Autumn of the Seraphs. Written and reconstructed over a three-year span, the album houses 11 of the group's most bittersweet melodramas. From the electro shoegazer balladry of "How We Breathe" to the blinding rainbow radio-rock of "Good to Sea," Pinback weaves rich rhythms, serpentine guitar strings and dueling vocal harmonies into one of last year's best albums. Autumn of the Seraphs is also a perfect example of how the band's sound adds velocity and vigor when it plays onstage.

"We wanted to make something faster, so that people wouldn't complain that it sounded so different live," says Crow. "It's a high-energy show. We work our asses off. I'm the worst at trying to tell somebody that I'm good at something, but if I'm not totally exhausted by the end of the set, I feel like I've let myself and everyone else down." sBach opens at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $15. - Keith Gribbins

Liam Finn

It's always impressive when musicians multitask. Combining complicated guitar picking with a blaring harmonica or singing while attacking the drums are two feats that aren't too uncommon. But both still seem inspired. Liam Finn takes multitasking a step further. He doesn't take the easy way out; he takes the smart way out. Onstage, he loops guitar parts, jogs over to the drum set, and bangs and clangs away while the circular patterns of the guitar loop hang in the air. Finn's partner in crime, E.J. Barnes, enhances the performance. While Finn gets emotional, she keeps the pace steady, belting out harmonies, adding percussive elements and playing the Autoharp. Finn, a native of Australia (and son of Crowded House's Neil Finn), also has a few tricks up his indie-rock sleeve. He uses the theremin, an instrument that's played but not touched by moving your hands in different directions to change the sound vibrations. Finn is touring in support of his first album, I'll Be Lighting, which he recorded at his dad's recording studio. The Veils and the Twilight open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10. - Danielle Sills


Having trail-blazed many of the most recognizable elements of metal's fringes, Obituary, aside from maybe Death, is the most influential band in the development of death metal. With the seminal 1989 release Slowly We Rot, Obituary helped codify many of the qualities that would become synonymous with death metal. Its debut record managed to borrow the technical flourishes of the thrash metal that flourished during the era in which the band was formed, while forging the dirge-y, sludgy sound that would identify death-metal. The Tampa five-piece also introduced the notorious Cookie Monster vocals for which the genre is infamous, with singer John Tardy occasionally resorting to nonsensical growls in efforts to exaggerate the group's already envelope-pushing heaviness. Nearly a decade and countless lineup shifts later, Obituary is still a towering figure in extreme music, having just released Xecutioner's Return, a reference to the group's original name. Unleashed and Carnifex open at 7 p.m. at Peabody's (2083 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999). Tickets: $18. - Matt Sullivan

ZZ Top

It's easy to take ZZ Top for granted. If you grew up on classic-rock radio or during MTV's formative years, the Texas trio was inescapable. Whether playing bluesy boogie-rock like "La Grange" in the '70s or playing bluesy boogie-rock with a twist like "Sharp Dressed Man" in the '80s, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard (oddly, the guy without a beard) did it all so effortlessly and without much flash. Over the past two decades, they became such a familiar part of the rock landscape that you figure that they've always been there and will remain there until everything's blown to hell Ð just like the Stones and Zeppelin. But really, their legacy is much bigger than that. Just listen to the recently released 25th-anniversary Collector's Edition of their best album, Eliminator. It was at that moment that the "little ol' band from Texas" conquered the world, with a record that defied fans' expectations (are those synthesizers?) and defined ZZ Top during the second part of its career. Its current tour packs almost 40 years' worth of hot-rod rock into a set loaded with faves like "Tube Snake Boogie," "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" and, of course, Eliminator hits "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Got Me Under Pressure" and "Legs." ZZ Top plays the Allen Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave., 216.241.6000) at 8 p.m. Tickets: $42-$52. - Michael Gallucci

The Matches

They arguably haven't put in enough years to earn the underground cred that comes with being a cult band. Musically, however, the Matches have gone above and beyond. What began as a brash Oakland foursome (only marginally quirkier than the average pop-punk wanna-be's), transformed completely upon signing to Epitaph Records. The band's 2006 sophomore effort, Decomposer, came out of creative left field, fusing alt-rock, cabaret and art-punk before jolting the whole shebang with a current of devilish mayhem. This year's A Band in Hope upped the ante impossibly further, throwing opera, R&B and even nods to Queen and Elvis Costello into the mix. While their Alternative Press-approved peers moped over unrequited love, the Matches ricocheted through after-hours cityscapes, condemned widespread over-consumption and made a case for uniting the masses via cranked volume. Call it socially conscious experimental dance. Call it globe-hopping audio poetics. But there isn't a clunker in the bunch. Still, mastermind Shawn Harris and crew still haven't broken big. It's not the lack of a frenetic live show or an effortlessly edgy visual style. Even the recent departure of founding bassist Justin San Souci was overwhelmingly drama-free. The talent is unequivocally there; from here on out, it's just a matter of tenacity. Bayside, Valencia and the Status round out the bill. The show starts at 7 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $13.50 advance, $16 day of show. - Julie Seabaugh

Chris Hillman

Before alt-country there was country-rock. And front and center of that genre's birth is Chris Hillman. Already a regional folk and bluegrass presence when he arrived on the L.A. scene in the mid-'60s, the San Diego-bred mandolinist/guitarist morphed into rock bass player in the Byrds. Hillman's roots would come into play as the legendary band's sound transited over time toward country, culminating in the groundbreaking 1968 release Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Departing the Byrds to join key Rodeo contributor Gram Parsons that same year, Hillman took part in a second seminal album, the Flying Burrito Brothers' The Gilded Palace of Sin. In the '70s and '80s, Hillman worked his way through numerous solo projects and collaborations; his hook-up with former Byrd-mates Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark netting three albums. The alt-country pioneer garnered mainstream country cred in the late '80s with the Desert Rose Band. Solid vocal harmonies and a successful cross-weave of country roots and songwriting savvy made the band frequent visitors to the top of country charts and regular award recipients during its six-year, seven-disc history. Hillman's solo catalog has remained true to his acoustic beginnings, demonstrated once again on last year's The Other Side. His mandolin replaces McGuinn's signature 12-string lead on the Byrds classic "Eight Miles High," and Desert Rose-styled harmonies abound, courtesy of DRB's Herb Pedersen. Chris Castle opens at 8 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $20 advance, $22 day of show. - Duane Verh

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