Oneida Beachland Tavern, Thursday, August 14
The monstrously invigorating Brooklyn-based psych band Oneida entrances crowds with its orgiastic earthquake of heavy rhythmic drone jams, which could blare for hours. Like a punchier, less prog-noxious Acid Mothers Temple, Oneida blends bubbling organ/synth minimalism in its liveliest form (taking cues from Terry Riley, pinball machines and carousel/carnival organ) with brain-bludgeoning sludge riffs and tribal funk drumming.
Returning to Cleveland after a two-year absence, Oneida spent the first half of its set unveiling its latest release, Preteen Weaponry - an epic 40-minute krautrock burner that soared through hyperspace by way of feedback-drenched guitar chaos and percolating synth loops. Drummer Kid Millions' primal rhythms were played as drawn-out crescendos that inflamed theta waves and engulfed listeners in a shamanic portal of death.
Things grew hazier as Oneida played hairier, coalescing variations of classic material from Each One Teach One and Anthem of the Moon into a single transcendent jam. This walloping presentation was spellbinding for the audience, and even the most seemingly reserved non-drunkards began pogoing like enlightened idiots to the blistering stoner dirge. For an encore, Oneida played the "Billy Jean"-esque favorite "Up With People" from 2006's Happy New Year. The song was so funky that fans deliberately spilled beer all over the floor to slide and glide in freer motion to the groove. In the canon of psychedelic noise, it's impossible to think of another band that exchanges such maddening energy with its audience and gets it right every time.
Regular Oneida opener This Moment in Black History never sounded better. Cascading between its trademark art-damaged spazz-punk and snarling, kick-out-the-jams-styled proto-metal, TMIBH was a powerhouse of gospel tonality conjoined with the mid-'70s psychotic skronk of Debris and MX-80 Sound. Guitarist Buddy Akita's reverb-cracked southern-fried doom licks melded infernally with Lawrence Caswell's rumbling fuzz bass, eliciting a startling butch-rock bombast that I hope is standard for every TMIBH jam. -- Steve Newton
Tokio Hotel House of Blues Monday, August 11
One of the last great moneymakers in the music biz is the phenomenon of teen pop. From the Jonas Brothers to the Click Five, kids with disposable cash love to spend it on their juvenile rock idols. Now even European teen bands like Tokio Hotel are invading American shores. The German ambassadors of adolescent emo came through Cleveland last week - taking the stage at House of Blues, packing the place full of screaming young girls and their dads, who pounded mixed drinks in the back. With great German efficiency, the four-piece - led by twin brothers Bill and Tom Kaulitz - scorched through most of the 15 songs from its first U.S. release, Scream, playing for little more than an hour (at $25 a ticket, with no opening act). Howls of worship greeted the boys (who look 15 but are actually 18 to 21) when they opened with puppy punk-rocker "Break Away." Cell phones were raised in instant approval, replacing the lighters of yore with brightly colored LCD screens.
Frontman and singer Bill Kaulitz swaggered around the stage, explaining how "Love Is Dead" and you have to "Live Every Second," the crowd mimicking every word, every hand movement. He danced like an impish Pat Benatar, with his hair coiffed in a magnificent, spiky, frost-tipped Euro 'fro. His brother Tom, stationed to his right, played guitar bad boy, wearing baggy jeans and long dreads, squealing ham-fisted power-chord pop gems and awkward solos all night long. The songs were actually much better live than on the album. The band gave more life to singles like "Final Day" and "Don't Jump," even though the guys just pilfer riffs from the Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and Alice in Chains' "Rooster." But the crowd didn't know or care and loved every second, releasing high-pitched screams. When the band came on for a second encore, it replayed the hit song "Monsoon," but this time in German, and the energized audience showed that it actually knew it in two languages. As far as musicianship, stage presence and originality goes, Tokio Hotel falls far behind American acts like the Jonas Brothers. But when it comes to pleasing a crowd of nerdy teenage girls who are bound for a foreign-exchange program, they're rock gods. - Keith Gribbins
KT Tunstall House of Blues Tuesday, August 12
"Hello, Cleveland! Anyone who has ever enjoyed Spinal Tap would never get tired of saying that," said KT Tunstall in a thick Scottish accent to the crowd of eager fans after a lengthy wait. Her band of lanky middle-aged Brits waved along with the pop star as they walked onstage to perform a near-two-hour set, which featured a great mix of her two studio albums - Eye to the Telescope and her newest release, Drastic Fantastic. By frequently telling stories - including one about meeting her boyfriend's parents for the first time - she endeared herself to the audience. The boyfriend bit went on for some time, as Tunstall revealed she drank too much and then sneaked into what she thought was her boyfriend's room, only to end up in his parents' suite. The point of the lengthy story was to explain what her instantly charming song "Miniature Disasters" was all about.
During the set, there were frequent instrument changes for Tunstall and her bandmates. She brought out a trumpet and a stand-up bass to play her hit "Hold On." Midway through the show, the band left to let Tunstall dazzle the crowd with her charm. The stage couldn't have been brighter as she told a couple of stories and played a new song titled "Hidden Heart." She touched a repeater pedal with her foot, which began a beat on her acoustic, and then "hooted" into her microphone, sending the crowd into an uproarious state, as everyone knew she was starting her biggest hit "Black Horse & the Cherry Tree." As the fans began to cheer, her smile widened - and so too did the wall of sound she created with a simple pedal. By the song's end, the rest of the band came out to bring this radio favorite to a pulsating climax. At the show's conclusion, the quirky pop star bounced quickly back onstage for the encore and played "Suddenly I See," another radio-friendly song. She then ended her brilliant show with a jam on a snare drum, till she flicked the sticks into the crowd and took a bow with the rest of her band.
Opening act Martha Wainwright played folk-rock songs that featured her raw and pure vocals, although she awkwardly fidgeted with the microphone. - Ryan MacLennan
Poison Blossom Music Center Thursday, August 14
I'm a closet Poison fan, re-awakened by the campy guilty pleasure of Rock of Love. Tacky dating reality show aside, Poison proved that more than a decade later it can still pack Blossom, top to bottom. After Sebastian Bach and Dokken opened, the crowd was left to hit the bathroom and grab a beer. A little after 9, fireworks went off and Poison singer Bret Michaels rose from the floor. The '80s phenomenon opened with "I Want Action." It was nothing short of epic.
Clad in a pair of acid-washed True Religion jeans and a cutoff Poison T-shirt, Michaels worked the crowd. "Ride the Wind" came next, and everyone was on his or her feet. A cover of "What I Like About You" came next, and it meant that everyone was singing along. Guitarist C.C. DeVille's solo followed. His mop of platinum hair and his tiny frame notwithstanding, he played the shit out of his guitar and literally made it sing. He even broke into a few awe-inspiring bars of "Amazing Grace." Michaels then strapped on his acoustic guitar for "Something to Believe In," a song that was tenderly dedicated to our troops. Even though it was an old song, Poison delivered it with the same dedication as if it had been written yesterday. Michaels started "Your Momma Don't Dance" with a harmonica solo, driving the groupies out of their minds. This time, it was drummer Rikki Rockett's turn to show the heaving masses his own solo stylings. He retrieved a boombox and laid it against his bass drum as the backing track. He then slammed on a miked bongo. My favorite, "Unskinny Bop," closed out that set. Then Michaels strapped on another acoustic guitar for "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." "Talk Dirty to Me" ended the set yet promised an encore. Sure enough, "Nothing but a Good Time" was the last song, complete with confetti and a few boob shots. Bottom line, if you didn't get puked on, you weren't trying hard enough. - Jara Anton