Mitch Karczewski, owner of Lorain's Red Parrot and former owner of the Flying Machine, died Tuesday. Karczewski was a longtime promoter whose Spotlight Talent had worked with Mushroomhead and organized the World Series of Metal festivals. At his passing, he'd been working with all-girl rock group Level C.
His wake will be this Sunday at Golubski Funeral Home (5986 Ridge Rd., Parma). In the meantime, Chris Akin, host of The Classic Metal Show, offered the below memory of Karczewski. Stay tuned to Scene to read more. And if you have any Mitch stories -- everybody on the scene does -- please post one.
-- DX Ferris
“Metal Show, who’s this?” the Warlock called out to a call that rang through on the flashing hotline in WMMS’ on-air studio.
“Hey guys! It’s Mitch Karczewski from Spotlight Talent and Anthony from the Agora. We’re down here with Dokken tonight, and could really use the help getting some people here. Could you guys tell people that if they want to see Dokken, they can come down here and get in free?”
The irony of the call hit me on a lot of levels. ...
First off, it was already about 10:30pm, and I wondered just how many people would come out that late on a Sunday to see a free set from Dokken. Then the idea that Mitch identified himself as being from Spotlight Talent seemed odd to me; especially since we were currently sharing an office together in Middleburg Heights. I definitely knew who he was on the other line. Regardless of the general oddness of the call, we fielded it the only way we felt was appropriate.
“Sure Mitch. Consider it done.”
It’s not surprising that I was informed of Mitch Karczewski’s passing this week by a local Cleveland musician who worked with Mitch and his Spotlight Talent for more than 20 years. After all, it was working with local musicians that Mitch will be most known for. Throughout his entire time working the Cleveland scene, Karczewski was always on the prowl for that next big show, the next band that would make it big, and the day when he would leave Cleveland because he had brokered something major.
There were times when Mitch felt he was on his way to “Promoter Heaven”; most notably when he worked with Mushroomhead and helped launch their DIY, promotional machine as it took over the national underground scene once they signed with Eclipse Records. They skyrocketed to national prominence (which eventually led them to Universal Records doorstep) thanks in large part to the back office efforts Mitch provided. While his thoughts of glory always seemed to be there, it was his time in “the trenches” that defined him.
Spotlight Talent did a TON of shows with local bands, and put a lot of local bands on the same stages as their national heroes long before it because a part of the business of being a metal band in Cleveland. It was always fun to see a band guy come into the office screaming their head off about having to sell tickets, only to see Mitch work his magic with them, and have them walk out of the office smiling, laughing and pleased that they were going to be “taking the stage with Overkil."
In the end, Mitch was the conduit for the metalheads of Cleveland getting to see many of the best second-tier metal bands throughout the 90s and into the new Millenium. Odds are that if you saw a great show featuring Manowar, Testament, Overkill, Stuck Mojo, Bruce Dickinson’s Skunkworks, Anthrax or the Misfits, your ticket money acted as a thank you to Mitch Karczewski, who brought them to your doorstep. Odds are even better that if your band opened for one of these bands, you dealt with Mitch in a far more personal way than I can explain here. Mitch Karczewski was a good man that played a large part in keeping Metal going in Cleveland long after most of the major players kissed it off. He always talked about retiring to a beach somewhere and forgetting about the music business altogether. Hopefully there are white sands and a cool breeze wherever his soul ended up.