We’ve been on a Woodstock ’99 nostalgia trip lately but THE concert that summer for landlocked and car-less Cleveland counterculture types like myself was Cleveland Punk Fest. So let’s go there again, shall we?
The director / editor / producer of this incredible video document is Ryan Kennedy, who was and is a mainstay of the scene and was at all the great shows. Rye had the foresight to tape these bands and he gave me permission to put this set on the internet. Thanks, Ryan.
The date: Saturday, June 5, 1999. The place: The under-new-ownership Euclid Tavern. Faded from it’s early-’90s heyday as a cutting-edge music mecca (thanks to Derek Hess), the Euc was on a slow slide to closure.
Paradoxically, the place was the cleanest I had ever seen it. New ownership had scraped the thick patina of nicotine and chicken wing grease off the walls / floors / seats which was incredible because, though I can be a total Pigpen, even I was like “TOUCH NOTHING!” when frequenting the Euc. A veritable Superfund site of filth and disease, going down the steep-ass stairs to the stinking latrine in the basement a feat of incredible drunken balance if you couldn’t touch the walls or railing.
The Tavern’s new management had also radically improved the place by moving the stage from the ‘classic’ configuration of a low-riser against the side wall (where the audience couldn’t see the band and randoms risked getting pinned and dying if a violent mosh pit broke out) to the back wall and putting the band on a tall and sturdy permanent stage.
An amped up new sound system was installed and yours truly was in charge of running it. No pressure.
Cleveland Punk Fest was Saturday and Sunday which was kind of amazing because hardcore bands did not usually play bars. These bands mostly played DIY spaces or rented their own venues like VFWs and brought in a sound system during this particular era (in earlier days this might have happened at Flash’s or the Phantasy Theater). Dillinger Four was to be the festival headliner. But the real attraction was seeing nutso local thrash bands like 9 Shocks Terror in a ‘legit’ setting.
Which was exactly the problem at hand. The Euclid Tavern proprietor had heard that 9 Shocks Terror—my friends, former roommates and current bandmates (well one of them at this time, soon two) in Razak Solar System—were violent. He had never seen the band but he had heard this, and fortunately he remembered this a mere hour before sound check this all-day fest.
I got a call from my boss at Vertical Sound, the owner of the sound system and payer of my salary at the time, to watch out for 9 Shocks Terror—and the Euclid Tavern management. We chuckled about this because we were both well-familiar with 9 Shocks’ brain-meltingly great hybrid of psychedelic hard rock and ’80s thrash. They were simply the best band in Cleveland at that time and perhaps any time. Don’t be a wimp—embrace one of the great bands your city can call their own!
So I stubbed out my morning dirtweed joint and smoked a cigarette or a dozen while I gulped a pot of joe and woke up Errortype: Eleven, another Punk Fest band that was sleeping at my house, and we trundled over to the Tavern in their van to see if this show was gonna happen. I blared The Sweet the whole way trying to stay positive. Errortype: Eleven had never heard The Sweet and were digging them so this was a minor victory.
We are gonna do this, one way or another
When I got there Punk Fest organizers and Euc management were deadlocked about letting 9 Shocks play. Meanwhile 100+ kids were already lining up outside in the muggy heat and there was another 75 in the parking lot anxious to see the show. My feeling was it was too close to showtime to be having any debate. Hadn’t the proprietor learned anything from the 1980s?
Cancel the big band too close to showtime to prevent a riot and you get a BIGGER riot when bummed ticket holders destroy the place because the band they came to see isn’t playing.
Long story short, an agreement was reached and 9 Shocks Terror was allowed to take the stage if, and only if, all chairs were removed from the venue. As the first clarion tones of “Mobile Terror Unit” rang through the 100º heat, hangdog Tavern employees were glumly schlepping every chair and chair-like piece of furniture in the joint into the basement to avoid breakage.
9 Shocks’ Tony Erba (he of thee bass) says of this performance:
I do recall Ron Wood from the Stones asking me for his wig back. That ‘76 reverse headstock bicentennial Thunderbird was a bitchen bass but a bit unwieldy for a runt like me but dang did it play like a raped ape.
This gig also commemorates the brief but exciting-sounding period where Mike Jochum strummed the ol’ six-string for the band. Again, Erba:
I think Mike was in for like a year. He was in Gordon Solie Motherfuckers at the same time. 9 Shocks had a show at a short lived new space for a show I found, Nino’s on Broadview by my dad’s barber shop. He blew off the show for Sweetest Day (!) with his girlfriend so we kicked him out. Pretty awkward as when I kicked him out I said ‘See ya at GSMF practice next week…’
9 Shocks had a song called “Yeti Smasher” and as singer Lean Steve remarks on the tape, “You are the Yeti.” And at this show we certainly were—just look at that pit!