REVISED FOR 2021: skip to the end for new photos & details.
Easter Sunday, April 23rd, 2000, was a special day many many beers ago. I consider it the apex of the thirteen years I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and here’s why…
My roommate, the inimitable hardcore singer, show booker, bass player, VHS tape trader and Flamingo Surprise worker, Tony Erba, had arranged the most insane Easter line-up at local DIY dump, Speak In Tongues. It featured all the best and most violent / crazy / mutant hardcore bands all on the same show. If you loved this kind of music the line-up alone set off red sirens of insanity in your brain the first moment you saw it.
Here’s the flier by rad artist Shaun Filley:
Shaun and Tony, plus Jimmy Rose, Brian Shelton, and Wedge were to headline as Gordon Solie Motherfuckers—a sick heavy rock band that, quite frankly, transcended the whole hardcore thing they were part of because they were so musical.
I suggest you put on their record now while you read the rest of this tale. It’s a 21st Century classic:
GSMF were the ultimate shit-stirrers. Tony trash-talked everyone, pro wrestler style (the band is named after Erba’s favorite announcer). The venues, promoters, players, the audience… no one was spared.
Tony even razored his forehead in a move stolen directly from wrestling.
The face and scalp are very vascular, you know. Tony would be smashing chairs and crowd-diving and the the next minute he’s bleeding like a stuck pig and people are gasping. I’m squeamish around blood—real blood!—so this always made me feel faint. But I digress.
I, former art student and noise rocker, was not the target audience for the GSMF hardcore matinee. No, I was gonna get to see my hardcore punk friends go freakin’ nuts and circle dance and do all that crazy shit that I missed out on in the early ’80s. Hardcore was back again—supercharged Y2K-style. This was gonna be aggro and destructive and that equals fun, right?
But what could I possibly add to the mix? That’s easy. It’s what I do best: bizarre randomness. And what’s more random and bizarre than a rabbit who delivers eggs on Christ’s special day?
For the answer, journey with me down the rabbit hole with my trusty Polaroid….
I lived at 4400 Perkins Avenue in the “Invisible City,” a semi-successful punk rock recording studio. That was where my roommate Mike Shumaker recorded GSMF’s Power Bomb Anthem’s Volume 1 and I created the 10″ album’s cover while the band jammed.
Yes, I can reveal now that I am the “Unseen Hand.”
I was tingling with anticipation from the moment I awoke that morning. It was a gorgeous morning in Cleveland’s (real) Warehouse District as you can see. I hiked over to Dave’s Supermarket on Payne Ave. and got three or four or more (can’t remember—lots) 18-packs of PBR. I rolled ’em home in a shopping cart.
Next, I bent some coat hangers, slapped on some tape, made myself an Easter Bunny headpiece, accented it with wraparound shades and a pink shirt. I AM EASTER BUNNY.
Good to go.
Smart for once, I hitched a ride to Speak In Tongues.
At some point in time, someone’s relative had an old Chevette and they gave it to one of the Speak In Tongues residents, and the guys who lived there drove it around a few times. But as often happens with secondhand cars—and especially crappy old Chevettes—the thing died and the guys parked it in the back yard. “We gotta figure out how to get it fixed…” they would say to folks who asked.
They never got the car fixed.
Instead the Chevette got ritualistically destroyed in a performance art spectacle/Planet Of The Apes-style melee and flipped upside down during some show.
To this day, when I meet people and they brag about their dissolute punk dump I always think, yeah, but did you guys ever destroy a car during one of your sets? YOUR OWN CAR?!?!
In any case it makes a nice set for my arrival photo.
The SIT backyard was a magical Interzone. There was the smashed car, folks getting high, alley cats frolicking to-and-fro—and this amazing etched piece of metal with a quote from my all-time favorite author, William S. Burroughs:
“Destroy all enemy cats.”
Personally, this bunny prefers to cuddle cats not destroy them.
As I waited for the mob to arrive I thought, I am definitely hanging with the “Wild Boys” today… and some cool cats, like “Alien Cat.” R.I.P.
Time to give some beers away! There’s Jimmy Rose from Gordon Solie. Later on, Jimmy, like me, moved to California. He joined an amazing group called Annihilation Time (Shaun Filley joined for a time too) which I saw on numerous occasions after I moved westward in 2002.
Looks like I am not the only rabbit at the hop: Puncture Wound and 9 1/2 Left zinester, Mike Rodemann, had very craftily attached the blades of a discarded fan to his head with a bullwhip (!). All these years later and I am still impressed.
Whoa—getting super faded now. Better check in with Ralf, Speak In Tongues’ benefactor, sound person and, next to Erba, probably the scene’s #1 shit-stirrer. Though you might not know it. Ralf’s a little more subtle. The evil cackling giggle gives him away though.
Can’t you hear him cackling in this photo?
No food and many many beers means Seannie is getting majorly goofy!
It’s not even 3pm yet—the show hasn’t yet begun— and I have gotten day drunk to the point where I drank myself sober. Yuck!
If you’ve ever been there it’s a disgusting zone to be in. Akin to having been hit by a car and then dragged several blocks. You are sweating, cold, with fuzzy vision… You can’t even get drunk again for awhile which is frustrating. Gotta let the alcohol cells (a vital party of the human body dontcha know?) recharge before imbibing more. That or start drinking hard liquor.
Hey! Hard liquor. That sounds like a great idea—let’s head inside Speak In Tongues and scam some…
The non-functioning bar at Speak In Tongues was the Ten Forward of the whole D.I.Y. starship: a place for the regulars to congregate and relax. Matt Damn Kuchna was our Guinan, dispensing inscrutable advice. I was he was in this photo because I miss him.
Instead we see the alternate use for the bar, that of punk rock record shop. Here you can see Wedge from 9 Shocks Terror hawking his wares.
Look—it’s Ryan “Ryedood” Kennedy, Cleveland scene documentarian extraordinaire, hardcore band guy and SIT superfan.
Time to rock! Thank god. My brain is dysfunctional, my limbs are jelly, my judgement is…out the window.
And Gordon Solie Motherfuckers are finally onstage!
There’s Jimmy and Shelton and Wedge.
I wish I had snapped a Polaroid of Erba but at some point I became for real the Easter Bunny and began a drunken hopping around the sweaty, smelly and smokey pit (these were the days of indoor cigarette smoking yikes).
It was the Devil’s bbq and we were the meat:
Look at the pit dancers and floor-punchers in a ring as the gauzy Cleveland light streams in on this, the Holiest of Holy Days.
Somehow this bouncing bunny made it home safely. And even made it to work at 5am the next day—I could never do that now.
Recently, I tried on the old rabbit ears—now threadbare and shabby—before I chucked them in the garbage:
I felt a weird mischieviousness descend upon me. Maybe you can feel it too?
Since I published this tale last year, more details about this legendary S.I.T. show have emerged. And—incredibly—more photos thanks to Missy Goulette (I hope you don’t mind I grabbed these from FB ‘cuz they really complete the tale).
In short: THIS SHOW WAS WAAAY FUCKIN’ WILDER THAN I REMEMBERED.
Out front there was always a street scene on Lorain Avenue. This Easter, it was particularly vibrant. Just look at that sausage party.
Apparently the Cleveland cops, as was their wont, were writing tickets for drunk and disorderly behavior in public. Which is a great way to infuriate a bunch of inebriated and borderline ruffians.
Side note: anyone remember how the cops, when undercover would show up at Speak In Tongues in head-to-toe Indians gear? Hoping to blend in? It was like some special “punk rock” episode of some ancient cop show…
Here’s Jimmy Rose jumping on that poor car in the backyard. Get off that thing—she doesn’t stand a chance!
Uh oh—lower right: look like we may have an undercover cop in attendance.
Like I said—the vehicle had no chance.
That’s me many beers in watching the poor thing get flipped like a pancake.
(As a gay man I would just like to apologize for my cargo pants. What was I thinking?)
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’….
There’s Jimmy lighting the fuse. Because, yeah, I forgot about the fireworks. FIREWORKS. Indoors. Argh.
And the gallon buckets of PAINT?! Major details here, people. I was really three sheets to the wind as they say.
Yeah, we were slopping each other with old paint from the shed. You gotta marvel at the ingenuity of it all.
7th circle of hell? Nah—just the dance floor at Speak In Tongues.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS.