Space:Rock gives a snapshot of CLE’s current music scene
Photographer Anastasia Pantsios has shot everyone from AC/DC to Van Halen. Currently, she runs the Space:ROCK gallery (15721 Waterloo Road, Cleveland, Ohio) for Cleveland Rocks: Past Present, and Future, a non-profit organization whose goal is “to support and preserve Cleveland’s popular music culture and enrich local economic development by stimulating music-centered initiatives.” The gallery’s current show, #ThisIsCLE Music Now, focuses on current Cleveland musicians and its open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5pm.
Space:ROCK Gallery is a part of Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present, and Future. Can you explain a little about the mission of CRPPF and how Space:Rock fits in?
Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present & Future is dedicated to promoting the Cleveland music scene in its continuity: honoring the past, celebrating the present and feeding the future. We want to make people more aware of both Cleveland’s music history and its music scene today.
The gallery is coming up on its first anniversary, how has year one gone?
The first year has been a learning year, but we’ve had a lot of cool people come into the gallery, and we are starting to get feedback from them on what they enjoyed and what they’d like to see more of. I think we’ve opened some people’s eyes about interesting aspects of local music they hadn’t thought about.
The new show, #ThisIsCLE Music Now, focuses on what’s happening in the current Cleveland music scene. How do you feel about the current scene, and what local bands excite you?
I think the local music scene has never had such an exciting and diverse batch of bands and musicians. I have been following local music since the ’70s, and I saw how difficult it was then for a band to play its own music. It was barely done. It wasn’t until the ’80s when there were a significant number of local bands to go see who played original music. Each decade there have been more and right now, there are a ton of venues where they can gain experience. I think one of the most exciting things is how many of the 36 artists in the show can’t be at the opening because they are on the road. One group is in Japan! My own musical tastes are extremely diverse. Two artists in the show I really love are singer/songwriter/guitarists Morgan Mecaskey and Diana Chittester, two women with very different personalities and style. Mr. Gnome is one of my favorite local bands — music that is so difficult to describe but makes devoted fans out of people who hear it. This band has been touring constantly for the last four or five years. Seafair has been knocking everyone out with their expansive, symphony performances; they came almost out of nowhere to take the town by storm in the last year or so. I love ShiSho, a young sister duo out of Akron. They’re only 14 and 17, but they write smart, wry, often insightful songs and have a creative, colorful sense of presentation. I love the Revolution Brass Band because I’m a sucker for horns & percussion and anything New Orleans-related. I’m also impressed by Likenesses, a no-frills poppy quartet a little too new to be in the show – they played their first gig last August. I like a lot of more-established acts too, which aren’t in the scope of this show — Morticia’s Chair, Brent Kirby, Whiskey Daredevils, Mushroomhead, Chimaira, Ground Zero, Michael Stanley. Just too much talent in the area to mention.
Which bands and photographers are featured in the show?
Many of the bands I mentioned above are in the show — in fact, all except the older bands and the too-new Likenesses. (We’re focusing on bands that are already making an impact with touring, albums, etc.) There are a couple of young jam bands, Aliver Hall and Broccoli Samurai, each with a very different approach. A couple of young, classic-style folkies, Nate Jones and Tom Evanchuck. Akron Americana/roots band Shivering Timbers. Fingerstyle guitarist Dan Bankhurst. Jazz/classical trumpeter Josh Rzepka. Electronic/hip hop artist Freeze-Tag. Acts like Cloud Nothings, the Lighthouse and the Whaler, Obnox, and Nicholas Megalis who are getting lots of national attention. There are 36 in all and they are all so different. As for photographers, what’s interesting is that the bands provided the photos and there were no two photos taken by the same photographer. Every band now seems to have a talented friend, and there are no photographers who are the “go-to” photographers for today’s local bands.
Most of the shows have focused more on Cleveland’s rock past. Which shows have been the most popular?Actually, most of the shows have focused on the present or something ongoing. The only one really focused on the past was our first full-scale show “The Golden Age of Cleveland Rock: 1969-1974.” We’ve also featured the Lottery League Project which took place last year, took a look at people involved in running music-related businesses today, and showcased photographer Joe Kleon, who shoots all the big-name concerts here today. I’d have to say Joe’s was probably the most popular because people always love to look at their favorite rock stars. But I also think we’ve been getting more response with each show. I was really surprised at how many people came in to see our last show, dedicated to Pat’s in the Flats, an obscure workingman’s bar that has been booking mostly unknown bands on random nights for more than 25 years. This despite the club not being that well known to people and the weather having been terrible. I think more and more people are hearing about the gallery.
There are other also events in the gallery, like the recent appearance by “Crazy Marvin” Braxton. What other events and shows do you have planned for the upcoming year?
As far as immediate future, we’re planning to have a reception on Saturday, April 19, for Record Store Day because a lot of people will be on the street checking out the special deals and events at Music Saves and Blue Arrow Records. Two of the bands in our show, Filmstrip and the Commonwealth, will be playing at the Beachland Tavern that afternoon, and we are working on getting one or two of the acts to play acoustically in the gallery. There will be food! The Crazy Marvin interview was part of an ongoing series that is a project of Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present & Future — videotaping oral history interviews with key figures in Cleveland music history. They will be archived at the Rock Hall Library and Archives for scholars and fans to study. We’ve already got a commitment from Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller, a major blues artist from the ‘60s to the ’90s, to do one, probably in late April. We’re planning to do a networking event for people in the local music business in May. And, of course, every month, we have our first Friday Walk All Over Waterloo reception, when all the stores and galleries stay open late.
Who comes up with ideas for shows?
Ideas for shows come from all over. Cindy Barber and I have come up with most of them so far. But Joe Kleon approached us about doing his show, and has tossed another idea in the pot. Another photographer has approached us about doing something next year, and we already have a show in the works that a local musician came to us with, devoted to the cooperative record label St. Valentine that was active in the late ’80s. He’s got a whole constellation of projects he wants to do around that. We are open to ideas from anyone!
You’ve photographed some of the biggest names in rock over the years and had your work in galleries, in magazines, and on album covers. Who were some of your favorites to shoot?
I have always been a metalhead, but I think metal bands are the most fun to shoot anyway because they are such showmen and rarely mind having their photos taken. I always enjoyed Kiss, AC/DC, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Motorhead, Iron Maiden. Anyone theatrical — David Bowie, of course. Bruce Springsteen. Tina Turner. These days though, I’ve retired from the hassles of shooting big names — leave that to Joe Kleon! I pretty much shoot in clubs where artists don’t limit you to three songs or have tantrums if they see a photographer.
Some of your work is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you had to put a Cleveland rock ‘n’ roll tour together for out-of-towners coming to see the Rock Hall, what would be the stops on the tour?
Well, of course, I would tell visitors to come to Waterloo, with the Beachland, Space:ROCK and great shops like Music Saves, Starpop, and Blue Arrows Records. I would also suggest Coventry Road where they can check out a band at the Grog Shop, play some arcade games at the B-Side, pick up vinyl and a bong at Record Revolution, and browse memorabilia at Big Fun. Heading over to the west side, I would definitely suggest stopping in at the Happy Dog, maybe late on a Friday afternoon to catch one of their happy hour DJs like polka DJ Kishka or soul DJ Lawrence Daniel Caswell and having some tater tots — and stopping first up on W. 65th to check out Hausfrau Records and the Guide to Kulchur book store. Mahall’s 20 Lanes is another great place — interesting, diverse bookings, and you can bowl if the band gets boring.
What made you get involved with Space:ROCK?
I’ve always had a passion for local music and have always been an amateur historian of it. I have religiously saved everything related to it—photos, flyers, set lists, press kits albums, 45s, cassettes, CDs—since I moved here. I have created an encyclopedia of Cleveland music I hope to put online at some point. I think there is an excitement to watching a band grow and develop over time that you don’t get with a touring band. And there has always been so much talent here. I just think more people need to know that and stop whining about how there are too many cover bands. There have always been cover bands, always will be. Stop hanging out at bars named Cleats and Scores with their classic rock band on Fridays and start going to some of the places I mentioned earlier.
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