In Support of the Scene

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at 5:00 PM
In Support of the Scene by Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett / Erie Reader

Erie is full of talented musicians. Greats bands, singer-songwriters, and creative minds engendering emotion and awareness through the prism of music in order to fulfill an inborn need to release their inner souls. It is an open and welcoming community, and every week there are a number of shows you should be seeing and should not have missed or else you’ll suffer from a pit in your heart ruled by disappointment. All of these are possible, but there is music to be heard, and you should take full advantage of the fact that regardless of what anyone says about Erie, the music is entwined in the fabric of our fair city and should be acknowledged.

Art should never be for art’s sake. It should be the vessel through which the artist releases their vision to the world. Unencumbered by any false pretense, molded to deliver a message with no quarter given.

It was with that in mind I began another round of making rounds to find the best music happening in our little hamlet.

Gallery Nights are a great way to immerse yourself in art without having to feel out of place or pressured to stare at a piece of work and make a profound statement as to the purity of the artist’s soul. And some galleries spread their wings and bring in live bands. That what gets my soul in the mood for art in all its varied modes and mediums. That and free wine.

I strayed from the comfortable confines of downtown in order to see John Bixby playing at Lighthouse Jewelers. It was the man and his guitar, and a bunch of pedals and effects. The talented Mr. Bixby, who records and plays under the moniker The Wandering Accident, is a young mover and shaker on the scene. His passion for the sound of the music, the noise of everyday life synthesized into song, is as refreshing as it is unique. He loses himself in song but still manages to always know where he wants to be-- with the music anyway.

He will be holding a listening party in support of his new album on December 21 at The crooked i.

It was a day ending in “y” so Is What It Is was obligated to play somewhere for someone. On this night they happened to be playing at Urraro Gallery, on the final night of Urraro Gallery being at that location. I have seen the band play so many times in so many different circumstances, and they never cease to provide a moving and diverse set.

Full of art and free wine, with my Bosnian brother in tow, I bounced to the Brewerie At Union Station to take in the sardonic sounds of Scarlet Ledbetter. The trio really does make music out of pure enjoyment. Granted, they played a cover-laden set, but it was appropriate for the crowd.

Erie amazes me sometimes with its level of diversity. I am too cynical and faux-cosmopolitan to care about race or age. If I’m going to judge someone, it’s by cool. Your records, your books, your art, the circumstances by which you delineate beauty. Which is why I find it so frustrating that a large percentage of people would rather see a cover band than an original artist. Anyone can have a copy of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” hanging on their wall, but unless you are an 18-year-old co-ed, it just isn’t cool. Familiarity breeds contempt. And going to see a band to hear the same songs you can hear over and over again on the radio is contemptuous.

But Scarlet is a great band, and Keith Wilson writes some amazing songs. The return of Tanner Edwards and his growing confidence not only plucking away at the upright bass, but also his bow work, shows the artistry involved in this band. If only DeCecco would sing into the mic rather than his chest they might really have something. But they do play out, often. They have an every-other-week gig at the Lakeside Tavern in Waterford. Which beats sitting around in a basement looking up songs on YouTube to cover.

Gallery night had faded from memory by the time I caught Consider The Source at The crooked i. It was a lesson in the madness of music. And learning and madness are two of my favorite things.

Sunday afternoons are usually for sleeping, but I was awake for some reason so I cruised down to Presque Isle Gallery to take in some live music. Glenn and Lucy Rankin opened the show. If you haven’t caught the act, you are really missing out.

They were followed by East Clintwood, who have evolved in so many ways and become a tighter unit. Gabe on vocals, guitar, mouth harp, and bass drum, while Paul handles bass and the upright drums, and Josiah on mandolin, seemingly playing to himself. Although after a stirring solo, Gabe remarked, “He is the Van Halen of the group. And we are the Led Zeppelin of folk trios.” Good guys. Good music.

Random thought: Jerry Gaff is turning into the hipster Mr. Rogers of Erie. He plays a mean slide and writes incredible lyrics. He played a great set at the Songwriter’s Showcase at The Vermont Tavern and can be found playing dinner gigs around town. This guy is the cool.

Waterband are a good-time dance band. All the hippies came out to see their return to The crooked i. Two empress dowagers of the music scene sit huddled away from the masses and one turns to the other and says, “This band [effing] bores me.” But Waterband brought out the bodies and made them bounce. There is a difference between going out to see bands and going out to be seen. Just sayin’.

Mosaic Foundation opened up the Saturday night set at The i. As long as one person was dancing the energy was enough to move the band to new heights. It is the burden of a band to put on a show. It is within the power of the audience to make that show kick. With the infectious nature of reggae the show was a success. Just goes to show the healing nature of positive souls.

They were followed on stage by Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds. Stage show all the way. Sister Sparrow herself making equal time as a female Otis Redding and an R-rated Avril Lavigne. (And I use those examples as two diametrically opposed ends.)

For the future one need look no further than Friday, Dec. 16 at The Vermont Tavern. It will be the debut show for the Cash Cows, a group of all-star Erie music veterans putting out something new.

Opening the show is the soon to be Erie-Famous Couchriders. If you have not had the chance to know this band, this is it. An instrumental group that will reach into your monster soul and make you need to move. They are loud, crude, and on point. Sounds and personalities that will grab you and having you holding on for dear life, but you will be ready and unwilling to let go.

The band is coming up on their one-year anniversary and is looking forward to their first show at The Vermont.

“We wanted to do it because it’s a different venue,” said guitarist Zak Hoover. “We want to turn everybody on [to our music].”

“We want to play everywhere we can until someone unplugs us,” added drummer Dave Ardillo.

The band has gigged around town and even ventured into the county to play the occasional pig roast. But they are poised to be on everyone’s mind. As soon as everyone sees them.

“People always ask me, ‘What do you guys sound like?’ I always tell them we sound like their favorite band,” said bassist Nate Gillies.

But the band sounds like nothing you’ve heard before. Zombie-surf-rock? Perhaps, but it is hard to define the band in words. It is all about their live show, but only because they haven’t recorded an album yet.

“We’re just working on all the logistics to record,” Hoover added. “That’s something that we are constantly talking about. We see other bands do it and that’s where we want to be.”

“We’re seeing more and more familiar faces at each show,” said keyboardist Josh Gillies. “We will play anywhere with anybody. Playing at the Vermont with [Cash Cows] will be a good way to play our music to a different audience.”

This is truly the show to see. Regardless of your thoughts on art, culture, or music, all of that will be washed away by the driving force that is The Couchriders.

Michael Bennett believes in SYLS. Support Your Local Scene. He can be reached at

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