It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm minutes away from phoning Matthew Sweet for an interview when I happen to hit Twitter on my phone and see a breaking story that Hank LoConti, longtime owner of the Cleveland Agora has just passed away at age 85.
The news hit me like a ton of bricks because Hank was always a guy who was so full of life that it was hard to imagine that he could actually be gone. He was someone that when you met him, you would be surprised to find out how old he was, because he always looked at least a decade younger than he actually was. And yet he had been sick, battling lymphoma for some time, which I was not aware of.
There are plenty of great stories and tributes that have popped up in the past day offering a proper remembrance of LoConti and what it was that he was all about. For me as a music fan who ended up living in Cleveland, it's hard to even begin to collect the thoughts of all of the many different ways that the Cleveland Agora has made an impact in my life. There were plenty of shows, of course, with my first visit to the Agora happening in November of 1992 to see the Spin Doctors. Say what you will about the Spin Doctors, they were a hell of a band beyond the radio singles and their live performances during that time period were great.
My next trip to the Agora was a free show (!!!) with Brian May of Queen who played a headlining gig at the venue supporting his first solo album Back To The Light. Having missed out on the chance to see Queen back in the day, it was huge getting a chance to see Brian play guitar in such an up close setting, with Cozy Powell on drums, to boot.
As my concert attendance really started to ramp up in 1993, I would spend a lot of time at the Agora starting the following year, first with a gig from Joe Satriani, then Sarah McLachlan (Fumbling Towards Ecstasy Tour), Rollins Band with Therapy, Pretenders (a special "small hall" hometown gig on the Last Of The Independents tour that quickly sold out), Joe Cocker (right after he played Woodstock 94), Crowded House (Together Alone tour, with Sheryl Crow opening), The Smithereens and so many more.
1994 was really the beginning of my music collection coming to life in front of my eyes (something which I was reminded of recently when talking with Journey's Neal Schon, when he talked about his feeling that the reason that today's kids want to see their favorite bands live is that "they don't quite believe that it's real unless they're looking at it.") and I had been to enough gigs by that point to know that if I had the chance to see one of my favorite bands play a club like the Agora, that was where it was really at -- with the chance to get up close and personal with some of the bands that I had spent a lot of time listening to by that point.
There was an experience that came with seeing a show at a true rock club like the Agora that you just didn't get in the same way by attending an arena gig. Sure, I had seen some amazing shows at Richfield Coliseum in that same time period (Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton), but having a chance to compare the two, there was no question that the more intimate gigs were better, which is why it was such a thrill to get a chance to see bands and artists like Pretenders, Joe Cocker and Brian May -- folks who I knew had usually been playing bigger places prior to that -- in a place the size of the Cleveland Agora.
To cut to the chase, Hank LoConti was the guy who was driving all of this. He was the man behind the Cleveland Agora, a rock institution that had been around for a long time at that point -- I didn't know the specifics at that time, but when you walked into that place, you could tell that it was a building that had a lot of history. As folks will be quick to point out, the current Cleveland Agora at 5000 Euclid Avenue is not the original location -- which burned down in the mid-'80s, but the Euclid Avenue location, was certainly a worthy successor to the original, housed in a building that had its own important history.
Over the years, I started to unpack the history of the original building as a fan, listening to the various famous concert broadcasts that had been done by WMMS, most of which were from the '70s and '80s. Everybody's got their personal favorite list and many of them can tell you stories about being at the gigs -- since I moved here in 1989, I missed out on that part of things, but the tapes that were left behind certainly tell plenty of great stories. There is of course, the famous Springsteen Agora gig from 1978, a special broadcast celebrating the 10th anniversary of WMMS.
Elvis Costello's 1977 performance is another favorite and when I saw Costello just a few weeks ago, playing a solo show here in town, he had fond memories of playing the Agora, calling it a "smoke-filled den of sin," adding that "sometimes you find true love in a place like that." Costello isn't alone in his memories -- it's a frequent occurrence to hear the legacy acts offer their memories of their first gigs in Cleveland at the Agora -- while performing at Gund Arena on the All You Can't Leave Behind tour in May of 2001, Bono offered his own recollections of an early U2 gig at the Agora.
Bryan Adams played a show at the Agora in 1982 and he would be back for another gig barely a year later in 1983. Both shows were broadcast by WMMS (with the 1982 gig getting a national broadcast via the King Biscuit Flower Hour) and it's interesting to compare the two performances and hear how much Adams had progressed in such a short amount of time. The 1983 performance, which was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, is an unbelievable show from Adams that sounds like a professional live album -- it would make great bonus material for an expanded reissue of the Cuts Like A Knife album someday.
The Police, AC/DC, Bon Jovi....nearly anybody you might want to name off, they all played the Agora at some point. Thankfully, there are so many of those concert memories that have been preserved because they were broadcast.
The Agora is approaching its 50th anniversary and I'm happy that after some rough years, the venue seems to be back on solid ground or at the very least, in a better place. They're back booking a regular schedule of shows again and the shows seem to be doing well. As someone who grew up with the Agora at a time that they had a consistent schedule of shows that made it possible for you to go see live music at the club on nearly any night of the week (and with so much great variety to choose from in those days, too), it means a lot to see the Agora alive again.
As the years went by, I had the chance on a number of occasions to stop and talk with Hank. The first time, I had been sent to the Agora to pick something up. Not knowing Hank, I figured it would be a quick stop to grab what I was supposed to pick up and then I'd be on my way. I ended up being there for a couple of hours, sitting in Hank's office, hearing amazing stories of past Agora shows. That would be the case every time that I stopped by.
He was a walking piece of Cleveland musical history, one of several key leaders who helped to build the Cleveland concert scene as we know it today and he has continuously been one of the people working tirelessly through the years to help maintain it, never afraid to fight for necessary changes. He certainly leaves behind one hell of a legacy. I have no doubt that we'll continue to see that legacy grow in the years to come and hopefully part of that will come in the form of proper releases on audio and video for some of the shows that he was really proud of.
Longtime readers of this blog will know that I'm a big Counting Crows fan. I had the pleasure of having an extensive conversation with Adam Duritz last summer, which you can read in two parts, here and here.
More recently, Jeff Giles and I spoke with Adam last week for a conversation intended for our podcast The Matt 'N' Jeff Radio Hour. Sadly, due to audio issues, the podcast part of that won't be happening, but we were able to rescue the interview audio itself to capture the complete chat in text form, so keep your eyes peeled for that interview, which will publish early this week at Popdose.
In the process of getting that interview ready, I was reminded of the existence of this fantastic Counting Crows gig from earlier this year at the Sydney Opera House. I hadn't had the chance to watch it yet and I put it on in the background as a soundtrack while I was doing other tasks and man, what a show. The set opens with "Sullivan Street" and that really might be all that you need to know.
Check it out for yourself -- it's a fantastic listen/watch.
As long as we're hanging out at the Sydney Opera House, you might as well stick around and check out Neil Finn and Paul Kelly too, right?
As Record Store Day approaches, there are two items on my "must have" list amidst the many other items on the list of releases that fall into the "would like to have" category (I'm looking at you, Tom Petty vinyl reissues). One of those items is the Foo Fighters vinyl compilation that collects many of their best cover versions onto one release for the first time ever. Happily, I can cross the other item off my list right now and so can you!
Originally announced as a Record Store Day exclusive, Crowded House and Kufala have made their North American Travelogue release available early with a limited quantity for sale online prior to the official Record Store Day release date on April 16th. This is good news, particularly for international Crowded House fans, since Kufala ships anywhere in the world. Price for the release is $23.00 and that price includes shipping and handling for U.S. orders (although shipping for international orders will probably be more).
Click here to check out the track listing (49 tracks on three CDs!) and order your own copy of North American Travelogue. Stoked!
As long as we're down in the Youtube rabbit hole, let's pull out another video from the BBC Songwriters' Circle series, this time featuring another ATV favorite, Neil Finn.
When I saw David Byrne at Bonnaroo last summer, it was damn close to a religious experience for me as a music fan. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I saw that Byrne made a guest appearance with Crowded House during their NYC performance earlier this week.
According to the official Crowded House website, the band will begin selling USB sticks of their U.S. gigs as of this month (which means we should see them on sale any time now, right?), and if this is the case, I'll be putting down some cash for a copy of the New York gig, for sure.
In related news, the band also was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon recently to perform my favorite cut from Intriguer (no doubt in response to my personal request for them to perform the track on late night television), "Twice If You're Lucky," which is classic Crowded House, manic nirvana.
Intriguer is the name of the new album from Crowded House, coming out on July 13th via Fantasy/Rounder. You can pre-order the album now from Amazon for only $13.99, and it comes with a free bonus live DVD, which is a pretty awesome deal for the price! The band is already out playing shows in support of the disc, and looking at the setlists, it looks like a fun show. I'll be looking forward to seeing the band personally when they hit Chicago in September over Labor Day Weekend.
Last week, the band played a gig for the BBC, which was broadcast live from the Mermaid Theatre and the show featured a hefty preview of material from the new album.
Check it out for yourself, and take a look at the band's upcoming tour dates here!
Crowded House - Live at the Mermaid Theatre
Download full-res files of this show via Dimeadozen
02 Saturday Sun
04 Weather with You
06 Twice if You're Lucky
10 Fall At Your Feet
14 Either Side of the World
16 Falling Dove
18 Don't Stop Now
19 Four Seasons in One Day
21 Distant Sun
22 Don't Dream It's Over
Photo from the official Crowded House Myspace
The new Crowded House album has a name (Intriguer) and an officially confirmed release date of July 13th via Fantasy/Concord. And we're all lucky, because Crowded House will of course be hitting the road for an extensive set of tour dates to promote the new album. (Presumably, this means that I will finally see my first Crowded House gig since 1994!)
1. Saturday Sun
2. Archer's Arrows
4. Either Side of the World
5. Falling Down
7. Twice If You're Lucky
8. Inside Out
9. Even If
Crowded House frontman Neil Finn shares the following information regarding the new album:
"Intriguer is exotic in parts, traditional in origin," says Finn. "Through many a twist and turn we fashioned some drama and intrigue. You will find some threads that go back through all that history and some new discoveries as well that will need to be followed up. Its part of the continuum and it may just be the best thing we've done...until the next one."
Produced by Jim Scott (Wilco), Intriguer once again brings together singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Neil Finn with original Crowded House bassist Nick Seymour and keyboardist/guitarist Mark Hart, who'd been with the band from 1989 until its last days. Also on board is drummer Matt Sherrod, the relative newcomer to the family, having joined the band for the making of Time On Earth. Recorded at Roundhead Studios in Auckland, New Zealand, in the spring and summer of 2009, the album includes songs that "have been worked over on the road and transformed a few times, some all the way back to square one," says Finn. "It's a good place to return to from time to time."
U.S./Canadian tour dates and samples of several tracks (including the new video for "Saturday Sun") can be found after the jump:
What It Is: A weekly mix tape posted on Mondays, created by the fans of Addicted to Vinyl, posted for all to enjoy!
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Addicted to Vinyl
P.O. Box 771685
Lakewood, OH 44107
What To Include: Include track listing, album that the song comes from, song notes (if you want to) and any particular notes that you want to share about the mix. Save a digital copy of your notes that you can send me via email, so I don't get carpal tunnel retyping them! Include a printed copy of the notes, and an email address that I can use to contact you for the digital version of the notes. For the real mix tape feel, feel free to hand write your song titles, draw artistic drawings on the "label," etc - I can scan them in using my handy dandy color scanner. Go nuts!
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We've got some great submissions coming in so far, and I think I'll probably feature the first reader mix here next Monday. I made four more mixes this past week (I think I'm kinda sucked in here..) and thought that I'd share another one of mine here, before we dig into some reader stuff next week. For this particular mix, I made a playlist with particular cuts that caught my ear as they came up on my Ipod. Once I had a good playlist worth of tunes, I re-sequenced the running order slightly, and had myself a new mix.
Halfway To The Distant Sun (download)
1. Matthew Sweet - "Time Machine" - Last year's Sunshine Lies wasn't quite the album I was hoping for from Matthew Sweet, although it was good to finally see him live when he came around to the Beachland. I'm looking forward to the release of Under The Covers vol. 2 on July 21st, and I also had the chance to snag a cool vinyl EP set from the first Sweet/Hoffs disc, during a recent visit to Music Saves.
2. Fountains of Wayne - "Baby, I've Changed" - If you haven't said these words, chances are that you've thought 'em. The Fountains of Wayne compilation Out of State Plates is one of the greatest odds and sods compilations that you'll ever come across, and is essential stuff for the FOW fan. While you're at it, you'd do well to add their recent live DVD release to your collection as well!
3. Crowded House - "Distant Sun" - The Crowded House double live Farewell To The World CD set the alarm clock that woke up my long dormant love for Crowded House. I ended up re-buying the entire catalog of releases that I was lacking, during my recent Ann Arbor trip a couple of weeks back. "Distant Sun" is a song that oddly enough, comes off of the one Crowded House album that I kept through the years, Together Alone. I'm not sure how I missed it all of these years, but I heard it on Farewell, and it really struck a chord. I love the innocence of the lyrics, which can be appreciated by anyone that has spent any amount of time trying to figure out love.
Tell me all the things you would change
I don't pretend to know what you want
when you come around and spin my top
time and again, time and again
No fire where I lit my spark
I am not afraid of the dark
Where your words devour my heart
and put me to shame, put me to shame
I missed seeing Crowded House during their reunion tour in support of Time On Earth, and I'm excited to see that they are at work on a follow-up album. For anyone that is looking to find out what Crowded House is all about, you won't find a more perfect primer than Farewell To The World, which is everything that you need to know about Crowded House on two discs.
4. Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers - "Circus On The Moon" - From the Noisemakers Summer 2007 compilation that was distributed as a free download via BruceHornsby.Com a couple of years ago. I've been wishing for a Cleveland Noisemakers date for quite a few years now, and perhaps with a new album on the horizon from Bruce and the Noisemakers, we'll get it. The original studio version of this song can be had on Halcyon Days, which is in my opinion, a very underrated Bruce disc.
5. Blue Rodeo - "Blue House" - From the Blue Road acoustic live CD/DVD release. As a fan of the Jim Cuddy side of Blue Rodeo, sometimes the Greg Keelor sung numbers take a little while longer to work their way into my music lovin' heart. "Blue House" is a good example of one of those Blue Rodeo tunes that I didn't quite get, until I got the chance to see it a few times on stage as the band toured behind Small Miracles. Blue Road didn't look very compelling to me when I first saw the track listing, but after hearing it, I fell in love and the streak continues. The "streak" would be the complete catalog of Blue Rodeo releases - I've yet to meet one that I didn't like.
6. Survivor - "The One That Really Matters" - The story of my love for the Eye Of The Tiger album is best saved for another day, and another blog post. For now, I'll tell you how I first heard "The One That Really Matters." We were living in New Mexico, and I was browsing through the stacks of vinyl at the local flea market, when I came across a white label promo 45 of "The One That Really Matters." I liked the song title, and it was a song that I hadn't heard by a band that I knew that I liked. This particular 25 cent purchase opened the door to my eventual love for the Eye Of The Tiger album. I know it looks like I just told the story that I said I wasn't going to tell, but really, there is a whole 'nother story yet to be told.
7. Rick Springfield - "Alyson" - Don't laugh at me. Don't judge me. I've actually had a Springfield post brewing, and haven't had a chance to knock it out. I've always thought that this is one of the underrated songs in the Springfield catalog. And on a side note, I recently discovered that if you Twitter "just a little sexual tension, under the guise of love," a lyric from "Alyson," you too can lose followers. This one comes from the Living In Oz album.
8. Tom Petty - "One More Day, One More Night" - From the Echo disc, which is not one of my favorite discs from Petty. Sometimes those are the albums that have buried gems, and that was the case with "One More Day, One More Night" when it popped up on my Ipod.
9. Doobie Brothers - "South City Midnight Lady" - I was in a Borders a few years ago looking to pick up a Doobie Brothers greatest hits disc, to get a copy of "The Doctor." I grabbed Greatest Hits, and behind Greatest Hits was Doobie's Choice, a great companion to Greatest Hits, featuring a disc's worth of the necessary album tracks, as selected by the Doobies. I saw "Another Park, Another Sunday," which a co-worker at the radio station had introduced me to some time back, and knew that I had to take Doobie's Choice home with my Greatest Hits purchase. Doobie's Choice is one of my favorite albums to pull out when I'm in the mood to hear something good. And God knows, I've got plenty of choices to choose from in that category.
10. Sammy Hagar - "Halfway to Memphis" - This one caught my ear for the first time on Not 4 Sale, an album that came and went quickly when the label that put it out went belly-up shortly after release. Hagar gave this one a second life and reached a few more ears when he included it on Livin' It Up.
11. Bruce Springsteen - "Gypsy Biker" - I wasn't blown away with Springsteen's Magic release, but he sold me on it, as he so often does, when I saw several dates on the Magic tour. "Gypsy Biker" was a definite highlight of the Magic tunes featured in the setlist throughout the tour.
12. Eels - "Sweet Lil' Thing" - My love for E and the Eels has been briefly documented in various places on this site. blinking lights and other revelations was the great Eels album that I had been waiting to hear, after a couple of non-stellar efforts. Definitely looking forward to hearing the new album Hombre Lobo in June.
13. Liz Phair - "Rock Me" - Cleveland songwriter Nicholas Megalis and I were nerding out talking about everything from Kate Bush to The Kills to Liz Phair. He expressed his love for Exile (not bad, considering he's barely 20,) and I asked him if he had heard the later period stuff from Liz, which I enjoy as well. He had, and was a fan, and from there we talked about 10 to 20 more bands and singer/songwriters before we called an end to the nerd session. A few days later, this one came up on my Ipod, from the self-titled Liz Phair release.
14. Jenny Owen Youngs - "Secrets" - I'll end this mix with a new cut from what will be in my top 5 favorite albums of the year, without a doubt. Transmitter Failure is the brand new album from Jenny Owen Youngs, and it is just as fantastic as the initial single "Led To The Sea" indicated that it could be. Transmitter Failure will be available in stores on May 26th, and it is begging for your ears to give it a listen. I can't wait to see Jenny live here in Cleveland, hopefully soon! "Secrets" is the perfect song for anyone that's ever found themselves trapped in a relationship wracked with constant jealousy. Pre-order the new album here.
Here is a video for "Clean Break," another tune that you'll find on Transmitter Failure:
Enjoy the mix, and have a great week!