Road Blog: Thursday June 15, 2023 - Youngstown, OH
June 15, 2023
Our journey from the suburbs of Detroit to Youngstown was largely uneventful except for a 45-minute delay west of Cleveland, where an 18-wheeler smashed into something hard enough to destroy the entire front end. We saw ambulances and other emergency vehicles, but by the time we zipper-merged past the wreckage, the shell of the truck was all that remained. We listed to EX HEX, My Morning Jacket, and Living Colour as we plodded eastward and eventually laded at our dive motel.
The traffic jam set us back, so we didn’t have much downtime, and high-tailed it to the venue. I haven’t been to Youngstown since the last time I played here, in September of 1995, with SlugBug. We played a joint called the Pyatt Street Downunder with a cool band from Iowa called Tenderloin on the last night of an east coast tour. I’ve been trying to get back ever since, but only now was it finally happening thanks to our Cleveland pals Duo Decibel System, who booked the show and asked us to play.
The Westside Bowl is a painted-up, punk-rock bowling alley that sits on the western side of the city. There’s cool graffiti and painted murals on the sides of the building, a nice, well-lit lounge/bar that leads into the lanes. They have two stages – a big one upstairs for bigger shows, and a smaller club size room downstairs where we would be playing. We ordered beers and pizzas and sat down to relax and shake the drive off. We got pints of Narragansett Beer, which is an east-coast lager known as a step up from the economy beers like PBR and High Life, but even more so as the can crushed in the fist of salty fisherman Quint in the movie Jaws. We first learned of this beer (besides that scene in Jaws) from Chris from Bottlecap Mountain when we played with them in Detroit in March. I love those little cultural and human-experience-based synapses that follow us around sometimes. So I quickly tweeted Stang and said hey, when the owner of the Westside Bowl Nathan came up to the table. We had a nice talk about rock and roll, his venue, and where Youngstown sits in the general Cleveland-Pittsburgh corridor and live music scenes, and how he’s working hard to carve out his presence. It was pretty clear early on that this is a guy who loves rock and roll and cares about putting on shows. It’s not an afterthought, as it is in some other places, it’s a calculated passion, and I really respect that. Even the fact that he’s taking the time to talk to the bands and form that connection means a lot.
Speaking of those weird little connections with other people we’ve worked with across the country, Nate passed along a note that had traveled from behind the bar in Lansing Michigan a few weeks ago, into the wallet of the singer for Holy Pinto when they played there, through a bunch of touring, and now into my hands. It was a message from my friend Dani from the The Wild Honey Collective, saying hello and passing along some lovely thoughts, knowing that we’d be hooking up with Holy Pinto in the future. She was tending bar at their Lansing show and send that paper on its journey. I loved it, I love her and Tommy, and it made me miss my Lansing/ GTG Records family.
Up first was bwak dwagon from Cleveland. I didn’t realize it at first but their bassist is Jason Robinson, who we’d met many years ago when we did a photo shoot with his wife Mara. Crazy how that came back around (yet another crazy connection to the past). We weren’t familiar with them but they melted our faces with short, fast songs that harkened back to the punkier side of Hüsker Dü, Motorhead, and a little bit of Misfits. They were tight, no-nonsense, and very high energy. We collectively friggin’ loved them. We played second to a thin but attentive crowd and felt like we did ok. The sound was great and it was a fun time. After us our pals Duo Decibel System played the best set I’ve seen from them yet, and it’s always a pleasure to watch them work! And finally, Holy Pinto from Milwaukee batted cleanup. They play indie pop with some really well-crafted songs, great melodies, and a positive, smiling, confident presence on stage. The musicianship was top-notch, each of them, and we loved their stuff!
After the show we sold some merch, mingled with the other bands and some locals, loaded out, and headed back to the Motel 6 for some needed sleep. I think Jake was still yapping as I drifted off while South Park went from one episode to the other. We really loved the Westside Bowl and Nate and his staff are all amazing people. We’ve meet a lot of great people, but we also see a lot of grumpy, ambivalent, barely engaged people too – venue owners, bartenders, sound engineers. It’s so refreshing to find a place like this with GOOD people who are passionate about live music. We can’t wait to come back. Thank you Nathan, your staff, and the other bands.
We’re off to West Virginia now, playing in Huntington at THE LOUD tonight with Chocolate 4-Wheeler and Friendly Fire. It’s been a few years since the band played HWV. I did a solo show there in 2019, and even that seems like an eternity. See ya tonight! xx