Malcolm X Abram: Local bands provide holiday merriment

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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The Juke Hounds.

Well, here we are at the end of the year. It’s the holiday season and the chronological sun is setting on 2013.

Many folks have some combination of vacation time between now and the new year and perhaps a few extra family members and/or friends in town looking for something to do after all the presents are unwrapped, the Christmas meal leftovers are gone and the airing of grievances has taken place.

Well, many national touring acts are also at home with their loved ones, but there is plenty of local talent who will happily play you into the new year.

Tonight, Joe’s Downtown in Akron will hold a local band Christmas Party featuring a super jam session (just bring your instruments and talent) with a gaggle of local musicians.

In addition to the big jam, there will also be sets by hard rockers Red Sun Rising, Cleveland indie folksters New Moon Rising (have y’all met?), Devilstrip, tuneful Akron indie rock trio Royal Vasa, Jake Porter and kinetic punk-infused indie rockers the Hobs.

If that’s not enough loud music for you, then head to Annabell’s Bar & Lounge in Akron’s Highland Square on Friday night for three heavy bands playing heavy music. Angular metal trio Rebreather will open followed by the down-tuned sludge riffs and death vocals of Mockingbird. The show will be headlined by Album, a power trio that plays chugging, galloping tunes that have a kind of old-school, new-wave-of-British-heavy-metal feel. Plus, the Rogers, Ohio-based band has a song called Death by Eagle that immediately bumps it up a notch in my book.

For folks looking for something a little easier on the eardrums and the neck muscles, downtown venue Musica is playing host to a singer/songwriter night on Friday. Local folks Valerie Custer, Zach Freidhof, Angie Haze, Chris Hatton and Rachel Roberts (likely) will whip out their acoustic guitars and do the coffeehouse troubadour thing. I think the over/under on songs that are either about or have the word Ohio in the title is four.

For you jazzbos, the Akron Civic Theatre is having another in its series of Jazz@the Civic shows on Friday featuring an evening of erudite groovy jazz with local guitarist Dan Wilson.

Wilson, who is also a teacher, is a seriously talented cat. He has toured Russia with smooth jazz saxophonist Eric Marienthal and spent time studying Brazilian music in Rio De Janeiro. His 2012 debut album To Whom It May Concern is a nice mix of traditional and Latin jazz, some improvised jazz-fusion with a dash of horn-infused R&B and funk grooves.

He is highly respected in the area jazz community for his fleet fingers and tasteful improvisations and is definitely worth a trip to the Civic cabaret.

Creeping up on New Year’s Eve, of course, there will be all of the happenings in downtown as part of First Night Akron, but if you don’t mind being on the highway with all the amateur drunken drivers, then you can have a soul-filled NYE at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland with Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites. The band will perform two sets featuring old and new tunes from the upcoming album that the big band has been working on for so long that it’s turning into a Northern Soul version of Gun N Roses 15-years-in-the-making album Chinese Democracy. Hopefully, Wes and the boys will have a better finished product.

Also on New Year’s Eve, Jilly’s Music Room in downtown Akron will play host to local blues rocking band the Jukehounds along with Motown/R&B big band the Swizzlestick Band. For $50, you get an all-night buffet, a traditional champagne toast and plenty of live music.

And if you need a nongambling-dependent excuse to check out the brand spanking new Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park, then head up there on New Year’s Eve to party like it’s 1983 with Detroit band the Romantics at the Hard Rock Live concert venue.

Early MTV watchers may recall that the videos for the Detroit pop/rock band’s biggest hits, including What I Like About You, Talking in Your Sleep and One in a Million were ubiquitous on the then-fresh new cable channel and are still heard on classic pop and rock radio today. The band still contains original members singer/guitarist Wally Palmar, lead guitarist Mike Skill and bassist Rich Cole.

Well, that it’s for me and 2013. It’s been an interesting year; I saw some good shows, including Steve Winwood, Jeff Beck and Brian Wilson, a fun night of acoustic metal at Ripper’s Rock House, the Breeders, Wes Bright, Hall & Oates, Buddy Guy and Bob Dylan. And I had a great time at the Porch Rokr Festival in Highland Square.

I’m sure 2014 will have plenty of good shows for all us music lovers and hey, a new Black Keys record should be just around the proverbial corner, giving listeners a few more songs that will be near inescapable on TV and in films for much of the year.

I sincerely wish you and yours a very happy and safe New Year’s Eve and a well-hydrated, not too terribly hung-over New Year’s Day.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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