Memorial Day weekend kicks off summer of music

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Blues guitarist Buddy Guy, performs on the set of the Late Show with David Letterman, Jan. 16, in New York. (AP Photo/CBS, John Paul Filo)

Memorial Day weekend is coming and just as with big, usually dumb summer blockbusters, having a Monday off from work apparently jump-starts the summer season as evidenced by the annual celebration of deliciously charred and carefully seasoned animal flesh at Marc’s Great American Rib Cook-Off at the Jacobs Pavilion and the Nautica Entertainment Complex in Cleveland.

The event is in its 22nd year and if you love meat and classic rockers then you should have a gut-busting, meat-sweating good time.

This year’s headliners are a living blues legend, an ’80s power pop king and a hair metal stalwart: Buddy Guy, who played a great, high energy show at the Akron Civic back in March; singer/songwriter/actor Rick Springfield, who recently garnered great reviews for his rockin' version of Man That Never Was in the 2013 documentary Sound City Players; and Poison lead singer/songwriter and cable network-sponsored skank collector Bret Michaels. (You recall the various iterations of his reality show Rock of Love, right?)

Guy, who will perform at 9 p.m. Sunday, is still touring behind his 2012 album, Live at Legends, while Springfield (9 p.m. Saturday) is riding the wave of critical positivity generated by Dave Grohl's Sound City Players.

Michaels, who will play at 6 p.m. Monday, has a new album coming out in late June called Jammin’ With Friends. The album took two years to compile and features 20 tracks of covers, a few originals and some re-recorded versions of Poison songs.

The “with friends” of the title are an eclectic bunch of famous musicians including Jimmy Buffet, Ace Frehley, Miley Cyrus, Loretta Lynn, Lil Jon, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath (he still makes music?) and Peter Keys of Lynyrd Skynyrd. There are also two newish original songs — The App Song and You Know You Want It.

In addition to the national headliners, the event will feature bands both local and otherwise performing on two more stages.

At 9 p.m. Friday night, the Detroit-based party band Mega 80s, who — as suggested by the name — plays music from the 1980s, and was named best cover band by the readers of Real Detroit in 2002 and 2004-2010, will perform on the House of Blues-sponsored Emerging Artist Stage.

The music will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday on the HOB stage. Bands include the Chardon Polka Band (6 p.m.) and party dance-rock band London Flatts (7:30 p.m.).

On Sunday, the music will start at 12:30 p.m. and bands will include Pittsburgh indie rockers the Winter Brave; Santa Cruz, Calif., punk-flavored rockers Stellar Corpses (3:15 p.m.); Cleveland “cinematic pop band” and Scene Magazine’s best upcoming band of 2013 the Modern Electric (4:10 p.m.); Akron’s popular active rockers Red Sun Rising (6 p.m.); and Kent indie folksters Bethesda (7:50 p.m.).

At 1 p.m. on Monday you will be able to check out local teen guitar whiz the Michael Weber Show (1:45 p.m.) and talented Akron/Kent soul-pop-rock band Winslow (4:45 p.m.).

On Saturday, the Roots of American Music Acoustic Dining Tent will feature Diana Chittester (2:45 p.m.) and local singer/songwriter Ryan Humbert (4:30 p.m.) and Walkin’ Cane (1 p.m.) and another set from Chittester (4:30 p.m.) on Sunday.

Random acts of live music

• Tonight at Annabell’s Bar & Lounge in Highland Square in Akron, local prog-rockers Relaxer featuring folks from other bands such as Party of Helicopters, White Pines, Drummer and Houseguest, will play a free show along with catchy ’80s dark wave-inspired Akron group David Bay Leaf.

• On Friday night, the Auricle in Canton will welcome Brooklyn-based hip-hop/bluegrass group Gangstagrass.

I know what you’re thinking. The combination of Brooklyn, aka the hipster band metropolis, coupled with the notion of a mash-up of rap and bluegrass and a new album called Rappalachia just screams eye-roll inducing musical pretentiousness.

But the quintet isn’t nearly as corny as its high concept would suggest and you may already know one of its songs, Long Hard Time to Come, the title theme to popular FX series Justified.

The new album features the group backing up several emcees, including Kool Keith and NYC duo Dead Prez.

• I haven’t been to Clay's Park since the Alive Festival moved farther south, but this weekend fans of jam bands may want to make the drive to the bucolic resort and water park in Stark County for wildly popular Columbus jam band Ekoostik Hookah's annual “The Ville” (hey, didn't it used to be Hookaville?) festival.

This year’s spring edition features two nights of headlining sets from Ekoostik Hookah as well as sets from Rusted Root and Col. Bruce Hampton (a truly strange and interesting dude) on Saturday. On Sunday, popular Youngstown group Glass Harp, featuring the classic trio lineup of singer/guitarist Phil Keaggy, bassist Daniel Pecchio and drummer John Sferra, will play.

Also performing will be a gaggle of national and regional bands including Michael Glablicki; Jon Wayne and the Pain; Sultans of Bing; Fletcher’s Grove; Aliver Hall; Dragon Wagon; Blue Moon Soup; the Get Down; the Hot Sauce Committee; Hey Monea; and Glow Stick Willy. Go to for show times.

• On Saturday, Cleveland uber-guitarist Neil Zaza will perform a special concert that is being recorded for an upcoming DVD/multimedia documentary to be released later this year.

The show will be tailored for the DVD, meaning Zaza’s set list will cover his entire career and go deep into his 15-plus CD releases. Tickets are $20 and you’ll get to be an extra!

Manzarek remembered

R.I.P. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

Yet another classic rocker shuffles off this mortal coil leaving behind a legacy of time-tested and still influential music.

Manzarek with his classical influences and bossa nova grooves was one of the most immediately recognizable keyboardists in one of the more immediately recognizable rock bands and he produced some of L.A. punks X’s best albums including the seminal Los Angeles.

Don’t look now, but many of our beloved rock heroes are in their 60s and early 70s and are slowly jamming toward the corporeal finish line excepting of course, Keith Richards and Iggy Pop who will surely both survive the apocalypse (be it self-inflicted or biblical) along with cockroaches, plastic containers and at least one Kardashian.

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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