Sound Check: Holiday music for the masses

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Canton trio Hey Monea! (from left) Dan Monea, Nate Monea and Adam Orin. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Zenger)

The year is winding down and soon friends and family members will come home to celebrate the holidays.

But there’s no reason that between all the caroling, wassailing, Christmas goose eating and the airing of grievances that you can’t get out and experience some live holiday music, or at least live music played during the holidays.

So here are a couple of offerings beginning with Canton pop/rock band Hey Monea! and its ominously titled “Blood Red Christmas” at the Auricle in Canton on Saturday night with White Buffalo Woman.

The trio of Nate and Dan Monea plus Adam Orin have been plying its peppy, catchy pop/rock for a few years now and earlier this year released its second full-length album, Cheap Souvenirs — 10 tracks coming in at a svelte 31 minutes. Hey Monea! specializes in short unabashed pop songs, often driven by piano and marked by the trio’s taut three-part vocal harmony.

Radio station 91.3 (WAPS-FM) the Summit has been spinning the band’s indie-folk flavored Adeline. Other songs such as the midtempo Sweetness and the peppy rock tune Cigarette, with its stabbing eighth-note piano chords, should also find their way onto AAA radio.

Opener White Buffalo Woman hails from lovely Minerva, and the quartet of Adam Murphy, Ben Stimmel, Evan Rutledge and Joe Gotschall’s chosen musical milieu is a bit dirtier, rooted in garage rock and old soul and blues.

In February WBW released its self-titled, four-song EP with a straight-up old-school, organ-laced, R&B ballad Baby Please, a simmering, bluesy’ 60s-inspired woe-is-me tune On My Own complete with horns and a stomping garage rock tune You Will See that recalls 21st century garage rock revivalists such as the Dirtbombs.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to do the hustle, the funky chicken, the monkey or some other old-school dance, head down to Musica in Akron for the Admirables’ Christmas Get-Down on Sunday night.

The relatively new soul/funk/jazz sextet contains several University of Akron jazz cats. And, like other area musicians, members do double duty in other bands including Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites, Dave Hammer’s Power Supply and Spontaneous Flow.

The Admirables play mostly original tunes in the style of late ’60s/early ’70s soul and funk bands along with some lesser known R&B tunes topped with a healthy dollop of jazz improvisation. Think Junior Walker & the All-Stars with jazz chops or the solo recordings by James Brown’s longtime band the J.B.s.

But the Admirables don’t want you to sit down and nod your head approvingly as they impress you with their knowledge of scales and modes. No, they want you to get up and dance, or rather, Get-Down and boogie. Saxophonist Nathan-Paul Davis makes for a convivial host/cheerleader.

Baron Rogers will be the host for the evening that also will feature DJ Forest Getemgump. The mood should be festive as there will be a Christmas tree and the band is asking that folks bring a wrapped “funky gift” for the tree and they promise you’ll get one back by the end of the night.

For holiday headbangers (man, Cleveland loves its metal), the Agora has a Cleveland metal twofer with the still-going Mushroomhead doing its industrial, metal, makeup thing on Friday night and nu/thrash band Chimaira hosting its 14th Christmas concert on Saturday night.

Chimaira has been through quite a bit of personal and personnel upheaval in recent years with longtime guitarist Rob Arnold’s departure leaving singer Mark Hunter as the sole original member, but its latest album Crown of Phantoms, released in the summer and recorded with an almost all new lineup, is surprisingly strong.

As for Mushroomhead, the band is currently recording a new album tentatively slated for an early 2014 release. This band has been at it for two decades and has amassed a dedicated fanbase, but if you’re not among the converted by now then you’ve likely missed that boat.

Hey, Merry Christmas, happy belated Hanukkah, and I hope you witness a Festivus Miracle during this holiday season.

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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