Sound Check: Outdoor shows plentiful this summer

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Bon Jovi performs at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota in April 2013. (Marlin Levison/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Friday is the official first day of summer, which means the opportunities for folks to enjoy live music in the outdoors will grow considerably.

Akron’s Lock 3 Park’s weekly shows, which started in late May, continue. This week’s WONE’s (97.5-FM) Rock the Lock concert will feature Changes in Latitudes, a tribute to Jimmy Buffet, along with local band Mo Mojo.

Down at the Akron Art Museum tonight, the annual Downtown@Dusk concert series will kick off with “live abstract rockabilly” from Lost State of Franklin, a local trio led by guitarist/songwriter/trumpeter J. Scott Franklin, vocalist/percussionist Tyler Postma and bassist Jeremy Cottrell. The band has two albums, Quarter to Lonely and Windshield Sky, under its collective country-shuffling, back porch-harmonizing belt.

Over in Cuyahoga Falls, Rockin’ on the River, which also took a leap of faith in the weather and started in late May, will take hard rock fans on a trip in the Wayback machine Friday to the days of huge, bleached, feathered hair and men in spandex also known as the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Performing at this bit of musical time traveling will be Guns 4 Roses, a tribute to the arena-filling, feel-good, anthem-like music of the Dead Kennedys (OK, that’s not true. Just seeing if you’re paying attention.) along with 1988: Ohio’s Tribute to ’80s Hard Rock, which means you should bring your lighters (no cellphones dude, that’s so 21st century) to hoist toward the heavens during the many power ballads that are sure to be played.

Another show happening under the Ohio skies will be retro-soul/biggish band Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites, which will be commandeering the rooftop patio of the Lockview on Saturday night to perform songs from its nearly finished debut album and inspire concertgoers and drinkers to get up and do the Lucy.

Bon Jovi concert canceled

So by now you know that the Cleveland Browns Fan Kickoff Party, which was to be headlined by Bon Jovi, ain’t happening. Initially, the Browns gave no official reason and their media guy politely referred all inquiries to the Bon Jovi camp, which historically is a passive-aggressive way of saying “it ain’t our fault.” Now word has come out that the reason was sluggish ticket sales, which would make sense because Bon Jovi just played Quicken Loans Arena in March and some of the better seats for the Kickoff Party were more than $500.

So, perhaps the Browns could have taken a quick look at which big draws would be on tour and checked to see if they had been through the area recently and gone another direction, but I’m sure it looked pretty darn good on paper.

But disappointed Browns and Bon Jovi fans should take heart because it appears that we were not going to get the full Bon Jovi experience anyway, as the band’s principals, Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora, have been in the midst of an uncharacteristically public snipe-fest that resembles an episode of Real Rock Stars of the New Jersey Turnpike.

We all know that many rock stars have massive egos, but many also have massively fragile egos and from the bits of the spat that have been made public, it’s easy to see both men’s sides.

I can see why Bon Jovi with his blue-collar work ethic is upset at Sambora, who just up and left a leg of the increasingly ironically named “Because We Can” tour. I can also see why Sambora would be peeved with Bon Jovi, who first suggested to the London Evening Standard in May that the guitarist, who did a stint in rehab in 2007 and during the 2011 tour, is back on the sauce.

“He’s been through it before; fortunately for us the same guy who filled in last time was available this time,” said Bon Jovi in the Evening Standard article.

Sambora has denied any relapses, saying he skipped out to pay more attention to his 5-year-old fashion line Nikki Rich with partner Nikki Lund. He added that he feels great, and he believes his musical partner wants to test the market for a full Sambora-less arena tour.

Later in the same interview, Bon Jovi swung this rather dismissive, ego-gut-punch: “Life goes on, so if someone chooses not to be here … unlike if this were, God forbid, the Edge, and he for some reason couldn’t make a U2 show, [then] it would be very difficult to just step in.”

Ouch, did he just compare Sambora with a dude in another band? Rough translation: “You ain’t got a signature sound and complex rig like the Edge, buddy. Any half-decent rock guitarist who can harmonize could step right in and do what you do, and the crowd wouldn’t notice … the band is called Bon-frickin’-Jovi.”

Now, for me, if the dude with whom I’ve been co-writing hit songs, touring the world, doing the back-to-back body jam (classic rock pose No. 25) and the cheek-to-cheek-single-mic-harmonizing-cuz-we’re-buddies (classic rock pose No. 37) for 30-plus years told the world I was a drunk and just another guitar player, it probably wouldn’t make me want to rush in and return to the fold.

Sambora reportedly responded to Bon Jovi’s statement with a succinct email that simply read “Hire the Edge.”

Oh, it’s on now, brother.

If that weren’t enough Bon Jovi also offered up one last statement that stops just short of sounding like an ultimatum; “You have a choice — you either figure it out, go and grow, not only survive but thrive. Or, you say, ‘I hate my brother and I’m gonna quit the band.’ ’’

Dang, Jon, it’s like that?

Of course the biggest loser in all of this at this moment are the Cleveland Browns (there’s a sentence you never see, right?) and area Browns/Bon Jovi fans looking to join their loyalty to both organizations together for just one stadium-rockin’, fist-pumping, chorus-shoutin’, Brandon Weeden-believin’, Dawg Poundin’ night.

Please, make nice boys. Both of you and the band are less interesting without each other, and you’ll likely be inducted into the rock hall sooner than later (oh yeah, it’s happening, eligible since 2009) and no one wants a repeat of the whole Guns N’ Roses kerfuffle casting a tension-filled pall over what should be a celebratory evening, do they?

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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