Friday night’s show with Mystery of Two, The Dreadful Yawns, and JJ Magazine, marked the final performance at Parish Hall. During the past two years it had hosted numerous rock shows, art openings, and visual performances, and it was also the home of Exit Stencil Records and the Exit Stencil Studio. The closing of Parish Hall wasn’t your typical story of a failed venue. It wasn’t linked to the ailing music industry, and it wasn’t the victim of gentrification. If anything, it seemed like Parish Hall had just started to carve its own niche in the live music scene by bringing in touring acts that couldn’t get The Beachland or Grog Shop, staging unique events like an Americana festival and a World Music festival, and by giving the Exit Stencil bands a home venue. Instead, it became a victim of its own success as the rigors of running a venue started to take its toll on the all volunteer staff. When you consider Parish Hall’s Ryan Weitzel and Brandon Stevens are both heavily involved with the label, with Weitzel also playing guitar and singing for the night’s headliner, Mystery of Two, you can begin to see how time might start to become an issue.
Sure, I’m going to miss the hall. I’ll miss the sign at the bar that said the suggested donation for a Pabst is $2. I’ll miss hanging out in the fenced in lot, in front of the hall during spring and summer time, where it seemed less like a venue and more like a house party. One thing I don’t have to lament, is the loss of music, for as Mystery of Two and The Dreadful Yawns showed, with or without the hall, Cleveland music is in a very good place.
Lost in all the press of Friday being the last show at Parish Hall, was the fact that this was also a celebration: Mystery of Two had just released their debut cd, Arrows Are All You Know, on Exit Stencil. On disc, and in a live setting, they are defined by the nimble work of Weitzel on guitar and Lonn Schubert on bass. While Weitzel’s guitar moves from jingle-jangle and rabble-rabble, to static and destroy, Schubert is agilely working every inch of his bass. Not to discount the work of Nick Riley on drums, who’s integral in holding the band together in the midst of guitar acrobatics, but Schubert may just be the best Rock ‘n’ Roll bassist in town. The group’s skill was most evident on “In My Home” where they transformed the end of the song, from a gentle decrescendo, to a manic sequence of stop, start, stop and rock. Another highlight was “Quick,” a song where they channel their avant spirit, into a decidedly more melodic and poppy direction. Of course, poppy is a relative term here. No one’s going to mistake Weitzel’s ominous scowl and howl on the mic for the soothing sounds of James Taylor any time soon. My only disappointment with Mystery of Two was that they didn’t end their set with a proper send off to the hall in the time honored tradition of the all star jam. They could have invited members of The Dreadful Yawns on stage for a rousing rendition of “We Built This City,” or if you’re not a fan of Starship (and who is), something a little less embarrassing, like Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My,” or The Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone.” It’s a minor complaint, since they closed the set by blazing their way through album closer “Desolate” with Weitzel’s guitar set to permanent aural damage.
The Dreadful Yawns preceded Mystery of Two, and like Beaten Awake last week, their performances keep getting better and better. Aside from the band name, and principal guitarist/vocalist, Ben Gmetro, little is left of what was once the Dreadful Yawns. There was maybe one song in their set that would fit in with the Yawns show I saw two years ago, and most the set consisted of material that they’ve been working on since the release of Rest, earlier in the year. Gone too, is the sound of the old Dreadful Yawns, the one that earned the band comparisons to the Byrds, or labels like psych-folk, or alt country. Now, all that easy strummin’ has been traded for a heavier psychedelic sound, where Gmetro, and second guitarist Eric Schulte, try to shake every last nugget of rugged feedback from their amps. The other major change for the Yawns has been the addition of vocalist Elizabeth Kelly, who provides harmonies to Gmetro’s lead on most numbers, and also takes the lead herself, on a couple of numbers. The band sounded sharp on “The Queen and The Jokester,” a number memorable for that one moment where Kelly trades in her sweet, for a piercing shriek (if you’ve seen it and heard it, you know exactly what I’m talking about). They also killed on “Don’t Know What I’ve Been On.” They flipped it, reversed it, ripped it, and shredded it during an extendo-freak out jam, only to resuscitate the melody, delicately and carefully, some six or seven minutes later. It was a brilliant ten minutes of Rock ‘n’ Roll heaven, and precisely the reason I head out each weekend to catch bands like The Dreadful Yawns, Mystery of Two, or Beaten Awake. It’s not just local pride, they’re getting really f’n good.