Garage-Punk Festival Cheap Heat Takes Over Summit St April 14-15
One of the best things the internet has done for music is put the tendency of like-minded bands, labels, and fans together at a greater rate than before. The touring circuits and connections started in the ’80s have gone into overdrive with booking and correspondence getting much faster response times and word about shows traveling faster, farther. The newest fruit to be borne of these connections, and one I’m personally excited about, is the festival Cheap Heat coming to the north campus area this weekend.
Created by Gary Danelius, head of up-and-coming record label Heel Turn Records, in conjunction with Elijah Vasquez, Laura Bernazzoli, and Ian Graham, all of multiple hard-touring Columbus bands, Cheap Heat is a perfect example of a festival growing organically out of passion, friendship, and connections. I sat with a couple of the organizers to talk about why Cheap Heat, why now, and where they hope for it to go.
Gary said, “Right now, Columbus is brimming with talent. At the same time, it can be hard to get people out to shows. More and more, it feels like you need to make it an event. First and foremost, we wanted to have a festival where local bands weren’t an afterthought. There’s more quality in this town than I or Superdreamer can put out.” Elijah seconded that, “I’m recording great, world-class bands in my basement right now. Then you talk about the bands recording in other people’s basements. It’s a good time in Columbus.” Cleveland native Elijah has recorded seven of the nine releases on Heel Turn so far. In that spirit, over three shows on two nights, Cheap Heat features six bands on their roster from Columbus and farther afield (five with records out, one forthcoming), two bands on Superdreamer Records, and three other locals who’ve had work released on nationals like 12XU and nationally acclaimed locals like CDR.
Friday night features eight bands ricocheting back and forth between The Summit and Cafe Bourbon Street. The night opens with fire-breathing behemoth Unholy 2 who find new shadings in their grime-caked sound and ways to go deeper into the primal, cathartic joy of shouts and snarls. Gary said, “We couldn’t do this without Unholy 2.” Sex Tide, fronted by drummer/vocalist Aurelie Celine with Chris Corbin and organizer Elijah Vasquez on guitar, also come into their own more with every release and every year. Vasquez’ other band, Bloody Show, with fellow organizer Laura Bernazzoli and a rotating cast, conjure a catchy, scraped-metal sound reminiscent of the Stooges but its unique animal; in a killer Gonerfest last year, they took the stage at a day show and just walked off with the whole day, leaving dropped jaws and “Who the hell was that?”
Bloody Show made a separate trip to Memphis with Detroit’s Choke Chains, also appearing Friday night. In the spirit that informs the festival, Elijah said, “We were playing a different show, and they mentioned a record release at Murphy’s. ‘Can we get on that bill?'” And the rest was history as that’s a show I heard reverberations about all the way here. Choke Chains have a record coming soon on Heel Turn, and from their earlier record on Slovenly, it promises to set the hearts of the cognoscenti on fire. Gary said, “Choke Chains is a Detroit supergroup of sorts with Tom Potter from Bantam Rooster who also played in the Dirtbombs, with Lindsey from No Bails and The Millionaire of Chinese Millionaires. Their cornerstone slot on Friday should show everyone who missed their appearance at Ace earlier this year to never miss them again.
The Manateees are one of the most gloriously, deliriously unhinged bands I’ve ever seen from or in Memphis and that’s saying something. Anytime they come through town with their hilariously juvenile lyrics and riffs that stick to your ribs like that meal you shouldn’t eat at 2 in the morning, but you just can’t help yourself it’s a great time. The Cowboy grew out of Cleveland kings The Homostupids, and if last year’s set at Not Horrible Fest on their home turf is any indication, they’re not to be missed. All three of the organizers I talked to said Messrs are on a streak of some of the craziest shows in town. Golden Pelicans blew me away from a few Gonerfests ago with grinding, classic punk rock sharpened to a razor’s edge. Elijah called them, “The kind of band who make you want to stay up till four in the morning partying. The last time they were in Columbus [with Bloody Show] was a Sunday, and there were only twenty people in the audience, but it was a killer show I couldn’t make myself leave early.”
Danelius chuckled and said, “Closing with Bloody Show, Messrs, Manateees, and Golden Pelicans might kill us all. Saturday might get canceled just because no one’s alive to throw the rest of the festival!” More seriously, he said, “Elijah put together the two shows on Saturday to flow seamlessly into the other. The last band going on at Used Kids at nine should end just in time for everybody to walk across the street to Rumba.” The free Used Kids show is stacked. Terrestrials start the night rolling, from all accounts they killed opening for Sinkane at the Basement. With members of Outer Spacist and Lt Dance along with organizer Ian Graham, their blend of cracked-groove should be the tonic you need, especially if you’re still shaking off the cobwebs from Friday night.
The free Used Kids show is stacked. Terrestrials start the night rolling, from all accounts they killed opening for Sinkane at the Basement. With members of Outer Spacist and Lt Dance along with organizer Ian Graham, their blend of cracked-groove should be the tonic you need, especially if you’re still shaking off the cobwebs from Friday night. Raw Pony, one of the most exciting bands in town, features acidic Bo Diddley riffs and growling grooves from organizer Laura Bernazzoli with Virginia Pishioneri, Annie Lightbrown-Wolfe, and new addition Val Glenn on bass. Elijah said, “I’ve seen a lot of Raw Pony shows but [the first show with the new lineup] might have been the best Raw Pony set.”
Knoxville’s The Burning Itch is fronted by Ian Lawrence who Gary called “The weirdo mayor of Knoxville.” Elijah added, “If you want to do this kind of show in Knoxville, there are two options: The Pilot Light or Ian’s house. If you have a friend going down to Knoxville, he’s who they should meet.” Burning Itch have a new record on Heel Turn, and their barbed-wire bounce promises to levitate Used Kids. Closing the store’s portion of the Fest, Chicago’s The Sueves return to town on the heels of a highly acclaimed 2016 record on garage standard-bearers HoZac. Change Your Life graced Best Of lists and from all accounts their live show is a well-oiled machine.
Talking about the final show, Elijah said, “I wanted a bill where I wanted every band to see every other band. And I think I got it. From Tommy Jay, who’s killing it these days, to Danny Kroha, I’m excited to see everything.” Tommy Jay of the legendary Harrisburg Players recorded a lost classic Tall Tales of Trauma rediscovered for later generations in 2007 with Columbus Discount Records’ reissue. The reissue of that psych-folk record rekindled Jay’s spark to get in front of a band after years behind the drumkit. Elijah said the new band includes Bree Frick on cello and longtime Harrisburg guitarist Johnny Furnace on pedal steel. Pink Owl and His Supernatural Fears put out a deliciously moody record of cracked-mirror country on Superdreamer Records earlier this year, and Elijah and Ian both raved about the current band lineup.
DANA, as Elijah said, “Everybody’s favorite band in Columbus,” put out one of the best Columbus records in recent years last month and their shows continue to be riveting explosions. Ian echoed the comments I heard from several people at Sick Weekend that their barn-burner of a Saturday set should have occurred later in the night. We’re very lucky to have Danny Kroha back such a short period after crushing a packed crowd in the Gories. His new band, Danny and the Darleans, Gary called “Less primitive than the Gories or Demolition Doll Rods but with what you love about those bands.” Their last record on In the Red, Bug Out, bears that out with sing-along R&B riffs drenched in static and deep fried with a dance-floor-filler of a rhythm section featuring Richie Wohlfeil on drums and Outrageous Cherry’s Colleen Burke on bass.
If you’re hosting family or friends on Easter like some of us, I’d recommend stocking up on caffeine because there isn’t a set to be blown off in Cheap Heat. Elijah said, “This was the rare case where more bands wanted to play than we could logistically accommodate,” so let’s hope this is the first year of many.
Full Schedule (check the Facebook invite for updates):
Starts at 9 p.m. – $15
* The Golden Pelicans (Orlando) – Upcoming LP on Goner Records, recent release on Third Man Records, past releases on Total Punk)
* Messrs (Columbus)
* The Cowboy (Cleveland)
* Bloody Show (Columbus)
* Manateees (Memphis) – Releases on 12XU, Goner, etc
* Choke Chains (Michigan) – Upcoming release on Heel Turn
* Sex Tide (Columbus)
* Unholy Two (Columbus)
Sat, 4/15 – Used Kids Records – Free
Starts at 6 p.m.
* The Sueves (Chicago) – Recent LP on Hozac Records that everyone seems to love
* Burning Itch (Knoxville) – April 1 release on Heel Turn. Past releases on Tic Tac Totally, etc
* Raw Pony (Columbus)
* Terrestrials (Columbus)
Sat, 4/15 – Rumba Cafe – $10
Starts at 10 p.m.
* Danny & The Darleans (Detroit) – Danny is Danny Kroha from The Gories
* DANA (Columbus)
* Pink Owl & His Supernatural Fears (Columbus)