Andy Schumann ’15
Cleveland has long been known for its terrific music scene, and the recent Lakewood Music Festival was no exception to this time-old tradition. Over twenty bands played at the twelve-hour long event this past weekend. Headlining the festival was Talib Kweli, a popular rapper best known for his song “Get By”, released in 2009 and produced by long-time collaborator Kanye West. Though Kweli was the best known performer, there were a wealth of other interesting and varying acts.
I arrived at the venue, Mahall’s Bowling Alley, after the event had already begun, and arrived just in time to hear the rollicking loud pop sounds of The Commonwealth. Mr. Nicholas Kuhar, an English and Film teacher of St. Edward, plays drums and sings backup vocals in the band, alongside his brother Andrew (vocals/keyboard/guitar) and Patrick Burke (guitar). Out of mainstream acts, they relate most closely to a hybrid of The Black Keys and Radiohead. The boundless energy of the group made their performance one of the most visually entertaining of the night. Highlights include Andrew Kuhar’s fit at the end of the set, wherein he jumped off one stage and brought his guitar close to the amp to allow for some very loud, very dynamic feedback. Overall, The Commonwealth proved to me once again that live music is the way to go, as this kind of stage energy doesn’t often translate even in the most masterfully mixed albums.
As there were three stages, I did not get the opportunity to see every band that played. Next up were the Jamaican Queens, performing on the outdoor stage. This Detroit-based group was my favorite of the night, as they sounded like a perfect mix of David Bowie’s beautiful growl and songwriting prowess and MGMT’s electronic, heavily-synth reliant pop. Jamaican Queens were unique in that they took the best elements of hip-hop- the driving beats and the prominent bass- and pop- traditional singing (as opposed to rap) and catchy hooks.
The Black Keys are a common source of inspiration in today’s indie-rock scene. So common that in Welshly Arms, another group of Clevelanders, clearly borrowed some of their style from the band. Though neither is cited as an inspiration on their Facebook page, their sound is as if the raw bluesy attitude of Jack White were glued atop of the Black Keys funky, fun jams. Though very entertaining on stage, this was one of the lower points of the night for me. The band’s songs weren’t different enough to keep me excited the entire set, the guitarist’s frequent technical solos felt like they got in the way of otherwise well-flowing songs. Despite this, the singer may have been the best of the night, whose musical confidence (perhaps cockiness) allowed for some very entertaining improvisational vocal riffing throughout the set.
Next was Talib Kweli, the centerpiece of the festival. Many people came solely for this rapper, as made evident by the now swarming groups of twenty-somes cramped around the main stage. Despite my distance from the action, Kweli was by far the most commanding of my attention out of all the performers. Though it was hard to make out his lyrics over the booming bass sounds produced by his DJ Z-Trip, he rapped with a passion and energy that was hard to take my eyes from. I am not well-versed in the world of hip-hop, as the only artist I have more than a passing familiarity with is Kanye West, yet Kweli’s set was compelling, to say the absolute least. Perhaps the greatest thing about the rapper’s show is that he got the audience pumped up, yet didn’t incite our energy simply to feed his performance. I felt that he genuinely was performing for us, not himself, making sure we had the best time possible with lots of audience participation and call and response antics.
Overall, the Lakewood Music Festival was an excellent waste of twenty bucks and four and a half hours of my time. There were, of course, a few bands that I saw but did not cover in this article. This is due to the fact that I was not particularly attentive to all the bands, and those mentioned are solely ones whose performances I watched in their entirety. As such, I feel as though I am not justified to give a review. However, these bands not reviewed also tended to be bands that were not particularly appealing to me within a minute’s listen, including Phony Ppl, Blisse Anonyon Atu and Muamin Collective.