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 I'm married to a drummer. No, more than that, I'm married to a guy who's been a professional musician for nearly 40 years. I think he's one of the best drummers in Cleveland (or the world) but I may be biased, because nearly everything I know about drumming came from him. But this isn't about the husband's musicianship; it's about how that takes me to weird places. Or at least about the latest one, this weekend.
He plays in a band called Sosumi, a "damaged art rock" band started in the 80s and still playing gigs, even if some years they only play once. I think once they didn't play for like 3 years, and this year they've already played twice. Anyway. they had a gig this past Saturday at the Happy Dog.

The Happy Dog used to be a corner tavern in an iffy neighborhood. Then in the early '00s, about the time Detroit-Shoreway turned into Gordon Square and got lots of federal funds to pretty it up, some young(er) people took it over, and started having DJs come in and play strange ambient noise or old soul on vinyl, and they did polka parties, where old couples danced next to hipsters and everybody ate pierogies. Nowadays, they still do polka parties (once a month, maybe?) but the new even younger owners brought in their chef* friend to advise them, and he said "serve only hot dogs & fries, but offer unlimited toppings" so they did. They have real meat dogs made specially for them at Blue Ribbon Meats, a legendary local sausage maker, and 50 toppings available. They also have lots of beers, many on tap, pinball machines, a downstairs hangout bar where the DJs live now, and a live music stage just inside the door. 

We got to the bar about 10:30, and Sosumi was scheduled to go on at midnight.  We got drinks and dogs (I chose carmelized onions, smoked bacon, cheddar, and Ballpark mustard. Best.Dog.Ever. [or at least since childhood. My dad was a butcher.]) and sat back to watch the show.

The first thing you need to know, if you haven't guessed yet, is the Happy Dog is home to hipsters. Lots of them. I saw more interesting beards there than I ever have, including the hugest pair of mutton chops I've ever seen. They stuck out from the side of his face at least 3 inches, and hung down nearly to his shoulders. Which were, yes, covered in flannel. 

The bar staff was 3/5 hipster, with the obligatory 6 foot tall lesbian and a skinny little hippie boy thrown in for contrast. Between the hipster staff and the hipster patrons, I would have felt old and out of place without the band's regular fans.

Believe it or not, Cleveland has been (and still is) a hotbed of activity in the arts. There are still live music performances of one kind or another every night of the week, and art galleries, studio spaces, and weird collectives in every neighborhood and suburb of Cleveland. Even though our radio mostly sucks (try 87.7 when you're in town, the only sorta-independent rock radio here), there's lots of new music here - we're the home of Alternative Press [disclosure - the husband does their podcasts].

Anyway, the art and music scene in Cleveland is still kinda insular, and there's lots of overlap. Sosumi's crowd is part artists and musicians, and part friends of the band. Sosumi is one of those bands that have good nights and bad nights, and sometimes the bad nights are good, and sometimes they're just painful. Saturday was one of the good bad nights. Everyone was having fun, band and audience alike, even though the musicianship was a bit ragged and forgotten chords and lyrics figured in more often than not, but everyone had fun. And the people-watching was excellent. By midnight, the bar regulars had started mingling with the people who were there to see the band, bonding over hot dogs and beer. I didn't think I'd be really comfortable in a hipster hangout, but the hot dog made up for all the beard and flannel and ironic love of Polish things. 
 

*Chef Eric Williams, from Momocho, the Mexican fusion restaurant that took over the space my 2nd all-time favorite restaurant** used to be in. 

**Fulton Bar and Grill's chef, Steve Parrish, introduced me to the concept of farm-to-table cooking, and that was my favorite restaurant. They catered to musicians and their schedules and kept the kitchen open late. Then it closed, and now Lola is my favorite restaurant. 
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marence

May 2013

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