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The literal and figurative hangover that follows New Year’s Eve leaves everyone a bit short on cash and sluggish in the motivation department as winter sets in. That’s why for more than a decade the Grog Shop has booked a weekend’s worth of free shows to not only get people into the Coventry Village club but also expose music lovers to local acts of note.
This year’s all-ages shows feature Cholly, Coup de Grace, C-Level and Balanced Breakfast on Thursday; OBNOX, Red Rose Panic, Peachcurls, Smoke Noises and ALOOF RECS on Friday; Lo-Pan, Rebreather, We Live By Night and Goosed on Saturday; and Brent Kirby, Braxton Taylor, Alyssa Boyd and Michelle Gaw on Sunday.
CoolCleveland talked to Grog Shop general manager John Neely about the cover-free weekend of great local music.
CoolCleveland: It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year with free shows at the Grog Shop. What’s the impetus behind this annual affair?
John Neely: It’s historically the slowest weekend of the year and hardest for us to get people out just because it’s right after the holidays and New Year’s Eve. So we thought it would be a good idea to just have a string of free shows. There’s also not many acts on tour during that time, so we thought it would make sense to just showcase some of the underserved local bands.
CC: Considering the unique opportunity for local bands, are musicians hitting you up for a slot?
JN: Bands are always hitting us up in general for shows. There are a lot of bands out there. I’m sure we have steered people we were interested in getting back here towards this weekend, but usually each of us gets a date to book. Of course, there are always bands you start out with and not everyone is available, but that’s the nature of booking.
CC: Is each date booked with a genre or theme in mind?
JN: Sometimes it falls along those lines. I think this year the Thursday and Friday shows are more varied. Saturday definitely falls on really heavy stoner rock kind of stuff, and we usually reserve the Sunday for more acoustic singer-songwriter type shows. But, it doesn’t always end up with a theme of music for the night.
CC: Do you get the sense that audiences look forward to learning about new local bands at these shows?
JN:It always depends on who is playing. Some acts have a bigger draw than others. Obviously, the weekend nights tend to do better in general for obvious reasons. Historically, it’s one of the hardest weekends to get people out of their house. So we do our best to get together as good of a bill as we possibly can and promote it. There’s a little bit of crossing your fingers as well.
CC: Speaking of the New Year, does the Grog Shop have anything special planned for 2019?
JN: We’ll have our 27thyear anniversary in September, but I don’t know of any real changes coming up in the landscape here. We want to remain part of a vibrant Coventry Road community. We’ll do our part to keep that going. It’s always a struggle. It’s not like we have millions of dollars to remodel the club or anything like that, so it’s plugging along as usual.
CC: Finally, we’d be remiss not to ask about Ben Gibbard’s comments last month at the Death Cab for Cutie Agora concert regarding the old Grog Shop bathroom. He said, “Listen, I’ve traveled all around the world, and I’ve never seen a more disgusting bathroom in my life than the one there.”
JN: Any publicity is good publicity. I think it’s hilarious. Obviously, he was referring to the old Grog Shop. That may have been lost on some people in the audience, but we loved it. It’s always nice to get some sort of compliment – even if it’s underhanded – from Death Cab for Cutie.