This was my first visit to Cleveland’s new Music Box Supper Club. I have a couple more upcoming shows I am checking out there. They are booking some incredible talent. I know, I know, I know there is some kind of feud or bad blood going on in the concert venue world out there. Honestly, I don’t care. There is a new venue on the scene and it is getting some amazing talent to bring their tours to actually stop in Cleveland. Competition is not a bad thing in this business and in the end the music lovers win.
Let me start off with the venue. Located on the west bank of the Flats in what I think used to be an old dance club is the Music Box Supper Club. It is an absolutely gorgeous venue. Being a supper club they also have an expansive menu. They have a huge wine list, bottle service and an impressive craft beer list. This is not your normal concert hall. This is an experience. What you don’t have is a bunch of chatter from rude scenesters who have no interest in actually listening to the show. You have adults sitting at tables enjoying good food and taking in a show. The sound is phenomenal with really amazing acoustics. Then there are the full windows overlooking the Cuyahoga River that just add to this musical dreamscape. While some may scoff at sitting at a rock show and not screaming out of tune lyrics to your favorite song dancing in aisles, others actually appreciate not seeing your ass in their face and listening to your tone deaf vocals so we can enjoy the artists performance.
That being said, wow, what an amazing venue. Everything from being seated by a hostess, to having a server take care of you the whole show is pretty amazing. I love this formula and I love this venue. The opener for the show was Jon Langford, who just so happened to create the artwork for the Music Box sign. Musician and artist Langford had a gallery opening before the show where he was selling many of his works. Such incredible stuff that I wish I could afford, but I settled on a couple vinyl records. Talk about a cool dude, this rock and roll soldier has paid his dues for years in bands like Mekons, Waco Brothers, The Sadies and as a solo artist. Just him and his guitar on that stage. A combination of the political swagger of Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer, the whimsical poetry of Robyn Hitchcock and the storytelling of Hemingway; Langford is a road battered troubadour.
Being a new found fan of Langford I really don’t know many of the songs he played, but he was so damn good. Shortly after his set we got to talk with Jon and seriously, what a fucking dude this guy is. He’s the guy you want to drink whiskey with all night just to hear the stories. Then something clicked in my head after the show and I realized, holy shit this is the cat from This American Life who put a band together for the story “Everyone Speaks Elton John”. Google it, YouTube it. It is an amazing story about putting a band together from classified ads and doing Rocket Man as the common musical ground. Brilliant, one of my favorite This American Life stories, and Landford is the guy to thank for it.
So, Langford gets off and probably about 20 minutes later Rhett Miller takes to the stage for his solo acoustic set. Miller without the Old 97’s is an excellent thing. The 97’s are an ornery bunch that can play sets at mach 5 alternative country speeds. Miller slows it all down a bit and brings out the pop sensibilities of the 97’s tunes. His solo stuff is just really good pop music. He is a balladeer. He knows how to craft songs covering everything from drinking to heartbreak in a way that speaks to you. Been there, yep, that was me too. Damn. He is also a storyteller as well. His banter with the crowd is amazing. Sometimes he tells too much but he doesn’t stop himself. He is an intimate performer that knows how to put on a show.
I left his set saying, yep, he played everything I wanted to hear. It was like an hour an a half plus of nonstop hits, a couple new tunes, and a lot of solid storytelling. While Old 97’s certainly have their merit a solo Rhett Miller show does more for me for some reason. I think it is the intimacy of the whole thing. Langford even joined him for a couple songs including some Johnny Cash and a classic Mekons cut “Over the Cliff”.
For a first show at the Music Box it is going to be hard to top this one, but it’s Robyn fucking Hitchcock for my next one so I am not worried. However the one thing you can’t top is this venue. I can’t even put into words how amazing this place is. The Music Box Supper Club is a music fans venue. It has a lot going for it and hopefully stands the test of time. You can tell the craft, passion and dedication put into making this club. It is absolutely beautiful.