But that sort of laudation is a distant second to the true benefit that I have derived from the site. Through it, I’ve made connections with Lou Muenz, Matt Wascovich and R.A. Washington: independent soldiers of the Cleveland art and music. These guys are the ones who bring me out of my grim moods after a day in my cubicle and make me want to stay up late on weeknights, even if they don’t know it. These guys are my friends.
When someone messes with my friends, I get pissed. The night before last, The Cleveland Church, The Church of Ayler, The Best Unsung Music Club in Cleveland was shut-down by the Second District Vice Squad for an occupancy violation. Nevermind the rampant reports of theft, nevermind the crack-dealers and knifings, The Cleveland Police Department has bigger fish to fry.
Including, apparently, a struggling music venue like The Church.
THE HEAD VICE DETECTIVE ACTUALLY SAID, â€œI GUESS SOMEONE HAS A VENDETTA AGAINST YOU.â€?
This is not the first time that a vendetta has resulted in the closing of a Tremont institution. The Starkweather had been a bar at the corner of Starkweather and Scranton for years. In the first year that I moved to Tremont it was completely restored to the beautiful brick building it is now. They had the best dart boards in the neighborhood and poured a good pint of Guinness. But one man with a vendetta managed to hassle and keep them closed just long enough for them to run out of money.
This must not happen to The Church. First off, they have no money. The Church is not around to make a profit. They are around to provide young Cleveland residents with music they like at a price they can afford. Tickets are never more than $5, and it is a lucky month where they make enough to pay rent or fix the PA system. The Church makes no more noise than the Guatemalan Pentecostal Church that had occupied the space previously. At least The Church of Ayler keeps its doors closed during its services.
The Church provided a venue for bands whose experimental nature and emerging sound would not be accepted at places like The Grog Shop or the House of “Blues”. Unsigned bands, touring on their own dime, knew they could play at The Church and crash on the floor after the show. Steve Goldberg had his first reading as a featured poet there. Transgendered and feminist bands were welcome, bands with homemade instruments, bands with no instruments, bands from around the country and international knew of The Church as a place where they would be welcome. Tremont was revitalized exactly because of places like this.
This is the exact type of space that Cleveland needs. This is disruptive innovation at its heart and soul. This is economic development. And it has been shut down because of a vendetta and lack of vision. It sets a bad example and a bad precedent as well. Hundreds [and I’m not kidding] of young Cleveland residents now hate their city a little bit more, will be a little more likely to leave Cleveland, have a little less faith [as if there was any to begin with] in justice among city government. Other people will be less inclined to provide a venue for fringe bands both national and international to play. These bands will have no place to play in Cleveland and will drive on through to play in Chicago or Detroit or Columbus or Pittsburgh or Buffalo. Cleveland becomes poorer.
R.A. Washington is DJing tonight at Lava Lounge in the hopes of raising enough money to reopen The Church. Please stop in if you can. If you can offer assistance dealing with the mad wall of bureaucracy that is City Hall, please do. If you love The Church, help keep it open. If you love Cleveland, take a stand.
Apologies for the purple prose. You can see all my pictures from The Church here.