While most of the denizens of Columbus were busy doing myriad things throughout the city, there were approximately twenty people that witnessed a magical moment unfold before their very eyes.
On Saturday evening, five musicians that call Ohio home came together for a “Songwriters in the Round” session at the CD 102.5 Big Room Bar. And while this may not seem special on the surface of it, if you dug a bit deeper you would find five artists that helped shape, in various ways, the musical landscape that we enjoy.
The musical history that inhabited the stage that evening was not lost on me. With over 115 years of experience playing in bands, it was a display of musicianship par excellence.
The five names on the handbill for the show read as a veritable “Who’s who?” of the Ohio music scene. The five chairs were filled by Kyle Sowash (The Kyle Sowashes), Lizard McGee (Earwig), Kyle Melton (Smug Brothers), Chuck Cleaver (Ass Ponys/Wussy) and Sue Harshe (Scrawl/Fort Shame).
McGee played the lone acoustic guitar, with Sowash, Melton and Cleaver opting to plug-in. Harshe serenaded us with wonderful sounds from her keyboard, adding a nice change from the other four.
The proverbial “icing on the cake” were the stories that each of them told throughout the evening as they introduced each song, eliciting much laughter from those in attendance. Add to that the banter between each other and with the audience, which resulted in the night being an intimate affair.
After they had found their seats, Sowash got the evening started by announcing “This is a song about a COTA bus” as he launched into The Flu. Melton’s voice was in fine form, his guitar styling melding serenely with his lyrical musings.
Before the strains of Terrible Friend washed over us, Cleaver weaved a humorous tale that ended with him stating “I’m the night terror, not Santa Claus.” This led to a few guffaws in the room.
Not to be outdone, Harshe said that the song she was about to play was also about a COTA bus, shooting a wide smile in Sowash’s direction.
When it came back around to Sowash, he told the story of writing a song about Stevie Nicks being his imaginary girlfriend. I’m sure there were many who identified with the premise of the tune.
McGee regaled us with how he met his wife, who was beaming with smiles and laughter at her table in the room. The story of an old cinema on Columbus’ east side brought back fond memories to many, as he played his song “Cinema East.”
Midway through the first set, Cleaver played arguably my favorite Wussy tune, Acetylene. Beyond the amazing storytelling that Cleaver has a propensity for, his fingerpicking on the guitar made the song even more poignant, taking on an intensity that gave me goosebumps.
Later in the set, McGee made two attempts at beginning All My Sins Are Blotted Out. This prompted Cleaver to opine with a smile “And I was worried about being professional”, before McGee sailed through the number with nary a hitch on the third try.
Harshe ended the first songs, encompassing twenty songs, with the Fort Shame-era Gay Boys in Berlin. Her melodies on the keyboard were subtle, matching the tone and mood of her lyrics with each song.
After a thirty-minute break to stretch their legs and allow the audience to renew their beverages, they stepped back on stage to continue.
The second set opened with Out Behind the Barn, taking on a bit of a darker tone with just Sowash’s voice and guitar, although the lyrical humor remained intact.
Before McGee played Wasted on You (from his solo album Spooky Jets/Earwig’s 2016 release Pause for the Jets), he revealed that the song is the exact same song as Used Kids from Earwig’s 2016 release Center of the Earth.
Among the many special moments throughout the evening, the highlight of the night came as they prepared to begin their seventh round of songs.
Sowash announced that the song he was about to play had never been performed previously, thereby setting the stage for each artist in turn to premier a song when their turn came around.
After Sowash reached the conclusion of Stay Home, McGee said that he might as well premier a new song also, showing great emotion with Evidence. Melton premiered his song Fact and Friction, with Cleaver following that by playing The Night We Missed the Horror Show for the first time. Harshe finished the round of premiers with her song Faultline.
The final time through the lineup began with Sowash’s In the Mail, McGee played an wonderful acoustic version of Bring Yrself 2 Me, Melton examined interactions with How Different We Are, and Cleaver played Ring A Ding Ding I’m Rotten Inside from the Ass Ponys’ 1994 EP “Little Bastard.”
Harshe brought the evening to a close with a simply beautiful and haunting rendition of Roxy Music’s Mother of Pearl, voicing heartfelt emotion with her mellifluous melodies.
All told, the night was filled with almost two and a half hours of music by some very good, if not as well-known musicians from within Ohio. The history of each one of them, combined with the diverse selection of songs and the banter throughout the show made Saturday night a magical one.
For everyone that was not there, all that can be said is that you missed one hell of a performance by some of this state’s best artists.
Was this a once in a lifetime event? Will we have an opportunity to experience these artists all together on the same stage again in the future? No one knows.
Setlist (First Set)
*initials after song titles = KS (Kyle Sowash), LM (Lizard McGee), KM (Kyle Melton), CC (Chuck Cleaver), SH (Sue Harshe)
- The Flu – KS
- Wicked – LM
- Over and Outside – KM
- Terrible Friend – CC
- You’re Not a Stranger – SH
- Rumours – KS
- Cinema East – LM
- Show Me Where You Are – KM
- Acetylene – CC
- Everyone Likes Her Better – SH
- I Bit My Tongue – KS
- Silverheels – LM
- Shrinking Pool – KM
- Happiness Bleeds – CC
- Strange Terrain – SH
- King Shit of Fuck Mountain – KS
- All My Sins Are Blotted Out – LM
- Solar Party – KM
- Donald Sutherland – CC
- Gay Boys in Berlin – SH
Setlist (Second Set)
- Out Behind the Barn – KS
- Wisdom Teeth – LM
- Interior Magnets – KM
- Dried Up – CC
- My Brother in Jail – SH
- Double Dragon – KS
- Wasted on You – LM
- If They Like You – KM
- Kung Fu Reference – CC
- I Can’t Help – SH
- Stay Home – KS **
- Evidence – LM **
- Fact and Friction – KM **
- The Night We Missed the Horror Show – CC **
- Faultline – SH **
- In The Mail – KS
- Bring Yrself 2 Me – LM
- How Different We Are – KM
- Ring A Ding Ding, I’m Rotten Inside – CC
- Mother of Pearl – SH (Roxy Music cover)
** denotes premier of new song
Chuck Cleaver (Wussy) – Acetylene