Country, rock and roots make for an action-packed weekend

It’s an action-packed weekend in Northeast Ohio for music lovers, so let’s go!

The big show is country superstar Eric Church, who is doing a two-night stand Friday and Saturday at what used to be Quicken Loans Arena (and is now Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse). The 41-year-old North Carolina native has been consistently killing it for more than a decade, ever since his 2005 debut “Sinners Like Me” yielded the single “How 'Bout You.” Four of his six studio albums have sold platinum.

His contemporary outlaw-country sound mixed with Southern Rock, and the occasional dash of the hard rock bands he loves (AC/DC) have paved the way to stardom. And his solid chin, trademarked, always-perfect beard and aviator glasses (originally donned because his contact lenses kept drying out under the hot stage lights), have made him one of mainstream country’s renegade super hunks, and the object of ardor among his fan base dubbed the Church Choir (get it?).

Church, who has courted a bit of controversy because of his public and musical stance on weed smoking (he’s for it), is touring behind his 2018 album “Desperate Man,” the title inspired by the Las Vegas massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival where he was a headliner.

Church wrote or co-wrote all of the 11 tracks. In addition to the obligatory Nashville twang on the ballad “Some of It,” and the spare, autobiographical “Hippie Radio,” Church dips into some reverb-drenched, southern-fried soul on catchy toe-tappers such as "Hangin’ Around." And he gets a little Dark Side of the Country Moonish on the simmering “Solid.”

For nonfans of the dense, carefully cultivated mainstream country-pop sound (Hi, there, my name’s Malcolm), the relatively simple record offers good songwriting with attention to detail and some cool arrangements. For his current “Double Down” tour, Church is doing back-to-back (but different) shows in the same city, featuring three-hour, 30-plus song sets covering the bulk of his recorded catalog and a few choice covers.


American Roots

While we’re dwelling in the twangy, country end of music, if you can’t do two nights at Church, head to the second annual Kent American Roots Music Festival on Friday.

For exactly $0, you can choose from 26 acts at 23 venues around the city, covering a wide range of Americana, roots, bluegrass, rockin’ country and old-school honky-tonk.

Among the acts to two-step to are the recently signed honky-tonk throwbacks the Shootouts; popular singing-songwriting, producing folk-tress Gretchen Pleuss; the rootsy rock of the Jack Fords; and the old timey, back-porch swing of the Hey Mavis Duo.

Most of the participating venues are on or not too far from East Main Street, so downtown Kent should be filled with the sounds of acoustic guitars, fiddles, vocal harmonies and some pedal steel. The live music begins at 5:30 p.m. with Pleuss at Tree City Coffee & Pastry, and rootsy singer/songwriter Ray Flanagan at Taco Tonto's (get me a burrito, please). The evening will end about an hour before last call with the unfussy roots-rock of local scene veteran Roger Hoover’s Hootenanny, featuring surprise special guests. More info:


Rockin’ and rollin’

Traditional rock may not be ruling the current pop zeitgeist, but for music lovers who long for big-ass barre chords, catchy choruses and guitar solos, here’s what should be a fun evening of fuzzed-out, guitar-driven, 1970s and 1980s-influenced rawk and power pop.

On Saturday, the Akron band Fancy Legs is celebrating the release of its eponymous debut album at the Rialto Theatre, 1000 Kenmore Blvd. Tickets are $7-$12 (

The band — singer-guitarist Corey Jenkins, guitarist John Rosenberg II, drummer Mike Karl, bassist Shaun Berringer and synth-man Chris Burton — make shamelessly fun and fist-pumping rock, or as Jenkins said, "creating fun, playful, rock 'n' roll songs with big ol' hooks has been the primary objective for us.”

Those are solid squad goals, and the 10-track album wears its classic influences on its collective sleeve (hell, the album cover features a cassette). It's a pretty catchy affair with the gang chorus of “I Think of You,” the mid-tempo classic rock bounce of “You Took Me,” the Cars-esque “Important Things” and “These Fine-Tuned Machines.” It also includes the obligatory power-ballad “Slow Saturday.”

Jenkins' vocals won’t make you forget Roger Daltrey or anything, but the band is clearly having fun and, just as clearly, it wants the audience to hoist its PBRs (or craft brewed triple-hopped West Coast IPAs) and sing-shout-along.

The album features local geezer hipsters and Half-Cleveland alums Chris Butler (The Waitresses, Tin Huey) and Harvey Gold (Tin Huey), who will also be sitting in with the band at the show. If you want to check out the band, it will be interviewed on 91.3 The Summit on Thursday. Also on the bill are singer-songwriter-guitarist Jeri Sapronetti of local trio Time Cat, the Super Babes and Yo Chachi. DJ Lane Meyer will keep the Rialto rockin’ between sets.

For something a little hazier, fuzzier and heavier, Friday night at Thursday’s Lounge will see a reunion show headlined by the heavy prog-rock quartet Beast. The instrumental band gigged around for a few ears and released the EP “Power Animal” in 2007, and plays a relentless, driving, sonic-jackhammer style of rock.

It’s the group's first gig in a decade, with original guitarist Scott Hartlaub replaced by Corey Haren of Green Tree Novelty Tea. Psych-rockers Relaxer will open. The bill is appropriately filled out by Columbus-based noisy instrumental power-prog trio Mortimur. Should be fun and loud.


Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.