Category Archives: 1990s

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream


Gil Mantera’s Party Dream are one of the last Youngstown acts to nearly make the big time. If you were around the Youngstown scene from the late 90s to mid 2000s, you understood why. There is no sense in trying to explain it here.

Let Ultimate Donny ( Richard Elmsworth) do it in a recent interview from the podcast Height Zone World.

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Nyabinghi 1998-2006

Opened in 1998 by Greg Barratt, who had owned another bar by the same name in Morgantown, West Virginia, the Nyabinghi at 1229 Salt Springs Road served as a haven for heavier stoner rock and metal as well as many other sorts of music in its brief existence. Plenty of acts who were big names or on their way to becoming big names played there such as the White Stripes, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Clutch and the Melvins. Hell, even former child actor Corey Feldman played their once with his terrible band. It was an eclectic place with a killer jukebox and beer selection that made a name for itself on the national music scene with the Emissions From The Monolith music festival.

In 2006, Barratt put it up for sale on eBay, but a a potential buyer with the means to meet the $150,000 bid for the building and equipment never emerged. Nyabinghi’s last night was on New Year’s Eve 2006. The building fell into foreclosure and later housed a bar called Pope’s Pub for a short time. A deliberately set fire in Jan. 2009 caused $5,000 damage to the stage area. Sometime in the last two years, the building was razed.

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Jello Biafra runs his mouth

Jello Biafra is best known for his antics and stage presence with the legendary San Francisco punk rock act The Dead Kennedys from 1978 to 1986. I’m fairly certain that band never set foot in Youngstown, but following the DK’s demise Jello did become a fairly popular spoken word artist in the same vein as his old band. On October 25, 1990, the 32-year-old Biafra did a spoken word performance at Youngstown State University’s Kilwawley Center for about 900 people. Known for talking for up to five hours (I sat through one of these marathon sessions once in the early 2000s), Biafra railed against government censorship of music for the majority of his speaking engagement at YSU according to published reports at the time. This was some four years after he went toe-to-toe with Tipper Gore’s PMRC on the Oprah Winfrey Show and three years after the Dead Kennedys avoided jail time with a hung jury verdict in the Frankenchrist obscenity trial. I’d venture to guess most of the material at the YSU performance was from the 1989 album High Priest of Harmful Matter: Tales From the Trial and what would be the 1991 release I Blow Minds for a Living.

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Ace Frehley returns to this planet

Ace Frehley and the rest of KISS famously played one of the first gigs at the Tomorrow Club in 1974, but KISS quickly became too big to ever do another gig in Youngstown. On July 22, 1992, the Space Ace landed in Youngstown once again to do a show at JB’s Lounge. It was the second show of a large several month club tour for Ace and marked the first time in two years that he was out on the road. Frehley was not touring in support of anything at this juncture. His last solo release was in 1989 and he was several years removed from his Frehley’s Comet days. Fittingly it was called the “Just For Fun” tour. Frehley stayed on the road as a solo act consistently for the next four years before the KISS reunion tours began.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: Here’s Ace and company playing “New York Groove” from a stop on that tour.

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Bob Dylan’s first time

It was revealed this week that Bob Dylan is coming to town for a show on August 28, 2012 at the Covelli Centre. This will not be his first go-around here though. On November 2, 1992, he played an acoustic show at Stambaugh Auditorium. Surprisingly it was a box office bomb as only 1,168 of 2,600 seats sold (I would hope Covelli’s management took that in mind when booking him at the arena). Dylan was supporting the Good as I Been to You album which was released a day after the performance in Youngstown. The 51-year-old played 18 songs in the two hour gig.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: A good sounding bootleg of the show was released in 1994 under the title Himself. Unfortunately recent copyright cyberlocker sweeps by the U.S. government have wiped out any places where the show can be downloaded.


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A journey to the dark side with G.G. Allin

G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies at the Penguin Pub video link

G.G. Allin might not have been anywhere close to the galaxy of being a strong tunesmith, but during the time he was on the planet he was the living embodiment of the dangerous side of rock ‘n’ roll. On May 12, 1993, Allin and his Murder Junkies played a gig at the Penguin Pub. The above linked video (NSFW audio) is believed to be from that show. It pretty much speaks for itself, but what’s not shown is how the gig ended in fights, trashing of equipment and smokebombs. Police had to come to break up that little party.

Allin, who lived on the edge for many years, died of an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 36 just a few weeks later.

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Day after day, I get angry

Since I keep seeing these Hewlett Packard commercials featuring a mash-up of “Blister in the Sun”, I have to wonder if Violent Femmes’ founder Gordon Gano is having a bit of a rough go of it. I also can’t help but remember back on October 4, 1998 when the band played Beeghly Center. Kings of the “folk punk” or whatever you want to call it in the ’80s and early ’90s, the Femmes were in the beginning stages of a decade long dissolution process in 1998. Dropped from Interscope Records earlier in the year, the band was out on the road doing some fine tuning for a series of live recording dates in Wisconsin from October 25-31. Those recordings would become the Viva Wisconsin! album. Freak Magnet, the album the band recorded for Interscope before being dropped, would not see the light of day for another two years even though they were playing songs from that album on this tour. So miffed by the commercial failure of Freak Magnet, the band never wrote or recorded any original music again.

The then 34-year-old Gordon Gano who greeted patrons at the Beeghly Center was surly, dismissive and at times agitated. It’s not to say the performance wasn’t good. Bass player Brian Ritchie and drummer Guy Hoffman did their best to keep the energy positive. It’s likely that was something that became a pattern for those two as the band played sporadic gigs for the next decade before calling it a day in 2009. As for the cause of the break-up, it had a lot to do with the rampant licensing of songs for commercial use by Gano.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: I recorded some of it on a cheap tape recorder. Here is a link to an interesting exchange between Gano and the audience regarding the death of Gene Autry which happened a few days earlier. Of course, if you want a good sounding recording representative of what was played that night, pick up the Viva Wisconsin! album.

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Candlebox sets off a spark

In the mid-90s, the city was in a period where there wasn’t much going on in terms of national acts visiting the area. The Tomorrow Club/Youngstown Agora, which delivered the cream of the crop in the ’70s and ’80s, was boarded up and left to rot. The Beeghly Center had gotten away from showcasing rock acts and the Covelli Centre was a pipe dream in some crazy politician’s head. Sure, there were small clubs booking good shows. If you wanted to hear someone who had a few hits on the radio, though, you were out of luck.

Youngstown State University and WNCD 106.1 FM rolled the dice on May 20, 1996 when it brought Seattle’s Candlebox to town for a show at Stambaugh Auditorium. It might have been a few years removed from the band’s peak in 1993/94 (the debut album sold 4 million copies), but this was an honest attempt at putting on a show which appealed to teens and 20-somethings. Stambaugh was several decades removed from putting on rock shows catering to the young at this point, so this was a real departure from the normal non-threatening fare that performed there (and continues to do so this day).

Reviews and first-hand accounts of the show described it as wild and overly enthusiastic. Some in the crowd of 1,925 rushed to the front of the stage when the band went on. There were stage diving attempts and there were also pleas from the band not to trash the joint. The reaction might be described as something of a release because of years of neglect regarding hometown shows. It also might have just be the reaction of wide-eyed high-schoolers and college kids enjoying their first taste of live rock ‘n’ roll. You know, like they did in the same exact place in the 1950s and 60s.

The setlist featured the big hits – including the Top 20 smash “Far Behind” – from the first album and some off the second album Lucy. If memory serves me correctly, no other rock acts at or around their peak has performed at the venue since.

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A visit from the Boss

Bruce Sprinsteen’s visit to the Stambaugh Auditorium on January 12, 1996 was a pretty big deal not only locally, but nationally. Springsteen was supporting The Ghost of Tom Joad album released on November 21, 1995 on that subdued theater tour. The Stambaugh show was the centerpiece of the tour as he would perform “Youngstown” in front of the people who the song was about. From what I remember, there was plenty of media coverage to go around as critics and journalists from around the country descended on Youngstown to frame Springsteen’s appearance around the wreckage of the long closed steel mills. The above clip was shown on the CBS Evening News. Even to this day, I’m quite surprised that they showed the whole song.

During the visit, city leaders took 46-year-old Springsteen on the tour of the steel mill ruins (including “Jenny”) and he met with people who were a part of the book which inspired the song. Tickets, which were $30, sold out in minutes at the end of December. I don’t remember any advertising for the show, but the promoter didn’t really need any.

Setlist included: Ghost Of Tom Joad, Adam Raised A Cain, Straight Time, Highway 29, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Murder Incorporated, Mansion On The Hill, Sell It And They Will Come, Brothers Under The Bridge, Born In The USA, Dry Lightning, Spare Parts, Youngstown, The Promised Land, Sinaloa Cowboys, The Line, Balboa Park, Across The Border, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street, This Hard Land, Streets Of Philadelphia, Galveston Bay, No Surrender, My Best Was never Good Enough.

WHAT THE SHOW SOUNDED LIKE: Here’s a link where you’ll able to download the whole concert (click the green button).

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Heart full of napalm

This is the front of a T-shirt sold at that show.

In light of the news of MC5 bassist Michael Davis dying at the age of 68 on Friday, I couldn’t help recall the time MC5 guitar player Wayne Kramer showed up to play a gig at Cedar’s Lounge on Sept. 16, 1999.

By this time in his career, Kramer was on the straight and narrow after having battled through years of drug problems and tussles with the law. He did three studio albums for Epitaph Records from 1994 to 1997 and was supporting a live album for the label when he played Cedar’s. On that night, his backing band was the excellent Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs out of San Francisco.

I remember the Cheetahs played a set without Wayne first and received a fairly enthusiastic response. They took a break and Kramer, in his early 50s at this point in his life, sauntered on stage a few minutes later clad head-to-toe in this blue denim get-up. Every one in the joint was immediately drawn to his legendary presence and he took control of the room without much trouble.

A particular highlight for me was his version of the MC5 classic “Rocket Reducer No. 62”. He had the usually jaded patrons up on their feet joining into the various sing-a-long parts (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa) to this song. It was a much different dynamic than what was heard on the Kick Out The Jams album and if you closed your eyes you could probably imagine what it was like at the Detroit Grande Ballroom back in ’68.

In 2004, Kramer reunited with the remaining members of the MC5 (Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson and Michael Davis) for a tour. I saw that reformed band play in Cleveland, but it was not as good as the show Kramer put on in Youngstown. I think a lot of had to do with the presence of the Cheetahs. Those dudes knew their role and were committed to harnessing the powerful sound of that era the best they could. It also helped that they were young and willing to push Kramer to his limits.

This is the back of the T-shirt sold at that show.

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