Cleveland rocks, and I hadn’t been to the “mistake on the lake,” since 2007 when my friends and I got all twisted on some strange gooey pastry purchased in the parking lot of a Trey Anastasio show. But this visit was serious. My best friend was getting married and I promised to be on my best behavior.
I arrived in the Land of Cleve’s in a blue and white seersucker. I took a cab through the town of Lakewood to my friend Dennis’s house and reunited with some very old friends. It was the night before the wedding, and though the urge to get weird in my friend’s basement was tempting, I hopped into a car and headed for the Happy Dog located at 5801 Detroit Road for a white-knuckle ride on the wings of the Magpies.
We walked in mid-set and I thought I was witnessing a re-incarnated Sid Vicious, (who could actually play) a resurrected Brent Midland, and a young Billy Joel who had chosen to pick up the guitar instead of the piano. Imagine.
I hid in a back booth and stared at the long list of toppings for hot dogs when suddenly I witnessed the piano player’s glasses fly off his head during what appeared at the moment to be a seizure, and hit a member of the crowd in the face.
“Good God!” I yelled.
But it was no use, no one could hear me because of the intensity of the music, and what I thought was a seizure was one hell of a piano solo. Justin Gorski, a relatively new member to the band taught me a valuable lesson that night. When you want people to notice you, act as weird as possible, because anything you do later will seem normal. Justin’s solo on such songs as Main Street, and Take the Long Way Home will make you think, “he’s a’gone and sold his soul to the devil.”
The Magpies, like the the original nursery rhyme consist of four Ohio-born trickers lead by Roger Hoover, Dave and Doug McKean, and of course the piano-playin-accordain-wielding rebel Justin Gorski. They stand on their raised pulpits to deliver sermons of sin, redemption, death, rejoice, sadness, and love, and their stage show will stop your heart cold.
These boys, who are now three albums into the roots movement of Americana are only gaining more of the high ground. With such harmonious screechings of Ain’t Working for the Man to the raw misogynistic thumpings of Kisses for Free, the Magpies are dead serious about their message. When it come to life which way are you going to go…living fast, or dying slow. Bob Dylan understood this logic. So to end, think once more of the Magpies, considered a bird of ill omen in some cultures.
One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
And four for death
…John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquitites