Cleveland Hardcore Oral History has concentrated so far on the music from the east side of Cleveland in the 1980s. Read the first installment of this series here. In part two, we'll discuss a small neighborhood in Cleveland Heights that was integral to the hardcore scene as well as the shows that were the most memorable from this era.
ON COVENTRY(A commercial business district located on Cleveland’s east side where a number of hardcore kids congregated in the 1980s.)
Aaron Melnick: Coventry was very important in the early 1980s. Everyone hung out on the park benches and the grassy areas on Euclid Heights Blvd and Coventry. There would sometimes be 50-60 punk and hardcore young people hanging out. I think in 1987 the cops started arresting everyone for loitering, spitting, littering, curfew—basically anything they could think of. Then they remodeled the park area into a concrete step/bench area and some other businesses started moving in. Now it is totally different than it was back then, it feels more corporate but maybe that's just because I am old.
Flyer courtesy John Piche.
John Piche: It really was the center of the universe. Outface had a whole song about it, "Standing on the Tree." In the heyday, no matter what time, day or night, there were always people up there. Just hanging out, smoking and talking shit. It had a gravity to it. Even if you said you were staying home, you ended up down there. And it took FOREVER to fucking leave. No one just walked off toward their car, no. They had to say goodbye to everyone. Complicated handshakes, hugging on girls and guys, making weird non-plans with people for the next day, continuing conversations, waiting to say hello to someone just getting there and crossing the street. I think that is why there were always people up there, no one ever really left. When I was young, like jr. high and younger, Coventry was a little park. With painted green wooden benches and those black metal croquet hoops edging the patches of dead burned out grass. Kids would be sprawled everywhere. There were little shops and a two floor little mall, the lower level, under the stairs, there was a magic shop and store that only sold brass decorations and fireplace pokers. The real draw was the coffee shoe, Coventry Arabica.
Everyone in the world pronounces it uh-rab-uh-cuh. Not in Cleveland though, it is referred to as AIR A BEEKA, because we were all functionally retarded. Arabica was started by a group of filthy hippies in the late 60s. Locally owned and incredibly patient, encouraging the social security set to mingle with the unemployed disability losers and the kids cutting classes all day and night. The place was always filled with people, mostly double stacked in the back smoking area, nursing a Styrofoam cup of burned coffee while chain smoking and talking shit. The rest of the street was filled with head shops, Revolutionary Books, Record Revolution (the other punk record store that was waaaay overpriced and sleazy), Record Exchange (run by coke heads) and Tommy's health food restaurant famous for the tight t-shirts of the milk shake counter girls. After the mall area burned down for the second time, there was a long year where there was just a hole in the ground and the City was doing "renovations" to the mall. Dwid started rumors that they were putting in a fountain so he could baptize sinners, among other things. What ended up happening was that the whole mall area became a big concrete set of stairs. Gone were the hippie patches of grass. Now everything could be power washed down. The hard rain that would wash away all the scum, so in a weird way, Dwid was right.
Kevin Orr: It was cool to hang out and get the latest on new bands and what happened at the last Buffalo or Erie gig. It seemed like Oberlin, but cool.
Denise Kaveliski: I remember kids hung out in front of the coffee shop, but I thought they were goth. I liked Big Fun.
Bill Gill, Derrick Green, and Charlie Garriga. Green and Garriga were in Outface, Green now sings for Sepultura.
Bill McKinney: Coventry was the center of the universe as far as I was concerned. Even if I didn’t want to be there it pulled me back in. But it was also important because it was a mix of creative people and those influences came out in the music.
Joshua Friedman: It was as important to the scene as CBGBs was to NYHC and Gilman Street is to San Francisco.
Cathy Bennett: I think we would have all been lost without Coventry. It was our stomping ground for every weekend or after school during the week. We would always go to Record Revolution checking to see the latest releases. I would go with Tom Brose and his brother Rob looking for The Cro-Mags Age of Quarrel LP. Tom was the guy who got me into the straight edge movement. I already had Minor Threat, but it was Youth Of Today that set the things in motion. Coventry was the home to all of the freaks, marginal folk, artists, free thinkers, hippies, and punks. Anyone who just wanted to be themselves without being judged by simple minded people.
THE BEST SHOWS IN CLEVELAND
Kevin Orr: 1988 at Peabody’s Down Under—Ludichrist, Domestic Crisis, and Sick Of It All. SOIA never showed. The rumors were flying, "dude is in jail," etc. It was a matinee show, I took the bus with a kid from school named Jeff Skinner. He won the tickets off of the radio. It was crazy stage dive after stage dive... just ape shit! I remember seeing James Bullock, Frank Novinec, Mike Dow, Greg Croft, Matt Sorg. Many of those mentioned I still see today and are close friends. Some even still play in hardcore bands!
Bill McKinney: There were lots of great shows. Anytime Groin played or the Guns it was an event to me, lots of other Variety shows. Later on I would say basically any False Hope show and eventually whenever it was them with Integrity and Outface. It was all my friends’ bands it was like you ran the world those nights. Another sort of random show was in ‘89, for John Piche’s birthday at the Foreign Legion Hall. I had been in Africa for several months so it was the first time I had seen lots of people. John was one of the brightest guys from the scene, I always liked him and could learn from him, and I think he appreciated this event. I had written a couple songs with Outface and I played them with them that night, I think.
John Piche's birthday cake.
Denise Kaveliski: I saw Integrity at the old Peabody's, several different times. Integrity at the Warped Tour was funny. The photo from that show appears on the back of the Humanity is the Devil 10".
Aaron Melnick: I can't really say I have a favorite show. Anytime I saw the Guns or False Hope I was pretty stoked. The disco show at the Rage when Chris from False Hope slam dunked a disco ball hanging above the stage is up there. The promoter tried to stop False Hope from playing. Don't remember too much about it. I mean, it was like 25 years ago.
John Piche: I never really saw a bad local show unless Throttle Bottom was playing or maybe the Vivians. Probably the best show was the July 3rd, 1988 party at Kelley Ulrich's house in Mentor, Ohio. It was the day before the Youth of Today show at Silky Sullivan’s. The NYC Crew showed up a day or two early to hang out at the McMansion and to swim in the pool and eat free food. I think Kelley even had real live arcade games in her garage at that time. Plus her parents were never home. She was dating Brian Front at this point. The show was Outface, Confront, Beyond, and False Hope. There were probably 50 kids at that show at the peak. It was one of the hottest days of the summer and I remember I was the only one in jeans. Black jeans and a backward Harley Davidson baseball hat. I was super cool.
Party at Kelley Ulrich's, 07/03/1988
The bands set up in front of this little fountain, Spike ended up sitting in it at the end of the False Hope set. Beyond was one of my favorite bands and the only NYHC youth crew band I could stomach. The False Hope set was just so amazingly fun, Greg was still in the band and Scott Silverman was on second guitar. Everyone was just cracking on the band and Spike was in his full glory of cheeeka cheeeekaaaaah. At the end of the set Scum jumped in the pool and everyone got mad because the splashed water could electrocute people, dude. It was like Coventry in Mentor, our own private show.
Joshua Friedman: Any False Hope, Outface, or Face Value show was my favorite. As far as the big bands, either G.B.H. at the Cleveland underground or the Cro-Mags / G.B.H. show at Peabody's Down Under in 1987.