There is something truly remarkable about watching your friends play music. Whether it's three kids on the cusp of moving from the cavernous, gasoline scented walls of their family garage or hardened vets reigning over a scene they created, it's hard not to get a little googly-eyed watching someone you know (I mean actually know) play music. And it doesn’t matter if they’ve been on the cover of Mojo and sold out stadiums or if they’re working a grunt job just to pay for that glistening set of Marshall stacks; when they get onstage, they emit a force that puts rocket fuel to shame. We all want to observe success on a first name basis. After the show, when the casual fans and wannabe groupies disperse to after-parties and comforters, you’re backstage with the band, cracking jokes and hanging out. There’s no false idolization, no vapid acts of flattery or disgusting globs of coolness, just the simple joy of existing outside the venue, of seeing your musician friends be the people you know best—the ones who still take out the trash at night. Except you know where their trashcan is.
Take, for example, The Very Knees. Hailing from the burning beaches of the Cuyahoga, they embody the all-night party spirit Cleveland owns so well. In Cleveland, that spirit is either an awakening rush or the poltergeist tearing you down. You have to find your own sense of freedom, your own understanding of the good life, your own way out or your own way in. There’s no roadmap for a good time; you simply write your own. There is a muddy fists mentality there, a spit back to the bad-rap we Clevelanders learned to welcome with an endearing and prideful smirk. Yeah, it sucks—but it’s our kind of suck. And that’s the way we like it. Cleveland is the city where I saw my first rock concert, where I had my first kiss, where I learned the perils of heartbreak and the beauty of love. I found a passion for the great, the awful and the uniquely attractive. To me, The Very Knees hit with the same force as Jim Thome at The Jake in the late 90s. They’re superstars with showmanship: talented, popular, could and should go on to bigger and better things but decide to stick around. If the World Series comes, it comes. If not, they’ll still be there.
The Very Knees are Dave “Party Sweat” Petrovich and Jonette Thomas, two rambunctious bastions of retrograde rave-ups and all-night soul affairs. They’re Northern Soul; they’re southern rock. Together, they make the soundtrack for a good time. Together, they soundtrack those glistening moments where all you want to do is find love and freedom on the dance floor.
Jonette made an offhand remark one time when asked to “define” their sound; “We’re Hall & Strokes,” she casually cooed back to the inquiring visitor from Detroit. It was a quote music journalists dream od. Needless to say, I was instantly smitten with the term. Even in idea, the thought of Daryl Hall and Julian Casablancas sharing the same stage is enough to ignite excitement. Instead, I have two incredible friends writing hooks that would make a fisherman blush with a delivery that puts your daily mail to shame. Two friends who don the stage in glam rock regalia and throw on golden helmets for good measure. Two friends who drape posters of dark-eyed sixties sexpots at their shows. Two friends who take out the trash when they can. Two friends standing on their own two feet, just to bring you to your Very Knees.
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