One man, one scene, a whole lot of shirts. Alex Leal has turned his passion for music into wearable reminders of Cleveland’s punk rock history. Let’s start from the beginning…
Alex Leal, originally from Sandusky, was 14 years old when he heard punk rock for the first time. He started making the commute to Cleveland to see shows; his first was the Circle Jerks at the original Peabody’s Nightclub in the Flats. Leal would eventually move to Cleveland, Lakewood specifically, and haunt Madison Village, home of Chris’ Warped Records, Shattered, Capsule Nightclub, Manja, and Chain Link Addiction. The late Ed Wille, co-owner of B-Ware Videos and Books, was a long-time friend.
Leal has also been the drummer for local “Gothabilly” band, Cult of the Psychic Fetus, since its inception in 1992. They’ve shown off their artistry and unusual but very clever sound all over the eastern U.S. and abroad in Toronto and London.
Leal’s love for the punk rock scene and everything in it inspired him to create Cleveland Underground, a line of streetwear clothing and accessories that celebrates our city’s punk history. Leal describes how he made the “Show Night” tee, one of his most popular designs.
“The ‘Show Night’ shirt is pretty much my childhood. My teenage years, my early 20s…The design is a collage of old fliers of shows that I went to in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. I had the idea to put something together to show what the Cleveland scene used to be like. You don’t see fliers as often as you used to because of the internet, but I still have hundreds and hundreds of fliers of shows from that time, so I arranged them and made a graphic to go on the shirt.”
Cleveland Underground’s shirts and other items are available online. Leal has also been peddling his products at local flea markets, record stores, and skate shops, even selling clothing right out of the trunk of his ’56 Buick at car shows. He says Cleveland Underground “has been embraced by the local scene” and is continuing to take shape.
Cleveland Underground is just one aspect of Leal’s vision. Evil Endeavors, LLC, the overhead organization through which Cleveland Underground is operated, was created with the ultimate goal in mind of having one single venue that would specialize in all aspects of Cleveland’s underground culture including burlesque, suspension, sideshow acts, and musical performers. He mentions the early Organ Grinder’s Ball events and the Theatre Bizarre in Detroit as examples of what he envisions Evil Endeavors events may be like.
“Cleveland’s a smaller city,” Leal points out. “We get a variety of stuff coming through here and there, but we don’t have just one venue that provides all of these. Because of some of the bigger venues my band plays, we get to see a lot of acts and performers from all over the world.”
Leal believes there’s no reason we can’t, or shouldn’t, have that in Cleveland. With his history and knowledge of The Land’s underground culture, he just may be the right guy to do it.