Thursday, April 28 was a busy day for Cleveland. There were several shows going on at multiple venues that music fans had to choose from while masochists flocked to bars and TV sets to see which poor soul the Browns would take on the first night of the NFL Draft. While others were off enjoying themselves at bigger venues or fixated on glowing rectangles, I was part of a crowd of roughly 20 people that saw a bit of magic on Madison Road in Lakewood.
Mahall’s Living Room is just that – a living room from an apartment above the rest of the Mahall’s establishment. While this location may not seem like your typical place to see a touring act, it was a tremendous setting to see both the Heligoats and Jake McKelvie weave brilliantly bizarre tales of things like journeying through ventilation systems and dogs who can’t find work.
McKelvie was the first act up and quickly charmed the pants off of the attentive crowd with his clever songs. It was fascinating to watch McKelvie, turning just his voice and an acoustic guitar into wonderfully wordy tracks that just wriggled right into your brain. Even his stage banter was charming, as he explained the origin of the aforementioned track about the unemployable dog and gamely admitted that he messed up his final track and would have to come back some time to rectify the mistake.
Really, McKelvie was a brilliant choice for an opener as he shares many of the same qualities of the Chris Otepka-led Heligoats. Both performers deal in tales of normal events that have been twisted in bizarre and fascinating ways. No matter how surreal, it’s easy to buy each and every premise once you get a sense of the heart found in each tune, such as the feelings of being ostracized or general anxiety. These are songs that may seem distorted to your brain, but make all kinds of sense to your heart.
In a sense, it was almost perfect that Mahall’s Living Room served as a no-frills venue for the band. When you have songs that twist and turn with every lyric, you don’t want any distractions. The trio of Otepka, Steven Mitchell, and Moo Haygood weaved in and out of their own world and the rest of the room couldn’t help but get sucked in by the gravitational pull. By the end of the show, there was a feeling of camaraderie that isn’t always present after other shows, and our group was all the better for it.
Like the Heligoats? Check Pressure Life online later this week for an interview with main goat Chris Otepka.