This past Thursday, the Bridge Nine Records tour, featuring Ruiner, Crime in Stereo, Polar Bear Club and Strike Anywhere (who I missed) rolled into Cleveland. Highlighting the shift the label has taken over the past few years, the tour featured only one band out of four that is clearly a “hardcore” band. The bands all played in front of a Bridge Nine banner and seemed genuinely happy to be involved with the tour bearing their label’s name.
Since I had to drive a few hours to the show, my girlfriend and I went up early and checked out the Cleveland Art Museum, which has a great collection and offers free admission. To bands travelling through Cleveland, I know the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will let touring bands in free, but other than a couple of rooms of the main collection, it’s just not that great. If you’re in Cleveland, and you like art, consider checking out the art museum as I thought it was the best one I’ve been too in the U.S. outside of New York. After that, we headed over to Coventry Street where the Grog Shop is and checked out this amazing old toy store. They had every '80s toy you could want including a glass-enclosed GI Joe scene complete with a fully manned Cobra Command Center and GI Joe base. After reliving my childhood for a minutes, it was on to the show.
Ruiner started out the evening with their straightforward take on modern hardcore. They don’t do anything flashy or have any crazy breakdowns, but they are a solid band and received a decent response from the crowd. Having the show at the Grog Shop, which has a clearly “barroom” atmosphere, probably toned down the crowd from what might have been a rowdier audience in a more DIY venue. Ruiner played a mix of all of their material and between songs the vocalist poignantly remarked, “We do this to have fun. We fuck up, we laugh it off. Don’t take this too seriously,” before finishing off the set.
Crime in Stereo was up next and after following the band’s career for a while, this was surprisingly my first time seeing them. I had heard mixed reviews on their live show in the past, but they delivered a performance on par with their recorded material. All songs played were from The Troubled Stateside and Is Dead, except for a quick run through “Long Song Titles Aren’t Cool Anymore Because the Rest of You Fuckers Are No Good at It” off of the Love EP (or The Contract -- depending on what format you own).
The songs off The Troubled Stateside were obviously more energetic and fun for a show atmosphere, but the Is Dead material did manage to hit some of the more emotional peaks that album in question focused on. I would imagine the Is Dead material is difficult on vocalist Kristian Hallbert, as he has to switch from shouting to nearly whispered, quiet singing quickly and sometimes sing quietly over heavier material. This must be a taxing exercise while trying to maintain the energy of the show, but he pulled it off. In kind of an unintended response to the previously mentioned Ruiner quote, near the end of the set Hallbert noted that, “We do this for love of the music.”
This was my fourth time seeing Polar Bear Club. I was lucky enough to catch them twice while playing on The Redder, The Better EP and once after their first full-length and it has been interesting to see their rise. They opened with “Living Saints” off Chasing Hamburg and charged straight into “Our Ballads” from Sometimes Things Just Disappear. The set was typical PBC: high energy with a good amount of crowd interaction.
While vocalist Jimmy Stadt was busy singing, my girlfriend pointed something else out to me: the dude is a dancing machine. He’s not just doing typical hardcore frontman moves, but is seriously dancing like he is at a club. Late in the set, the band threw in a surprise performance of “Drifting Thing,” the low-key track on Chasing Hamburg. While the first part of the song is just guitar and vocals, the rest of the band comes in just in time to keep the energy up and the song went over well. Towards the end of the set the band hit three tracks from The Redder, The Better, garnering the best responses of the night.
Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances came up and I had to leave before Strike Anywhere, so I missed them. Overall, the show was enjoyable; however, it might have been more fun at a smaller club or DIY venue. If you’re into any of these bands, this tour is worth checking it because you will likely enjoy the other bands as well.