A Giant Dog Punks it up at The Happy Dog

A Giant Dog at the Happy Dog

A Giant Dog at the Happy Dog (photo by Michael Paredes)

by Michael Paredes

On Saturday, May 21, The Happy Dog presented a live musical showcase featuring Austin punk-rockers A Giant Dog, as well as local rock bands Goldmines and Shitbox Jimmy.

Goldmines from Cleveland is comprised of Mandy Aramouni on lead vocals and guitar, Heather Gmucs on bass and vocals, Roseanna Safos on Drums and vocals, and Jeanna Lax as the newest addition on guitar and vocals. They are celebrating the release of their newest, self-titled EP, which was released in early May. Most of the band has been playing together for 7 years and their music reflects the spirit that they feel Cleveland embodies.

“I think that Cleveland is like the underdog and I think that we write a lot of songs that kind of root for the underdog,” said vocalist Mandy Aramouni. “We are all built from scratch, we’re all self taught, born in the blue collar suburbs of the city, so I think that’s how Cleveland has definitely shaped us. We know how to work hard and we know what we want to do, and this is just the funnest thing to do, to rock and roll.”

Cleveland rockers Shitbox Jimmy continued the rocking trend for the evening, bringing even more energy to the already bombastic proceedings. The band is made up of Joey Nix on guitar and vocals, Drew Siegel on percussion, Jake Grace on bass, and Drew Ritchey on guitar.

“Being in Cleveland and the speed of it, it makes the music get out quickly and without caring,” said lead vocalist Joey Nix. “I don’t hold anything back or worry about how others will perceive it.”

The band is releasing a split 12″ record with Goldmines and that will tentatively be released later this fall. In the meantime, the bands will continue to perform over the summer, testing and writing new material.

Finishing off the night and hailing from Austin, TX, headliners A Giant Dog consists of Sabrina Ellis on vocals, Andrew Cashen on vocals and guitar, Orville Neeley on drums, Andy Bauer on second guitar, and Graham Low on bass. The band mixes a glam and punk rock sound to create catchy songs with danceable hooks and rebellious swagger in their lyrics. The band prides itself on crafting songs for the losers and outcasts of our youth, the loser we felt we left behind in junior high.

A Giant Dog is now touring in support of their third LP, Pile, and their first for Merge Records. This is their second time working with producer Mike McCarthy, who has produced albums by bands such as Spoon and White Denim. Their newest album deals with ideas like growing older, dying, frustration, futility, and then ultimately transcending those earthly headaches through the power of rock and roll. Their live show is overflowing with energy and attitude, one can’t help but move to the raucous rhythm.

We had the pleasure of chatting with lead vocalist Sabrina about playing in Cleveland and how the performance felt for the band.

What’s the energy like in Cleveland and how does it feel to be here?

Sabrina: People are very down home and very accommodating of each other. There’s a lot of hospitality, reminds you of kind of like a farm way of life, ‘Oh you don’t have this, I’ll bring that over and we’ll share it, but I need what you’ve got too.’ I always feel invited here, I feel like I’ve been coming here seven years and I’ve always seen the same faces and tonight I saw a lot of new faces.

We also got asked about 3 times tonight, the whole band while we were drinking with our friends, by 3 different girls, “Do you like sports?” And we all had the same unified answer, we were all just like “No.” And back in Texas we don’t get asked if we like sports because it’s assumed, we’re not in places where people would ask that. Because people in Texas like sports and if they don’t they avoid it. But here it’s like people are more chill and they’re like “Yeah I can like sports and I can like punk rock.”

What does it feel like for you to perform and what does it feel like to have people respond to that?

Sabrina: The thing about performing is you’re going to have to perform whether people are responding to it or not, and when you do perform it is an exorcism. It is taking the self-loathing and all the times that I felt made fun of or hurt and turning it into a gunpowder, putting it into a little stick of dynamite and then lighting it on fire and as it’s exploding it’s like I might burn people or I might hurt myself, people might see what was in there, but what what was in there is not going to be there anymore at the end of this and that’s what the performance is like. Having people respond to that is a totally different thing. It’s always a surprise and it’s always different. Last night in Cincinnati we had almost as many people in the room as we did tonight in Cleveland, but we had never been in Cincinnati before and those people just happened to be in the club and they heard our music and they came in and that’s awesome that they watched the show and that they enjoyed it. But tonight it felt more like people were here for this show, they were here to see punk bands and maybe A Giant Dog, maybe the band before or after us, but everyone in the room was here to see a punk show. There was a woman that looked like Judi Dench that was frowning at me the whole time and she was like my main totem and I really wanted to win her over. She never smiled once but I think I saw her nod her head once and the fact that she sat there the whole time means a lot. Having people respond to the way it feels, it went by really fast. It’s like if you were in school for a day but it was the one day that you were excited to be at school. Or the day before your vacation, the day you were going to give a project at school, or the day in the little 80s children’s movie where that kid showed their talent and they shined and they were the loser before that. Every night is that night for me when I am on tour, it’s like I go from feeling like this downtrodden 7th grader who didn’t fit in and I’ve never gotten over it, to like I’m 30 years old and I get to get up on stage and show my butt and be like ‘F**k You!’ and spit. And stomp my feet.

How does Pile feel different from your past musical catalog?

Sabrina: This album definitely feels more evolved than the first two records. We were more mature and we’d been working for a long time so we got better at songwriting. Andrew is my songwriting partner and he put a lot of thought into what the songs would sound like, we brought in auxiliary musicians and we’ve put what we felt was a lot of detail in. I’m pretty surprised that people are playing it on the radio, that’s really unexpected that as a punk band you really don’t expect or care if people play you on the radio and all our song titles almost need to be censored but the songs themselves sound presentable. In that way this record is different, we were more mature and we thought it through and we wrote songs in a thoughtful way, we were going through struggles and writing songs and the outcome was that people like it. Our next album hopefully we will put even more into. We were 27 when we wrote , now we’re all 29, so the next album will be written by punk-rockers turning 30.

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