There are certain oddities, both visual and aural, that can only happen in one of the poorest cities in the country. Not much has changed to the building that now houses the Beachland Tavern since it was a Croatian social hall likely filled by steel workers. A simple wooden stage stands in front of the restroom doors, and mirrors advertising beer hang all around. It’s an unlikely place to hear Welsh folk-pop — imagine seeing the Super Furry Animals at your grandfather’s VFW hall. But the extraordinariness on November 11 did not rest entirely on the setting.
Sharing the bill with perhaps the more obscure David Kilgour (formerly of the Clean from New Zealand), former Gorky’s Zygoitic Mynci frontman Euros Childs played to a seated-only crowd. Judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm, those there to see Childs numbered only four. The rest of the twenty or so members of the audience, including the aged parents of the very forgettable local openers the Artificial Sweeteners, were treated to a remarkable bilingual performance that may have heightened everyone’s cultural awareness as much as spending an evening at a Croatian social club did. The crowd was not seated for a lack of interest but simply because it is sometimes more comfortable.
Culling mainly from his three solo albums (2006’s Chops; 2007’s Bore Da and Miracle Inn), Childs’s effort did not reflect the poor turnout. Fortunately, he most likely recognized his limited notoriety in a town that has suffered from a collective and institutionalized lack of interest in new music (Cleveland does have an entire hall of fame devoted to old “rock ’n’ roll,” after all) that may come along with the foolish self-pity generated by being a city, like so many, on the decline. He performed to win the few over, and his performance was energetic and beautiful.
Thrusting back and forth in front of the keyboard, Childs’s sometimes playful, sometimes somber voice was both out of touch with its surroundings and actively capturing the stragglers that once sat uninterested at the bar. There is something captivating about watching a skinny, energetic Welshman play with complete devotion in front of a small, mostly empty, aged space. After moving from the perfectly pop “Horse Riding” to the perfectly absurd “Henry a Matilda Supermarketsuper,” Childs paused to explain that his next piece, “Miracle Inn,” would be fifteen minutes long and that he would see everyone in a quarter of an hour. Sounding at times like Who theatrics but much better, the “Miracle Inn” came to a close and the band began to perform with 3D glasses, maybe as an homage to local Devo.
Like his songs, Childs’s performance thrived on the peculiarity that came from placing the out-of-the-ordinary into the everyday. Afterward, he stood sipping red wine with his shyness and watching Kilgour. He blended into the normal Cleveland crowd, a doer into the crowd full of drunken dreamers.