5. “Certain Songs,” by The Hold Steady
Fewer bands were more ready for the Mohawk Place than The Hold Steady and I was silly enough not to heed the warnings of my buddies Ray, Donny & Erik that if I missed them playing such a small venue I’d kick myself in the face. I didn’t go and fell in love with the band approximately a week later. For a short period of time, I hated myself for skipping the show. Why? This band ripped their guts out for you and your friends. I saw them a few months later with my sister and her then-boyfriend-now-husband Hayes. We drank. We enjoyed. But screw me for not getting down with my most trusted friends at my most trusted venue.
“I guess you’re old enough to know
Kids out on the east coast
Roughly twenty years old
They got coaxed out by a certain perfect ratio
Of warm beer to the summer smoke
And the Meat Loaf to the Billy Joel
Certain songs they get so scratched into our souls,”
4. Jay Bennett and Edward Burch, “My Darlin’ “
It would be wrong to charactertize the ‘Hawk as a place where only up-and-coming bands hit the scene en route to greatness or where old favorites came to tear it up. Jay Bennett came by the place on Feb. 19, 2003. I bring this up not to brag that I was there, rather that I was fortunate enough to be invited to celebrate my 21st birthday with friends because their band, Semi-Tough, was playing a show.
Bennett had recently been divorced from a little band called Wilco, a split documented in the band’s “I Am Trying To Break You Heart.” He was downtrodden, drunk and even escaped the stage midway through the show to write a song in the bathroom. He returned with lyrics but we later learned he was also in that dingy dump — believe it or not, the Hawk bathroom was even worse before it moved to its present location — to do some hard drugs. This wasn’t an episode of “Intervention.” In fact, as I recalled somehow manageably in this awkward college music recap, the duo was magnificent. Bennett sadly died in 2009 after an overdose on painkillers.
That was kind of the thing. A lot of genius rolled through the Mohawk Place, but we’re reminded that not all of the best bands make it. Bennett was leaving a band that had hit its musical stride but not its commercial. When he died, he was suing his ex-bandmates because he didn’t have insurance money to pay for a surgery that would alleviate his constant pain. He was like “House M.D.”, only without the high-paying gig. To date, it’s the saddest brilliance I’ve ever witnessed.
**This song supplanted The Drams/Slobberbone/BrentBest, which is a bummer but the reasoning is more resonant (heh) to the demise of the club.
3. Centro-matic, “The Mighty Midshipmen”
This band is an American treasure and one of my all-time Top Three, and I would’ve never heard of them if not for the Hawk. Legendary booker Marty Boratin booked the Denton, Tex. group and being the incredible booker he was, made sure their CD, “Love You Just The Same”, hit the arts desk at the UB student paper where I was arts editor. I absorbed it, saw the band and never looked back. I will be driving two hours from my winter hideaway to see singer Will Johnson perform a solo show in a couple weeks. Yet, the odds of me falling this deep into an affair with the band sans Mohawk Place are slim.
Centro-matic – The Mighty Midshipman (Live) by BlastroNetworks
2. Drive-by Truckers, “Outfit”
Just listen. Religious experience. Will never ever listen to this without thinking of my admiration for my friend Chris Parker.
1a. Every song by every local band, good and garbage.
We’ll stick with the good here, the legends: Johnny Nobody, The Old Sweethearts, Girlpope, Bobo… the list goes on and on and on. With the exception of our No. 1 song, from a Columbus band that might as well have arisen from the ashes of a burning Buffalo brewery, this embodies this spirit of the joint more than anything besides the patrons and players… which we’ll get to in short order.
1. Two Cow Garage, “135″
There is not, nor may there ever be, a better song about being in a band and hitting the road to play a song for strangers (strangers who were 135 of 142 if you catch the song’s drift). Drifting souls, derelicts, down-on-their-luck-gut-punched survivors, this song… and this venue… all for you. When the little break rips open with a screech around the 2:30 mark, well it darn near rips my midsection open and holds my heart up to the stage lights. I used it on my radio show on WECK because I thought it was the song for our city… well, definitely our bar. Cheers, ‘Hawk.