Review: Black Taxi & The Modern Electric @ Beachland

Black Taxi and The Modern Electric @ Beachland Tavern – July 12

There’s no doubt about it, Cleveland, Ohio is drawing the attention of independent rock and roll acts from the coasts. Thursday night brought the culmination of one such musical tryst when Brooklyn’s hottest act, Black Taxi, laid down their raucous, harmony-laden, dance-punk explosion at Cleveland’s Beachland Tavern. This gig was a culmination of a NYC to CLE collaboration that featured this Brooklyn based four-piece in a dual-bill with local Pop phenoms The Modern Electric.

With the crowd fired up, Black Taxi opened their set with the dance-pop single Friend, a track recently featured in a radbadical “live from” music video filmed at the awesome performance space at Bad Racket Recording Studio in Cleveland’s youthful Ohio City district. With a commanding presence, vocalist Ezra Huleatt dominated the performance from the very first note by unleashing a continuous flow of high energy stage antics and dance moves that could barely be contained by the small Tavern stage.

The band settled into a groove mid-set as drummer Jason Holmes and bassist Krisana Soponpong drove a relentless dance beat through songs like We Don’t Know Any Better and Tightrope. Meanwhile, guitarist Bill Mayo continued to lay down some tight and poppy ska rhythms intertwined with polyrhythmic riffs in songs like Hand. The energy packed set kept the dance floor in perpetual motion as Huleatt laid heavy on any percussion apparatus he could reach between his verses at the mic, including a spirited parade off of the stage and around the dance floor.

After a healthy dose of Black Taxi’s bad medicine The Modern Electric took the stage shortly after 11 p.m. to close out the evening with a set of fun-filled pop and rock. The enthusiastic Modern Electric fans were treated to a power-hour of upbeat piano melodies with a modern folk affection that kept a steady pace throughout the set. Their entertaining musical styling and is delivered with an enthusiasm that fit perfectly as a cap to this Thursday night fling. The crowd favorite ballad David Bowie was the highlight of the set with humorous lyrics praising the pop-icon as a hero for his legendary rock lyrics.

Preceding Black Taxi was a set of straight ahead rock served up hot and heavy from native Cleveland guitarist Thaddeus Anna Greene with soaring solos that raised the energy in the room up high. The crowd was thick as his supporters filled the room to show their support for this hometown hero. Greene laid down a fast and fiery series of original tunes off his new album The Directory of Thieves which features his iconic high-gain rock approach played ruthlessly on a fender stratocaster.

Seemingly, the success of Thursday’s collaboration show was merely the beginning of this NYC to CLE movement. The genesis of this relationship between Black Taxi and Cleveland occurred this past February at the annual Brite Winter Festival, which is held on the streets of Ohio City during the dead of winter no matter the temperature. After witnessing The Modern Electric bring the house down as that evening’s closing act, Black Taxi invited this Northeast Ohio band to join them during one of three Thursday residency shows at the intimate Rockwood Music Hall this past April back in NYC.

“We do this sort of thing a lot with bands we meet in other markets,” said Huleatt. “We like to do them a favor by inviting them to play with us in New York and in return we’ll head out to play their hometown to have some fun and build the relationship.”

With the success of Thursday’s event Black Taxi has cleared the roadway for more up-and-coming acts to head full speed into Cleveland’s hungering live music market where eager fans are pining for more rock and roll acts that can throw down the beat and deliver an evening of music that keeps the dance floor jumping.

So the only question now is, “who’s next?”

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