It is by no means a stretch to say that busiest city in America is Canton, Ohio, during the time that the Pro Football Hall Of Fame rolls into town every year. There was a time when Canton used to try and tame the fun down for the event, but in recent times, they have openly embraced all of the partying. As one can imagine, this has led to one of the most enjoyable environments for music, art, and of course, football that anyone could wish to be a part of.

This was the backdrop for Drivin' N' Cryin' as the alt/southern rock crossover pioneers pulled into town. The countless throngs of people roaming the streets from all over the world were not let down when they took the time to enter The Buzzbin Music Shop, Canton's home for most acts that come through Ohio.

After all, there was quite a musical line-up waiting for them.

Did someone call the Molice?

There were a good number of bands on the roster on August 2, something that is always common all over the town when the NFL comes to visit.

Seeing every act would be a challenge for even the most dedicated music fan, but one act that was a must-see hailed far from a land where many people think of football. To be more precise, The Molice are from Tokyo, Japan.

This band stood out because, as seems to be a trend within some musical circles, they do not have a bassist. Instead, their guitarist, Yuzuru, plays lead guitar and the singer plays a standard rhythm guitar and they rely fully on that alone.

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The low end does not suffer, particularly because of the keys which the band choose to play in, one's which lend themselves to such a sound and also because the vocal range of The Molice is quite high.

Another of the high points for this act was the drumming. Flurries were shot out like bullets on a battlefield and, again, considering that they run without a bassist, that kick drum is quite important.

I had an opportunity to chat briefly with the band. Upon hearing that the author of this story has done countless pieces on the Fukushima disaster from 2011, Molice singer Rinko said, "Yes. That was very bad. Very, very bad."

When asked how long this band has been in the US, drummer Paro replied, "We have been here for about two years." This was confirmed with great joy by Rinko onstage as she proclaimed in broken but adorable English, "We love music.

We love you and Buzzbin and we have decided to stay our music in America for longer. We have been here for...about two years and we are staying."

The crowd roared with excitement. It seems that the Molice has found a second home in the US. If so, the rock world is in for a very pleasant treat.

Next up were local legends, The Most Beautiful Losers. Not only has the band been all over US, but singer/guitarist Chris Bentley recently purchased Buzzbin Music Shop, so the welcome mat was certainly rolled out by everyone in attendance.

After the Tokyo rockers ended, there was plenty of time to hear 'The Losers singing about "drinking again" as the crowd roared along. Perhaps the most moving part of their set was the closer, which Bentley dedicated to his father who recently passed away. There was a full crowd to hear every word.

When it ended, Bentley announced with great vigor and excitement, "Thank you so much. Drivin' N' Cryin' is about to tear this place up!"

The tearing up begins: Drivin' N' Cryin' put the pedal down

From the moment that Drivin' N' Cryin' hit the stage, it was 5th gear, peddle to the floor.

To get everything properly revved up, the lights were low and an almost surf punk-influenced opener was played (which they also used to close). Somewhat slower, dark, and moody, with lots of down-scaling, the unleashing that was to come could almost be felt and tasted in the air. As the first song started and founder Kevn Kinney sung about "feeling like life is ending," the show was fully underway and people began to flock in from outside.

Throughout the night, both Kinney and fellow Drivin' N' Cryin' guitarist Laur Joamets traded solo breaks, often ping-ponging them back and forth in ways more commonly seen with more aggressive acts such as Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.

While there are exceptions, often it was Kinney with a grittier, bolder sound while Joamets displayed a style not quite unlike Great White's Jack Russell during some of the more tactful moments of the performance.

I had the opportunity to ask Kinney a few questions via email before the big day about how everything came to be.

Di Gangi: Many bands were huge back in the days when MTV played music and today, many artists have no idea how helpful the station once was. As a band who blew up with "Fly Me Courageous" 1991, Drivin' n' Cryin' was around for both the greatness and fall of MTV.

How do you feel reflecting back on that?

Kinney typed back: Any time that we as a society are all focused on the same thing, it’s a fun way to gauge where we are as a Community... when I was a boy, we had three channels - ABC, CBS, NBC maybe PBS and maybe something on the UHF channel, but Wednesday morning at school you knew 3/4 of the people last night watched Happy Days or Good Times, etc. And we all referenced those incidents...It was the same when Nirvana had a huge hit. Everybody was talking about it....

what I loved About MTV, and the video era, is the opportunity for the band and burgeoning directors to add another level of explanation to the song. it didn’t always work. I don’t really love any of our videos. I think Fly me courageous is strangely confusing. It has nothing to do with this song, but I didn’t pay for it... but everybody watched -Those few years where everybody watched the same video and talked about it the next day were pretty special...Then camera show called the real world and a character called Puck....

and everything changed

One thing that will never change is how music fans react to meaningful lyrics. For example, by the time that Kinney was asking, "Jesus Christ, where are you?" during the second track, the true emotion in his voice could almost be tangibly felt. This was also one of the first times in the evening when drummer Dave V. Johnson really showed what was to come and soon, everyone was moving. The unexpected break change that happens after the first solo in the song was also well-received.

As for that southern sound on the band's newest material, Kinney was asked, "Newer songs like “Step By Step” and “Ian Mclagan” have a very southern feel to them. Was this a purposeful direction for the band take or just the natural progression?"

He replied, "I think the southern feel for a lot of the songs is just ingrained in us at this point...I’ve been trying to write a gospel song for my friend Mike Farris for quite a while, and Step By Step Felt like the kind of vibe that I wanted him to sing.

Somewhere between the great gospel music that he makes and maybe an A song off of the concert for Bangladesh (one of my favorite box sets) I wanted it to sound like the song Bangladesh a little bit. As far as Ian MacLaganI was just riffing on my guitar, with the new capo, and just kind of came up with it. I have been wanting to say something about Ian, and when I heard that riff, it sounded like something faces might’ve written."

Without a doubt, later in the night, songs like "MacLaganI" managed to sound even fatter and stronger live than on the CD, even with the acoustic guitar and capo.

While a pleasure to hear on the CD, the story of a man lugging his gear in the rain really packed a punch with the live arrangement chosen. Some of the deepest lyrics of the evening were to be found in this very song as Kinney sang, "Some people, they do one thing, talk about it all of their lives - but what Ian McLagan keeps doing, is what keeps him alive."

Another highpoint was the rootsy, moody, "I Used To Live Around Here." Drivin' N' Cryin' are a band that has always sounded good on CD, but live, the tones chosen for the guitars give their music an atmosphere that is perhaps unable to be fully captured on CD. That nuance showed in this song. The sound was almost trippy without lending itself to the acid rock genre as one would expect, and that made all the difference. It could be described as Cheap Trick meets Ac/Dc on the rhythm end, yet more groovy and gritty on the other end.

There were similar nuances, too. For instance, much of the lead guitar work coming from Joamets featured slide work in a way that very unique. His use of a whammy while conducting flurry solos is a style of playing that, if not totally original, is rare to hear. On top of that, bassist Tim Nielsen went from using a pick to not using a pick, something that opened the door to him being able to drastically change his style as needed throughout the night.

Kinney was asked, "What is the most challenging thing about being the band now compared to how it was in the early ’90s (touring, album sales, digital sales, etc, etc)?"

He replied, "I think at our level, everything is a lot easier and better for me. I think if the record industry was still in full swing, I think we would have a hard time breaking through anyway. So, being independent like we have been for the last 25 years has proved to me that we really needed the record company mostly for the distribution and the in house press. But now we make our own records. we are the record store. we hire the publicist and the radio. we get to interview them and choose them...In 1990 you were not allowed to sell your own records at your shows. people forget that every star band you liked, you had to go find a record store the day after their show and hope they had more than one copy...But if I was 24 years old right now and had my music I wanted to share with the world, I could just post it tonight whereas in 1990 that just wasn’t going to happen."

Their hit single "Fly Me Courageous" was kicked off just a tad slower than on the CD and there were some inflections which Kinney has changed over the years in terms of how it is sung, but these changes only added to this alt favorite. This was one song where the prowess of Nielsen shined brightly.

The chugging low end and song structure of "Fly Me Courageous" is hard to describe in mere words and it was nice to hear that the band not only owned the less than simple guitar solos that it features, but Kinney took the time to tell the crowd that supporting the troops was "not a political statement" as he praised US' best..

He talked about his guitar sponsor helping returning vets with guitars and lessons so that they can learn to put what they feel into music.

By the time they roared into "If I'm Not There, I'll Be Here" and Kinney proclaimed, "You left me running with the broken-hearted, brought me right back to where we started. Living is easy, dying is easy," everyone at Buzzbin was feeling his boundless emotion. Kinney and Joamets traded even more guitarwork that not only shredded but did so with flair and originality.

This led many fans to wonder what was next to come from the band. When asked, "What is the future of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’? What plans are in the works?" he replied, "Every show's my first, and every show's my last. Enjoy it while it’s here. I’m not sure what’s in the future. I’m hoping I have another 10 years of creating music. I absolutely love this band that's touring right now. There’s a great creative thing happening on stage right now that I love. no two shows are the same in song length or song selection. We don’t use a setlist. Never have. As long as the universe keeps giving me music and words and situations to think about and share, I’m good."

Showing his sense of humor, when Kinney was asked, "Is there any question or anything that you would like to address that someone conducting an interview has never asked you?" he answered, "Why are you so handsome?"

And so, the night ended. In Canton, there was a massive parade to rival any in the world planned for the morning and there certainly were be throngs of football fans there. Without a doubt, a great many of them will still be talking about the amazing night of music that took place with Drivin' N' Cryin'.

It looks like Football's greatest weekend may have been a pretty good weekend for alternative music, too.

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