A Theme Song for Cleveland and Akron
Fittingly, A Theme Song for Cleveland and Akron began with a conversation in a bar some years ago as we reminisced about the places we were raised and their impact on our adult lives. I grew up in Branson, Missouri, on a family-run 1880s-themed park located in the Ozarks. Silas Hite grew up in Crown King, Arizona, a tiny Old Western town separated from the world by magnificent mountains and dirt roads. His family returned each summer to his mother’s hometown of Akron. From these visits, Silas developed a lifelong bond with Northeast Ohio and its musical heritage by living with his grandparents, the parents of Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh of the band Devo. In addition to Akron leading him toward a life in music, Silas met his future wife, Lisa McIntyre (who plays bass guitar on this song).
This love for Northeast Ohio also stuck with me as I kept encountering people originally from the region. They all shared a similar homesickness for Cleveland and Akron, something I had not encountered with any other place. So, when the opportunity arose to contribute to FRONT I immediately reached out to Silas and proposed a theme song for Northeast Ohio. A regional survey polled people on their favorite and least favorite things about the area: food, weather, sports, and music. We worked with local musicians and crafted the responses into lyrics, which recount a Northeast Ohioan coming home.
According to the poll, the music needed to be classic rock and roll. Silas created a strong and catchy melody, filled with love and a little grit around its edges. The video features local dance troupes, choreographers, roller derby teams, marching bands, and everyday people from Cleveland and Akron. In many ways, the project is more than a theme song—it is an opportunity to collaborate with citizens of Northeast Ohio to better understand this regional longing. Our song also serves as a self-portrait and love letter, written for and by the people of Cleveland and Akron.
Jonn Herschend was raised in a Midwestern amusement park. He is an interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and experimental publisher whose work explores fiction, reality, and the narrative structures that we employ as a way to explain the chaos and clutter of our everyday lives. His videos, performances, installations, and photos all incorporate sterile and formally recognizable structures such as PowerPoint presentations, academic lectures, photographic evidence, infomercials, gallery exhibitions, or educational videos. He uses these structures as a means to investigate the issues of truth and confusion, and allows the messiness of reality to eventually collapse the whole piece.
Herschend received an MFA from the University of California Berkeley in 2006 and exhibits nationally and internationally. He is a winner of three Golden Gate Awards from the San Francisco International Film Festival,and has received two Danish Arts Council Grants, the 2014 SFMOMA SECA award and the Fleishacker Eureka Fellowship. Hisfilm, Discussion Questions, was included in the2014 Whitney Biennale and was an official selection of the 2014 Telluride Film Festival. He is co-founder and co-editor of THE THING Quarterly and is represented by Gallery 16 in San Francisco.