Set Me Free or Kill Me Standing: Run Thomas Run at Live Music Now!
words by Ted Zep, photos by Ashley Kouri
Kenmore is a neighborhood in flux. In recent years it garnered national and international attention for the actions of a local who was dubbed with the disturbingly precise sobriquet “Bowel Movement Bandit.” And even more troubling were the headlines generated about the community’s seemingly futile struggle against drugs and addiction. Despite these black eyes, the neighborhood remained down, but defiantly, not out. Key members of the region have stepped up to change Kenmore’s overall Truth. One such person is Tina Boyes.
Boyes is the Executive Director of the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance. The KNA, founded in 2016, is a group with the multi-pronged goal of improving the community through cultural, artistic, recreational and business revitalization. On the heels of last September’s emphatically successful Better Block Kenmore event, the group has spearheaded an exciting on-going project, Live Music Now! Rising from the ashes of the former Mug Z’s, Boyes and her staff of volunteers transformed the facility into a gorgeous, clean and safe pop-up performance space.
Running shows on the first and third Thursdays and Fridays of each month since January, quality seems to be the through line connecting the disparate acts booked so far. From soul and blues to jazz and roots, Live Music Now! has hosted an intriguing swath of genres in its infancy. However on this evening, rock and roll was to take center stage.
With the doors opening at 6:30, music by the Black Crowes and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” was piped through the house sound system as the venue gradually filled.
For thirsty patrons, craft beer was provided by the Mucky Duck Brewery ($5), as well as Hamm’s Beer ($2) and soda/water/chips ($1). (Pro tip: the Muthamucka Chocolate Cherry Porter by Mucky Duck is delicious.)
Boyes took the stage at roughly 7:45. Before introducing show opener Johnny Tuttle, she ran through a concise but energizing mission statement outlining what the KNA hope to achieve with the venue and surrounding community.
Wearing jeans and a black tee under an unbuttoned top shirt, Tuttle unassumingly took the stage with his acoustic guitar. He spent the next 30-minutes singing about life and death and struggle. His voice is rich with a warm timber. It lends an unpracticed authenticity to his performance. He interspersed covers of songs by Portishead, Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots with his own originals. The result was a familiar and satisfying primer for the rest of the evening.
Run Thomas Run took the stage at 8:30. A tattooist by day, M. Thomas Kincaid is the quintessential frontman. Both hawkish and charismatic, Kincaid has the glint in his eye of a guy who has seen some shit. He is comfortable on stage and commands attention without really trying.
The band bobbed and weaved through a set of original material that focused on such universal themes as love, loss, regret, fear, loneliness and suffering. Though stylistically different, there is a fundamental honesty to their work and presentation that reminds me of Craig Finn’s time with the Hold Steady. That being said, don’t make the false assumption that this band doesn’t a) rip and b) have a ton of fun on stage. This is where guitarist Jeff Beck comes into play.
Equal parts rowdy and mischievous, Beck plays the “Keith” to Kincaid’s “Mick.” The two are longtime friends and the chemistry is evident. Beck balances his prowess on the guitar by cracking jokes and trading barbs with his pal between numbers. The recipe works.
Run Thomas Run is the type of band worth leaving the house to see. They provide the audience with some great songs and a few laughs along the way. You really can’t ask for much more than that. However, like all musicians, they need a platform. Live Music Now! is an oasis for Run Thomas Run and the myriad talented musicians in Akron and the neighboring communities. Tina Boyes, the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance and dozens of unnamed supporters and volunteers are looking to construct a sanctuary that will foster creativity and entertainment for years to come. They don’t just need your support, they deserve it.
For more information about upcoming events or how to become involved with the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, check out: BetterKenmore.org.
Run Thomas Run can be found online: Facebook.com/RunThomasRunBand.
Ted Zep is a freelance culture critic for the Devil Strip. He once met Chubby Checker at a Giant Eagle in Stow. He can be found daily at SuperNoBueno.Wordpress.com.