If you go
What: Sidewalk Dave
When: 10 p.m. Friday
Where: The Lemon Grove, 122 W. Federal St., Youngstown
Tickets: $3; call 330-301-0282
110 W. Federal St., Youngstown
By JOHN BENSON
Author Aldous Huxley may not have been a fan of rock music, but directly or indirectly, his 1954 book “The Doors of Perception” has influenced generations of musicians (yeah, starting with The Doors) with his statement, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.”
From The Beatles to Wilco, bands have since experimented with mind-altering substances to turn on, tune in, drop out and record with only fate at the wheel regarding the end result. It was this mind-set that led aggressive folk-rock act Sidewalk Dave — Dave Van Witt (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Bruce Kings (drums, vocals, keyboards), Skaggs (bass, vocals) and Gabriel Cruz (guitar, vocals, noise) — to record its latest CD, “Gold Liquid Mischief.”
“Last summer, me and my drummer got in a motorcycle accident, and we were both hard up and couldn’t work,” said Van Witt, calling from New Haven, Conn. “So we started demo-ing songs. We realized a lot of them were about drinking, and then we decided we’d take an oath and drink everyday until that record was done. It sounds like it might be a lot of fun, but by month six it was getting pretty difficult and expensive.”
Seven months in the studio in total, Sidewalk Dave’s new album boasts everything from celebratory songs (“Weird Word for Strange”) to cautionary tales (title track) and even sobriety-championing anthems (“750ml of Spirit”).
“During the recording of the album, I’d say the drink of choice for the band all the way around was whiskey,” Van Witt said. “We always discussed how some of the greatest records ever made wouldn’t have been made without the influence of something, which I don’t particularly like the idea of. We’re not a bunch of addicts or anything, but I did think there was something to that.
“So we decided to try it, because there’s a certain amount of spontaneity that comes from drinking. Also, it creates deeper valleys and higher peaks in your life. You get your buzz going and nothing can be better, and then you really sink down into the gutter and feel those lows. I guess going into it, I didn’t think it through, but looking back it really created some emotional highs and lows.”
You better bet Sidewalk Dave will be detailing those highs and lows at its Youngstown debut Friday at the Lemon Grove. Literally, Van Witt said the band is coming through Northeast Ohio after seeing Youngstown on the map and realizing its connection to the Bruce Springsteen song. And there’s also this: “We’d rather play smaller towns, too,” he said, “because playing the big cities is tough, and nobody gives a [expletive] about anybody.”
So considering the fashion in which “Gold Liquid Mischief” was created, does Van Witt feel the band’s live show is best experienced under the influence?
“I think our best concerts are the ones where people are having some beers,” Van Witt said, laughing. “We have a mailing list where everybody writes their names, e-mail addresses and drink of choice. And it seems to be with our fans if you tally it up, whiskey is the choice. So I think whiskey is the drink of choice for the band and the audience. Therefore, if you like whiskey, I think you’ll like us.”