The landscape of Youngstown’s Indie rock climate owes respectable admiration to Boogie Man Smash. Boogie Man Smash formed in 1987 during a time when Youngstown had a vibrant Hardcore scene including a roster of acts such as The Gutter Snipes, Sacred Hate, The Moat Hamz and Symphony of Terror. Boogie Man Smash stood as a creative, enigmatic force playing a brand of Post Punk that spanned into the territory of the Pixies, meshed into Syd Barret era Pink Floyd with the art approach of Chicago’s Alice Donut. Boogie Man Smash still allowed the Americana influences of Murmur –era REM and Camper Van Beethoven to shed some light on their musical influences. On a Thanksgiving night at Cedars in 2008, I sat down with the brothers Hudak, (Marty and Rob, former BMS frontman), to discuss the glory days of Youngstown’s Penguin Pub and Boogie Man Smash. Rob Hudak was home visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it was a great moment to recapture history.
Rob Hudak discovered he wanted to play in a band when he was a freshman at Ursuline high school. During those formative days, Rob Hudak met Nick Leone, brother of Dan Leone who formed the Indie folk collective, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities.
“Nick and I bonded because I had band names written all over my high- tops and one of the band names was REM,” Hudak said.
Nick Leone, an avid REM fan, was astonished and introduced Hudak toWayne“Stu” Lovan. Lovan took a road trip to Athens Georgia to meet Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of REM and the many individuals who were subjects of REM’s songs. Later in the fall of that year, Hudak’s brother, Marty was driving him and Leone to UnderDog Records and the idea of Boogie Man Smash ignited a creative spark.
“We were all talking about music and people we knew along the way. Suddenly, Nick says, “Stu” Lovan and Bill Shannon (Marty’s high school friend) are starting a band called Boogie Man Smash,” Hudak said.
The name Boogie Man Smash was created by Leone’s seven-year old cousin. Leone mentioned to Hudak that behind the band’s performance, they would show Super 8 Films to remind the crowd of their childhood. Hearing such news, Hudak instantly wanted to be counted as a member of this band.
“I was so artsy in a Velvet Underground way, and that was right up my alley,” Hudak said.
Then one evening, Rob and his brother, Marty were hanging out Q across the YSU stadium at The Pit Barbecue. Coincidently, Bill Shannon and “Stu” Lovan were exiting out the door and greeted the Hudak brothers that night.
“Stu said, I heard you play guitar and I told him I was the best blues guitarist in the city,” Hudak said.
Hudak’s remark was the key to his calling and Stu immediately recruited him. Lovan and Shannon’s first practice with Hudak was a primal rock bliss-out full of covers of REM and classic songs by the Cramps.
“It was raunchy garage rock in the truest sense of the word. Stu wrote all the songs at the time,”Hudak said
In the early days, Hudak wrote and sang early gems such as “The Dancing Woman Song” and “My Ghost.” The band’s sound at the time embodied the playful minimalist structures of Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers and Half Japanese.
“Stu’s songs were great and the guitar parts were very primitive, like if Iggy and The Stooges were from Africa,” Hudak said.
At the time, Boogie Man Smash was a power trio including Bill Shannon behind the drums, with the double guitar attack of Rob Hudak and Stu Lovan.
Boogie Man Smash made their stage debut inYoungstown at the Amnesty International Benefit show held at YSU’s KilcawleyCenter in 1988. The Amnesty International show was the collaborative effort of Youngstown’s alternative impresario, Jane “Janie” Herman, now known as Jane Pool.
“Jane was a huge promoter of the scene at the time. She brought a lot of great bands to town such as Urge Overkill and Laughing Hyenas to the Penguin Pub,” Hudak said.
Boogie Man Smash’s debut at the Penguin Pub threw off a Velvet Underground, carnival –esque vibe involving Super 8 Films of local train bridges, steel mills and sound effects, during their performance.
“We also had a huge light show that was used the week before by Three Dog Night when they played at the Metroplex on Belmont Avenue,” Hudak said.
During the early periods of Boogie Man Smash’s club appearances in 1988, other bands from the surrounding parameters of the Valley were forming and playing heavily inYoungstown. Bands such as Cleveland’s critically acclaimed Jangle pop act, The Revelers (featuring Tommy Fox from Cleveland’s The Mice), The Februarys, Scarlet Picnic, and Figure Ground, were forming and playing alongside Boogie Man Smash.
“At the time, I have to say, there were “Cedars Bands” and there were “Penguin Pub Bands,” Hudak said.
After the Penguin Pub closed, Boogie Man Smash claimed Cedar’s as their home turf. Their 1988 debut at Cedars was a spot opening for Youngstown’s blues collective, Sacksville R&B. Sacksville R&B frontman, Ron Hrehovcik (aka Sonny Hopchak) convinced Hudak that he should recruit a bass player. Over the years, Boogie Man Smash had a changing line up of bass players including, Tom Mott, Gary Pascal and Alec Kulik.
During their active years, Boogie Man Smash had the opportunity to share the Cedar’s stage with critically acclaimed all-stars such as Urge Overkill and Jonathan Richman, acclaimed songwriter from the legendary band, The Modern Lovers.
“I didn’t get to play with any famous people until I moved toNew York and opened for guys like Link Wray (Danish Rockabilly Guitarist),” Hudak said.
Boogie Man Smash also shared the stage with Pittsburgh’s enigmatic Punk /R&B outfit, Thin White Line and toured with Chicago’s Funk/Americana/Post –Punk outfit, Vambo Marble Eye.
The early 90s introduced a change of cast in the Boogie Man Smash family. Stu Lovan wanted to pursue a career being a writer and decided to leave the band. Hudak took command over lead vocals.
“My brother Marty helped add an extra part to the band,” Hudak said.
Marty Hudak introduced Rob to John Letiera (who is now in the Brooklyn, New York , New York indie pop act, Low Water), who was a fan of Boogie Man Smash. Letiera was writing songs, playing guitar and attending YSU. He filled in as BMS’ next guitarist. While at a party in 1992, the Smash –mates met George Frank who played bass.
The band’s discography includes the cassette tape self -released, Yikes Let Me Try This. Gotta Bone (1989), Dairy Dream (1990, on Sad Face Records, available on cassette and CD,), Crowned (1991, double 7″ EP, on Bolt Remover Records), Do The Ronnettes (1992, a split 7 ” single with Cleveland garage act, The Revelers. On Inbred Recording Co.), Boot 13 (1994 full-length CD on Shimmy Disc Records), Re-Choired Listening( 1995 7″ Split single with The Revelers, on Inbred Recording Co.). In 1995, The band also made an appearance on the Sin Klub Entertainment double disc compilation Exposed, Vol.2: Spreading The Disease, with the track “Meteor Song.” Sin Klub Entertainment is a Toledo, Ohio-based indie label, founded by Edward Simborske III and Michael Seday, both of the Warren, Ohio act Thessalonian Dope Gods. Sin Klub has put out relases by acts such as Dead Heroes, Porn Flakes, Five Horse Johnson, Evollotto and Kitchen Knife Conspiracy. This compilation includes tracks from artists such as Chicken Dog, Paris Green and Youngstown’s very own, Slack Jaw.
Sadly, 1996 marked a year of endings for Boogie Man Smash, although there have been post-breakup reunion shows.
“We all keep in touch. Bill is in Florida, George is in San Francisco, John is in New York City, and I just moved to New Orleans with my wife,” Hudak said.
Hudak said that the band’s 1990 effort, Dairy Dream is available on Itunes. He said the band’s Shimmy Disc Records release Boot 13, will also be up on Itunes in the future.
It has been over 20 years since the release of Dairy Dream. The album has been an influential force on the Youngstown music scene and has never been forgotten. I’ve had a few really good late -night conversations with Hudak about the state of Youngstown’s Alt-rock scene. The most memorable conversation was on a Friday night in October at The Lemon Grove Cafe. We were talking about the Chicago band Vambo Marble Eye, who used to share some shows with Boogie Man Smash. Most importantly, I asked Hudak how he feels about Dairydream today. Walking out of my car in the cold, getting ready to walk into Cedars to pay my cover charge at the door, I often think to myself about the many ways Dairydream has impacted the scene today. I could hear echos of Dairydream in acclaimed acts such as Third Class and The Zou.
I finally caught up with Hudak in the New Year. Here is what he had to say…
” We were very naive when we made Dairydream. We had a great time and I mean a GREAT time. Former Youngstown native and musician Justin Chearno was the one who made Dairydream happen. He booked us at Inner Ear Studios in Washington DC with Don Zientara producing. I wish we had been a bit more mature when we made that record, mostly because the opportunitywas greater than what we had made of the experience. In the end, Dairydream was a good record and a representation of who we were and what we were at the time. We were a totally naive bunch of misfits with a bunch of very strange and earnest songs. It was a blast. I feel the same way about that record as I do looking at an old photograph from a great party,” Hudak said.
Inner Ear Studios was the brainchild of producer Don Zientara. he started Inner Ear in the late 70s and the studio became a huge recording hotbed of the Washignton DC punk and hardcore scene. Zientara has produced releases for bands such as Shudder To Think, Nation of Ulysses, Minor Threat, Bikini Kill, Jawbox, Henry Rollins, Cracker and Circus Lupus.
Justin Chearno played guitar and occasional bass in the acclaimed DC noise rock act, Pitchblende. Chearno also later played in the bands Turing Machine, Doldrums and Panthers.
Speaking of Pitchblende (above sidenotes), Hudak was asked by Scott DeSimon, ex -Pitchblende and Turing Machine bassist to form the Kinks tribute project, Kinda Kinda Kinks.
Hudak said the Kinda Kinda Kinks project only covers and touches on a certain era of the Kinks career. The band covers everything up to The Kinks 1973 epic release, Preservation Act 1.
“Scott DeSimone is a bass player, he took up the drums to play Mick Avory’s (drummer of the Kinks) parts in a Kinks cover band. His friends Jason Hartley ( author of the great book,The Advanced Genius Theory) and Jason Adams were playing guitar in the band and they needed a bass player. So I took on bass duties for the Kinda Kinda Kinks. We do this project once a year and all have become great friends,” Hudak said.
Hudak currently resides in new Orleans and works as a creative director for an Ad Agency.
“I play the occassional one man show now and then. Drummer Bill Shannon is an art director for the creative agency for Walt Disney World. Bassist George Frank is the controller for a huge law firm in San Francisco, California, which is funny because he was the one who always handled the finances for Boogie Man Smash. Guitarist John Leitera lives in New York City and still writes and plays music with his band, Low Water,” Hudak said