band Elephant in the Living Room on stage at the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of Dave Forrest).
Village, Westlake teens perform at rock hall
By Charles Cassady
Published Jan. xx, 2007
I don’t care about history/
Rock, rock, rock’n’roll high school/
‘Cause that’s not where I wanna be/
Rock, rock, rock’n’roll high school.”
defiant lyrics by the Ramones simply don’t apply, sorry, at Bay
Village High. This is a learning institution that is especially
prominent every year around this time because of the bands and solo
artists it sends to the annual High School Rock Offs in Cleveland.
Annual Mountain Dew MDX High School Rock-Off “Final Exam” heats
took place on Saturday. Among the competitors, drawn from approximately
200 high-school rock bands appearing before a judging panel of music-industry
professionals, were Elephant in the Living Room. The quartet is
made up of three Bay Village juniors - Robert Rossman (guitarist,
vocals), Jon Rieke (bass) and Jonathan Miller (drums) joined by
Andrew Forrest of Westlake High on guitar.
sound is influenced by groups such as the Talking Heads, Modest
Mouse, the Pixies, Radiohead, the Flaming Lips and the late jazz
bassist Jaco Pastorius, and their repertoire has been almost always
originals. This report card has earned Elephant in the Living Room
enrollment in the Rock-Off finals for two consecutive years.
“Last year we
were just kind of sophomores,” said Robert Rossman. “We were just
getting into the swing of things. We were awkward standing on stage.”
Over the past 12 months, he said, Elephant in the Living Room members
polished their live presence and audience participation via numerous
live gigs at such local clubs like The Phantasy in Lakewood, the
Beachland Ballroom, the Grog Shop, the Agora and the now-departed
Odeon. This year, the more seasoned Elephant joined 17 other Rock
Off finalists over the weekend.
of this competition - in my mind, it’s we’re competing almost for
a business proposition,” said Rossman. “The judges are making an
investment in only one band. So we’ve got to put on the most entertaining
the band did not place Saturday, Forrest said the band was positive
about their performance.
“I thought it
went very well,” Forrest said.
said he had been playing in various bands with Jon Rieke since seventh
grade, and they knew the other band members from assorted projects
and collaborations. “We all came together in March of 2005 for the
Green and White Revue,” he said, referring to the annual Westlake
High School talent show. Initially, the four eighth graders performed
under the name The Bottlecaps.
didn’t stay because we all thought it was stupid,” said Rossman.
“Then it evolved into ‘Karma Combat,’ which we also thought was
even more stupid.”
The tag ‘Elephant
in the Living Room’ was derived from a lecture in a Bay Village
history class about the policy of the Andrew Jackson’s presidential
administration toward Native Americans, referring to something too
big and obvious to ignore. The name stuck. “I like it a lot, personally.
Some people think it’s kind of long. You can’t please everybody,”
perhaps, it proves they DO care about history. So much for the Ramones’
that the climate at Bay Village High School is different from the
stereotypical “Mean Girls” American school, where athletes and cheerleaders
rule pitilessly at the top of the social ladder, and band kids are
regarded as ‘dorks.’ Instead, as a place that has produced eminent
music talent on the local scene such as Kate Voegele, Victor Rasgaitis
and Electric Funk Banana, student musicians find themselves well
supported by their peers and faculty.
fact, is both a football player for Bay (so is Rieke) in addition
to performing in the school symphonic band and singing in the choir.
If this were a stereotypical high school of lurid teen-movie fiction,
he’d have to chase down and beat himself up every day after class.
he plans to major in music and business when he goes to college,
while Rieke wants to be an engineer. Graduation may send members
of Elephant in the Living Room along divergent paths, but “we’re
only juniors this year. There’s still lots and lots of times to
see how far we can get,” Rossman said.
include entering the Parma High School Rock-Off this May. You can
also find Elephant in the Living Room performing at the Barking
Spider on the Case Western-Reserve University campus this Saturday
at 8 p.m.; at the new Bay Village cafe Mojo’s, at 600 Dover Center
Rd., on Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.; and at the high school itself next
weekend, for a Feb. 9 benefit called “Jungle Boogie,” a Project
At their shows
you’ll have an opportunity to buy the group’s debut CD of all originals,
“We Speak,” released in July 2006. It can also be purchased via
CDBaby.com and iTunes.
For more information and updates on the band, check
out their online profile at www.myspace.com/ELEPHANTINTHELIVINGROOM.