Cleveland has thriving music scene

I recall one of the first concerts I attended in Cleveland. It was a Girl Talk show at the Grog Shop back in early 2007. Tickets were $5 and the show was my first encounter with zealous, hardcore Cleveland music fans. If I went to see Girl Talk in Los Angeles, I would have paid $30 and been mauled in a crowd of emaciated hipsters. Growing up where you can't order a cup of coffee without meeting a music producer or guitarist of an "up-and-coming" band, I noticed two defining features of Cleveland's music scene: this town boasts assorted, intimate venues, and due to six-month long weather constraints, concerts are one of the few sources of solace when it's 10 degrees out.

I admit that in moving to Cleveland I expected a dry spell in concertgoing and discovering new music. But to my overjoyed surprise, most of the bands I listen to actually stop in this city. In fact, due to the minimal prominence of hipness and trendiness in the Cleveland area, I've actually been able to make it to more shows here than I would have been able to in my hometown. Bands of moderate popularity usually play smaller venues, such as the Grog Shop, Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, and the House of Blues. I'm ashamed to say this, but Cleveland's dwindling population is working to music fans' advantage.

Speaking of a dwindling population, many of Cleveland's more intimate venues popped up as a result of a crumbling economy and desperation for something to do with the free time that unemployment spawns. Now That's Class, a bar and music venue on Detroit Ave., is owned by one of the members of The Darvosets, a punk band part of the late 1970s Cleveland punk scene. According to Cleveland native and CWRU senior Mike Marine, who did a capstone project on the history of the origin and influences of Cleveland punk, "the owners of these concert spaces weren't entrepreneurs, they were just looking for a place to put on shows."

In the early 1950s, Cleveland's mostly black and white demographic fostered rock 'n roll. The late 1970s boasted a unique punk-scene influenced by the Stooges. And the 1990s were a fruitful time for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Regardless of the colorful music scene, shows have remained small and intimate. While Chicago has Pitchfork Media Festival and Lollapalooza, Tennessee hosts Bonnaroo, and California has Coachella Music Festival, I have yet to hear of Cleveland hosting a major music festival. "This is a major point of discontent," said Marine, "In fact, for a while, bands were even skipping Cleveland and going straight to Columbus."

Some bands that are set to play major music festivals in major cities, play at smaller venues in Cleveland. House shows and DIY shows have become increasingly popular as well. Especially cozy and intimate, these shows are usually hosted in basements or living rooms and give concert goers an opportunity to converse and socialize with the band. "House shows allow you to get personal with the band and to interact with them. There's no distance," Marine said.

House shows are not unique to Cleveland, but the enthusiastic and hospitable hosts, their willingness to have their houses trashed for the sake of good music, and the longing for a lively afternoon, is indeed special.

Cleveland's setbacks of a poor economy and high unemployment are by no means favorable, but it has had a positive impact on its unique music scene in keeping it strong and innovative.


  1. I am glad you appreciate the music scene here :)



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