Catch A Show In Cleveland
Jamming at Cleveland’s Independent Music Venues
By Lexi Hotchkiss
As Cleveland rolls out the red carpet for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this April, there's no question the city's distinct music scene will take center stage with tens of thousands expected to attend the week of festivities.
So, if you're looking for an experience that is unmistakably CLE, check out the area's sonic collection of indie music clubs churning out music from burgeoning alt bands, big-name moguls, undiscovered singer/songwriters, jazz ensembles and just about everything in between.
If there were ever a Cleveland music tradition, it would be that of the Cleveland Agora. During the 60s, 70s and 80s, the club was known as the venue to see then up-and-coming rockers like Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Lou Reed. At one point, the legendary owner Henry "Hank" LoConti Sr., owned two other locations using the same name. But, since 1986, the Cleveland Agora has remained in its historic location on Euclid Avenue. Today, much of the club's programming is done by the owners of the former Peabody's Concert Club and includes heavy metal, hip hop and rock and roll.
Cleveland's undisputed greatest spot for catching some of the best up-and-coming indie rockers is the Beachland Ballroom. Located in the artsy Waterloo Arts District, the space was once a Croatian Liberty Home, a social center for the large Slavic community in the area. While the space has remained largely the same with original design elements from the 1950s, the venue now offers a diverse line-up of genres like alternative, new age-y rockabilly, soul pop, jazz and singer/songwriters. To be real, the list could go on and on and on...
Recently opened in the west section of the ultra-cool town of Lakewood, the Bevy in Birdtown offers live music during select days of the week, along with a tasty menu of small bites, tons of craft beers and plenty of fancy cocktails.
Found on Cleveland's west side, Brothers Lounge is an historic club that is back hammering out great music every night of the week. You'll catch anything from big bands and 80s covers inside the music hall to jazz quartets and acoustic crooners inside the wine bar. And, don't leave without a little noshing. This dual-sided venue offers killer food and a great wine menu.
Owned and operated by the prestigious Cleveland Music Settlement, which boasts more than a century of musical expertise, BOP STOP is quickly reemerging as one of the best venues to catch live jazz music several days of the week. With tiered seating and an open floor plan, there's not a dumpy seat in the house.
What originally started as just another corner bar quickly gave way to a booming music scene showcasing some of the best underground rock bands in the nation. Today, the Grog Shop in Coventry is an idyllic music club offering a myriad of genres. And, the place still remains true to its bar roots with an extensive beer list featuring microbrews and adventurous imports.
If you've got a taste for metal, The Foundry Concert Club is the way to go. Located in Lakewood, the club boasts a monthly schedule of local and national bands pumping out hardcore sound. While much of the offerings are centered around heavy and punk metal, don't be surprised if they toss in some burlesque shows and alternative music to keep things interesting.
Opened in 1924, Mahall's 20 Lanes was a fixture in the Lakewood community for decades. In 2012, new owners emerged and took the old-school bowling alley to a whole new level by converting the pool hall into a music club. Today, Mahall's maintains that working-man's bar physique but churns out indie rock and pop most nights of the week. And, yep, you can still bowl on the vintage lanes.
One of the newest spots to catch some tunes is the Music Box Supper Club on the West Bank of the Flats. The club has two main performance areas, as well as a nom-worthy food and drink menu. The owners - who have decades of cred in the music biz - don't stick to just one genre. Expect to hear blues, jazz, soul, Americana, rock, punk, roots and country coming from both national and local acts.
From the outside, it looks like a small neighborhood place. But looks can be deceiving. Cleveland Heights' Nighttown was voted one of the top jazz clubs in the world by Down Beat magazine with live music nearly every night. With a variety of dining rooms and intimate performance settings, Nighttown has topped Cleveland's jazz scene since 1965, and it only gets better with age.
Take a cool dive bar and toss in up-and-coming/experimental music, two stages (and one in the basement), some amazing vegan fare and a solid punk vibe. The result: Now That's Class. NTC, located on the near west side of town, is often recognized as being an important part of Cleveland's music scene. Add to that, this grungy joint boasts Donkey Kong, vintage pinball machines, A-tracks and even an indoor skateboarding ramp.
The Cleveland music staple describes itself as "a working-man bar by day, blue-collar rock-club at night." And, we couldn't agree more. From the outside, Pats in the Flats (located in the West Bank) doesn't look much more than a bar in an industrial zone. But once inside, you're hearing live indie tunes, alt rock, tons of punk and, of course, rock and roll. This place works in cash only and is worth every dime.
Lakewood's Spitfire Saloon is a dive bar with a punk rock attitude. A massive bar stocked with more than 80 varieties, crammed seating areas and band stickers adorning the walls define the atmosphere in this gem of a music venue. A variety of local and regional groups take the stage on Friday and Saturdays nights, bringing "anything-goes" antics and breaking decibel barriers at no cost to concertgoers
Walk in off the busy downtown street for a little taste of serenity inside the refined Take 5 Rhythm and Jazz on Superior Avenue. No doubt you'll find yourself sashaying with a classy crowd to the sultry sounds of live rhythm, jazz and blues while sipping cocktails and enjoying tapas.
Whether you're attempting the tango to a Latin band or swing dancing to a big band sound, you'll have a total blast at VOSH in Lakewood. This gorgeous music club doesn't stick to one type of event, but offers a fun mix of live jazz, local 80s cover bands and even comedy shows.
A Cleveland tradition, Wilbert's is one of the best spots to catch some good music, good food and great beer before a big game. The bar/concert venue located in the Historic Gateway District showcases some of the best national, regional and local roots, blues, folk, world, jam, reggae, jazz and pop music.
Don't Forget the Biggies!
From A-lister celebs like Ariana Grande to soul-searching voices like Ani Difranco, Cleveland's no stranger to mainstream artists performing at large-scale venues. Be sure to check out these hotspots for upcoming shows:
- Blossom Music Center
- Cleveland Institute of Music
- Cleveland Masonic Auditorium
- Cleveland State University Wolstein Center
- First Energy Stadium
- Hard Rock Rocksino
- House of Blues
- Jacob's Pavilion
- Quicken Loans Arena
- Severance Hall
- Stocker Arts Center/Lorain County Community College
Where's your favorite place to see a show in Cleveland?