CLE Music Editor’s Top Picks

May 13, 2015
Cleveland by Clevelanders

Cleveland by Clevelanders: The Music Editor

So, you want the real scoop on Cleveland's music scene? Who better to ask than the folks who live and breathe it each and every day? We went straight to Cleveland's live music experts.

Jeff Niesel is the music and events editor at Cleveland Scene, the city's alternative weekly paper. While the paper has been a Cleveland institution for more than 40 years, he can only claim to have been a part of the "scene" for the last 10 or so years. Locally, he also has tried to champion Cleveland bands in articles he's written for Cleveland Magazine and the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Check out this music editor's recommendations on how to have the best rock-and-roll getaway to Cleveland...

1. Cleveland's got a lot of places to check out live music. The options can seem somewhat limitless to a visitor. What are one or two of your favorite places to see a live show?

"Two of Cleveland's music venue staples are The Beachland Ballroom and The Grog Shop. They're both clubs that cater to people who want to see up-and-coming bands, new music and whatever hot new indie band is out. I go to both those places pretty frequently.

The other venue that I really like is the Music Box Supper Club. It's a new club on the West Bank of the Flats. There are two rooms including one that's a supper club and one that's a concert club. They often have bands playing in both rooms on the same night.  The music isn't as underground as what you'd find at the Beachland or the Grog Shop, but mostly singer/songwriter types and jazz and blues musicians. But, both rooms have great sound and a great atmosphere."

2. If you're the city where the term "rock and roll" was made popular, you'd better have a great music scene. What are one or two of your favorite Cleveland bands you'd recommend to a visitor?

"I'm a big fan of Cobra Verde. The singer is John Petkovic, who is also a writer for The Plain Dealer. He's been in the band for years and actually plays in a couple of other bands, too. They're just a really good indie rock band.

Another one of my favorites is Mr. Gnome. I like them quite a bit. They have really aggressive music. However, they work a lot, so they spend much of their time on the road touring - about six months a year. So, they only play in Cleveland about one or two times a year.

I also like The Lighthouse and The Whaler. They tour and put out some good records. They're really good, too.

3. What's something most people probably don't know about Cleveland's music scene?

"Cleveland has a reputation for being a great place for rock and roll. Much of that goes back to the 70s when we had really strong commercial radio stations and classic rock bands. It's a reputation that goes back years.

But many people don't know that in Cleveland there are so many bands and so many places to see music. In addition to the music venues, there's a ton of bars that have bands playing throughout the week.

Even in a place like Kamm's Corner, you can go from bar to bar to hear live music. Sometimes they're cover bands. But most bars usually mix in some original bands, too. There's a whole slew of places to see bands play - not just your typical music venues."

4. Where might you recommend a visitor dine when they're in town for a music-inspired vacation?

"I'm a fan of Melt Bar & Grilled. You probably already know it's the grilled cheese place. But the guy behind it - Matt Fish - used to actually play behind the scenes in a couple of bands.

Plus, the food is great. Most of their sandwiches have the option to be vegan. The last time I was there, I had the Wild Tofu "Wings," which were these amazing tofu buffalo wings. I would definitely recommend."

5. It wouldn't be a proper visit to Cleveland without grabbing a couple of post-show drinks. What are one or two of your favorite watering holes?

"I tend to like the breweries in Cleveland. I like going to Great Lakes Brewing Company because they'll often have beers on tap that you can't find in the store. They just have a really good selection of things on tap at the brewpub.

I also like Fat Heads Brewery in North Olmstead and Beer Engine in Lakewood. I just really like unique-to-Cleveland beers."

6. What's a non-music-related attraction that you think visitors should definitely check out while in town?

"I think the Cleveland Museum of Art is great. It just went through this enormous expansion. It has an amazing collection of artwork. Also, the building itself is a real marvel. And, there's always events going on including music and film.  

I'd also recommend going to any of Cleveland's sporting facilities, too. I think Progressive Field is great!"

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