Jam Sessions

March 22, 2016
Jam Sessions

Five reasons Cleveland's music revolution continues to roar today

Annie Zaleski

Whether you’re stocking up on vinyl records, looking to see the next hot band before they were famous, or just wanting to hang outside with a drink and some good tunes, Cleveland has you covered. Music’s in all aspects of our DNA.

Rock History

Stodgy museums, step aside: The glass-enclosed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is a hip-shaking, guitar-flinging reminder of why Cleveland is ground zero for world-famous music. Memorabilia immortalizes the radio DJs and recording artists that invented the genre — including plenty from the Forest City (that’s us, BTW) — while there’s plenty of nods to inductees Springsteen, Bowie and Rush, all of whom first broke out of Cleveland.

And, like rock and roll itself, the multi-level museum keeps on evolving. A new exhibit, “Louder than Words: Rock, Power, and Politics,” opens May 20. As its name implies, the installation promises to trace how rock both changed and informed cultural attitudes about war, peace, equality and freedom.

Meanwhile, the displays honoring this year’s talented class of new Hall of Famers — including Deep Purple, N.W.A., Chicago, Steve Miller and (about time!) Cheap Trick — are a multimedia bonanza featuring interactive content and exclusive interviews. No matter what music tickles your ears, the Rock Hall delivers a riotous and informative good time.

The Scene

In the two rooms of the Waterloo Arts District staple the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, you’ll hear everything from obscure indie rock and rootsy alt-country to jam bands and DJs. The distinguished Cleveland Heights sanctuary Nighttown brings local and national jazz and classical acts to the east side, while Flats West Bank’s sleek, two-story Music Box Supper Club hosts everything from alt-country and Zydeco to bluegrass and soul. Even in the shadow of The Q and Progressive Field, Downtown mainstay Wilbert's Food & Music serves-up a diverse array of blues, jazz, roots and world music acts. And, though Downtown club Peabody’s closed, the company continues to book punk, rap and metal icons down the street at Euclid Avenue’s legendary Agora.

Wax On

Vinyl fanatics are spoiled by Cleveland’s diverse record emporiums. Gordon Square’s Hausfrau Record Shop stocks new and old LPs spanning all genres, while My Mind’s Eye in Lakewood is the go-to place for punk, metal and rock. In the funky Waterloo Arts District, check out new indie and rock releases at cozy Music Saves, while used-vinyl haven Blue Arrow stocks decades of music history. And, just northeast of Downtown is Gotta Groove Records, one of the nation’s most well-respected platter-pressing plants (call for tours).

Festive Vibe

Who needs Lollapalooza? Cleveland’s live music fests feature world-class touring artists and local talent alike. On June 18, pull up a chair at banging block party Larchmere PorchFest, which features 30 bands on 30 porches. Or, head to Hingetown on Wednesdays in July to hear world music outside the Transformer Station, a contemporary art space. From June 23-25, Tri-C JazzFest hosts smooth-as-silk titans — including Chick Corea, Diana Krall and David Sanborn — at Playhouse Square. And throughout 2016, the Rock Hall is continuing Sonic Sessions, a monthly spotlight on indie, electro and rock upstarts.

Rock Box

A raucous rock and roll city like Cleveland needs equally cutting-edge public art installations. Enter Rock Box, a colorful, seven-piece speaker set stationed along the East 9th Street corridor that will periodically blast tunes from Rock Hall inductees — making the stroll from Progressive Field to the museum itself an actual journey through music history. Walk this way, indeed.

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