5 Reason’s Cleveland’s Music Revolution Continues to Roar TodayBy Annie Zaleski
Stodgy museums step to the side: 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 rock and roll. Thanks to 1950s DJ Alan Freed and his Moondog Coronation Ball (the first-ever rock festival), Cleveland earned its rock credentials. Not to mention inductees Springsteen, Bowie, and (at last!) Rush all broke out with early gigs in Cleveland. Still, the Hall isn’t just a local treasure. From the U2 Zoo TV cars suspended from the ceiling to the autograph-filled inductee hall, the multi-level space highlights the hand-written lyrics, colorful costumes, history-making photos and videos, and iconic albums that make rock and roll an enduring worldwide phenomenon. When visiting, don’t miss the 2014 Inductee Exhibit — featuring grungy Nirvana artifacts, Hall and Oates’ blue-eyed soul selections, and KISS’ Detroit-bred flash — and a new major exhibit on music festivals.
When the weather’s warm, outdoor venues heat up. The Rock Hall’s annual Summer in the City free concert series on its plaza spotlights up-and-comers. A few miles away, mid-level bands (and passing ships!) make some noise at the Cuyahoga River-adjacent Jacobs Pavilion. And the grandmother of all outdoor amphitheaters, Blossom Music Center, houses country, pop, and big rock tours all summer.
In the two rooms of Waterloo staple the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, you’ll hear everything from obscure indie rock to rootsy alt-country. Across town, the dark-and-edgy Coventry anchored Grog Shop books indie, punk, rap, and electro. And though downtown club Peabody’s closed, the venue moved its punk, rap, and metal bookings down the street to Euclid Ave.’s legendary Agora.
Think polka is for your grandparents? Think again: The Happy Dog’s monthly Polka Happy Hour with DJ Kishka is a beer-drinking bacchanal full of boisterous accordions and couples of all ages dancing merrily in the aisles. Be advised: The early-evening Friday event always packs the hot-dog-and-tots joint, so be on time.
Record fanatics and vinyl snobs alike are in luck. My Mind’s Eye in Lakewood is the go-to place for punk, metal, and rock. In the funky Waterloo District, check out new indie and rock releases at cozy Music Saves, while used-vinyl haven Blue Arrow stocks decades of music history. You can even see the art of pressing vinyl with a tour at Gotta Groove Records. Pick a shop, find a vinyl souvenir, and take a little piece of Cleveland’s rock culture home to scare the parents.