Free advice from travelers for a great Cleveland vacation.
If you wanted to see the actual birthplace of rock and roll, ideally you'd go to the Cleveland Arena. That's where Alan Freed hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, the first official rock concert, on March 21, 1952. But since the Euclid Avenue arena was torn down back in 1977, you should probably start tracing Cleveland's contribution to pop culture at the "Architects of Rock and Roll" exhibit on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It includes a section on the deejay that popularized the term rock ‘n' roll and features photos, posters and other documents from his Cleveland years.
But Cleveland's influence on rock didn't end with Freed. "Cleveland was a rock 'n' roll force in the '60s, '70s and '80s," says Carlo Wolff, author of Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. "Bands went national out of here because of Cleveland radio, particularly AM station WIXY 1460 and FM blaster WMMS. Cleveland ‘broke' acts like Roxy Music, David Bowie and Mott the Hoople, not to mention a skinny New Jersey guy named Bruce. In the '80s, LeVert became a rhythm 'n' blues smash, and toward the end of the decade, Nine Inch Nails took shape in the city." That doesn't even include Akron's contribution. The one-time home of the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde and new wave weirdoes Devo, the Rubber City has a long punk/underground history and most recently delivered the nationally-known garage blues act the Black Keys, proof that the rock 'n' roll spirit in Northeast Ohio is still alive and well.
Musically, Northeast Ohio has produced a little bit of everything over the years including classic rock (Raspberries, Michael Stanley, the James Gang), industrial (Nine Inch Nails), punk (Pere Ubu, Dead Boys, Rocket from the Tombs) and R&B (Levert, the O'Jays). Today, Cleveland's numerous clubs feature local and national acts tied to their own specific character and culture. Take the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, for example. Wolff says of this converted Croation hall, "In its ten-plus years, Beachland has become the key spot to catch, and often break, a band and the last refuge for Cleveland's aging underground scene." Other key music venues include House of Blues in a converted five-and-dime store decked out with folk art downtown, the Grog Shop, a hipster hangout serving up college radio fare from emo to hip hop for nearly 20 years, Peabody's which caters to the metal and hardcore crowd and The Winchester, a suburban neighborhood bar with a small concert space devoted mainly to classic rock and local talent. Then there are clubs like Fat Fish Blue, Brothers Lounge, Barking Spider, Euclid Tavern (where the movie "Light of Day" was filmed) and the Parkview NiteClub, all of which regularly host regional acts, ensuring that you can hear great music seven nights a week.
Like most places, vinyl has had a resurgence here in Cleveland Plus. Area indie record shops like Music Saves, Blue Arrow Records, Square Records, Loop and My Mind's Eye offer both the newly-pressed and classic finds. One of only a handful of vinyl pressing plants left in the country, Gotta Groove Records opened in Cleveland last year after Vince Slusarz purchased a plant in New Jersey and had it shipped to town on a couple of flatbed trucks. It took him a couple of months to fine-tune the machinery, but he's produced a variety of local and national albums in the year he's had Gotta Groove running. Slusarz gives free tours of the plant with advance notice. Located just down the road from Gotta Groove, Ante Up Audio is a full service studio where acts like Fountains of Wayne, the Dave Matthews Band, Jon Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson have all recorded. Cleveland rappers Bone Thugs N Harmony and metal madman Ozzy Osbourne have also used the facility, which features both vintage and state-of-the-art equipment. Ante Up Audio offers free tours; call ahead for booking information.
Still on the trail of rock and roll? Then be sure to head 45 minutes south of Cleveland to visit the Akron Art Museum for Who Shot Rock & Roll?, the first major museum exhibition on rock 'n' roll photographers. It opens on October 23 and runs into 2011. At least part of the exhibit will include work from Northeast Ohio-based rock 'n' roll photographers. And, while you're there, visit The Vegiterranean, the vegan restaurant run by the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, an Akron native. She reportedly owns an apartment in the building, so don't be surprised if you see her lurking about.
(Editor's Note: Looking for more rock-inspired art in Cleveland Plus? Ronnie Wood, a guitarist for the Rolling Stones, will be showcasing his work at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown through November 21, 2010. Click here to learn more)
Blossom Music Center
Scenic outdoor amphitheater in Cuyahoga Falls (between Akron and Cleveland) that's the summer home to the Cleveland Orchestra and a venue for national music acts like Tom Petty, Kiss, Rascal Flatts and others.
Presents an affordable variety of nationally-known music, dance and theatre in two covered amphitheaters during the summer months.
Clay's Park Resort 500 acre RV campground with lake, hiking trails, waterpark and weekly entertainment. Home to the annual multi-day summer "Rock N Resort" Music Festival.
Old world charm meets city life. Menu includes traditional Irish favorites like boxty & shepherd's pie. Live local acts , beer on tap and breathtaking views of downtown.
Cleveland A gourmet hotdog emporium with 50 house-made toppings for their quarter pound all beef hot dogs, vegan sausages, french fries & tater tots. Presents live music and deejays year-round.
Hard Rock Café
Packed with memorabilia from Hard Rock's world-famous collection, dine amidst rock legends like Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Stevie Ray Vaughn as well as local legends Joe Walsh, Michael Stanley, and the Raspberries.
A 5,000-seat covered outdoor amphitheater along the Cuyahoga River.
The only club in Ohio on Down Beat's list of the 100 Best Jazz Clubs in the World, with music seven nights a week, great food and a cool vibe.
Prosperity Social Club
A 1938 tavern, and a true Cleveland experience, this venue attracts eclectic clientele with an unpretentious vibe. It features upscale bar food, late-night dining, live music, patio, jukebox, bowling machine, comfortable atmosphere.
The Waterloo Arts District
Record stores, galleries, boutique shopping, live music, great food and is the only corner of Cleveland that is 100% locally-owned.