The many ways to celebrate music around Kent, Ohio
You may or may not have noticed that this little music blog is based in Kent, Ohio. If you didn’t notice, that’s probably because we overlook this town too much when writing about local music. With that in mind, I’d like to point out some gems of Kent.
Kent may not have a venue like The Grog Shop, The Beachland, Musica and so on, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to show. This city has become its own distinct little hub for celebrating music. A quick tally reveals that Kent has seven locally owned business where live music can be enjoyed.
Stone Tavern, 110 East Main St.
The Stone Tavern is the newest, and by far the most ambitious, addition to Kent’s music scene. This small bar and concert venue opened in January in the space that Professor’s Pub once occupied, and boasts free live performances nearly every night of the week! Whether it be loud-ass rock and roll, electronic, jazz, DJing, rockabilly or whatever, there’s always something to be discovered at this place.
You can’t miss it. There’s a huge sign atop the entrance boasting “Live Music.”
Zephyr Pub & Spirits, 106 West Main St.
If you’re out in downtown Kent on a weekend, the Zephyr is the spot you’ll be more than likely to find any one of Nasty Fancy’s writers. This three-level dive bar is more like a drunk jungle gym and offers a unique and diverse atmosphere with plenty of cheap brew.
Shows here are infrequent, but when they happen, they are wonderful. Not long ago, the Zephyr was host to Megachurch, an incredibly ear-splitting, preacher-sampling, bass guitar-driven instrumental metal band. You can also catch Kent’s stoner metal group Octolope here, and blues rock acts like Mike Lenz and Patrick Sweany are known to grace the stage.
The only regular act at the Zephyr is the solo delta bluesman Ian Penter. He plays a three hour set every single Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and you’re damned to be a fool if you don’t make it out at least once to catch him in action.
Oh, and shows are almost always free here as well.
The Kent Stage, 175 East Main St.
Maybe your more akin to folk and bluegrass. Well, I’d be out of my element if I failed to mention what an institution The Kent Stage has become by hosting some of the biggest acts in those scenes.
The Kent Stage is a non-profit venue and has become a go-to tour stop for an endless list of national acts including David Bromberg, Peter Rowan, Tom Paxton, Donna the Buffalo and much more. Yeah, the music is generally more appealing to an older crowd, but acts like Keller Williams, BoomBox, The Avett Brothers, G Love, Ekoostic Hookah and more contemporary acts have also played the stage.
The Kent Stage is also the host to several free alley shows during the summertime, with the purpose of propping up young and aspiring local acts.
The Outpost, 4962 S.R. 43
The Outpost Concert Club, aptly named as it sits on the outskirt of Kent, has been around for more than 40 years. It definitely caters to the metal and rock and roll scenes. It’s pulled in some of Cleveland’s major metal acts like Chimaira and Mushroomhead, but it isn’t all metal if that’s not your forte.
Blues acts Mike Lenz and Kent’s The Numbers Band frequently play this spot, there’s a hip-hop showcase just about every month and Aliver Hall, an Akron jam rock group and Nasty Fancy favorite, plays their Jingle Jam here in December.
Water Street Tavern, 132 South Water St.
Although Water Street Tavern is probably known best by Kent State students as a college kid bar, it’s much more. Local blues acts like Colin Dussault, Ian Penter, Austin Walkin’ Can, Colin John and The Numbers Band are all regulars of this bar’s Wednesday night blues series, and there’s a damn good Friday night schedule here as well. If you’re into the 80s, That 80s Band plays the first Saturday of the month here.
Ohio Music Shop, 118 East Main St.
Talk about a guitar shop with a niche! Ohio Music Shop not only has plenty of custom guitars to get your paws on, but has a full bar and a music stage. Concerts here are free as well and 100 percent local.
Every Tuesday is jazz night, with Danjo, an 18-piece jazz/funk orchestra frequently taking over the stage, and Thursday is open mic night, starting at 7 p.m. There are occasionally other shows on Fridays as well.
JB’s, 246 North Water St.
OK, so JB’s is more a dance club than anything, but if you look closely, you can find a few shows here that might be of interest. It too has pulled acts like Mushroomhead, and last month was the host of DUB 101, a dubstep party with local DJs of the now popular (and perhaps over-saturated) electronic music genre.
Record Shops! Fuck Yeah.
We all know that vinyl is back, and Kent has enough record shops to satisfy a whole day’s worth of crate digging adventure.
As of late, my personal favorite is Last Exit Books at 124 East Main St. Last Exit has a great selection of many old rock, jazz and classical music records, the prices are dirt cheap and they records are typically in pretty decent condition.
Located across the street at 165 East Main St. is Spinmore Records. Here is where you’ll find those decades-old records you’ve been dreaming of, but expect to pay a prettier penny for them, as almost all of them are in perfect, or near-perfect, condition.
The Vinyl Underground, at 257 North Water St., also boasts an immense selection of older records. The crates are jammed tight with huge selection of old rock, plus funk, soul, jazz, metal a minuscule amount of hip-hop and industrial. The shop also does record repairs if you’re looking to rehab your old turntable.
The regional music and video game chain, The Exchange, is situated in the plaza at the intersection of East Main and South Willow streets. It too has a selection of vinyls, moderate at best, but there are always great things to be found. If you’re looking for a recently released album, chances are you’ll find it here more than anywhere else in Kent. The used selection is wishy-washy, but I’ve pulled a few great ones out of its stacks.