How long can you listen to live music? The question is twofold:
like all great things, your answer depends on opportunity and
stamina. In Toledo, you can last about 24 hours. Or, at least I
could. From breakfast to church, and everything in between,
this is how I faced the music on a Saturday.
Larry Meyer of Old State Line is tapping out a beat on his drum as I
walk into the crowded Glass City Cafe. The five members are noodling
on their instruments, preparing for their first 2017 gig in this small
Jackson Street diner. Every Saturday, the Cafe hosts live music—
even on a supremely chilly morning like this.
The members of Old State Line— acoustic Americana, as they name
their genre— are having some technical difficulties this morning, and
it takes a good 15 minutes after the scheduled 10am start time for them
to begin the first song.
“Thank you all so very much for coming out on this cold, cold morning,”
Cindy Lipman says after a few songs. Meyer hands out percussion shakers
to a group of kids, so they can play along with the next tune. I would love
to stay longer, but my schedule is tight today. They launch into
“These Boots Are Made for Walking.” In a few minutes, so am I.
I have arrived at Sixtyten Studios in Northwood on one of the rare
days this week where it isn’t filled with music. As manager Michael
Pierce greets me, he says that his last session was the night before
with Ben Stalets, and he has another scheduled for tomorrow. But
that’s okay: The space, with its beautiful mural on the far wall, makes
plenty of noise without making a sound.
Since 2008, Sixtyten has been one of the go-to locations for area
musicians, and not just for recording. The space has hosted numerous
gigs over the years, with upwards of 50 people able to fit into the wide
confines of the studio. Pierce tells me that while this place may never be a
full-time project for him, it will always be a part of who he is.
“It’s something that I’ll always keep doing. Because I have access to a
space like this. Because I like to promote good music,” he says.
Culture Clash Records on Secor is as busy as I’ve seen it, thank God.
Vinyl, as far as the eye can see. Even the shop’s bathroom has a crate
of records in it. An occasional rack of CDs sticks out like a sore thumb
in this place. For the Clash’s clientele, it’s old-school turntables or it’s
not worth the time.
A gentleman comes in with a big plastic tub full
of records. He’s looking to sell. As the salesperson thumbs through
the selection, he mentions and details the recent passing of owner
Pat O’Connor, which is still sending shockwaves through the Toledo
“We’re gonna do what we can to keep going,” he says.
I certainly hope so. Much of Toledo’s musical heart lies in
O’Connor’s work and is tied inexorably to this little shop.
Carmen Miller is seated at the bar as I walk into the legendary
Dégagé Jazz Club in Maumee. Her face lights up and she gives
me a big hug. She says that despite her own musical career having
taken her all over the Glass City and beyond, she has never actually
been in Dégagé before— either as a patron or as an entertainer.
She is changing that. She hands the club’s booker a business card
while we chat.
The Skip Turner Band will be on the corner stage at 7:30.
For now, though, it’s just me and one of the great vocalists of
the Toledo area, and we talk about the ever-evolving
Glass City music scene.
“Toledo is such a vibrant, live music community,” she says.
“But the landscape is changing, because a lot of the ownership
is changing. You don’t want to lose the culture. You don’t want
to lose the community itself.”
The Village Idiot in Maumee, according to the sign above the stage,
offers “Live Music 7 Nites” a week. Tonite is no exception.
Currently rocking the bar is a solo acoustic guitarist with a voice that
could wake the dead— Muddy. In voice and presence, she reminds
me of a young Crystal Bowersox, who regularly played this very stage
herself, once upon a time.
Muddy’s voice is somehow simultaneously weathered and young.
Surrounding her are pics of rock legends, most prominently, the
famous image of Johnny Cash flipping the bird. That perfectly sums
up the defiant attitude of the Idiot. The Last Born Sons will be
playing at 10, but I’ll have moved onto downtown by then. For now,
I get lost in Muddy’s magnetic presence and voice.
The Victory of the Blues
Ye Olde Durty Bird on St. Clair is packed, as expected on a Saturday
night. As I arrive, local mainstays The Good, The Bad and the Blues
play an extended riff on “Route 66.” Groups at most tables are
engrossed in their own conversations, or in the football game
showing on the big-screen TVs. The crowd seems to barely engage
with the band at all. This will soon change.
“We’ll be here until around midnight or so, so we hope you’re ready
to party,” says lead singer Aayan Naim. They launch into a fast-paced
number, with the bass thumping so loud I can feel it deep within my
chest. With a few songs, they grab their audience’s attention through
sheer force of awesome. If you want to experience true, unfiltered blues
goodness, you must seek out The Good, the Bad and the Blues.
The mood is considerably more mellow at NINE, in Hensville. It’s
sparsely occupied, with only about 15 or so patrons. The low-key mood
suits Stella, Manley and Beagle well on this night. The trio’s combination
of keyboard, guitar and woodwind instruments are a nice change of pace
after rocking out at the Durty Bird. The three don’t take themselves too
seriously, and genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves, despite
the sparse crowd.
They launch into a lyrical, fast-paced cover of “This ‘Ol Cowboy” by the
Marshall Tucker Band. It’s delightfully unexpected and unique given all I’ve
seen them play before. And it won’t be the last time this evening that a mix
of genres and styles will be used to great effect.
The atmosphere is considerably more raucous at Fleetwood’s Tap Room,
a hop, skip and jump away, across St. Clair St. The main stage is feeling
the power of The New Fashioned, a group that prides itself on bringing a
new sound to familiar tunes. I arrive just in time to hear them perform
Radiohead’s “Creep” in the style of a ’50s love ballad. It is simply
After a short break, they play a fairly traditional cover of
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” insisting the audience sing
along. The dance floor fills with people— slow dancers, silly dancers,
people just having fun. The group plays some original tunes as my time
runs out, much to my dismay. I’ve been having a ball. “Now we got
a request to slow things down,” lead singer Jake Pilewski says. “It’s a slow
song, but that’s okay, it’s a whiskey-drinking song, that’s for sure!”
If you’ve never seen The New Fashioned live, you are missing out.
As I walk into the Distillery on Heatherdowns, pretty much the last song
I expect is exactly what’s being played: “YMCA.” Up next, “Jessie’s Girl.”
After that, “The Middle.” It’s like a trip in a musical time machine, which
is right in the wheelhouse of Not Fast Enuff, a group that specializes in
pop covers from the past 40 years. It’s all but impossible to keep from
smiling while Not Fast Enuff is performing. The band faithfully plays each
tune in tribute, while giving each enough of a twist to make it their own.
And the vocal versatility of lead singer Melissa Toth is genuinely impressive.
The bar is slowly emptying out as the band plays on. Servers move
tables back to their original positions and wipe them down. By the time
of “I Want You To Want Me,” I’m the only audience member within 50 feet.
But they’re still rocking it, by God. They close their set with
“What’s Going On,” putting a good capper on their show and summing
up my current mental state at 2 in the morning. What’s going on now?
Hollywood after Hours
The song that plays as I walk into Hollywood Casino seems
quite fitting: “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This.” Yes, for many
attendees, the allure of that sweet dream is what brings them to the
casino and back again, but Hollywood’s musical history is pretty
prominent, as well. Live musicians play the H Lounge every Friday
and Saturday, along with regular appearances by national acts swinging
through town. By this time of night though, not even the Muzak of pop hits
playing over the speakers are anywhere near as important as the
music that gamers really want to hear— the rapid notes
of a bell indicating they are a big winner (I don’t hear that music at
all during my visit, by the way).
Warm-hearted fellowship and an endless supply of “good morning”s
greet me as I enter my last stop. Friendship Baptist Church on Nebraska
Avenue immediately lives up to its name. Today is a joyous day for the
congregation— not only is it the first service of the New Year, but Pastor
Michael Key is celebrating his sixth anniversary with the congregation.
And from the moment I walk into the sanctuary, the music serves to
underscore the event.
A slow percussion beat is played as the crowd files in. Soon it is
accompanied by singing, a message of joy washing over the congregation
before the service begins. The chorus onstage sways back and forth with
the beat. Members rise from their pews and move in time to the music.
They are united in spirit, taking the beat as their guiding force.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” a speaker shouts as the
service begins. Each proclamation is responded to with applause and
cheers. Hugs and “Amens!” are peppered throughout this
celebration of God.
And all the while, the beat goes on. The beat that has resonated
for the past 24 hours, throughout the city, in a variety of situations.
The beat that has lived since man first tapped out a rhythm. The beat
that connects everyone— audience to performer, person to person,
an individual to a higher power. The beat that connects the ticks of a
clock, sunrise and sunset, life and death, and renewal.
The beat of Toledo— goes on.