Toledo Music Scene: 2017 Recap

. January 4, 2018.

It’s a bittersweet feeling when there are too many shows happening in one night to attend all of them. But ultimately it’s a good problem for a music scene to have. That’s been the case here in Toledo recently, and as the year comes to a close, it’s worth taking a look at some of the things that have happened to make 2017 a special time for local music.

Hitting the Reset Button

Two years ago, things were not looking so good for original music venues in Toledo when two of the prime spots – the Ottawa Tavern and Frankie’s went dark.

In the summer of 2015, PR management at the OT changed hands and things got awkward, to say the least. The enticing atmosphere brought about by a crowd of Old West End friends that would frequent the bar had seemingly left the building – closing the door on an era of Toledo music that shaped the first half of the decade. A few months later, another hit was levied on the music scene when dwindling support caused local booking powerhouse Innovation Concerts to go on hiatus. This meant no more shows at Frankie’s – one of the longest-lived and most iconic music venues in Toledo.

Following this tumultuous time, 2016 was a rebounding year for the Toledo music scene. Innovation came back and in the spring of that year, they took over booking at the OT. Uncertainty remained, but things stabilized and 2017 has seen the scene start to skyrocket. “This past year, we’ve seen a resurgence of bands promoting themselves and each other and building a community and family within the music scene more than we’ve ever seen before”, says Innovation promoter Zack Jacobs.

RIP Headliners

2017 started off with the death of the once-prominent Headliners. But hardly anyone noticed as activity had been dwindling there for years. Headliners had it’s heyday back in the early to mid-2000’s – bringing in top national acts and hosting Innovation’s signature local band showcase, the Toledo Music Fest. But earlier this year, part of the roof blew off in a wind storm and “that was kind of the final nail in the coffin for the place”, says Jacobs. Ownership changed hands, the patio is gone, and the building is now just a warehousing space.

Despite the loss of Headliners, “this past year’s Toledo Music Fest at the Seagate Centre was one of the biggest events that I’ve ever been a part of in Toledo”, says Jacobs. “With over 40 bands, we had thousands of people show up throughout the entire day.”

As for some of the local talent, Jacobs tells us that “I find a new act almost every day that blows my socks off. There are so many talented bands in the area right now that the scene is insanely stacked.” Among all the bands, “Silver Age is definitely worth to keep an eye on”, says Jacobs. “And Bliss Nova is another band that is really special.”

Culture Clash Continues

The untimely death of Culture Clash owner and founder Pat O’Connor at the end of 2016 sent a shockwave through the music community in Toledo. The positive vibe and inviting atmosphere that Pat created with his record store left a hole in the hearts of music lovers in the area. Fortunately, the legacy will live on.

“Our big story for 2017 is that Culture Clash continues”, says new owner Tim Friedman. “We’re here keeping Pat’s spirit alive.”

Record Store Day celebrated its 10th year this year. “Pat’s wife and I signed the papers for me to take ownership of the store on that day, which ensured that the future of Culture Clash was safe.”

In-store performances have always been one of the charming aspects about this place, and Friedman is looking to take things to a new level. “We brought in a bunch of national acts to perform in-store this year”, says Friedman – noting performances from Damien Jurado, Advance Base, and Simon Joyner.

Vinyl for All

Friedman has paired up with Rob Courtney of Little Elephant Lathe Cuts, and as of this past summer, every in-store performance at Culture Clash is now recorded. “We’re really excited about putting some compilations together on vinyl of the in-store performances”, says Friedman.

Little Elephant has been around Toledo for a number of years now – making waves with their live video YouTube channel, but in March, they started offering custom short-run lathe cut vinyl records. “Let’s say you’re in a band and you know you’ll have a hard time selling 300 copies of a vinyl record, but you know that you could sell 20 or 30 of them, that’s what we offer”, Courtney explains.

Fresh Faces

2017 has also given birth to a wave of talented younger musicians and songwriters coming out of the Toledo area. Bands like Equipment and Cryface, just to name a few, are fresh out of high school and “they’re a breath of fresh air for the music scene”, says Courtney.

The stage is now set for 2018 to be an upbeat year for local music in Toledo.