An editorial by Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
There is no denying of talent the greater Youngstown area has produced over the years. From veterans like the Infidels, Coinmonster and Rebreather to staples such as The Zou and Kitchen Knife Conspiracy to relative newcomers Pilot the Mind, Spastic Hearts and White Cadillac, and about 200 great acts in between (see past features), the area serves as an extremely fertile landscape for uniquely diverse musical talent.
However, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, the scene for original music in Youngstown has suffered in recent years, largely because of the closing of several local hot spots.
By late 2012, the cohesiveness of the downtown music scene had all but dissipated. Barley’s, known for showcasing predominantly harder edged acts, had closed an reopened under new ownership as a dance club. The Lemon Grove, a hot spot for great indie and hip-hop, had seen it’s share of changes and is now the Knox, and is known predominantly as a dance club as well. And finally, there was the forcing of the area’s most iconic venue, Cedars, out of its home of several decades to be reopened on the West Side of town. The only venue remaining, is the area’s premiere punk/greaser rock joint, The Royal Oaks, over on the outskirts of downtown.
Other various clubs and bars in the city have leaned more toward cover bands, and are not as quite well known for showcasing original local artists. At least, in most cases. And while there is no shortage of amazing and interesting local talent, there has been what feels like a famine in terms of venue options.
“There’s a lot of places outside of downtown where bands can go and play. We’re looking to get bands who are having trouble trying to find shows, and get them some exposure,” said Joe Sinkovich of Supporting Your Local Music.
Sinkovich, formerly of the local metal-esque outfit Chapless Larry, has seen this rise and fall of the scene in terms of venues and how gigs operate for bands. That is why late last he formed Supporting Your Local Music (S.Y.L.M.), a campaign to get bands, venues and fans involved in making these shows the grandiose showcasing of pure talent that they once were.
“We’re working with Chipper’s over in Austintown (the city’s western township). Right now we put on one show a month, hoping to do more. We have done a few already and they have turned out great, we really appreciate the support,” said Sinkovich.
He added that along with himself, others are beginning to step out to the plate and bring local original talent to new and promising venues.
“Michael Kermic is working with the Brickhouse (located on the city’s South Side) to try to get bands in there. We’re really trying to make this happen and make this town boom again,” Sinkovich said.
So with so much exceptional talent and a handful of venue owners and promoters willing to step up, one may wonder why the scene feel apart in the first place. Was it that live music is no long the trend, and DJs and dance clubs have taken it’s place? Or the handling of local shows by shady promoters? Could the security of a cover band playing familiar songs to a desired demographic be a guaranteed recipe for financial success? And what about the now non-cohesiveness of the downtown area, does the scene need a particular proximity under which to operate? Perhaps the answer lies within all of those questions. However, both DJs and cover bands have existed and thrived throughout the city long before any venues closed, and former venues like the Nyabinghi, Agora and The Splash were always spread out across the city. So what gives?
“People need to come out and support their artists. Anyone can go to a band’s rehearsal space, bring a few beers, and just watch them play for free. You have to offer something. Variety within these shows. Who wants to sit through four metal bands? I was in a metal band and I wouldn’t want to. You have to give the people a show to remember, and that’s what we’re going to do!” explained Sinkovich.
Sinkovich brought up a crucial point. That final determining factor to making the area a great place to play, begins from within. It doesn’t matter whether these shows are being held in a dinky little dive bar or at the Covelli Centre, if he support is not there, if people don’t make it past their Facebook pages and actually attend, then the scene is nothing. The talent is worthless. And you might as well give up.
As Cedars and The Royal Oaks continue to thrive in the area of original local music, they are not enough by themselves. However, places like Chipper’s, the Brickhouse Tavern, The Crawlspace Venue, Magilla’s, Papa’s Sports Bar and Cricket’s are on the rise and willing to book original acts. Also, outlets like Supporting Your Local Music, www.youngstownrock.com, The Homegrown Show, The Jimmy Fro Show, Keepin’ It Radio and yours truly are working hard to keep you in the loop of what’s happening along the scene. The stones are in place. Fans, along with bands and artists, have to get over the fact that downtown is just not happening for them right now and accept it. There is a plethora of new and exciting venues. They are, and only will ever be, what we will choose to make them.
Instead of the constant bitching and bashing, get out there and SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC!