Every Clevelander knows one of our best assets are our abundance of places to take in a live show. While everyone knows about The Q, Blossom, and Nautica (or whatever they’re calling it this week), but what about some of the smaller venues? Here are Pressure Life’s Top 5: Small Local Music Venues.
5) The Foundry (Lakewood; 11729 Detroit Avenue): Some nights you build your own burger, some nights, a taco. Those other nights? You get your hair blown back when a bunch of angsty malcontents (probably dressed in variations of black) take the stage and peel the paint off the walls with fair amounts of crunchy feedback.
4) Now That’s Class (Cleveland; 11213 Detroit Avenue): Sure, there are a few of punk stages littered throughout Cleveland and Cleveland-Adjacent, but anybody who’s anybody knows Now That’s Class is the premier venue of its ilk. A surly hole-in-the-wall, NTC can appear intimidating to uninitiated, but the staff and much of the devoted regulars are a family in and of their own that only want to celebrate power chords. That, and skate ramps.
3) Happy Dog (Cleveland; 5801 Detroit Avenue): This place is teeny-tiny and it’s always packed. This forces nearly all of the Dog’s patrons within arm’s reach of whichever band they have squeezed into the corner in the front of the bar. The bustling shoulder-to-shoulder crowds make every gig feel like an exclusive secret show. It’s a great place to just “happen into” in the middle of the night. Like me, when I found myself in the front row of a trio surf rockers all playing in their bra and panties (ah, the halcyon days)
2) Mahall’s (Lakewood; 13200 Madison Avenue): While I feel the phrase “retro vibe” has been overused into irrelevancy, the quality cannot be denied of Mahall’s. The bowling alleys they host have held a perfect stasis since their heydays of the 1970’s, giving the venue’s vintage some authenticity to boot. The red curtains and black and white checkered floors give just the right tone to its 20th century noir motif. One of its best attributes is the variety of genres that grace the stage giving Mahall’s something for everybody.
1) Grog Shop (Cleveland; 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd): Probably the biggest of the little venues, Grog Shop has always been the place where soon-to-be indy darlings go to cut their teeth. Acts like Elliot Smith, Guided By Voices, and Brian Jonestown Massacre have graced the floor-level stage multiple times. And if you’re squirrelly enough, you can usually choke down at least half a joint before the old man in the greasy truckers cap gives you the boot.