Shuffle: Akron's Growing DIY Underground Music Scene

Mar 2, 2017

Hive Mind in Akron hosts DIY underground concerts
Credit Hive Mind

This week, WKSU is kicking off Shuffle – A weekly look at Northeast Ohio’s music scene -- from rock and rap to folk and classical. For the first installment, Amanda Rabinowitz stopped by Akron’s Devil Strip Magazine to talk with Music Editor Brittany Nader about Akron’s growing DIY underground music scene.

DIY: Do It Yourself music venue
Brittany Nader says DIY music venues have been around since the 1980's.

"After the punk rock movement took off in the U.S., there was the hardcore music scene and a lot of their movement revolved around the 'do it yourself' thing, as far as, 'We make our own band fliers; we book our own shows; we make our own T-shirts. We don’t want to listen to any record labels; we don’t want to listen to all these people telling us what to do. We want to do our own thing -- be alternative.'

The Devil Strip Music Editor Brittany Nader
Credit Brittany Nader / The Devil Strip

Nader says that led to the creation of DIY spaces. "We’re going to open up a venue where people don’t have to go through the nonsense of trying to get their band to play a show to their local community," she says. 

So, they play shows in houses or vacant buildings or warehouses. 

How does the word spread?
Nader says bands get the word out about their DIY shows through new and old means of communication. "People hand-make fliers and go copy them on a copy machine and hang them around. Facebook has been huge for that because there are groups. So, in a way, it kind of attracts a younger crowd of people who are on social media constantly.

"I'll see a flier and it's just a picture of a house and it says 'music venue' underneath the photo."

"I’ll see a flier and I'll look it up and on their Facebook page; it’s just a picture of a house and it says 'music venue' underneath the photo. And I’m like, ‘Cool, there’s that house down the street that’s a music venue now."

Do any of these bands make it big?
Nader says sometimes a band will start to grow a following that makes it out of the basement.

"Some of the veteran musicians who have been playing a long time have connections outside of Akron or even in Akron with maybe a venue owner or an Akron celebrity."  

She says the Akron band Time Cat is a good example. They opened for The Pretenders at Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall last November.

"The Pretenders still have a local connection ... and [Time Cat] then went on to play a festival. And, through making connections and playing a lot, they start to attract certain people in the audience or just build a following that makes people know them."

Is DIY good for Akron's music scene?
"I think people are paying more attention to Akron now because of these spaces," Nader says. "Because there’s so many. Some that have closed, some that are opening some that are hiatus but will open again."

One of these spaces is Hive Mind in Akron.

"They do a lot of promotion on Facebook. A lot of the bands make fliers and they also bring in bands from other cities and other states so they’re promoting within their communities and they often have four or five bands playing shows. So, you’re not just going to see one band; there’s so many different types of people and I think the fact that it’s a safe space, that’s attractive to people because they know they’re not going to get harassed or bullied at this show."

What about safety issues? 
With so many shows happening in people's homes and abandoned warehouses, there have been concerns about safety.

Last December, 36 people were killed at a fire at DIY warehouse in Oakland California.

"That was a huge issue and I think that either scared some of these DIY space owners or just made them re-think some things and get re-organized and get up to code. Fire safety is a big one."

Nonetheless, Nader expects Akron's DIY music scene to continue to grow.

"People are doing it themselves and finding it themselves. I think the community is getting so much bigger that so many people know about it just through talking to people and meeting people who are either musicians or artists who are running these venues."