Toledo's music scene: Creating a vibe for the city

April 11, 2019

If food is the way to the heart, then music is the way to the soul. For Toledo, the soul of the city is vibrant.


Toledo is home to several venues and music stores often frequented to escape everyday life.

Nothing is more iconic than Frankie’s Inner City, located on the East Side off of Main Street.


“It opened as a restaurant in 1945 featuring live music, then 40 years ago, it focused on just the live music,” said Cody Sizemore, a talent buyer and manager at Frankie’s. “It’s the staple venue for live music in Toledo.”


Many bands have graced its stage.


“A lot of the bands that performed there have become massive such as Weezer, Kid Rock, Frank Sinatra, Smashing Pumpkins, Gin Blossoms and more,” Sizemore said.


A lot of history is what makes Frankie’s so popular, he added.


“It has become a nationally-acclaimed legendary venue that bands from all over the country look forward to playing,” Sizemore said. “Over the years, many venues have come and gone, but Frankie’s remained tried and true that keeps giving back to the community.”


Music and art played a vital role in reviving downtown Toledo’s nightlife over the years. The Ottawa Tavern is younger than Frankie’s, as it opened in 2008, yet it also allows another platform for musicians.


Tori Thorne, the head bartender at Ottawa Tavern downtown on Adams Street, spoke about the importance of the venue’s role.


“We give a platform for all artists, no matter how big or how small,” she said. “Friday night, we just got a band signed by a national label, so they may never play here again, but we feel it’s important to give artists a space to perform.”


A large stage stretches the entire length of the back wall with a bar off to the left, creating a large open room to hold crowds of all sizes there to support the venue’s various shows.


“Some of the artists have a large following and some of them don’t. It just depends, but there is a solid rotation of booked performances every weekend,” Thorne said. “We definitely don’t discriminate against any kind of genre.”


Music bridges generations together. With vinyl making a comeback, it creates more opportunities to reach fans.


Tim Friedman took over the Culture Clash in May of 2017 after its previous owner, Pat O’Connor, passed away around Christmas 2016.


“The goal is to continue to evolve the image,” Friedman said. “Be it for local bands or national bands that play live, our goal is to create a vibe where everyone can feel connected by music and the culture around it.”


Wall-to-wall shelves of records from old to new blanket the store.


There are people who grew up with vinyl and are rediscovering it and young people who are discovering it for the first time.


“The clientele are very diverse; we get customers who come in weekly and some that just newly discovered it,” he said.


What makes Culture Clash unique is that it is the only record store in town that hosts live events, contributing an important role as a platform for local artists.


“April 13 is National Record Day,” Friedman said. “There will be line of people waiting to get a new release only sold to independent record stores.”


For the first time, Culture Clash will release its own vinyl of two of the four bands playing live that day: Bliss Nova and Violent Bloom.


The other bands scheduled to perform are Wax and Excellent Enemies.


“My goal is to foster a cool place in Toledo, and I care about the customers and want to do right by them,” he said. “At best, Culture Clash is important to the music scene as a culture hub in Toledo.”

Music-goers and UT students do not have to venture far either.


Located on the fourth floor of the UT Student Union is Phoenicia Cuisine.


Ever since they opened in the Student Union two years ago, live music has grown in popularity and is hosted every Thursday night.


“Students approached us who saw the stage, asked us if they could perform and that’s how it all started,” Reem Barakat, assistant manager, said. “We are student-centered, and anyone who has a talent they want to share is welcome.”


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