CLEVELAND: ROCK AND ROLL CITY AND ITS RUST BELT REVIVAL

Henri K. Rapp, Jeanette Sangston and Chayla Hope are constantly knee deep in the rock & roll scene of Cleveland, OH. I had the opportunity to talk to the artists about their relationship with this beautiful city and how its music scene has contributed to what they have now.

Who are you and what do you do?

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Henri K. Rapp – Photo by Evan Prunty

“I’m Henri K. W. Rapp, a Cleveland based Music Producer and Location Sound Mixer for TV/Film. I help run Bad Racket Recording Studio, where a lot of what I record is bands. We are fortunate enough to live in a city with some truly phenomenal artists, and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to record some of them. At Bad Racket, we produce a music video series called ‘Live From Bad Racket.’ In the last year I have had the opportunity to work on a more diverse selection of projects than ever before; An 18-Piece orchestra in The Cleveland Art Museum, Strings for Cleveland Playhouse, Sound for TV Shows, as well as record with some great bands like Worship This!, Clementine, The Village Bicycle, Signals Midwest, and A Work Of Fiction.” -Henri K. Rapp

“My name is Jeanette Sangston. I am the Director of Sofar Sounds Cleveland. We curate secret, intimate shows once a month in unique spaces around the city, highlighting emerging talent.” -Jeanette Sangston

“I am a press operator at Gotta Groove Records and the lead singer of Seafair and Glitter Biscuit” -Chayla Hope

For the past 8 years that I’ve lived in Cleveland, Ohio, I have gone through a roller coaster of emotions. First off, I came from Anchorage Alaska, which made me a snobby brat. I held my head high thinking nothing could top the plethora of fresh fish, tourist attractions and the small, hometown feel that the tiny city offered. I was vastly wrong. This city has grown on me like ivy on an antique brick house, pulling relentlessly at my heartstrings.

For those who’ve never been here, you probably know it from the vast majority of terrible jokes against it like ‘Mistake on the Lake,’ ‘Cuyahoga River catching on fire’ and the “At Least We’re Not Detroit” fad to name a few. Cleveland is a small city, vibrant within the community with an ever blossoming and thriving music, food, and start up scene.

Cleveland is about to host the Republican National Convention. I’m a little worried as I work downtown as most friends and family do. That being said, I do know that we had 1.3 million people crowding the downtown area at the Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade, it being the biggest championship celebration in NBA history with little to no damage to the city. Are you listening, America?

What have you noticed lately in the music scene?

“One thing that’s stood out to me in recent times is up and coming labels from Cleveland, like Quality Time Records, Jurassic Pop Records, and Escapist Records who’ve been putting out some truly killer records. A lot of these releases have been cut to cassette tapes, or pressed to vinyl at Gotta Groove Records. They are a Cleveland based record plant that is one of the biggest in the country. We have a lot of friends who work over there. It’s also awesome to see cassette tapes make such a remarkable comeback as well.” -Rapp

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Chayla Hope at Jeanette Sangston’s Sofar Sounds – Photo By Ernie Joy

“Cleveland has always had a strong music scene, but it seems like there is definitely a new vibrancy. An injection of new energy. There seems to be a desire to shine the spotlight on our talent so that we can launch our artists to that next level…perhaps a national level. The realization that success for anyone in Cleveland means success for everyone; that the stronger our scene is, the stronger that spotlight is. There are so many people in Cleveland that value music…on every level…and work EXTREMELY hard to promote that value throughout the city. It’s really an awesome time to be involved in the Cleveland music scene. We have amazing talent and passion here.” -Sangston

“Its becoming more of a community. More people are supporting each other and collaborating. It’s a wonderful thing.” -Hope

On the west side, you can find a bustling downtown, the original Melt Bar and Grilled and Tremont, where you can dine at Michael Symons Lolita among other home grown eateries. Don’t worry, Trump likely won’t enter Symon’s, so if you’re looking for a safe haven during the convention you have Lola, Lolita and any of the B spot locations. But on the sprawling streets of the East Side harbor has Little Italy, a handful of art museums, University Circle at Case Western as well as some of the best hospitals (hopefully you won’t need those).

The historic Euclid Tavern is an old music venue, now home to the Happy Dog, where you can get Fruit Loops or almost any other unique topping for your hotdogs. Also if you’re looking to see national or even local acts in a small intimate atmosphere, you can hit up the Grog Shop where I’ve personally seen the likes of Saintseneca, Lucero and Nick 13. Further north in Collinwood you have the Beachland Ballroom/tavern. I recently saw Brian Fallon there and The Ohsees. The Beachland also has killer food. No kidding, you’ll cry while eating it.

How has the music scene changes effected your business and projects?

“This time of year is not only the busy season, but with an active music scene, all the film production and the RNC coming to town, I stay quite booked up at Bad Racket, doing location sound for TV shows, and mixing concerts at Mahall’s. We also have been shooting new ‘Live From Bad Racket’ videos faster then we can do the post production, so we are starting to have a nice cache of videos that we will be premiering soon.” -Rapp

“Well, there certainly seems to be no limit to the pool of talented emerging artists in Cleveland. Equally, there seems to be no limit to the amount of people willing to support and help out Sofar Sounds as well. I’m truly amazed at how generous people are when they are passionate about something. The music community is like no other. It binds strangers into family. As we grow our support, we’re able to amplify our voice throughout Cleveland and beyond.” -Sangston

What does Cleveland mean to you?

“Cleveland is a city of opportunity for people interested in creating something awesome. It’s a place where the cost of living is low, while still big enough of a city to be a cultural hub. This kind of environment is the perfect incubator for artists, musicians, writers, actors, or anyone who wants to pursue a creative career path. With more films and TV being shot here, and a surplus of great bands, it’s a great city to work in doing audio.” -Rapp

“Cleveland is home. I’ve lived here my entire life. It is the confluence of grit and culture; it is steeped in the past yet has the palpable energy of new growth. We can talk all day about all of the new construction, Public Square renovation, the revival of the Flats; but ultimately, the heartbeat of Cleveland is the people. And the energy, pride, and camaraderie was never more apparent than at the Cavs parade. THAT is Cleveland.’ -Sangston

“It’s home. Cleveland is growing exponentially. I’ve always found beauty in it, but now so many people are flocking here due to the Cavs, the food, the sights, and the booze (chuckles). Public square is helping immensely as well!” -Hope

Cleveland is a major believer in bringing new to live alongside the old, a lot of our old buildings are intact and are being reused by new up-and-coming businesses. As a transplant, coming from a relatively new state, I never had the luxury to witness much history, but it’s a wild dream imagining all those who have stepped through the same streets I currently walk through.

I work in downtown Cleveland at a market, but this place previously was a hardware store. With majestic lofts above the store, exposed ceilings and sprawling wood work, it’s a wonder this wasn’t built to be exactly what it is now: a trendy downtown market and grocery store.

What are some important aspects you think all outsiders should know before stepping into our world?

“I think people are surprised at generally how nice Clevelanders are. There may be some pre-conceived notions about us, but Cleveland is world class in every way. Food, sport, art, and music…we are the epitome of Rust Belt Revival. I would encourage any outsider to really dig in and sample the best the city has to offer. They surely won’t leave disappointed.” -Sangston

I believe Jeannette said it best. Cleveland has finished its rehab and it is completely clean now, including the brand new square which had its grand opening only about a week ago. We are a proud city, reeking of admiration for the skyline we see every time we drive up the Shoreway or fight our way through east side traffic to see the Key Tower, Terminal Tower, Justice center or the Guardians of Transportation and we know we are home.