Music Non-Traditional

Rustbelt Roadtrip Part 3 – Cleveland

As part of our trip to see Penn State play at Pittsburgh, we decided to take a couple of extra days to tour around the area.  Having already spent some time in Pittsburgh, we decided to take a trip to Cleveland, with the primary destination being the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Of course, checking into my interactive maps, I saw that the Steelers were on the road, taking on the Browns in the first game of the season.  We considered adding that to the itinerary but decided to play it by ear instead of securing tickets early.  With it being opening weekend and expectations high in Cleveland, ticket prices were pretty steep – especially since we didn’t really have a horse in the race.

Thankfully, we didn’t pull the trigger on the Browns tickets.  Our late night in Pittsburgh made for a late start on Sunday morning.  After picking up our rental car we made our way out to Cleveland in a pouring rainstorm. We didn’t arrive into town until about 3:00pm – just in time to see the final quarter of the game.

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Monday view

We popped into Cleveland’s famed 4th St Alley, which is a dining destination that includes local celebrity chef, Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ, and Lola Bistro among other outstanding options.  Our choice, the Butcher and the Brewer. The place was surprisingly empty considering the stadium was just a few short blocks away. img_6337

We sat at the bar, ordered some apps and their craft beers and watched the rest of the Browns game in the cozy confines as opposed to the cold sideways rain at times outside. The Browns had their chances, but you could tell, most of the fans were expecting the worst.  One of the wait staff perfectly summed up what many of the fiercely loyal people in these underdog towns feel.

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The Browns were on a 17-game losing streak – a streak so bad that Budweiser decided to cash in on their pain in the off-season.  The uber-marketer set up 10 coolers full of Bud Light around the city and locked them with chains – promising to open them up and give away all of the beer inside with the next Brown win.

Would today be the day? Mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Browns were seemingly dead, down 21-7 with no spark.  But then, a fumble recovered by the Browns and run back to the 1-yard line set them up.  They punched it in and cut the lead to 21-14, then a couple of possessions later, tied it at 21 with just under 2 minutes to play. They had a chance in OT!

After a few back and forth possessions, the Steelers had the first chance to win, but missed a 42-yard FG! The home team couldn’t capitalize and was forced to go three and out and give it back to the Steelers. On that next drive, the Steelers fumbled again, their 6th turnover of the day, with 0:36 to play. The Browns scooped it up and ran it back to the 24. This was it.  They have to win, right?

Nope! Coach Hue (who spells their name like that) Jackson played way too conservative and lost a yard by attempting a run on first down, then spiking it before a 3rd down kick was blocked.

While they didn’t lose, they also didn’t win – the writers now have to call it a winless streak instead of a losing streak.  Oh, and Bud had to confirm that the lockers only open with a win – not a tie. Sorry Cleveland.

Walking back to our car as patrons spilled out of the bars on 4th St was interesting. Some fans were just plain angry. Walking by themselves either shouting obscenities or just mumbling. No free beer today.

On Monday, we took the 5-minute walk from our hotel to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  I’ve heard so many people talk about this place I was excited to see it. This place rocks! Pun intended…

Not knowing what to expect, we took our time working our way through room after room and floor after floor of the exhibits.

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In my mind, one of the greatest things about this place is that they have so many videos of performances of legendary performers. Today, we’re buried in music, but we seem to have gotten away from the visual aspect. Years ago, VH1 was launched with their first song being “Video killed the radio star” and a new way to consume music was born.  Since then, things have changed again. When was the last time you actually saw a video of Elvis Presley singing Jailhouse Rock?  For me, it was in the Hall!

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One of my all-time favorites, Lynyrd Skynyrd was highlighted in the first room of the Hall.  Gary Rossington’s 1961 Gibson Les Paul guitar was on display. I will say, after catching the 2002 Documentary, Uncivil War on Netflix, narrated by none-other-than CNN’s Jake Tapper, Gary seems to be a bit of weasel.

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Also in the first room was Billy Joel’s first 1977 Harley Davidson. This is the bike he crashed on Long Island in 1982 that could have ended his career. He banged up his hands so much he had to stop production on his Nylon Curtain album.  Thankfully, he recovered!img_6344

When people ask me, “what was the best concert you’ve ever attended”, the answer is easy. Live Aid! The 1985 version of Woodstock in the 80s, played out live in two cities – Philadelphia and London.  The all-day concert featured a ton of acts including Madonna, Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton, CSN&Y, Beach Boys, Judas Priest, Santana and more – even a reunion of Led Zeppelin (even though they totally bombed their performance).

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One of many memories I have from that day was when the big screens showed the Concord taking off – then a couple of hours later, the supersonic airplane landing in Philly.  Then a person emerged, was transferred to a helicopter, then limousine.  Before long, Phil Collins joined the stage in Philly after already playing a set in London just hours before. Collins would also join Zeppelin on drums for their set.  You catch a glimpse of that performance here.

Here’s Tom Petty’s jacket from his performance in Philly.

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Of course, the Hall would not be complete if it didn’t include the King of Pop.  There were several artifacts from Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 on display, but the glove and jacket were highlights for me.

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Another classic rock band, The Who was on display.  For some reason, it wasn’t until 2007 when I first saw the Who perform live.  Sure, I saw Tommy on Broadway, and while it was one of my favorite plays of all time, I never got to see the band.  That is, until a colleague of mine coerced me to go when we were on a business trip in Chicago.  After that performance, I was bummed I hadn’t seen them sooner.img_6359

The Hall also just opened a new area dedicated to live, working pinball machines.  It seems Rock & Roll and pinball go together for some reason – none more so than the Who’s Pinball Wizard.  There were all types of machines featuring Guns & Roses, Elton John, Kiss and many others.

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A Classic!

Another type of interesting artifacts are the documents on which lyrics for created.  Each exhibit had different hand-written, scribbled notes from the artists.  Below are the lyrics from Joe Walsh’s, Life’s Been Good.

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We were so enthralled in this place. Before you know it, we had spent six hours touring the seven floors of exhibits, displays, videos and more.

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Having blown through lunch, it was now dinner time.  Cleveland is known for their Eastern European cuisine, with plenty of Hungarian options.  Our plan was to check out some of these unique places.  Little did we know that literally every place we checked out on Yelp, was closed already.  Seems that most of these places have limited hours with many closed on Mondays and others primarily serving during lunch only.  Bummer!

We headed over towards their Little Italy area to check it out. We took MLK Drive off of I-90.  It was spectacular.  The road winds through different parks and gardens and gives you a totally different perspective on Cleveland.

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No trip to Little Italy would be complete without checking out their bakeries.  Presti’s didn’t disappoint.  Plenty of cannoli, cookies and other pastries, but the restaurants were either closed or didn’t have good reviews.

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Back towards the city, we found newly open Southern Tier Brewing Company – not far from the 4th St area we checked out previously. With Monday Night Football on and a few beers, it was a great way to cap off an awesome day.

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It was an early night since we were in for a long day on Tuesday as we headed for our fourth and final stop on the Rustbelt Roadtrip. Canton, here we come!

The only knock I have on the Hall is their lack of recognition of Southern Rock.  Sure, Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and the Allman Brothers are represented, but the entire genre of music deserves to be recognized.

That said, if you’re ever anywhere near Cleveland, make sure you carve out plenty of time to take in this awesome cathedral of music.  It ranks up there as one of the best museums or attractions I’ve ever experienced.

#LongLiveRock

Stop wondering. Start wandering!

And finally, after not winning 19 in a row, the Browns and their new “face of the franchise”, Baker Mayfield, came from behind on Week 3 Thursday night to beat the Jets and more importantly, opened the refrigerators! We were 2 weeks early!

 

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