The Agora concert club celebrates its 38th anniversary this weekend with a performance that includes legendary Cleveland bands from the Agora's early years. The Saturday, June 12 show will feature sets by Rainbow Canyon, Joey & the Continentals, Fayrewether, and Wild Horses, in addition to an 18-piece horn ensemble composed of well-known Cleveland musicians.
"The whole event is to salute the Agora for being the country's longest continuously running rock club," says Buddy Maver, former Agora vice president, booker, and drummer-singer of the Charades and Rainbow Canyon. "And to salute Henry LoConti, the Agora owner."
The Agora opened in Little Italy in 1966 and moved a year later to East 24th Street, where it stayed until a fire forced another move, in 1984, to its current location at 5000 Euclid Avenue. Over the '70s and '80s, it grew into a 10-city chain that spanned as far as Miami and Dallas, with locations in Youngstown, Toledo, and Columbus.
"From 1965 to '75, that was the golden age of rock and roll," says Maver. "All those groups had national airplay and records. They were Cleveland bands, but they were Cleveland-based bands."
· Decades after WMMS's Coffee Break concerts first turned local performances into national news, the series makes a comeback Friday, June 11. The alt-rock band Sponge, which apparently survived the '90s, will visit the Buzzard studios at noon for an interview session and live music, prior to its show that night at the Agora. DJ-promotions coordinator Mark "Munch" Bishop says listeners should expect more.
"We'd do one every week if we had a national band that would come," he says. "But it's a competitive market out there."
Meanwhile, the station's Native Noise, formerly a monthly hour of local music, is now a weekly two-hour show. From 10 p.m. to midnight Sundays, it features an hour of talk and music with a local act, followed by an hour of requests for Cleveland-area artists.
"So many people want to hear local music on the radio again," says Native Noise host Jesse. "And eventually, we talked the big bosses into it. You hear this, and you say, 'This stuff is really good.'"
· Tattooed punkers the Vacancies canceled a June 28 showcase at New York City's CBGB's and pulled out of a May 30 slot opening for Joan Jett at Tower City Amphitheater, but they haven't broken up. Bassist Jeff Kovatch says that ongoing tensions between drummer Sean Watkins and the rest of the group came to a head, and the parties split without time to recruit a replacement. "We're still going to be around," says Kovatch. "This is just a bump in the road."
· A new all-metal local website has opened its virtual doors. In addition to featuring local hellions, www.clevelandlocalscene.com showcases cover bands and visiting acts.
· Having outlived their own genre's popularity by six years, Shaker Heights ska sensations the Skanktronics are finally calling it a day. Pay your respects at their final show Friday, June 11, at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard, Cleveland Heights). Clear Channel and the Tri-Lateral Commission have scheduled the next ska revival for summer 2010.
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