'Bell and a Ball

Akron club gets a face-lift, still rocks something mighty.

Lords of the Highway hot venues Dead in London
Horror of '59 rocks the Beachland in '08. - Walter Novak
Horror of '59 rocks the Beachland in '08.

Subterranean Akron rock-club Annabell's (784 West Market Street) has new owners, fresh paint, and more music.

"We love Annabell's," says Suede Brothers frontman Dylan Francis. "The fact that it has no stage is my favorite part of it. You're right there in the crowd. The all-red lights add to the heat and the intensity of the show."

Former Whitechapel frontman Ben Childs once described the bar's lower-level performance area as "the Sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi." The plumbing has been fixed, and the ceiling no longer leaks black sludge. The room also has a new sound system.

Located on the same block as rock bar the Matinee and gay club Square, Annabell's is hosting shows by underground bands like Hell's Information and is also welcoming bigger regional acts — like Cleveland's This Moment in Black History, Northeast Ohio reggae king B.E. Mann, and the Youngstown-based Gil Mantera's Party Dream. The Tek-Know? EDM collective is hosting downstairs events on Wednesday nights, while acoustic acts like Rachel Roberts play upstairs. Shows are free.

Booking is being handled by Brad Thorla, a former Lime Spider employee who drums for Sofa King Killer and Um . . . Force Field?

"It's always going to be a rock and roll dive bar, but I think it can be a rock and roll dive bar with a hint of class," says Thorla. "I want to make sure that people know that if they're nearly broke, they can still go to Annabell's and probably have some interesting, original entertainment. I see it like the humans retreating to Helm's Deep in the second Lord of the Rings. Lime Spider is done, so downtown has been officially abandoned to the Akron U. meat market and über-class."

Lords of the Highway, Road of Sin, and the Village Vandals play Friday, January 11.

• The 12th annual Tri-C High School Rock Off kicks off this week with two shows at House of Blues (308 Euclid Avenue). Rounds one and two take place at 4:30 p.m. Friday, January 11 and 4 p.m. Saturday, January 12. Tickets are available at the door and via Ticketmaster.

Tom Shaffner — Keratoma's programmer and former Mushroomhead tech — has been hired as the head engineer at Galahad Recording. The Bedford studio's recent clients include Bitch Wrangler, an industrial noise project by former Mushroomhead frontman Jason Popson and Dead in London guitarist Brett Moore. Take a listen at www.myspace.com/galahadstudios.

Dead in London has posted a demo sampler from its upcoming album at www.myspace.com/deadinlondonrock.

Timothy Smith's Mercury Project makes its live debut on Saturday, January 12, at the Phantasy Night Club (11802 Detroit Avenue). Smith has been on the scene since 1989, playing with bands like Nation of Teflon Souls, Lestat, and UV. The new Project features NASA transmissions set to minimal old-school techno beats. Listen at www.myspace.com/mercuryproject.

Nighttown and 107.3-FM WNWV have launched a new radio program to showcase artists coming to the jazz hot spot. Host Daniel Steinberg plays tunes and chats up the bands. Listen every other Sunday from 9 to 10 p.m., or visit www.WNWV.com. The next show airs Sunday, January 13.

• Visit blogs.clevescene.com daily for breaking music news, new songs, video clips, and other online entertainment that will help you look busy at work.

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