"Escape is at hand for the travellin' man." — Gordon Downey, The Tragically Hip
If you're a music fan living in the Toledo area, chances are you like classic rock and/or country.
It doesn't take a rock and roll scientist to figure that out. Just look at the major acts that have come through the city lately: Carrie Underwood, The Eagles, Brad Paisley, Elton John, Rascal Flatts, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Goo Goo Dolls, and Gary Allan.
But what if that doesn't do it for you? You hit the road.
Or else you wouldn't get to witness The National's Matt Berninger come down off an Indianapolis stage while singing "Mr. November" and emerge right in front of you as he sings lyrics unprintable in a family newspaper.
Or see Jeff Tweedy of Wilco harangue a Columbus crowd midset about Ohio helping President Bush get re-elected in 2004.
Or accidentally bump into Gordon Downey of The Tragically Hip while looking for your car after a show in Pittsburgh.
These types of bands — ones not filling arenas but too big for most Toledo venues — don't often come through the area. (Although the Hip played a packed Club Bijou in downtown Toledo shortly before it was torn down to make room for what is now Huntington Center.)
Occasionally you get lucky and your favorite band does make the Toledo area part of its schedule.
Take The Hold Steady. The Brooklyn-based band recently played Headliners in front of a crowd of about 400 people.
"I would have liked to have seen more people there," says Tobin Klinger of Bowling Green, who claims The Hold Steady as his favorite band. "But selfishly I wouldn't."
To a hardcore fan, it's like having your own personal concert.
For Klinger, 39, going to concerts is his main hobby, and traveling is part of the fun. He once took a train to Boston to see the Dropkick Murphys on St. Patrick's Day just to experience the punk band in its element.
It's an important part of Klinger's life. He does most of his traveling with two friends and goes to venues in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Ann Arbor, among others, and says one of the best things about living in the Toledo area is its proximity to other cities.
That way, he easily can see another one of his favorite bands, the Drive-by Truckers, a couple times on the same tour like he did recently in Columbus and then again in Detroit.
Seeing bands that produce his favorite music has been a lifelong pursuit.
The farthest Klinger has traveled for a show is Houston, where he saw Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett, and ZZ Top at the Houston Rodeo.
Dylan, who last played in the area at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre in 2007, is another destination concert for David Gstalder, 48, of West Toledo.
"I try to get to a couple Bob Dylan concerts a year," Gstalder says. "I've seen him in London, Ont., Detroit, Ann Arbor, East Lansing ..."
He says he's seen fewer concerts than usual the last few years but typically sees 12-20 "real concerts" a year. He's traveled to Denver to see Joe Jackson and to Red Rocks in Morrison, Colo., to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on separate occasions.
Gstalder, whose favorite band is Wilco, says he's probably seen 70 percent of his concerts in Ann Arbor, but traveling to faraway locales is part of the appeal.
"I tend to like road trips," says Gstalder, who saw The Decemberists in East Lansing, Mich., last winter. "To get a group of people to head out on the road, the ceremony of it all is part of the fun."
Klinger compares it to golf getaways.
Where a group of friends might travel together to play a few rounds at different courses over a weekend, he'd rather go to the Pitchfork Music Festival at Chicago's Union Park to see three days' worth of live music.
"First and foremost, it's a fun weekend," Klinger said. "That's three days of entertainment for like $110. That's pretty cheap."
Michael Paulus, 38, of West Toledo says even if some of his favorite bands like Dinosaur Jr., the Fleet Foxes, and Social Distortion came to Toledo, he would still hit the road now and then.
"There are just too many out-of-town venues that are worth traveling to," says Paulus, who sees a couple dozen shows a year.
He has been to Chicago a few times to see J Mascis (the lead singer of Dinosaur Jr.), Pinebender, and Band of Horses.
The seed for attending concerts often is planted close to home.
Klinger, who grew up in Sylvania, remembers going to his first concert at Anderson Arena in Bowling Green to see the Stray Cats and Adam Ant.
Gstalder recalls seeing Livingston Taylor in the late 1970s at the University of Toledo Field House and soon after one of the Speedway Jams that included the Joe Perry Project, Heart, and the J. Geils Band.
Paulus' first concert was the Beastie Boys at the granddaddy of Toledo rock venues, the defunct Sport Arena.
Klinger says the area's heyday for attracting notable acts bound for Detroit or Cleveland was 1990-94 at Frankie's Inner-City.
He recently saw up-and-coming indie darlings Titus Andronicus on back-to-back nights in Chicago — one night in front of 200 people, the next for 20,000 at a festival — and soon after at Mickey Finn's in Toledo before about 50 patrons.
So the local scene still has a lot to offer.
"Over the last year I have seen some great shows in Toledo, though mostly local bands," Paulus says. "I would say things are getting better. Places like the OT [Ottawa Tavern], Frankie's, and [Mickey] Finns are really trying hard to pull in some out-of-town acts, and so far I think they have done a great job.
"There are some great bands coming to Toledo that are worth checking out."
Contact Bob Cunningham at