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Published: Thursday, 5/8/2008

From rock to opera and blues to country, a vibrant music scene flourishes in Toledo

Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Kyle White performs at Mulvaney s Bunker on Dorr Street in West Toledo, one of the many places to see a vast range of live music in the area.
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Kyle White performs at Mulvaney s Bunker on Dorr Street in West Toledo, one of the many places to see a vast range of live music in the area.

It s time to rock, bop, boogie, riff, roll, and rumble.

Toledo s music scene has long been underrated and a bit under-appreciated by local folks, and that s probably true just about anywhere. But it doesn t have to be that way, and you don t have to spend a gazillion dollars and drive a hundred miles just to catch great live music.

So, with that in mind, here s a brief rundown of styles of music you can find in northwest Ohio and a few musicians who are making it happen. (Check The Blade s Weekender section every Thursday for a rundown of who s playing where.)

• Rock: Like any self-respecting blue-collar city, Toledo s rock scene is its most plentiful. With bands like Rediscover, We Are the Fury, Dying to Know, Society s Ugly Son, Stohl-N, the Pillbugs, and a slew of other bands and artists, everything from indie rock to metal and hard core rock is covered. Toledo rocks and you don t have to listen too hard to find it.

• Blues: You can t be an industrial American city without a decent blues scene, and Toledo s is strong. The Black Swamp Blues Society keeps things rolling, regularly bringing in national artists to local bars and its farm near Swanton. Toss in local artists such as Josh Boyd, Chris Shutters, Buck 69, Simon Carter, Dooley Wilson, Voodoo Libido, and Pat Lewandowski and it s a diverse crew.

• Acoustic: It s safe to say that every night somewhere in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan an excellent singer/songwriter is performing. Folks like Kyle White, Jeff Stewart, Bobby May, Tom Turner, Rachel and Don Coats, Junkanoo Brothers, Tim Oehlers, and Jon Barilie play regularly all over the place.

• Jazz: Toledo s jazz history is well-established, but the modern scene is a worthy successor to the vibrant past. You can thank the former Rusty s Jazz Cafe and now the folks at Murphy s Place for that. With a house band nucleus of Clifford Murphy, Claude Black, and Renell Gonsalves, the downtown Toledo club always has great music playing. Toss in local vocalese great Jon Hendricks, Gene Parker, Jeff McDonald s Original Big Band Sound, Ragtime Rick, and young artists like Kelly Broadway, Damen Cook, and Rachel Richardson and jazz thrives here.

Claude Black and Clifford Murphy carry on Toledo s jazz tradition. Claude Black and Clifford Murphy carry on Toledo s jazz tradition.

• Alt-rock/pop: It s a catch-all category, for sure, but there are plenty of local bands whose music doesn t easily fit in a definable niche. Start with the Flecks and then move on to the Wide Awakes, the Uncertain Five, the Sanderlings, Vytas, E.J. Wells, the Rick Nease Band, and Sangsara and you have everything from jangly rock/pop to rockabilly, ska, and atmospheric space rock.

• Covers: You ve never seen, or heard, anything quite like polka versions of Pink Floyd songs, but the Polka Floyd Show delivers quite well and makes sense out of that strange musical marriage. The band punks up and polkafies the British art rockers and has great fun while still managing to respect the original music. For more traditional cover band fare, the city offers Skoobie Snaks, Under the Covers, and Ten Inch Willy.

• Country: It s probably no surprise that one of the most popular radio stations in the area plays exclusively country music, mirroring national trends. And there s a handful of bands that keep the area s country music moving forward, most notably Bandera, Rodney Parker, Haywire, and Borderline.

• Classical: At the heart of the area s classical music scene is the 65-year-old Toledo Symphony, presenter of traditional symphony concerts, often with soloists, in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle, as well as more laid-back events covering chamber music in the stately Toledo Club, Mozart and friends in Sylvania s Franciscan Center, and lots of pops action in the Stranahan Theater.

But there s lots more fine music at universities and colleges Toledo, Bowling Green, Owens, Lourdes plus choral events by Masterworks and the Toledo Choral Society. What s more, there s a strong program of organ recitals in area churches and the Peristyle.

• Ethnic: Take your pick: Polish, Latino, or Irish. The city s rich ethnic heritage delivers a strong mix of ethnic music. Salsa lovers can sashay to Los Gatos while folks who love the reels of Ireland can rely on the dependable Extra Stout. And the city s older eastern European neighborhoods still feature polka music and other sounds from musicians such as the Glasstown Sound.

• Opera: Who loves a diva? Well, when Renay Conlin and her Toledo Opera team including conductor hubby Tom get in gear, everyone can bask in the glow of grand productions at the historic Valentine Theatre. Next year marks the midcentury point for this highly regarded company and its ever-changing international vocal stars.

Blade staff writer Sally Vallongo contributed to this story.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.

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