Concertgoing has become so expensive that it's forcing more and more music fans to make some difficult decisions regarding their finances. Do you see Metallica or bail Grandpa out of jail? Splurge on Dave Matthews ducats or finally spring for your child's leg braces? Thankfully, we live in a city where there's no shortage of worthwhile music at a much better price: free. From salsa to speed metal, you can catch it all at no cost -- if you know where to look. Tag along for a week of great shows, without spending a dime.
Freaks of the Industry at Touch Supper Club (2710 Lorain Avenue)
Mondays are meant for hard drinking and harder music. With a long workweek still ahead, senses must be numbed. Start at Touch, where Disengage frontman Jason Byers spins everything from vintage hardcore to the best wild-eyed punk of today. The raw rock din is enough to drown out any boss's yelling.
Open-mic Night at the Barking Spider (11310 Juniper Road)
Open mics are the land mines of the live-music scene: step into the wrong one, and you'll get blasted by tone-deaf hacks or soap-dodging singer-songwriters who take granola as a sacrament. But the Barking Spider's open-mic nights have rightly earned a national reputation on the folkie circuit. Rookies beware: Major-league talent often comes to play here. Open mics take place regularly on Tuesday; the next one is February 17.
Robert Lockwood Jr. at Fat Fish Blue (21 Prospect Avenue)
Blues aficionados travel from around the world to catch the local legend, one of the last living connections to Robert Johnson. Lucky Clevelanders get to save money on airfare at Lockwood's free weekly set at Fat Fish Blue, where the only thing hotter than the jambalaya is the lissome fretwork of this master bluesman.
Bailamos at Spy Bar (1261 West 6th Street)
Salsa dancing is a great way to get all touchy-feely with the opposite sex without getting a drink tossed in your grill. It's also a great way to dislodge vertebrae, if you don't know what you're doing. But at Spy's weekly Bailamos, free salsa (and swing) lessons are offered, while heart-palpitating Latin and jazz spins all night long. It'll put you in the mood for romance (and a respirator).
Free rock shows at Annabell's (782 West Market Street, Akron )
Ugly music is best in ugly surroundings, where blood, sweat, and beers can be spilled without fear of effin' up the feng shui. Ever since the closing of the Euclid Tavern, the last rock dive du jour, Annabell's has become the place for dirt-beneath-the-fingernails rock and roll. It's the de facto home of Rubber City badasses Dropgun and Don Austin, and has hosted such Cleveland brutes as the Chrome Kickers and Amps II Eleven. Best of all, shows on the weekend cost little more than a hangover.
Ras T. Dubflex at Mardi Gras (1423 East 21st Street)
Though Mardi Gras is more Cajun than Caribbean, Saturday nights are all about washing down red beans with Red Stripe. Ras T. Dubflex, named Best World Music Artist at the 2003 Scene Music Awards, is one of Cleveland's finest reggae frontmen, a crack multi-instrumentalist with vocals as rich as coconut cream pie. Over the past decade, Dubflex has built an international following. Check out his weekly stand here to learn why.
Musart Series at the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Boulevard)
With its lush vegetation and sunlit atrium, the Cleveland's Museum of Art's Inner Garden Court is nearly as sublime as the music regularly featured there on Sunday afternoons as part of the museum's Musart Series. While not a weekly event, a few Sundays of every month are dedicated to free recitals in the garden (as well as in Gartner Hall and the Recital Hall), including upcoming performances by the University Circle Wind Ensemble and acclaimed organist James Diaz. On Sundays, the series is almost as welcome as a day off from work.