The Rock Hall's Summer in the City series was always intended as a showcase for rising area talent, says Lisa Vinciquerra, who organizes the annual free shows on the Rock Hall's outdoor plaza (They move to the Lobby Stage in case of bad weather). This year's four-concert lineup kicks off at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, with two such bands: Cloud Nothings and Herzog. Florida's Torche performs with Cleveland's Ohio Sky July 25. Brooklyn's Bear in Heaven and Chardon's Mr. Gnome co-headline August 1, and Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten shares the stage with Bethesda on August 22.
Summer in the City began as a local band showcase at Peabody's in the late '90s. It was preempted for several years by a live-from-the-Rock Hall MTV series that Vinciquerra says was "a completely different program. They were going for popular bands that would make a good TV show."
In 2003 the series returned with its current format, mixing the best local bands with national buzz bands like Fitz & the Tantrums, whose show last year drew the event's record crowd of 3,000. Vinciquerra goes to South by Southwest, the big music industry conference in Austin each March to look for those bands.
But, she says, "Cleveland has and always has had a great local music scene. We want to support that."
One of the series' goals is to reach out to bands and hardcore music fans who might have preconceived ideas about the Rock Hall. "We're trying to attract an audience that doesn't typically come down here. We want to give them a reason to come down, walk around, maybe come back. When they see what we're about I think they're pleasantly surprised."
This year, the Rock Hall is trying a couple of new things to reach out: It's posting footage of the bands online at the museum talking about their influences, and it's getting the bands to blog at the Rock Hall website prior to their shows.
Vinciquerra says she's dedicating this summer's series to the memory of Ed Wille of Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival who died of cancer last week.
"One of the earliest bands to play this series was Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival," she says. "This was a local band who made us the happiest to bring to the Rock Hall stage."
Cleveland metalheads will get some post-holiday fireworks with a double dose of shows featuring all-star lineups drawn from the area's talent-rich metal scene.
Friday's seven-band show at the House of Blues and Saturday's eight-act concert at the Beachland Ballroom were organized by Cleveland metal promoter/college-radio DJ/Auburn Records head Bill Peters.
The House of Blues show celebrates 30 years of Peters' Metal on Metal show and benefits John Carroll radio station WJCU-FM 88.7. Saturday's Iron Ingo Cleveland Metal Festival honors Peters' loyal listener Iron Ingo Struhrenberg, who will host the fest.
Two bands that established the Auburn brand in the '80s, Shok Paris and Breaker, headline the Friday show, joined by Soulless, Manimals, Cellbound, and others.
Saturday's lineup features beloved veterans Destructor, but it's heavy on newer bands like Lick the Blade and Shades of Remembrance. Metal fans looking for something new should not miss Akron-based the Approach and the Execution, who combine powerful classic-style metal, contemporary metal influences, and thick vocal harmonies with an irreverent attitude that's sure to make for a great live show.