Cleveland Rock City: Visiting the Hall of Fame and Beyond

by  Laura Motta | May 29, 2015
Laura Motta
Laura Motta

When this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction airs on HBO on May 30, you’ll see a taped version of the ceremony that took place on April 18 at Cleveland’s Public Hall. Why do they tape it? The answer is simple: The actual ceremony is five hours long. That’s what’s great about it. And if you want to attend a ceremony in the future – and have your own Cleveland rock-themed weekend -- you can. Here’s how to do it.

The Ceremony
Eschewing the limits of live network TV, the Rock Hall induction allows every inductee -- from Joan Jett to little-known blues sidemen that you may never have heard of -- to give a short acceptance speech. Instead of turning things tedious, this actually gives the show a rambling, down-home poignancy that you’d be hard-pressed to find on other awards shows. Plus, the show just rocks. All of the inductees -- plus many of their very famous friends -- perform. Tickets to this year’s show sold out in minutes, so you’ll need to act fast in order to attend future inductions, but prices aren’t unattainable at $75 to $300. The annual ceremony isn’t always held in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum , but it happens there every three years, and it’s a treat to see this show on its home turf. This year’s performers included inductees Bill Withers, Green Day, and the aforementioned Joan Jett, as well as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Beck, and Dave Grohl.

The Museum
With exhibits on musicians, gear, photography, and clothes, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum offers a robust jog through rock history. Artifacts from the original door canopy from New York’s CBGBs to a flying hotdog used by Phish in their live show keep things whimsical and provide plenty of photo-ops. If the commemorative wall bearing the signatures of every inductee, or the theater that shows video clips of performances, doesn’t have you reaching for your record player (or your iTunes) we’re not sure what will. Admission is $22 with discounts for kids, seniors, and members of the military.

The Hotel
If you’re staying downtown during Rock Hall weekend, you may run into a VIP or two -- maybe even in the lobby of your hotel. A stay at the Metropolitan at the 9 offers rockstar ambiance by way of tufted red velvet furniture, showers big enough for a small dance party, and glittery glass light fixtures. An underground bar called Vault here offers a maze of low-lit spaces and hops into the wee hours. Plus, it’s within walking distance of Cleveland Public Hall. Rooms start at about $250 per night on weekends in spring and summer, but their spacious suites are a great bet at $300. Prices will likely be higher -- and availability tighter -- over Rock Hall weekend, so book early. And we can’t make promises for the future, but The Westin Cleveland was decidedly the place to stay this year for performers and inductees alike.

The Food
Music and food pair well in Cleveland, a city that offers a sweet collection of performance venues that also serve satisfying local fare. Happy Dog dishes up just hot dogs, tater tots, and burgers, all of which can be swathed in toppings that include blue cheese coleslaw, Bloody Mary ketchup, and Spaghetti-Os. There’s live music Thursday to Sunday each week in this neighborhood-y enclave, and make sure to take a peek downstairs at a second bar that also hosts the occasional pinball tournament. Beachland Ballroom offers heaps of gritty, throwback charm with multiple performance spaces under its swooping neon sign. Bands play every night of the week, the downstairs vintage shop is crammed with excellently priced band t-shirts you haven’t seen since your teen years, and fare like cheesy chicken taquitos and a classic grilled cheese go down easy with the atmosphere. For even more music, finish the night listening to the house band play covers at the riverside Music Box Supper Club.

Rock Beyond the Hall
Top off your Cleveland music weekend by visiting one of only 16 vinyl record pressing plants in the country. New vinyl presses aren’t being made anymore, but at Gotta Groove Records you can step onto the manufacturing floor with owner Vince Slusarz and watch as vintage machines stamp out dance (or rock or hip hop or punk) albums. Tours are free and can be booked by contacting Gotta Groove. If you’re stopping by Beachland Ballroom, take a quick walk up the street to a little enclave of music shops, including Music Saves, which sells new vinyl, and Blue Arrow Records, which offers new and used records along with music memorabilia and even pulp novels. On your way, drop into Space: Rock Gallery to check out their latest exhibit of music photography.

Laura Motta

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