Fans connect firsthand with musicians in the Rubber City underground music scene
words and photos by Kristina Aiad-Toss
Deep down in the light-strung, graffiti-painted basement of an ordinary house, a crowd of music-loving locals gathers within feet of a band that’s seconds away from starting a set.
As the roaring strum of an electric guitar cuts through the chatter, and the iconic beat explodes from the drums, the singer’s gravelly voice consumes the expanse of the crowded room.
Here, underground, the audience’s energy becomes in tune with the band’s as the exploding beat of the bass breaks through the amplifier, reverberating through the floor and merging with the crowd’s heartbeats.
This outlandish scenario, where fans connect firsthand with the musicians, may seem like a distant memory lost with the golden days of the music industry.
However, this underground music scene of houses-turned-concert-venues is thriving in Akron.
In fact, there is an entire network of homeowners who are searching to create an alternative music scene by hosting and promoting over 200 local and international touring acts — from concerts to poetry readings to film screenings and art exhibits — at their own homes.
(Pictured above: Left to right – Eddie Gancos, Tyler Brown, and Drew Rodgers)
The community operates through a Facebook page called “Akron DIY Shows,” which was created in 2013 by Eddie Gancos and Tyler Brown. They founded the network as a rebellion against the for-profit music industry. It stemmed from a desire for more local music venues, as well as the belief that it damages a community when venues charge for tickets and for the bands to play.
To solve this problem, Gancos and Brown, who live at the house venues Fool Mansion and It’s a Kling Thing!, book and host up-and-coming local bands. They ask for suggested donations to the artists as entrance fees.
While the donations benefit the band, the experience of playing at a house is fundamentally different than traditional venues.
“It’s different from a normal venue because you’re taking away the business aspect of it, and making it only about the fans and the band,” says Matthew Smith, lead singer of Hodera. “The people that come [to the house shows] really care about the music. The face-to-face exchange is something that you can’t get anywhere else.”
(Pictured above: Lead singer of Hodera, Matthew Smith plays guitar and sings during a show at Fool Mansion.)
Gancos and Brown, like many other concert-venue-homeowners, are also in bands and perform at shows within the network.
“We’re doing this because we want to help people and we love music,” says Brown. “We don’t want to make money ourselves.”
The underground community has been hosting and promoting shows for the past eight years. It consists of 13 venues run from homes around Akron and Kent. The locations include It’s a Kling Thing!, Fool Mansion, Crozberry House, Sure Man House, The Glank Bank, Hive Mind, The Hoe Garden, House, LICH, Oakdale, The Spacement, The Workshoppe, and Volga Way. Each house has its own unique vibe, specializing in a particular genre of music, and each has a Facebook page listing all its shows.
Catering to a diverse, mostly younger audience of local music fans, the pages promote punk, indie, folk and alternative bands, as well as the occasional hip-hop or jazz fusion show.
The hosts will not refuse any attendees for lack of funds, and they have a nondiscriminatory and all-inclusive policy. Homeowners also host a benefit show each month to raise money for a charity or community program.
“We try to provide a sense of community,” says Gancos. “You get to experience something way more personal here than going to a bar or a regular venue. We want to bring everyone together because they love music.”
Brian Sloan is the newest homeowner to the scene. A concert goer, band member of Bare Walls, and now co-owner of Sure Man House, Sloan talks about his experience attending shows.
“I’ve discovered so many amazing talented musicians from going to these shows,” says Sloan. “It’s just an amazing thing to be a part of.”
The public Facebook group allows the bands, bookers, promoters and venue-owners to communicate with the fan base about upcoming events.
Gancos talks about the significance of hosting shows and introducing new people to scene.
“I love seeing new people come here,” he says. “The experience is always great when I see people who have never seen anything like this before. It’s always a great feeling.”
Drew Baker, a musician who also books bands for the houses, spearheaded the group’s monthly “DIY Talks,” where they discuss ideas to progress the scene and expand the fan base.
“I think it’s important to have something like this everywhere,” says Baker. “I think people need an art scene that’s a distraction from going to work or school everyday. You need music to love and art to appreciate.”