by Nic deCourville
With the closure of the Hive Mind in February, Akron bid a tearful goodbye to another DIY venue. While art spaces in the Rubber City seem come and go, one venue has maintained a presence in the city for more than six years: The Oakdale House serves as a venue for music, plus providing a kitchen to Food Not Bombs and filming opportunities for musicians.
Kenny Averiett and Adam Bonomo run the Oakdale House, and they were kind enough to invite me into their home for an interview. With shows happening constantly at the space, the two have converted their dining room into their living area, with the main room leaving space for bands to stack their amps and instruments. The last time I’d visited Oakdale House, I had seen math-rock rippers Actual Form, and I could not help but remember how much I enjoyed the intimacy of the location: Ferns and lights adorn the walls of the house, and one wall is dedicated to showcasing records from a multitude of genres. The living room is empty of furniture, but full of intimacy and warmth as a music venue.
Originating from Steubenville, Adam has lived at Oakdale House for nine months, though he’s been active in the DIY scene since college. “I moved next to [It’s A] Kling Thing six years ago. I went to shows there all the time, and I thought Akron DIY was super cool. From that point on, I knew it was something I wanted to invest time in,” Adam says.
Kenny has occupied and operated the Oakdale House for six years. Kenny has prior experience in home DIY around Akron, thanks to Blueberry House and Volga Way. “This is technically my fourth [DIY] house.” Kenny says. “My first house was a house on Crosby Street, and we didn’t have a name for it, because we didn’t know what we were doing — we were just having parties with our friends who played music. I wanted to have music, but I didn’t want to just use a CD player, so I said ‘hey, could you guys play music? It turned out fantastic.”
Kenny grew up near the Oakdale House’s neighborhood. “Highland Square always had this vibe to it,” he says. “I grew up wandering the streets with crust punks who migrated here every summer. They would lay around the neighborhood; that’s what I was getting into.”
Putting together a gig at the Oakdale House can be a challenge. “We aren’t just going to book a show for all locals,” Adam says. “When an out of town band messages me, I ask myself, ‘who do I know that sounds like them, or who would work best with them?’” That results in showbills that are sometimes lengthy, with lots of variety.
Kenny agrees. “I always research who is going to play here, because it is my house still.”
While a local dive or performance space might provide light catering or free food and drink tickets to a visiting band, inviting musicians to play at your house is a different experience. When it comes to accommodating acts, Adam says, “We always let them stay here. We always let them shower. If we don’t work, we try and get food with them.” Shows can occur on any day of the week, as it depends on the out-of-town act’s schedule.
Kenny has been booking or organizing shows for the better part of a decade, including with PorchRokr. As time has passed, Kenny says, DIY in Akron has evolved. “It’s a lot safer. It’s a lot less alcohol, a lot less drugs,” he says. “Punk rock, in quotations or whatever, used to be very brash and very fast. And then pop-punk started becoming a thing, and the internet made people realize you didn’t have to do things traditionally.”
Adam laughs and adds, “Hardcore [music] is different today. It used to be more isolationist, but now it’s like, ‘Hey guys, we’re gonna meet up, and everything we do today is going to be for Planned Parenthood!’”
With the space being an apartment, the Oakdale House tends to lean toward a more lo-fi sound. “When Oakdale started, it started upstairs and downstairs,” Kenny says. While the downstairs neighbors no longer host their own shows, they remain positive. “Luckily they’re super cool,” Adam says. “They’ve adapted.”
When I ask if the police are ever concerned with their shows, Kenny laughs. “Cops have always been cool, and I think they understand this is a part of Akron’s cultural DNA. It’s better that people can come here. We can independently govern them, rather than them do something stupid somewhere else.”
Adam serves as cameraperson and video director for the Oakdale House, filming every concert and sharing them on Facebook and Instagram. He also runs Alternative Attic, where he records a performer and creates a video that they can share or use for promotional purposes.
The duo also supports the Akron chapter of Food Not Bombs, giving the program a place to cook and store food. “We really want it to be a place where people build based off hobbies,” Kenny says. Every Sunday, members of Food not Bombs get together to cook food and deliver it to homeless people at Grace Park and the Haven of Rest. “People bring their families, their kids, and you learn some good things about cooking. It’s a nice, wholesome time,” Kenny says.
Past events at Oakdale House include hosting the Akron Initiative for Racial Equality and filming the Akron-based television program LowDown.
Kenny and Adam are not actively looking for more projects, but say they’re open to ideas that maintain a DIY ethos and benefit the community in positive ways. “House shows are just the easiest because we’ve been doing it for so long,” Kenny says. “Bringing people together is the main thing. Sharing with them. It’s the reason why I do it.”
Adam adds, “Honestly, that’s what I like most about this: Meeting people from out of town, us kicking it, being able to meet these people. And what I try to do is, when they leave, they have nothing but a positive experience of our place.”
Kenny and Adam can be reached through the Oakdale House’s Facebook page, as well as their Instagram @oakdale_house. Be sure to check out the Oakdale House show on March 14, which features Jordan Hamilton, The Baker’s Basement, The Roof and Indre.
Nic is a freelance writer and food fanatic. When not writing, he teaches English composition and plays in various rock and/or roll bands. You can contact him on Instagram @sewerfuneral.
Photo: Used with permission by Adam Bonomo