by Brandon Meola
In the mid-1970s, a new sound burst onto the music scene called punk. Its “live fast, die young” style spread from LA to NYC in a matter of months. Cities across the pond, like London and Amsterdam, helped globalize the sound.
Tucked away in the midwest was Akron, a hardworking city filled with a persistent working class. The citizens felt the abuse and full force of every social, economic and political change that echoed throughout the nation. It was only a matter of time until suppressed voices found a way to be heard.
With a lot to say and nothing to lose, Akron became a breeding ground for new talent that changed the course of punk.
It began on Kent State’s campus, 1973, at a performing arts festival. Devo took center stage and introduced themselves as an overwhelmingly talented, boundary-pushing, often satirical art project. A hit with the students, they quickly amassed a dedicated following. After a few years of traveling from town to town, performing in backyards and basements, they yearned for a place in which they could experiment freely.
By 1976, and Devo’s influence could be heard from every garage on every block. Bands like The Rubber City Rebels (previously known as King Cobra), the Bizzaros and Tin Huey were taking off and the “Akron Sound” was in full effect.
During the summer of 1976, the rubber industry came to a screeching halt. Employees from Firestone, Goodyear and Goodrich staged mass strikes over better pay. Strikes began in April and lasted all the way until August, by far exceeding the three weeks of pay unions promised strikers at $35 per week.
With employees’ pockets full of little more than lint, a bar that Goodyear workers frequented, called The Crypt, began to struggle financially.
“The Crypt” was painted over laid brick right outside the entrance. But inside, it was a dark, grimy dive that fulfilled its main purpose: good times and cheap beer.
The Rubber City Rebels, having played the venue a handful of times, were approached by the owner in hopes of new management. The band eagerly accepted and, for the first time, the scene had a place of its own.
“The Akron Sound was a perfect storm,” says Calvin Rydbom, director of the Akron Sound Museum and author of The Akron Sound. “If it weren’t for The Crypt, none of it would have happened.”
News of The Crypt spread fast, and with it came a plethora of bands that had rarely, if ever, performed in Akron. One of those bands in particular had found national success: the Dead Boys.
Originally formed in Cleveland under the name Rocket From The Tombs, the Dead Boys found a foothold in the industry after changing their name and relocating to New York City. Their uncontrollable and often destructive shows made them regulars at none other than the notorious punk venue, CBGB. So when this big time band happened to be playing a small-time venue, people noticed.
The Crypt’s newfound popularity came with a few issues. For starters, the most popular act that played the venue, Devo, provided very little revenue.
“Devo actually became the bigger draw of the couple bands that played there, but Devo was in no way profitable,” Calvin says. “Because, while Devo would pack the place, it was a bunch of art school students who drank juice and stuff like that. So they never generated a bar bill.”
Other issues included clashing fan bases, bikers using the bar as a hangout spot, and the newly established Holiday Inn wanting to acquire the bar’s liquor license.
Late 1977 marked the end for The Crypt. Putting the band first, the Rubber City Rebels sold the liquor license and left to pursue their dreams out on the West Coast.
The Crypt’s doors closed just as the second wave of Akron Sound was on the horizon.
Maybe The Crypt wasn’t the most impressive or influential bar in Ohio; maybe not even in Northeast Ohio. However, in its short, six-month lifespan, it introduced the world to the Akron Sound.
If you go to 1399 East Market Street where The Crypt once stood, you’ll see a car dealership. As much as it’s a drag, I see no better way for the bar to be represented then under the rubber and tread of every car on the lot.
Brandon Meola is a freelance writer from Kent.
Photos: Left, Buzz Clic of the Rubber City Rebels eats Burger King at The Crypt. Right, Stix Pelton, drummer for the Rubber City Rebels, plays pool at The Crypt. Original photos by Russ Tripoli. Used with permission from The Akron Sound Museum.