Worth the Drive: The Agora (Cleveland, OH)
I recently found myself driving up to Cleveland to see a concert in The Agora Ballroom.
For those of you that don’t know, I grew up in the Akron/Cleveland area, and still go “home” from time to time. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, I spent many nights going to shows at The Agora, The Grog Shop, Ron’s Crossroads (I think I might have seen my first 10 Mushroomhead concerts, here), and Blossom Music Center. The Agora always held a special place in my heart, as I saw some of my favorite bigger metal and rock shows, there.
Usually when I head North nowadays, it’s to see my family or catch up with high school or college friends. But this time I was on a mission to see one of my favorite bands: Being As An Ocean. And they were playing at one of my favorite places to see music-The Cleveland Agora.
Now, The Agora isn’t the fanciest of joints. But what it possibly lacks in finery, it makes up for in atmosphere. It’s hard to find a bad spot to stand (and it IS standing room, only), with a wide floor and a rear “balcony” for a few fancy people. The 600-ish person ballroom (about 550 with a barricade in front of the stage) still allows a few places for concert-goers to step aside and take in the show from the edges (though man, does it get warm in that packed room), and every single person I encountered from the staff was really great to talk to and interact with-from bartenders, to ticket-takers, to security.
I even met up with the marketing and promotions fella Mike Tata for a few, and he let me pick his brain. And here’s what we talked about:
Michelle/HTN: I've heard the Agora has recently undergone a resurgence of sorts. I haven't been able to visit in a while (I live out of state, now)...but it feels like the "'same ol' Agora that I've always loved", to me. Any idea where these words (about the resurgence) may have come from?
Mike Tata: Our staff has only been here at The Agora for about three years now. (The) Majority of our staff came over from Peabody's when it closed down in Fall of 2013. So even though The Agora name has been around for 50 years, we are still a newer company. This is probably where you are hearing this “resurgence."
*This was great news to me, as I’d always thought The Agora had a lot going on when I was living in town. I knew the building that housed The Agora had also been around for a while, so I asked about the history of it all…*
Mike: We celebrated The Agora's 50th anniversary this past February. The building itself is 103 years old and has had many names before The Agora (Metropolis, WHK Theatre, etc.). Hank Loconti was the founder of The Agora and was responsible for numerous artists getting their start in Cleveland, as well as the entire United States. From Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Police and many more, Hank is the reason The Agora is such a legendary venue and why you have seen many huge names play here.
I discovered Being As An Ocean on the Cincinnati stop of Warped Tour, last year, and have seen them perform two more times since then. I was excited BAAO was coming back to Ohio so soon after I’d last seen them (earlier in the summer, in Columbus). And truth be told, when I found out they were playing at The Agora (AND were opening for The Amity Affliction), I was instantly sold. This venue has the ability to make a 550+ person space feel intimate, though seeing BAAO live doesn’t hurt that overall impression.
This show was easily in my top 10 concerts of my life-possibly my top 5. Every time I see Being As An Ocean live, it’s my new favorite show of theirs.
This time around, besides the high level of interactivity Joel Quartuccio brings to any performance, one of the interactive highlights for me was toward the end of their set. Joel ran out to the side of the crowd, climbed up on the barrier, and addressed everyone-calmly, yet lovingly-saying “I trust you. I trust you”…and then he jumped into the crowd while he and his band performed “This Loneliness Won’t Be The Death of Me”, and Joel surfed back to the stage. So good. Every one of the songs performed that night was full of emotion. Always love the way Michael McGough’s melodic voice pairs so well with Joel’s screaming and spoken word. However I felt this Agora show was a new level for them all, as a band.
I’m really grateful to The Cleveland Agora for bringing such an awesome show to Ohio. When I asked Mike about the way they book their shows, and goals for future events, he shared with me:
“Our goal is to keep bringing great shows to the Cleveland area. We want to make sure our calendar is always filled with fun and diversified events and to make sure everyone's concert experience is at a high level. We also don't want to just limit ourselves to just concerts, but (also) comedy shows, wrestling events, corporate events and whatever else we can make possible here at The Agora. This venue will always be about the people who attend our events and as long as we keep our community happy, we will continue to grow as a company.”
If I may make a humble request, Cleveland Agora, please bring both The Amity Affliction and Being As An Ocean back to your ballroom, as often as you can. Also, keep all of your wonderful staff. Thank you.