A beginner’s guide to the Dayton music scene
By: Kyle Melton & Gary Spencer
Photo: Local favorites Nightbeast throw down on their home turf at Blind Bob’s; photo: Jacob Bonham Media; cover photo: Buffalo Killers at Canal Street Tavern by Jordan Frei
If you’re looking to find out about one of Dayton’s great hidden treasures, look no further than the local independent rock scene. Dayton is teeming with incredibly talented musicians and audiences seeking to experience the thrill of live music performance. Are you looking to join their ranks? Here’s a quick introductory course on how navigate the murky waters of the Dayton music scene…
Without a doubt, the number and variety of clubs supporting original music in Dayton is beyond scale. If you want to dive right in to the deep end, visit Blind Bob’s (430 E. Fifth St./blindbobs.com), a hipster haven where the PBR flows freely and bands of nearly every genre and at every level seek to make a name. Likewise, Canal Street Tavern (308 E. First St./canalstreettavern.com) stands as the longest-running club in town – over 30 years – and Mick Montgomery has established the venue as an intimate listening room showcasing singer/songwriters and bands of all stripes. Just east of downtown, Rockstar Pro Arena (1106 E. Third St./rockstarprowrestling.com) showcases lots of touring punk and metal shows. South of downtown in South Park, Jimmie’s Ladder 11 (936 Brown St./jladder11.com) and South Park Tavern (1301 Wayne Ave./southparktavern.com) both occasionally play host to locals and touring bands alike, as well as offering exceptional patio and food options. If you want to stay in the Oregon District, Oregon Express (336 E. Fifth St./oregonexpressdayton.com) recently revived its Saturday showcases for local, original bands. If you’re willing to make a bit of a drive, Hank’s Pub (2529 Patterson Road), McGuffy’s House of Rock (5418 Burkhardt Road/mcguffys.net) and One Eyed Jack’s (2638 Colonel Glenn Highway, near Wright State University/jacksdayton.com) all offer quality options on occasion, typically veering toward the punk/metal variety, although OEJ’s also offers excellent hip-hop – including big touring names on occasion – and open mic options as well. Choose a flavor and set a course.
The legacy of bands that have spring from the creative wells of Dayton is storied and varied, again entirely off scale for a city of this size. Depending on your personal inclinations, here’re some suggestions to get you started:
Nightbeast- If you want to absolutely cut loose to hip-hop beats and big guitars, look no further. These guys bring the party like few in town. Clothing optional.
Motel Beds- With a decade on the scene, their recent wave of releases unleashed an ocean of surf guitar splendor and melodies extending beyond the horizon.
Grand Mammoth- Ride the tusk with this beardy local quartet ready to kick out the stoner rock jams that groove like a motherfucker even without the presence of a bass.
Jasper the Colossal- These ladies deliver serious punk attitude. Their polished-yet- unpredictable stage presence keeps audiences coming back for more.
Engraved Darkness – This Dayton death metal quartet has been lurking in the shadows for a few years now and it’s a damn shame as these animals churn out some seriously menacing grooves, growls and guitar riffs certain to give you some wicked nightmares.
While Dayton certainly has no shortage of homegrown talent, its fortunate location at the convergence of I-70/I-75 places it conveniently on touring routes for bands from around the world. The Gem City has become a regular tour stop for bands such as Truckfighters (Sweden), Pretty & Nice (Boston), The Ghost Wolves (Austin), Mr. Gnome (Cleveland), and many, many others that continue to revel in the exceptionally welcome audiences of Dayton. With booking agents around town diligently seeking out great unknown talents looking to roll through town, if you see a band from out of town on a calendar, make a point to check them out. Odds are, you’re going to get to see a great performance in an intimate setting for an unbelievable bargain.
In many ways, on any given night in Dayton, you can easily walk into club, grab a beverage and be blown away from the music coming from the stage. It happens more often than you might think. Every club has its own particular way of doing things, of presenting the talent they’ve so carefully curated, so take the time to check out the different clubs and what they have to offer. Within in a short time, it’s easy to get to know the regulars on the scene and the bands themselves are typically more than willing to talk after a show. Additionally, most bands in town can be found on Facebook and music streaming sites like Bandcamp and Reverbnation. Still, there’s no substitute for getting out in the crowd, face to face with the bands and just taking in a night of live music in Dayton. “It’s fantastic that there are nights where there are 3-5 good shows happening in Dayton,” said Nate Mendehall, general manager at Blind Bob’s. “There’s so much good live music in this town and I think anyone should be able to find a few local bands they really love and go see shows.”
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.