Rockstar Pro Arena delivers touring punk and metal to Dayton
It’s sometimes easy to be dismissive about the lack of national, and even international, touring original music that comes to the Gem City. While the modern millennium isn’t quite matching up to the heydays of Hara Arena in 1970s and 1980s or the era of Newspace and The Sub Galley during the 1990s just yet, Dayton is slowly beginning to attract more and more nationally-known metal, punk and indie rock tours to its somewhat musically starved streets. One set of local promoters have recently been causing a stir in the Dayton music scene by going out of their way to invite national and international tours to come play at a slightly unusual venue – more specifically speaking, a pro wrestling hall.
That may sound strange, but that’s exactly what longtime off-and-on show promoters Ben Parker, Chad Parker and Gee Gee Bradley are currently doing at a building just east of downtown Dayton on Third Street. Known modestly as Rockstar Pro Arena, it has been the home of their very own independent wrestling promotion, Rockstar Pro Wrestling, for roughly a year and a half now. The Parker brothers and Bradley have built up a steady fan-base in Dayton and beyond for their wrestling product. They have a weekly TV taping every Wednesday night and have now branched out into the realms of streaming monthly Internet pay-per-views for independent wrestling fans all over the world to see. Now that the partners have established a sturdy audience for Rockstar Pro Wrestling, the guys are ready to re-establish themselves as major players in the Dayton music scene by bringing nationally-known metal and punk tours to the Gem City. But according to Bradley, their primary aspiration is much broader in perspective.
“Our goal is simply to have an awesome, multi-faceted, all-ages venue that you can count on to present a wide variety of quality entertainment,” Bradley said.
Don’t be fooled – Ben, Chad and Gee Gee are no rookies when it comes to booking and promoting nationally-known underground music in the Dayton area. Beginning in the 1990s, Ben, Chad and Gee Gee separately and as a group have staged shows all over Dayton at venues such as Club Safari, Forrester’s Hall, Nite Owl, 1470 West, Jags, Elbos and El Diablo Lounge, featuring an impressive roster of metal, punk and indie bands including Enon, High on Fire, Mastodon, The Make-Up, Royal Trux and others. With that in mind, Bradley said that booking shows and turning their wrestling house into an all-ages concert hall was a no-brainer.
“With our history in [local] music, it just made sense to use the space for rock shows, too,” Bradley explained. “Since partnering with Isaac Reeder’s IK Promotions, we’ve got a great house P.A. and lights. We’ve all been doing this a long time, so we know a lot of [music] agents.”
Unlike most of the bars that host live music in Dayton, Rockstar Pro Arena is a spacious room that holds roughly 350 people comfortably. And, as Bradley noted, he and the Parker brothers have used their industry connections to bring in contemporary underground luminaries to play the venue such as Scott Kelly (of Neurosis), The Casualties, Michael Graves, Koffin Kats, Within the Ruins and, most recently, British stoner rock veterans Orange Goblin. While the Rockstar alliance has recently attained a license to serve alcohol, the guys running the show have steadfastly maintained since the inception of Rockstar Pro Arena that it is ultimately a place for staging special events where either the music or wrestling action are the centerpiece of the evening.
“The room is set up to be an entertainment venue first and foremost, not a bar or restaurant that happens to have bands playing off in the corner somewhere,” Bradley said.
And boy does the Rockstar braintrust have some entertainment doozies on the horizon. In addition to their weekly Wednesday night wrestling extravaganza, the Parkers and Bradley have not one but two killer concert packages coming to grace the Rockstar Pro stage this week. First up is beer drinkin’ pop-punk icons The Queers, who will be stopping to play the Arena this Thursday along with (ex-Screeching Weasel guitarist) Dan Vapid and the Cheats, The Copyrights, The Kingons (from Japan!) and local punk rock stalwarts Legbone. This marks the third time over the years that Bradley and the Parkers have brought The Queers to play in Dayton, and according to Ben this isn’t the first time a band has requested to book a show once again with their company because of their reputation and hospitality.
“The Queers called me because they wanted to play here,” Ben said. “[The bands] like Dayton and the vibe the shows have here. I know what the bands need – not just money, but peace of mind and not having to stress. They trust us from working with us in the past.”
Another such band that Gee Gee, Ben and Chad are bringing back to Dayton for another go-round this coming Sunday night is contemporary thrash metal kings Toxic Holocaust. Formed in the late 1990s in Portland, Ore., Toxic Holocaust is the brainchild of guitarist and songwriter Joel Grind, who has built up a loyal following across the world for his punk-influenced brand of aggressive thrash metal that, while harkening back to ’80s sounds of its heyday recalling bands like Slayer, Nuclear Assault and early Bathory, is hardly just a paint-by-numbers approach to the genre. Joel grinds (no pun intended) out furious riffs destined to get any circle pit moving and the relentless pace keeps the mosh pit activity going all night long.
In 2008, Toxic Holocaust signed to American metal heavyweight label Relapse Records who just issued the band’s fifth studio album, The Chemistry of Consciousness, last month to rave reviews that landed them on the cover of Decibel Magazine and a disc that many longtime fans are declaring their best record to date. Grind is also a fan of playing in the Gem City and is looking forward to working with Bradley and the Parker Brothers once again.
“I really like it [in Dayton] because it seems like the people are hungry for music and they’re really supportive of music there,” Grind said. “We played there the first time on a fluke – we went there and did a headlining show, and it was packed on an off day! I’m like, ‘This place rules!’ People are actually excited about bands. I think that’s missing from a lot of cities that get touring acts all the time. I would really rather play places like Dayton than bigger cities. It’s fun for me. It reminds me of why I first started playing music – the give and take with the audience, the energy back and forth. It’s a good scene – I loved it and I can’t wait to come back.”
Grind is also keen on playing Rockstar Pro Arena because of their ability to have quality metal and punk shows catering to younger audiences, as well as those old enough for the bar scene. “I remember growing up and not being old enough to get into shows and it always bummed me out, so I prefer to do an all-ages show.”
Co-headlining the Toxic Holocaust show this Sunday is the Boston-based quintet known as Ramming Speed. In a rare display of truth in advertising, this band of beery heshers is very appropriately named. The Rammers seems to only know three speeds – fast, faster and even faster. The band has been touring virtually nonstop since the release of their Prosthetic Records debut disc, Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die, back in June, and the group has been whipping audiences into a frenzy with their mix of d-beat, thrash metal, grind and hardcore punk played at breakneck paces with blazing guitar riffs that will easily quicken your pulse. While this will be the first time Ramming Speed has performed in Dayton, their previous experiences playing in Ohio leave them expecting nothing but the best from concert goers in the Gem City and identify with the DIY attitude of what’s going on at Rockstar Arena.
“We’ve played Ohio a ton. I love it,” said Ramming Speed drummer Jonah Livingston. “Ohio’s a good example of people who aren’t jaded – people who are up to making new friends and opening up. Sometimes it’s the cities [like Dayton] you don’t expect that have the best people and the crowds that have the most fun.”
These two upcoming shows this week are hardly the bottom line for Rockstar Pro Arena. Hawthorne Heights, Danger Kids and Crooks on Tape all have shows booked in the next couple of months at RPA and even a few big surprises may be in store for the near future as well. Ultimately, giving the fun and love of music back to Dayton is what Ben, Chad and Gee Gee are trying to accomplish with their endeavors at Rockstar Pro Arena, as a place where musicians both homegrown and from across the world will have a place to flourish.
“I’ve had offers to go work for big agents, but I wanted Dayton to have something – its own venue,” Ben says. “We grew up in the Dayton scene. We love it and we want to see years of artists grow their dreams from it.”
The Queers will perform Thursday, Nov. 21 at Rockstar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third St. Dan Vapid and the Cheats, The Copyrights, Legbone and The Kingons are also on the bill. Tickets are $10 in advance. Doors open at 7pm and the show is open to all ages. Toxic Holocaust will perform Sunday, Nov. 24, at Rockstar Pro Arena. Ramming Speed, In Defence, Sub X and Flesh Warfare are also on the bill. Tickets are $10 in advance. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show is all ages.
For advance tickets and more information, please visit rockstarprowrestling.com.