So last night, after 30 minutes of driving around searching for a decent pizza place to eat in the general area of Vermilion, OH we came across Olde Towne Pizza House in nearby Amherst. It was worth the road trip as the place was perfect. Located in a beautiful old brick building right in the quaint downtown of Amherst, the atmosphere was super chill and it was perfect place to wind down after the 4 hour drive of the day. I had two amazing beers, a pilsner and some sort of hoppy, fruity beauty at 7.2%. The wife and my son and I split a pizza while the girls each got sandwiches. Everyone left full.
Before we headed back to the hotel we stopped down at the beach and watched a storm roll in over Lake Erie as the last bit of sun dropped into the horizon. It was great way to end the day. Despite the sun dropping out of sight the enormity of Lake Erie still sunk in. There was a storm off into the distance and a pretty amazing lightning storm would occasionally light up the Ohio sky. It was pretty awe-inspiring.
After our complimentary breakfast we hit the road for the Hall of Fame. We were maybe 40 minutes away, so the ride went quickly. Once we could see the Cleveland Indians stadium we knew we were getting close.
I wasn’t aware as to how old of a city Cleveland was. It was founded in 1796, which makes it a pretty old f*****g city. As we drove through some of the neighborhoods it felt like a city with history. Lots of beautiful, old brick homes and gorgeously ornamented churches, the town in some spots seemed to have been frozen in time from nearly 50 years ago. I told my wife as we drove through these storied, Midwest streets I couldn’t help but think of the movie Major League. Growing up in the 80s we had a copy of that movie on VHS and it was watched many, many times. It was a great baseball flick, but it was also a pretty great portrait of Cleveland as well. I wasn’t a sports kid, but that movie made me nostalgic for ballparks, homeruns, hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks.
But anyways, on with the show.
As we arrived at the R&R Hall of Fame I was blown away by how different the area was. When my wife and I were there in 1997 it seemed as if the Hall of Fame was the only thing in the area. I didn’t remember the Science Center next door, and I certainly didn’t remember the Cleveland Browns stadium that was located just across the street. I guess things change a bit in nearly 20 years, but I digress. One thing that hadn’t changed was the building itself. It still looked like a glass pyramid sitting just off the lake. It’s still an impressive construct, and once you get inside it’s even more so.
So the Hall of Fame has 7 levels. Each one has its own theme. The lower level is kind of the history of Rock and Roll. Presley, Beatles, and Stones exhibits are showcased down here, with an impressive display of artifacts and films playing in each of the areas. There’s also a Hendrix display, Music of the Midwest, Sub Pop, punk, and heavy metal exhibits. For me, this was the most extensive and intriguing area of the Hall of Fame. There was still so much I wasn’t able to take in down there. The main level is where you enter, then the second floor has some interactive kiosks with some one hit wonder info, a Les Paul exhibit(sooo cool), as well as a ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ music video montage(my son said it felt like subliminal brain washing…he’s not far off.) I believe the Beastie Boys exhibit was on this floor as well. The third level is the Hall of Fame section, complete with a movie theater highlighting past inductions and a darkened hallways that has a wall of signatures of past inductees. The last two floors are for temporary exhibits. Inside these floors were exhibits that dealt with political strife in music, artists writing about political issues in their music, ranging from Dylan, and The Clash to Green Day to Kendrick Lamar. Both activism and patriotism were represented here, which I liked. I side more on activism, but I appreciate having both sides represented.
So what were highlights for me you ask? Well, a section talking about the misappropriation of rock songs used in political campaigns was pretty interesting. Reagan using Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, or Paul Ryan saying Rage Against The Machine was his favorite band truly showed that politicians pay little to know attention to the world around them. I loved seeing the Midwest exhibit and having bands like Wilco, Husker Du, The Replacements, Liz Phair, and Afghan Whigs represented. Seeing the Strat that Jimi Hendrix played “The Star Spangled Banner” on at Woodstock was pretty awe-inspiring. Getting to gawk at one of Angus Young’s schoolboy uniforms, or a crazy double neck Flying V(whose it was I can’t recall at the moment.) There was this incredibly gorgeous bass of John Paul Jones’ that was there, too. It looked like it was outer space. Really, there were so many incredible instruments there it’s hard to remember them all(John Lennon’s Mellotron and his famous Epiphone Casino he played on the recording of “Revolution” and the rooftop concert.)
I guess the biggest thing for me was sharing this place with my kids. I know my son was pretty bored a half hour in, but I think there are things he’ll take away from this trip. He thought Bo Diddley’s guitar was pretty cool, and the Beastie Boys exhibit, too. He also thought the Wilco guitar was pretty excellent. My oldest seemed to get the most out of this trip. I guess being 16 years old she’s soaked up the most music out of the three of them. She was super thrilled to see some of Beyonce’s dresses(she’s a fan…wanna make something of it??) She also seemed really interested in the more political exhibits, which made me a proud papa. My 13-year old didn’t complain and went along with it, which I greatly appreciated. Overall, my wife and I were extremely impressed with the Hall of Fame and with what our kids got out of everything. We definitely want to come back again without the brood so we can take our time and let it all soak in a little better.
It’s easy to be cynical about a place like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and at times I’ve been cynical about it(Green Day over NIN? Madonna??), but for the most part I still have great respect for the institution and for what the original intent of the Hall of Fame was(and possibly still is.) There’s plenty of blues and R&B artists that never got even a pinch of respect until the Hall of Fame put there names up on that wall. With every questionable inductee, there’s three or four obscure artists that you may have never heard of but should have. It’s gone from a museum to a business, for sure, but I think the original intent and spirit of the place lives on. It was a trek I’m glad the wife and I took the kids on. Indoor pool, hot tub, pizza, and bookstore perusing helped round out the trip quite nicely, but at the heart of it all was rock and roll.
Always, rock and roll.
Editor’s Note : My camera battery died so I was only able to take a handful of photos when we first arrived. I have more on my wife’s camera. I will post those later in the week.