With the summer season just around the corner (at least as far as the calendar is concerned), it’s time to find out how Akron officials plan to lure you and your discretionary income downtown via the 2013 season at Lock 3 Park.
It’s been a decade since Akron opened Lock 3, and in that time (according to the city’s figures), the park’s events have drawn more than 2 million people to downtown Akron. I remember shortly after I arrived in Akron in 2002 (yikes!) I talked to more than a few Akronites who believed that nothing short of a line of city officials handing out free bags of cash to passers-by would bring folks back to Akron’s dangerous, depressing financially and spiritually dead downtown.
Well, it’s 10 years later and downtown Akron may not have become the ultra-hip yuppie haven of which some dreamed, and restaurants and bars seem best equipped to survive the lean season (you know, when the college kids go away for summer). But the eyeball test says it’s certainly closer to a destination spot — or at least contains more viable destinations — than the ghost town it was when I arrived here.
This year, Lock 3 Live, which starts up May 24, will continue its standard groove with the free WONE (97.5-FM)-sponsored tribute bands (of which you Ohioans can’t seem to get enough) often with a local opening band every Friday night.
The lineup contains many of the usual suspects including season opener Evil Ways, a tribute to Carlos Santana, along with local blues rockers the Juke Hounds.
Other tribute bands include ersatz versions of classic rockers (and Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Buffett) such as Bon Jovi (Bad Medicine, June 7), ZZ Top (Sharp Dressed Men, June 28), the Beatles (the beloved 1964 the Tribute, July 12), Van Halen (Atomic Punks, July 26), U2 (Elevation, July 5), Queen (Simply Queen, July 19), Aerosmith (the officially endorsed Draw the Line, Aug. 16), Journey (Separate Ways, Aug. 17) and, of course, Led Zeppelin tribute ZOSO (Aug. 30).
There are also a few new and interesting entries such as the awesomely named Thunderbox, the All-Girl Tribute to the Best of Metal, and the Prince Experience, which from what I can glean, focuses on Purple Rain-era Prince complete with the Revolution and a Morris Day impersonator.
This season also sees the return of Old School Soul on June 29 featuring a double shot of R&B bands headlined by the surprisingly oft-covered and sampled Rose Royce who brought us Car Wash and had its songs Wishing on a Star, I'm Going Down and Love Don't Live Here Anymore, covered by Jay-Z, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Madonna.
Also on the bill are veteran Brooklyn funksters Brass Construction, known for hip shaking, horn heavy grooves such as its 1976 No. 1 hit Movin' and its sound-a-like follow-up Changin’ and the simmering Message. Brass Construction never crossed over to the pop charts but the band was well known to R&B aficionados in the mid-’70s through the mid-1980s.
From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 21 will be the 33rd Akron African-American Festival which has been around since 1980 but has only been a part of the Lock 3 Live schedule for a couple of years.
There will be music throughout the day but the festival's headliner is Zapp, who even without the late mastermind Roger Troutman is still a pretty good live band.
If that’s not enough R&B bands, then head back downtown on Aug. 24 for an evening with ’70s/’80s group Cameo who across its 40-year career has suggested listeners Shake Your Pants, told us about the Single Life and Candy and to watch out for an Alligator Woman and helped make the phrase Word Up part of the ’80s zeitgeist.
There will also be the sixth and final Keepers of the Art-sponsored Akron Hip Hop showcase. No acts have been announced yet, but I hope the KOA guys plan to go out with a big splash.
For jazzbos and bluesbos (I just made that up!), beginning on July 10 through Sept. 5, will be the Lock Bottom Blues & Jazz Club (actually just the area adjacent to Lock 3) where every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. folks can check out some local jazz and blues bands.
Among the 10 bands are season opener Wanda Hunt, supremely talented local jazz guitarist Dan Wilson and his group (July 24), North Canton jazz trio Esto Jazz (Aug. 21), original blues band Rooster Jones fronted by powerful singer Dorianne Denard (July 31) and Cleveland jazz octet Blue Lunch (Aug. 28).
For 2013, Lock 3 Live has expanded its schedule to include Gospel Sundays beginning July 28 with the St. John CME Inspirational Choir followed by the Exalting Him Choir, Henry Dunns’ Road to Glory on the Road, Carla Davis featuring Ken McCorvey and Friends, the House of the Lord Choir and wrapping up on Sept. 1 with the Mount Calvary Baptist Church Choir.
One thing I’ve learned and appreciate about Ohioans is that when the weather turns nice, they tend to immediately get up and out. It’s as if they know at any moment Mother Nature might change her fickle mind.
If you’ve never been to a Lock 3 Live event, it’s worth picking out one or two and may I suggest one of the food-oriented major events such as the eighth annual Hamburger Festival Aug. 17-18, the 66th annual Italian-American Festival the July 12th weekend or the city of Akron’s Rib, White and Blue Festival on Fourth of July weekend, to make the trek downtown to check them out. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Point your Googlebox to www.lock3live.com for more details on specific shows.