Music venues cater to community members

Erin Zaranec

Most students don’t start their weekend strolls into downtown Kent until long after the sun has set, often times preparing for a night of drinking with friends. Before the chaos of a Kent Saturday night occurs, some downtown bars are used as music venues for the local Kent community.

Water Street Tavern and Venice Cafe, both owned by Mike Beder, commonly host local musicians for community entertainment.

The majority of music I book is to attract a community ​crowd. It’s been my experience that the community supports live music more than students,” Beder said. “I usually have my music end at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. so it doesn’t interfere with the late night college crowd. The jukebox, a DJ or even our playlists suits them fine.”

Water Street Tavern hosts themed music nights, like Weekly Wednesday Blues. For Tuesday nights, better known as Ladies Night to the student crowd, the Tavern sticks to DJs instead of live music. For Venice Cafe, Wednesday nights allow for local talent to take the stage during weekly open mic nights. The Cafe recently added jazz band DanJO as a weekly staple, giving Tuesday nights in the Cafe a laid-back, jazz bar feel.

“(When booking artists), ​I consider who the audience is that I’m looking to attract ​and book accordingly,” Beder said. “I look to see who their audience is on social media, where else they play and how they draw.”

For both establishments, Beder said there is a noticeable increase in both crowds and sales during live music performances.

With the Stone Tavern closing in July 2016, The Kent Stage took over the downtown music scene as the only venue that exclusively hosts live performances.

For 90 years, The Kent Stage has hosted local, regional and national musicians and live performances.

“Aside from being the largest music venue in Kent with 642 seats, it’s award-winning acoustics, the quality of acts and the number of concerts per year,” said Thomas Simpson, founder of The Kent Stage. “We have a tremendous reputation both within the musician’s world and among fans of great music. 92 percent of our customers are visitors to Kent.”

The Kent Stage is also home to the Children’s Musical Theatre of Kent, Standing Rock’s International Short Film Festival, Kent Paranormal Weekend and Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings.

“While most of the folk, blues, legendary Rock Hall and doo wop acts tend to attract more community members, jam bands, hip-hop acts, local rock bands, the Ghost Walk and, of course, Rocky Horror attract a good number of college students,” Simpson said. “A lot of times we have multi-generations of the same family at a concert.”

Erin Zaranec is the features correspondent for the Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]