Best of Kent: places to hear live music

Audience watches various short films at the Kent Stage Saturday evening.

First Place – Kent Stage 

Located on E. Main Street downtown, the  Kent Stage is home to many unique annual events such as the monthly Rocky Horror Picture Show, the January film festival and the Kent ghost walk around Halloween. In addition, they host many musical acts, regardless of genre. 

“There’s seriously something for everybody,” said Assistant Director Richele Carlton. 

A good majority of acts that perform are not from Kent, and some are not even from Ohio, according to Ian Simpson, who is a bartender and the production manager for the venue. 

“People come in here that have won multiple Grammys,” Simpson said. “…extremely talented people come to Kent, Ohio.” 

If these performers ever need an opening act, the Kent Stage may search for a local band to fill the spot, giving them a platform for “300 to 600 new ears and eyes seeing them,” Simpson said.

Second Place – Venice Cafe

For a more relaxed atmosphere, the Venice Cafe hosts several music events accompanied by “authentic ambience, great drinks, delicious food and more.” Located downtown on Erie Street, you can find long-time local bands playing at a “classic bar scene,” said manager Dan Friend. 

“It’s a great, chill place to hang out,” Friend said. “It’s a place to step away from the loud craziness of everything else.” 

Venice Cafe also hosts a drag event on the first Friday of every month where there is a show, brunch, mimosas and other drinks. They also host a trivia night every Thursday. 

Third Place – Water Street Tavern

Another staple bar scene venue, Water Street Tavern is a great place for food, drinks and local music. There are three free live performances every week.

In addition to live music, it is “the official post-game party headquarters and away-game watch party venue of Kent State University Athletics,” according to their website. 

Water Street Tavern has been awarded amongst the best bars from publications like the Plain Dealer, Cleveland Scene Magazine and more.