For Northeast Ohio natives, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame can be like the top of the Empire State Building is to New Yorkers: Something you do with your out of town friends, but kind of keep in the background of your own life. Yet, the Rock Hall always keeps its visitors on their toes. It seems like there’s something new that always catches your eye in the permanent exhibit, detailing the roots of rock – from country, gospel and jazz – as well as watershed cities in rock’s history, like Detroit (Motown, of course), Memphis (home to R&B) and San Francisco (where the 1960s really took root, particularly with groups like the Grateful Dead).
Of course, a monumental moment in rock history came in August 1969, when a music festival on a dairy farm in New York turned into a cultural watershed. An exhibit commemorating Woodstock at 50 debuted in May, features posters, photos and memorabilia, including this sign that refers to Max Yasgur’s farm, forever immortalized in the song “Woodstock,” written by Joni Mitchell and performed by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The Rock Hall is also commemorating another music festival that has has a lasting impact on American pop culture; The Van’s Warped Tour started in 1995, and although they didn’t play a full slate of dates this year, they had several shows – including one in Cleveland – to commemorate the tour’s 25th anniversary. They get their own room at the rock hall, showing costumes, instruments and elements of the tour’s educational components.
The second floor of the hall is now devoted to The Garage, an interactive exhibit to spark (or rekindle) a love of musical performance – or just give someone a chance to try to play a musical instrument, including bass, guitar (electric or acoustic) or drums. The Garage offers a primer for novice players as well, teaching them how to find the notes their looking for to play the right chord or progression.
Upstairs is the “Rock on TV” exhibit, showing everything from variety shows like “The Hollywood Palace” and “Shindig” to how rock was incorporated into kids’ shows, like “The Banana Splits.”
Directly behind the RockHall is North Coast Harbor, featuring modern Mexican cuisine and outdoor activities such as bocce and beach volleyball. It’s also the location of one of the script Cleveland signs, providing a perfect opportunity for a selfie. Check out the recent mural in honor of Cleveland’s newest celebrity, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
There are plenty of reasons to go see the rock hall if you haven’t lately – and plenty of things to do nearby afterward.
Photos courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.