Since opening a decade ago, Musica, tucked away in downtown Akron’s historic arts district, has largely been a live music venue. As in, its doors and bar are only open when there is a performance of some kind happening onstage.
That also meant that when said performance was done, the general attitude toward patrons often felt like "Hey, show’s over. Please pay your tab, tip your bartenders, maybe buy some merch and get the hell out."
For many folks, that was fine; downtown Akron has more than a few places to have another drink and talk about the awesome show you just experienced. But Musica is a good-sized space, with a modest but cool patio. And as important as reliable music venues are to cultivating and supporting the local music scene, as well as goosing the downtown nighttime economy, there has always been potential for Musica to be a bit more.
Well, the joint is under new management, which is working to entice you to add Musica to your list of chill downtown places to hang out. Recently, the bar began opening for a latecomer-friendly happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. most days of the week. We hit up a Thursday happy hour that coincidentally was also International Clash Day (internationalclashday.com), so you know the soundtrack was tight.
The music venue to venue-and-bar transition is still underway but there’s already new staff, and a bit more seating in the form of a very comfy mid-century couch area, where a BBC documentary on the Clash was playing (have you ever wondered what frontman Joe Strummer’s face would look like projected on your face? That was the day to live your dream). The long bar area is largely the same, though better lit and you don’t have to worry about being yelled at for blocking the path to the patio door, making the entire experience a bit friendlier.
Musica has always had a solid beer selection, mixing standard domestics and a good variety of craft brews — it’s one of the few places serving Samuel Smith’s delicious Organic Chocolate Stout — and it's added some Northeast Ohio beers both on draft and in the cooler. It has most of the liquors you’ll need to lubricate your happy hour, and decent drink specials.
Right now, there frequently are DJs spinning happy-hour tunes. By summer, the bar is planning to have some food available, with happy hour performers and some more comfy seating on the dance floor/mosh pit area for patrons to watch said performers while eating and drinking.
Akronites Hannah Troyer and Robert Keith have experienced many shows at Musica. Additionally, Keith is the bassist in the Dreemers, a local psych rock band, giving him the unusual perspective of both performer and patron.
“This is way more chill than before. We need more spots like this,” said Troyer, who added that she's seen many shows at Musica.
“It’s much needed. I love the Mustard Seed but it’s a good place to go when you're with somebody. But a place to go alone and just to be here doesn’t really happen in Akron. I want a neighborhood bar and I want a neighborhood bar downtown,” Keith said.
For him, the bar could help unite his east and west friends. “I live on the east side but all my friends live on the west side, and I can never get my west side friends to come hang out on my side of town. That’s just way too much work for them. They’re like, 'I only know West Market. Once it’s East Market, I don’t know where that is,' ” Keith said laughing.
The two friends acknowledge that there are places for college-age kids to congregate, but say they are a few years past those kinds of meat/meet markets and the youthful shenanigans associated with them, and prefer something a bit more low-key.
“I love this idea. It’s where you can meet people and build relationships and just hang out and be chill,” said Troyer, who works downtown at Akron Coffee Roasters. “I feel like that happens during the day, but we don’t really have places for that at night, and this could be the spot."
Admittedly, Musica’s transformation into “music venue and friendly downtown neighborhood destination bar” is still in the early stages. So perhaps at this point the spot is a bit more of a blood-warm spot than a true hot spot. But it eventually could draw not just fans of live music, but also folks looking for another downtown option that doesn’t involve taking out a second mortgage for a few drinks or watching students snort cheap body shots off each other.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.