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Since 1925
The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

Where’s Walsh? A love letter to The Agora

The Cleveland landmark rocking into the 21st century
The Agora just prior to renovations, 2017

As of Tues., Mar. 12, I am stranded in a Dallas airport terminal, waiting for time to melt away and for my prison-sentence seven-hour layover to end. I enjoyed my trip to the southwest but felt, despite great food, shows, and competition, that something was missing – music.From a young age, music has been incredibly important to me, whether in the backseat of my dad’s car listening to Hall and Oates or taking my first walk down Shakedown Street at Blossom, taking in the trippy Deadhead scene.

Musical memories are not always embodied in a place, but rain or shine, day or night, 365 days a year, I know there is one place I can go to get my up close and personal experience with music: The Agora.

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History by Case Western Reserve University, “The Agora or Agora Ballroom has been an innovative dance club and concert hall since the 1960s. Its support of local bands, new music styles, and upcoming national recording acts helped create a strong local club scene.”

Specifically, The Agora in its most continuous form, starting in 1967, promoted experimental sounds and local fusions which saw Clevelanders play one hour only for Velvet Underground, Bob Seeger or Jim Croce take over the next.

Despite these powerful headliners of the 1960s allowing a reputation to be made for the Agora, the message of blending local and experimental hit its stride in the 1970s. Bruce Springsteen, Bad Company, Kiss, Peter Frampton, the Charlie Daniels Band, the Outlaws, Aerosmith, and Eddie Money all made appearances in this little slice of Ohio – which to this day can only accommodate a maximum of 2,000 attendees, adding to the intimate feel of The Agora.

At the end of the 1970s, disco nearly killed The Agora, leading to dwindling attendance, which finally was snuffed out with a fire in 1984. Though this catastrophe would end lesser institutions, there was still a spark of musical genius that needed to be expressed – and that Clevelanders wanted to hear.

A move to 5000 Euclid Ave., the address of the former Metropolitan Theater, as well as the donation of the building to the nonprofit MidTown Cleveland Inc., has allowed The Agora to both have a renaissance towards the end of the 20th century and to truly evolve into the 21st.

The most visible sign of this evolution was the full remodel of the venue in 2018 which added two modern bars and a VIP section which is situated ever so slightly above the standing masses of general admission, and under the veranda of the upper balcony.

Photo via Michael Walsh, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at the Agora, Dec. 7th, 2023

Acts such as the Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Flatland Calvary, Portugal. The Man, Letterkenny LIVE, and others have headlined this new venue in recent months, showing off the grandeur of these now 6-year-old innovations. What hasn’t changed though is the connection between The Agora and local bands.

Frankly, despite still decaying in my Dallas prison, I take pride in listening to the live albums from The Agora. It gives me peace of mind to know that they and the venue that hosts them are preserving something close to my heart.

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