From Joan Baez, Leon Redbone, and Judy Collins to Bo Diddley, Michelle Shocked and the Cowboy Junkies, the Kent music scene has rocked northeast Ohio for half a century and shows no signs of slowing down. Musically, Kent is the home-brewed alternative to the mass produced, overly carbonated music beverages that flood the market with less taste and more filling. Kent's music is a taste that is meant to be savored.
Live bands have kept Kent rocking after hours for decades. Joe Walsh of the Eagles fame was a regular, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Devo, and even Led Zeppelin followed up a stadium show in Cleveland with a surprise impromptu concert in a Kent bar.
Kent's small venue gigs have always given the artists a chance to kick-back, unplug, and showcase their talent. That tradition continues today at the Kent Stage, a live performance venue built in 1927, and other venues around town.
Kent 'Round Town Music Festival
The Kent 'Round Town Music Festival started in 1966 as the Kent State Folk Festival showcasing established artists and launching careers of aspiring new blues and folk talent. In recent years, the event has morphed into the Kent 'Round Town Music Festival. Now produced by Crooked River Arts Council and Main Street Kent, Kent State University's radio station WKSU remains intimately involved as the lead media sponsor.
The Kent 'Round Town Festival is a one night, admission free, music extravaganza scattered around 40 or so venues in downtown Kent, ranging from restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to galleries and sweet shops.
Over the years, the Festival has seen locals, Rock n' Roll Hall of Famers, pop culture luminaries, and counterculture icons put on their best performances for the City of Kent and visitors from all over the world. Music legends and rising stars make the journey to Kent for the festival bringing with them their expressive musical storytelling and driving up the musical temperature.
American Roots Music Festival
Spring in downtown Kent brings the American Roots Music Festival, a free festival with Americana, Bluegrass, and Country music. Brought to you by our friends at Crooked River Arts Council and presented by Wayside Furniture.
School of Theater & Dance
The School of Theater and Dance at Kent State University entertains the local community through main stage productions and concerts, student organized productions, and other special events.
A number of individuals with whom you may be familiar are Kent alumni. To name a few:
- Alice Ripley (who won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical in Next to Normal)
- Arsenio Hall
- John de Lancie ("Q" of "Star Trek")
- Kristine Haag (who worked as Key Costumer on ABC's Scandal)
- Michael Keaton
Additionally, returning professionals such as Ken Howard (star of the Broadway musical, 1776 and TV's "The White Shadow") and Mark La Mura (11-year veteran of TV's "All My Children") completed Master of Fine Arts degrees at Kent. Alumni can be seen currently on Broadway, London's West End, and in venues all over the world.
The Kent Stage
The Kent Stage has entertained audiences for nearly 90 years. In 2002, the Western Reserve Folk Arts Association took ownership of the Stage, and today it is managed by a group of 20 volunteers. No one gets paid for their services, which makes the Stage a breath of fresh air where you'll find music played for music's sake.
The Kent Stage does a great job of giving music aficionados something different, which is why it's so popular in Kent. It's a gathering place for music fans who want to experience artistic expression in its natural habitat - outside the bright lights and big city - in a venue that is intimate and authentic. Hosting an average of 150 concerts each year, the Kent Stage is also home to:
- Film festivals
- Kent 'Round Town Music Festival
- Kent Blues Fest
- Kent Folk Festival
- Kent Reggae Fest
- Numerous plays
Kent Stage performances have attracted hundreds of thousands of fans from all over Ohio, 37 states, Canada, England and Japan. There are hundreds of You-Tube videos of Kent Stage performances and WKSU's FolkAlley.com carries live recordings of Kent Stage artists into 130 countries across the globe. In 2004, the Cleveland Plain Dealer named The Kent Stage the Best Acoustic Venue in Northeast Ohio.
Kent Blues Fest
During Kent Blues Fest, blues enthusiasts converge on historic downtown Kent to hear the very best in blues music. Sounds of soulful music from the heart resonate around the downtown from artists that have performed worldwide. From finger picking, to slide guitar, to soulful vocals, to old school rhythm and blues, come experience the music, experience the culture, experience the history, experience Kent Blues Fest!