Winchester Music Tavern Highlights Cleveland Deeds: Concerts During COVID
LAKEWOOD, Ohio – The Winchester Music Tavern has a long history as a concert venue in Lakewood since 2002. The current owners took over the space in 2017 and have been rocking the Birdtown neighborhood ever since.
The club celebrated its fourth anniversary under a new owner last week. The past year has been difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, unlike other local venues, the Winchester has remained mostly open since last summer, initially hosting distant shows at around 20% capacity. The place also leaned on half the restaurant when shows were difficult to manage due to COVID-19 spikes, owner Tim Benedict said.
“We completely moved on to showcasing a lot of local talent because the artists weren’t touring as much,” said Benedict. “We were doing about 50 to 60 people all seated shows. All in all, it was good to at least give people a chance to get out of their homes, to a safer environment that tried to be wary of whatever was going on.
The Winchester continued to offer a local concert lineup in 2021. On Friday, May 28, the venue hosted local psych-rock and jazz band Oregon Space Trail of Doom and musician Charity Cunningham for a sold-out show. .
We watched the event as part of our ‘Concerts During COVID’ series, which offers a glimpse of independent locations in Cleveland as they adjust to health orders and pandemic protocols. The goal: to get a glimpse of what the industry looks like after its year-long struggle to stay in business. Previously, we’ve covered the Beachland Ballroom, Grog Shop, Music Box, and Bop Stop in the series.
Like other venues, the Winchester concert space had adapted. In pre-pandemic times, spectators generally stood during performances. Today, the floor of the Winchester is filled with tables and chairs for seated viewing.
By the time Charity Cunningham and her support group took the stage on May 28, the hall was full of enthusiastic spectators, seated and ready for the music.
Cunningham presented new tracks from his 2021 album “For The Hauntés», With dream performances of the tracks« Pink Guitar »,« Daredevil »and« Lead Singer ». The versatile singer also performed a unique take on ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love On Me”.
Then, Oregon Space Trail of Doom launched into their set, the band circulating freely through their groovy rock songs like “Sun” and “Cult of Witches”. The group cohesively fell out, moving away from each other and staring at home on stage.
This is largely because OSTOD hasn’t taken much hiatus from the scene, even over the past year or so.
“We never really stopped performing,” drummer Tony Kazel said in a pre-show interview. “We always kept that momentum and made sure that what we did count, from multiple angles of how we looked at it – and that it only maintains integrity.”
“Even performing during COVID was a blessing, but we made sure the shows we performed met certain standards that would be acceptable with COVID-19 guidelines,” singer-guitarist Nolan Cavano said. “If we work with rooms that want to take precautions, we are all in favor, whether it is remote or limited capacity.”
OSTOD presented private shows and recorded live performances for various benefits at the start of the pandemic, and its first show with an audience was at the Winchester in October. Since then, the group has performed regularly sold out on-site and in other spaces in Northeast Ohio.
Now that the restrictions are lifted, OSTOD plans to take their show on the road soon, with an 18-day tour scheduled to Denver and returning in July.
And other out-of-town bands are also starting to reschedule their performances, Benedict said – touring is starting to seep into Winchester’s summer and fall schedules, as the music scene returns to a semblance of what she was at the start of 2020.
However, it is not quite there yet. For now, the venue will continue to focus on its local shows, showcasing artists from Northeast Ohio.
“There are a lot of great local talent in this city,” said Benedict. “The music speaks for itself. People really want to go out and watch these shows. I think we went through a time where maybe people took live music and entertainment for granted, and when that was taken away because of COVID, people really realized it and it woke him up.
You can find the next shows scheduled at Winchester on its Facebook page, facebook.com/TheWinchesterMusicTavern.
–Greater Cleveland concert halls and festivals adapt to complicated scene during pandemic
–Beachland Ballroom draws music fans with a socially distant format
–Bop Stop capitalizes on hybrid virtual shows in person
–Grog Shop finds a step in local events
–Music Box faces pandemic challenges with supper-club format
Get a boost on weekends and Register now for the cleveland.com weekly “In the CLE” email newsletter, your essential guide to the top things to do in Greater Cleveland. It’ll arrive in your inbox on Friday morning – an exclusive to-do list, focused on the best of weekend fun. Restaurants, music, movies, the performing arts, family entertainment and more. Click here to subscribe. All cleveland.com newsletters are free.