Rock and roll and polka in Cleveland

December 7, 2018

Classical music, bread and water are all some people need. But if your appetites range more widely, Cleveland stands ready with rock and polka, beer and pirogis.

First, the rock. Before you step into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a plaque explains the city’s claim on rock history: Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey, popularized the phrase in the early 1950s.

The Hall of Fame opened at the edge of Lake Erie in 1995, relying on an elaborate system of nominations and balloting to celebrate a medium that’s all about anarchy and subversion.

It has thoughtful exhibits and plenty of artifacts. Gawk at Elvis’ double-neck guitar from the early 1960s. Giggle at the 1967 “Arnold Layne” video in which the members of Pink Floyd cavort like the Monkees.

The hall has defined rock so broadly that there’s room for Jay-Z and Taylor Swift. It also has a theater where great performances are screened, including a 2009 Madison Square Garden benefit that featured Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, B.B. King, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger, Metallica and many others.

As for polka, it’s a fixture in Cleveland because of the city’s Polish and Slovenian populations.

I got my dose and a few pirogis at the Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave. in the Tremont neighborhood), where accordionist Stan Mejac holds court Wednesday nights.

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