Howard’s feeds BG music scene

In passing, it may seem like nothing more than an old, run-down bar with an even older letter-marquee out front.

Howard’s Club H, nestled at the north end of town, may just be the hub of a diverse, legendary, underground music scene that often goes unnoticed in an area littered with dance clubs and sports bars.

“It’s not like this booming scene where thousands of people go out to shows all the time. It’s more of a subtle scene that’s still strong but has a very eclectic feel,” said Alex Merced, campus radio DJ and founder of Fashionably Numb Music, a local promotion agency.

Near some of the nation’s largest musical regions, Bowling Green’s own sound seems to lend hand from more centrally focused areas like Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Columbus.

“There’s such a wide range of music, coming from so many different directions that I think it all intersects here in Northwest Ohio, creating this really interesting vortex of musical influences,” Merced said. “It’s cool because this way there is a different crowd out every night at shows. There seems to be something around here for everybody.”

Howard’s offers live music every Wednesday through Saturday and say they book the best of all varieties of music, including national, regional and local acts. As opposed to larger Toledo venues, Howard’s iprovides a clear sense of community.

“There’s always a collection of people at Howard’s who enjoy music and art and just stick together in that cultural way,” Merced said. “You’re not going to see a better show, for a better price, anywhere.”

As owner and operator of downtown’s Madhatter Music, a 17-year-old, independent record shop, Jim Cummer has watched the local music scene evolve.

“Music here is so robust and healthy and that, no doubt, stems from Howard’s being so open to the local scene and contributes to making everything a whole lot of fun,” Cummer said.

Madhatter strives to promote new and hard-to-find indie music – primarily coming out of the Bowling Green area. They also post weekly local concert information in the store’s front window and offer opinions to bands that seek their advice.

“I think this store helps to empower local bands by giving them credibility,” Cummer said. “It gives them a place to display and sell their work, and we support their shows in every way.”

When dismissed as just another college-town music scene where everyone is trying to make it big, Bowling Green’s own unique musical style gets lost.

Anyone can make a good CD, but it’s the live show that can really set a band apart, according to Michael Seitz, freshman and lead vocals for local pop-punk act, Eight Minutes Upside Down.

Emerging originally from the Upper Sandusky area, EMUD first hit the BG scene last year when three of its members began classes at the University and have since noticed an increased fan-base.

“We’ve been able to really work on everything from stage presence to sound since places like Howard’s are always looking for local bands,” Seitz said. “It is easier to promote around here since people seem to be open to all types of music and genres.”

Merced said that over the past year he has booked some of the best bands he has ever seen as well as acts that he is sure will eventually break into the national music scene, including such Howard’s regulars as experimental/down-tempo/happy hardcore Mammoths Melting out of the Ice!?! and the more electronically-based Stylex. “If you take a look at a lot of these local bands, they all have really strong, jaw-dropping, top-notch live shows, even when no one’s there to watch,” Merced said. “It would be nice to see more of the student body come out. They are missing out on a lot of really really good music – I don’t understand how anyone could get bored in this town.”

Mammoths, who recently released a six-song EP, are based out of BG and agree that the area is a quality place for good, underground bands to flourish.

“Bowling Green certainly has a very diverse crowd of bands, as we have played with everything from straight-up noise bands to pleasant, melodic acts,” said Guy Justusson, a member of Mammoths. “It seems more like people in the area are borrowing things from what’s out there and what they like and putting their own spin on it, which is really exciting.”

Without a dominating genre in the area, it seems that local musicians are more inclined to try new sounds, which may not be heard elsewhere. The BG scene is ripe with innovative and experimental bands that are trying to do what they believe sounds good, according to junior, musician and serious music fan, Mike Piller.

“Often at Howard’s you may have to sit through a few crappy acts before you hear the one that you came for, but I do think that’s something that deserves credit, because those bands are still getting out there, doing what they want,” Piller said.