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Your backstage pass to Northeast Ohio's independent music scene.

Dave Rich creates an all-star lineup of Akron musicians with his 'Enablers'

Akron four-piece band Dave Rich and His Enablers performing live
Nicholas Deveney
"Friday Mike" Wilkinson, Dave Rich, Chris Butler and David Giffels joined to form Dave Rich and His Enablers, a rock 'n' roll four-piece performing songs Rich wrote during the COVID-19 pandemic. The band will release its new album, "Headless By Any Measure," Feb. 26.

Akron musician Dave Rich has played in area bands for decades, including Houseguest and the Beyonderers, as well as indie-rock legend Doug Gillard’s backing band.

When the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the music scene in 2020, Rich took the opportunity to learn how to record music at home.

Since then, he has written hundreds of new songs and released a handful of albums, starting with 2022’s “David’s Game,” an instrumental guitar record that pays homage to the music he listened to in high school.

"I decided any time I sit down to write something I'm going to finish it, even if it's something I don't like,” Rich said. “And then I also told myself I wasn't going to go to bed until I made something every day.”

He assembled an all-star lineup of local musicians to perform his new material, calling the band “His Enablers.”

On drums is Akron's new wave legend Chris Butler of the Waitresses fame. He owns a music studio in the city’s Kenmore neighborhood where the band rehearses.

“I have always wanted to play drums in a really great rock ‘n’ roll band. Dave Rich and His Enablers is that really great rock ‘n’ roll band,” Butler said.

Rounding out the Enablers are “Friday Mike” Wilkinson on guitar and popular Akron author David Giffels on bass.

Wilkinson, Giffels and Rich played in a band together about a decade ago called the May Company.

“I’m not a musician. I’m a bass player,” Giffels said. “Dave has twice now revived my seeming retirement from playing in bands.”

Wilkinson and Butler were in the band Half Cleveland.

“So, I've played with everybody, and now we're back again,” Wilkinson said.

Dave Rich and His Enablers pose at their practice space in Kenmore
Amanda Rabinowitz
Ideastream Public Media
David Giffels, "Friday Mike" Wilkinson, Dave Rich, and Chris Butler are seasoned Akron musicians who have played in bands for decades. They rehearse in Kenmore and are gearing up to perform in the neighborhood music venue Buzzbin on Feb. 24.

Bringing a prolific amount of songs to life

In July 2023, Rich released “Strategic Laments + Baseball,” his first full vocal album.

“Great Uncle Heat Signature” and “Lethargic Bark” both dropped in October 2023, followed by “I Don't Know Why Anyone Does Anything” two months later.

“We have four records in 2023, hopefully four or five more in 2024. I mean, why not?” Rich said. “I like writing songs, so might as well do it. We should do it as much as possible.”

Rich said he had always resisted making music at home, but the pandemic provided an excuse to learn something and challenge himself to start a new project.

“The song I'm most excited about is the one that I haven't written yet," Rich said. "Now that I can get decent sounds in my basement, it's exciting to write it, and it's exciting to finish it."

He wrote and recorded the music for all four albums on his own. When pandemic restrictions were lifted and it was deemed safe to play and enjoy live music again, Rich assembled his band.

“There are some songs that I wish I had had the band to record because the songs sound better in the room with everybody than they did in my basement by myself,” he said.

“We have four records in 2023, hopefully four or five more in 2024. I mean, why not?”
Dave Rich

Rich sent unfinished mixes of his songs to Butler, whom he has looked up to and known for several years, to get his feedback.

“And then, I complained to him, ‘Well, I lost another drummer,’ and he was like, ‘Why isn't anybody asking me to drum?’” Rich said. “I did not realize that that was an option.”

Butler said the drums were the first real instruments he learned how to play. While he has spent the last four decades as the guitarist in groups like the Numbers Band, Tin Huey and the dB’s, he was excited about getting back behind the drum set.

“It is a dream for me come true,” Butler said. “I wish it would have happened maybe 20 years ago when we could maybe play more cities or whatever. But it is an absolute joy.”

Butler said he always felt he was a prolific songwriter, but seeing Rich bring his music to the band’s shared practice space in Kenmore has been “amazing.” He said Giffels is normally the first to arrive.

“It's really nice to have somebody who writes all the songs, records them really well, and then we just have to learn them,” Giffels said. “In a sense, we are a cover band learning all of the recordings of Dave Rich.”

Wilkinson said playing with Butler in the past was “wonderful." He also performs with the jangle pop-rock band Glenn Lazear, keeping busy learning new songs and practicing with several area musicians.

“My wife is very understanding,” Wilkinson said.

Making ‘dad rock’ fun

Dave Rich and His Enablers will release their first collective album of 2024, “Headless By Any Measure,” Feb. 26, with plans to release four more albums this year. The band performs next at Buzzbin in Kenmore Feb. 24, along with Dough McKean and the Stuntmen and Floco Torres.

Rich said he hopes to perform many more shows with His Enablers, which he jokingly describes as a “dad rock” band.

Rich said he values making music now that he is a bit older in a way he never did when he was young.

“Chris mentioned earlier that he wishes we could have gotten together like 20 years ago. And 20 years ago, I think I was fairly insufferable when it came to music, because I grew up wanting to be a musician and wanting to earn a living playing music so badly that I think it made me not fun to be around,” Rich said.

He said the seasoned band of musicians no longer has anything to prove and enjoys coming together to have fun and create something together.

“Having these guys in the band who are all incredibly good musicians, it's the best,” Rich said. “It's like, play together once a week and we play shows sometimes… Hopefully, the byproduct of that is people liking it and coming to shows and feeling something or connecting with other people. That's the most important part.”

Butler said audiences will pick up on the fact that he and his bandmates love playing music and don’t view it as a job.

“The advantage of age is we're post-bitterness, and now we're doing it for all the right reasons,” Butler said. “It's not a desperate one step on a very long ladder to someplace else. We're here in the moment having fun.”

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production
Brittany Nader is the producer of "Shuffle" on Ideastream Public Media. She joins "All Things Considered" host Amanda Rabinowitz on Thursdays to chat about Northeast Ohio’s vibrant music scene.