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

Shuffle: Alternative Attic Spotlights Northeast Ohio's Underground Music Scene

A photo of the band DreamStates
Akron pop band DreamStates (Madeline Eckhart and Natalie Grace Martin) performed at a recent Alternative Attic showcase

Adam Bonomo’s Alternative Attic is equal parts music video series and recurring live music event.

“It started off just being me trying to just show music in weird places,” Bonomo said.

Capturing the local music scene
The filmmaker, along with a crew of two other University of Akron (UA) alumni, creates professionally shot clips that capture live performances of Northeast Ohio musicians.

The videos are published to social media, where they have been shared by the musical acts themselves, along with supporters of the local scene, house venue hosts and new fans who have just become exposed to the performers through the online videos.

Bonomo first got involved in the local music scene when he moved next door to It’s a Kling Thing!, a popular "do it yourself" (DIY) house-show venue at 403 Kling St. in Akron.

He began video recording bands for a student-run television program while attending UA in an effort to bring exposure to lesser-known bands who were only performing for crowds of just 10 or 15 people in the small basements of these intimate spaces.

“I remember going to like my first or second house show — like I was in the basement of Kling — and I saw this band play, and I just remember being like, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” Bonomo said. “And I bet that no one, other than the people who are in that basement, had any idea that this was going on.”

Taking this type of experience and translating it into a medium where anyone with an Internet connection can see the performances, along with the support of small but enthusiastic audiences, set Bonomo on a path to do more than just record small concerts.

“Now, it’s just kind of turned into me booking shows [and] doing promotion for shows,” Bonomo said.

'A lot of these artists would love to have videos but cannot afford them'

From recording in apartments to venues
The first Alternative Attic showcase Bonomo put together was in the attic of his own apartment.

From there, he was approached by Nick Muffet of Small Mammal Records— a DIY record label based in Akron — to book and film an all-acoustic show in a parking deck.

The lineup of each subsequent show has generally included area bands in the same genre of music — it's what helps Bonomo's approach to recording performances. 

“I know I, personally, usually listen to the bands that are about to play a lot so I can try to get an understanding of, like, OK, if they play this song, this is probably something I need to highlight. Like a cool little drum fill or something,” Bonomo said. “A little bit of research and planning goes a long way.”  

Being involved in the DIY community
Highlighting bands in unexpected places is part of the DIY ethos the filmmaker supports.

The majority of the spots in which the Alternative Attic bands perform are more like pop-up venues than actual stages with professional sound systems.

“[It started as] not even really shows, but people coming over to my apartment to have me record them,” Bonomo said.

House shows — a staple of the local DIY scene — aren’t traditional concert halls, but they do draw in a growing crowd due to word-of-mouth and social media promotion.

“If you were able to take a look at how this whole crazy DIY network is set up, throughout the whole country, and how bands that have went on tour and have stayed at this house, and this house, and this house can reach out to that house to talk about the local area and all the people that are a part of it, it’s just awesome,” Bonomo said. “Everybody kind of knows everybody — or one person that knows them.”

For the first few shows, Bonomo said he knew a lot of the musicians who were about to play. “But as it’s went on, I’ve definitely had a lot of help from other people in the scene,” he said.

Credit Adam Bonomo
Alternative Attic's Adam Bonomo

Gaining traction on social media
Alternative Attic has posted about 50 videos on social media since it launched last summer.

One of its most popular clips and performances was Akron pop band, DreamStates, with their song “Midas,”at the Oakdale House, located at 247 Oakdale Ave. in Akron.

With his live-concert series and videos documenting each event, Bonomo makes a point to spotlight underground, up-and-coming musicians, or simply artists who have been active in the area for years but haven’t found their big break yet.

“Honestly, a lot of these artists would love to have videos but cannot afford them,” Bonomo said.

He and his crew record each show and produce multiple videos that capture each of the performer's live sets. The videos are released on a staggered, periodic basis.

Artists featured in the Alternative Attic showcase include Hayden Gilbert, Abbey Ruggles, Church of Starry Wisdom, Peachcurls, Biitchseat, Posture, Backtalk and others in a variety of musical styles.

Moving up to a larger performance space
The next Alternative Attic live event will take place at Musica in downtown Akron on Thursday, April 4 beginning at 8 p.m. Bands include Roid Rage, Slow Burn, Penny Arcade, Post Saga and Bare Walls.

The event will be recorded, and multiple live videos will be released online via Alternative Attic’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The show is free, but a $5 donation to support the artists is suggested.

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.
Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production