Cedars has been open for a little more than a month in its new location on the West Side, but it will get its official baptism Friday when The Infidels perform.
The rock ’n’ roll club, now known as Cedars West End, had to make a quick exit from its longtime downtown location when the building changed hands, but it has landed on its feet. The new location at 702 Steel St. is, in fact, better than the old one, and attendance hasn’t faltered. Regulars have found it and made themselves at home.
The ambience is the same, largely because owners Mara Simon and Billy Danielson brought the bar and back-bar with them. And the focus on live music is even more pronounced with a raised stage — framed by a red curtain backdrop — and better sight lines for the audience.
Friday’s show with The Infidels will unofficially begin the second chapter in the rock club’s nearly four decades of existence. The band has been intertwined with the club since it formed in the early ’80s.
One of Youngstown’s best — and longest-lived — bands, The Infidels are mounting a return to action this year after some dormancy, and the Cedars show will be the springboard.
Radio personality Viking Jim Allgren of WNCD-FM put the show together for his annual Vikemas celebration, and he will be the host. Opening will be sure-footed country-rockers The Robbie Jay Band, another local-regional favorite.
Pete Drivere, guitarist for The Infidels, said the Cedars show has been in the works for about six months.
The band had been getting offers to play shows in the region and elsewhere in the Midwest, and has booked a string of dates through the fall.
“When we agreed to do these other shows, we decided to do a Cedars show as well,” said Drivere. “We had initially thought it would have been at the old location, but doing it at the new place makes it even more special.”
The band has been rehearsing off and on the past few months and is cramming this week so that it’s hitting on all cylinders at Cedars. The band consists of John Hlumyk (bass), David Lisko (guitars), John Koury (drums) and Drivere.
The Infidels have a knack for crafting jangly uptempo pop-rock gems, laced together with sweet guitar embroidery. But it’s been probably a decade since they released a new recording.
That might soon change.
“If there ever was a period to think about a new Infidels record, right now might be a good time to consider it,” said Drivere. “We recorded a few songs in 2009 and a few others prior to that, so we do, technically, have almost half a record in the can. I think that we might be at the point of talking about another record.”
Drivere, who owns Ampreon recording studio, also is still the sound board operator at Cedars, a post he held many years at the old location. He likes what he sees — and hears — from his new perch in the Steel Street site.
“Billy [Danielson] and Mara [Simon], along with a few friends, have done a great job in creating a new, sharper version of Cedars without losing the familiarity of the old joint,” he said. “The difference is that the newer version feels more like a music venue. The stage is spacious, and the room sounds good.”
The famed Cedars vibe also remains intact. “Often, when a venue moves, people complain that the ambience and other qualities that have made it special become lost,” said Drivere. “Most people that have been in the new Cedars are dumbfounded by how much the feel of the old venue is captured. But yet it still comes off as fresh. I remain impressed.”
FILMS AT LEMON GROVE HIGHLIGHT LOCAL CULTURE
Two short films made in the ’90s by then-YSU student Chris Strollo — each as relevant today as they ever were — will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lemon Grove Cafe, 110 W. Federal St., Youngstown. Strollo, who now lives in Pittsburgh where he is an audio engineer, will be on hand.
Up first will be “The Apprazer,” which puts a face on the people, many of them artists, who were forced to leave downtown Youngstown when redevelopment began. The title, said Strollo, is a play on words that merges real-estate jargon (“appraiser”) with “raze.” It questions the value of tearing down historic buildings.
Downtown’s renaissance is still rolling, and developers now seem more inclined to rehabilitate than raze. But historic preservation is an effort that requires vigilance.
Strollo said his 30-minute film reflected the times. “I was seeing the demolition of several downtown buildings like the McKelvey,” he said. “People living in those places are in the film. I wanted to reflect the irony of the situation, mainly that artists who look for affordability tend to be on the front guard when an area becomes an opportunity for gentrification.”
“The Apprazer” also includes interviews with homeless people, and has strong language.
The second film is about legendary Youngstown jazz musician Harold “Stage” Hardrick, who died last year.
The films will be followed by an art show by Michael Green and an all-star jazz ensemble.