No Place Like Home: Paige Beller’s Guide to The Dayton, Ohio Music Scene

Dayton, Ohio based multi-instrumental singer-songwriter Paige Beller releases her new single ‘Failed Attempts and Cigarettes’ next week, following the ethereal heart-beat folk thrum of ‘So Much Water’, which came out last month. Both are precursors to her debut album I’ll Be Better, which is due for release later in the year via SofaBurn Records and looks set to be utterly enthralling.

I must admit that my knowledge of Dayton is close to zero, so keen as we always are to find out what’s going on in places we’ve yet to discover, we asked Paige to give us her guide to the Ohio city’s music scene.

What makes Dayton a special place for music and bands?

Bands in Dayton play because they love to. There’s less focus on “making it” and more on self expression, which brings a level of vulnerability that I like. Downtown is covered in murals by local artists, and a lot of the shops and bars are run by people that have grown up in Dayton. Everyone kind of knows everyone. It’s also an affordable place to live for a musician, giving those of us who like to tour the ability to do so.  

Is there a scene or a sound that you would describe as being specific or special to the city?

Dayton has a rich history of weird indie alt-rock. It’s the birthplace of Guided by Voices, The Breeders and Brainiac, which I think really influenced a lot of bands in the area. One of the things I like the most about Dayton though is that there is a pretty good mix. You can find quality acts in just about any style you’d like if you look for them.

Give us a quick history lesson – who are some of your favorite Dayton bands of the past?

I grew up in Cincinnati OH, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bands that I saw early on that really cemented my love for live local music. Black Tie Bombers, The Dopamines, Thee Alliance, and The Pinstripes all stick out in my mind. Some Dayton acts that I wish were still around include State School, Sleep Fleet, Mouth of the Architect, Manray, The Holy Smokes, and He Laughs, He Learns, He Loves. Every now and then you can catch a one-off Shrug show which is always a treat. Legbone is skate punk royalty and they still play shows (thirty years strong)!

And who should we be looking out for right now?

I really love Dayton music; it would take all day for me to list all the groups that keep this little scene chugging along. The Raging Nathans are one of the hardest working bands I know, with member Josh Goldman heading up Rad Girlfriend Records. They have been releasing a staggering amount of material lately. Houseghost is another awesome Rad Girlfriend band. In hip hop, I love Tino, Kudo, and YelloPain. Isicle puts out these cool experimental synth videos weekly. For indie stuff, check out Speaking Suns, Scary Hotel, and Yuppie. MOIRA is one of my favorite bands to watch live, period. SKRT and honorary-Dayton-band Lung just put out a killer split EP. Abertooth Lincoln is putting out singles that get progressively more strange and interesting. Kyleen Downes, The Boxcar Suite, The New Old Fashioned, and Neo American Pioneers have or are about to put out new Americana/Roots stuff. Brother Hill and The Nautical Theme for folk. Nightbeast for party rock. The Story Changes for emo/pop punk. Marijuana Johnson for stoner rock and Maharaja for sludge. Creamboy is from Dayton/Cincinnati/KY, but I will take any opportunity to talk about Creamboy. I have a lot of catching up to do on new bands since I haven’t been going out this past year, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone has been working on.

Where are your favorite places to play/see bands in the city?

Yellow Cab Tavern is a great spot to catch outdoor shows right now. Under normal circumstances, you’d find me at Blind Bob’s a lot. The Brightside has a really impressive setup and the owners are super kind and hospitable. The Levitt Pavilion is a relatively new endeavor that has been really cool for the city. It’s a large outdoor venue that hosts both national and local acts, all free to the public.

Independent music venues in the UK have been under threat, first from rising costs and developers, and more recently as a result of the pandemic and lockdown – how are your local venues coping?

There were a couple bars and restaurants that didn’t make it through, and sadly there’s really no telling what winter will bring. We had already lost a few rooms before COVID hit. I think venues everywhere have been struggling to get people to come out to see live music. When you shrink the size of the city down, the lowered attendance hits even harder. Dayton is also being bought up by developers and will probably become less affordable for DIY spots, which is a real bummer because those are some of my favorite kinds of shows.

Aside from the bands, who are some of the local heroes working to keep music thriving in Dayton?

Tim McKenzie runs one of the only ongoing shows for singer/songwriters in town, and has created a community that really sits down and listens. The shows are safe spaces for established acts to try new things and for new acts to learn how to play in front of people. Brandon Hawk is a local booker who always tries to squeeze in that touring band with the last minute cancelation and has let me have countless tries at throwing a Monday or Tuesday night show. Patrick Himes at Reel Love Recording makes quality recording affordable, and produces and backs more bands than I can list. Sound Valley is a production company run by a husband and wife who just love Dayton music. Art Jipson on WUDR and Juliet Fromholt over at WYSO Public Radio are consistently spinning locals and having bands in-studio. Don Thrasher covers music for Dayton’s newspaper and has released several bands through his label Gas Daddy Go. Philly Phil (Johnathan Phillips) regularly brings in hip-hop acts that never would have thought to come through Dayton. Mary Katherine Burnside introduced me to the Dayton scene when I first moved here and was one of the founders of Ladyfest Dayton — a not-for-profit music festival that’s raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities. Tim and Joe Anderl run Sweet Cheetah PR and are constantly promoting Dayton bands simply because they care. There’s no way that I’m not forgetting someone. I have been very fortunate to meet a ton of supportive people in this city.

Check our Paige Beller’s Love Letter to Dayton, OH playlist:

Paige Beller’s new single ‘Failed Attempts and Cigarettes’ is out next Friday, pre-save on all the usual streaming services here, her album I’ll Be Better is due for release later this year.

Find out more about Paige Beller on her official website

Interview by Paul Maps
Photograph by Bobby Tewksbury

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