A Rock & Bowl Community

By Aaron Graneto

Enter the doors and turn right. A spectacle awaits for all the senses. Dozens of bowling lanes and the surrounding queue are lit by exciting blacklight that makes interesting objects, even clothing, glow.

The decor on the walls of the establishment give an eclectic feel, with a space mural on one side and an industrial city mural on the other. The combination of all this is an exciting bowling alley that clears out a few lanes to make for a welcoming stage and a close-knit community of music fans just about every week,.

Westside Bowl started hosting concerts in the bowling alley area just over a year ago, providing an expansive space for powerful sounds from rock bands to nicely sit in the venue. This allowed for so much more than a beautiful acoustical setting.

Westside Bowl is also in this way providing a space where many people could listen in comfort and grow to love the bands playing there, all while having a great time bowling, eating delicious food and playing games to pass the time.

It is a community space that houses both a bar and a bowling alley, and it is the perfect location for a network of music fans to grow that sincerely appreciate every sound that comes from the stage.

At their one-year anniversary show March 30, the space brought in several bands that provided a wide range of sounds to grace the ears of its guests. Longtime favorites like East 9th, Northern Whale and Ghost Soul Trio rocked the house.

To close out the evening, Cosmic Lemons presented a set full of new music played by a new lineup of musicians. This was a welcome debut for a new stretch of music and concerts coming up for the group. Overall, the event was beautifully put together, complete with world-class sound mixed by Forty-Two Entertainment and intriguing art and other merchandise by each of the band’s vendors.

Two members of these bands spoke on the power of Westside Bowl to bring people together in support of music and the diverse bands it allows to perform there.

Jesse DeLorenzo, drummer for Highland Rose, and Frank Toncar, the new bassist for Cosmic Lemons, had these thoughts on their start at Westside and their event with other bands April 20 in the basement of the venue.

AG: What drew you to apply and ask to perform at Westside Bowl?

JD: We play a lot of different venues in a lot of different areas, and we all agree there’s something really special about playing Youngstown. When people started buzzing about Westside Bowl as a venue, we were excited to get our foot in the door. Now, we’re headed into our second show at the venue Saturday April 20, and we’re all incredibly excited for it.

FT: Ryan Racketa from East 9th had heard that Cosmic Lemons was getting back together and approached me about West Fest being our first show back. He told me it was for the venue’s one-year anniversary and presented me the rest of the lineup, which was stacked with incredible local talent. I was immediately intrigued and thought it was a great idea. I hadn’t been to Westside Bowl yet at that time but had heard all sorts of great things about and figured it would be an awesome event for Lemons to be apart of.

AG: What makes Westside Bowl different from anywhere you’ve performed before, aside from it being a bowling alley?

JD: Highland Rose is very passionate with what we do; it’s always awesome to play venues that are as passionate about what they’re doing as we are about what we’re doing. Westside Bowl definitely is a venue that works hard and devotes a lot to supporting the creative community.

FT: I think an important aspect of it is that during upstairs shows, you truly can bowl and enjoy the show at the same time. Other bowling alley venues I’ve been to have the stage area and the bowling area more separated. All bowling aspects aside though, the upstairs stage setup is probably the most professional stage in Youngstown that local bands can reasonably perform on. The show was run professionally, sounds fantastic and the crew is very helpful and easy to work with. Nate the owner is very supportive of the bands too, and I think that’s huge. We need more quality relationships between venues, promoters and artists in Youngstown. Bartenders are very friendly as well, and overall, I think it’s just a very fun and comfortable place to enjoy a show of any sort.

AG: What stands out in the community of people that attend events at Westside Bowl?

JD: We believe rock ’n’ roll is something that can bring people together, and Westside Bowl has become an awesome hub for not only artists and musicians but a place where everyone is welcome and everyone can be included.

FT: I’ve only been there for shows three times, including West Fest, but what I’ve noticed is that the people that go are genuinely interested in the music. It’s fun to play downtown, but when there’s no cover charge, the crowd that shows up might very well not include anybody that really cares about the music; they may just be out to drink and have a good time. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t particularly help the bands that are performing to grow and expand their brand if the people they’re trying to sell to aren’t really into it. Westside Bowl is a good place that music fans can go to experience music, and bands can find and play for people who generally want to listen. Also, they have killer pizza!

AG: What are you hoping the community and your band brings to the next show there?

JD: Highland Rose always looks to bring the party! We want to have a good time; we want everyone to have a good time. We want everyone to know they’re invited and Westside Bowl is an awesome place to be invited to. We always love seeing new faces and hope to be doing a lot of that Sat April 20 because we keep it about love and rock ’n’ roll, and that’s something we think everyone can get down with.

Photos by Kamron Meyers

FT: I just hope the next show is as fun as the last one! It was a wonderful night for the Youngstown music scene in my opinion, and I was very proud of all the tremendous talent coming off the stage. I think if more people can have great experiences like that at that venue, it will continue to grow and flourish and become a staple in the Youngstown music scene!

Westside Bowl continues to provide an accepting space where music fans can come and support powerful music that nicely sits in the expanse of a bowling alley.