by Elizabeth Coss
Warren, Ohio – a city of lights and bar fights is one of the most well-off cities in the tri-county area. A culmination of upper class, working class, and lower class that together create a unique experience for anyone to visit. Most visitors may have official business in the courthouse, a shining staple for the city, a center for industry and local retailers. Or perhaps someone is visiting for the history and culture that Warren is so well known for.
Packard Music Hall and Museum are landmarks that highlight the old and new in a well-kept historical district lined by the fullest trees and the brightest streetlights. Brick houses and willow trees create the sense you’re no longer in the 21st century, but are taking a stroll through past decades. Most people visit Warren for the music element. Live music populates bars and outdoor venues and electrifies the city, like the River Rock at the Amp, an amphitheater just a short distance from the Courthouse. However, another staple highlighting the city’s roots and rock music happens to be an alley – yes, an alley.
Through the winding streets and chaotic parking, a short alley can be seen that is covered in graffiti and street art. Looking down that alley at first glance, rust and grime elongate the path, but as you enter it, the alley becomes more lively. Graffiti gains color and meaning, and the rust assembles sculptures; all dedicated to one man, Dave Grohl.
Artworks that accompany the area. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coss
Dave Grohl Alley: home to the 900-pound drumsticks that hold the Guinness World Record for largest pair of drumsticks, but also home to a series of small businesses that line and share the alley. Brick-faced and grit-covered, the shops are covered in the same graffiti memorializing the Warren native and rock legend who played drums for Nirvana, and eventually went on to lead his own band, the Foo Fighters. Local musicians have idolized him, viewing him as a precedent for what’s to come from the Warren-Youngstown area. Jarrett Walters, a YSU student and member of the band East 9th, has been a part of the local rock scene since in 2016.
“I listen to the Foo Fighters almost daily,” he said. “Dave Grohl being the drummer of Nirvana, another band I frequently listen to, it’s such a big impact on me because I love that grit and that raw rock-and-roll sound. Alternative and Indie-rock is what East 9th primarily plays, and we’ve covered Foo Fighters songs.”
When asked what Dave Grohl Alley represents, Walters described the alley as a symbol of home to him.
He elaborated that it’s, “Always the goal when being a musician is you want to be that touring rock-star and having that so close to home is almost like a beacon to symbolize this is where I came from. This is the dude that came from the same area and did it first.”
Walters also expressed that as a musician it shows promise and reward that, “It’s a place to remember and go back to, and maybe get an alley of my own, if ever possible, if I ever make it onto such a grand stage in the way that Dave has.”
Jarrett feels that the area has been given “a spotlight,” thanks to Grohl. “The Youngstown music scene has always been so diverse and versatile.” He went on to mention The Summit Radio Station who have highlighted the Warren/Youngstown area and that, “Dave Grohl is always a name that’s tossed around with such like, praise, and high authority; Dave Grohl Alley, and Dave Grohl himself have done such a great job doing that, because I know he’s proud of where he comes from.”
Dave Grohl Alley, and Dave Grohl himself have inspired more than just the music scene. They have both helped the local businesses and retailers in Warren. Back in 2016, Dave Grohl had visited his alley and visited several shops like All American Cards & Comics, and even The Box Gallery, a tattoo shop located on the alley.
The sign leading to the infamous alley. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coss
I spoke to Aaron Chine, owner and tattoo artist at The Box Gallery. He hasn’t seen too much walk-in traffic, but, “We see people and talk to people everyday in the alley that are just coming through to see the alley,” he said. “It’s kind of a cool place for people to get together, and where artists can show their artwork.”
However, something I noticed on my trip to the alley was the amount of trash and litter lying about. I had contacted Warren City Maintenance about it – they simply told me they were not responsible for the alley. I asked Chine about the alley’s upkeep, to which he responded, “It’s not unkempt by the city – it’s been pretty roots up at this point, but it’s not necessarily the businesses down here, it’s more of the artists. Artists from all over, but mainly local, but from Youngstown also who kind of contribute the artwork and we kind of take care. Trumbull Art Gallery was doing it for a while, but they haven’t done it for years, so it’s kind of just up to the artists at this point.”
As far as the alley being kept up, it seems no one really wants to accept responsibility for it, which is sad to hear as a Warren City resident who has seen numerous streets covered in trash. To hear that Dave Grohl Alley would become the same if not for local artists and the shopkeepers hurts.
As far as the experience, I didn’t necessarily feel safe there. I am a 20-year-old woman who carries a taser on me wherever I go – the walk up to the alley left me gripping the taser in my pocket. When I entered the alley, I relaxed a bit more and felt comfortable amongst the bright colors of the graffiti and spray paint. I also felt relaxed by the lights coming off of the businesses in the alley, like Modern Methods Brewing.
I felt drawn into the shops and wanted to know more about where I was. However, it pained me to turn around and blankly stare at a parking garage and a Burger King. The enjoyment of small, local owned industry that was housed in buildings older than I lost some of its charm in the backdrop of modern civilization. But looking back, I still felt like I was enjoying my time. To see these sculptures and paintings dedicated to a man who has made it big from a small time city, known for its lack of luster and hard earned grit, filled me with pride. Even though it was not the prettiest area, it still felt like home.