“You Gotta Be Tough” was a popular T-shirt slogan worn by Clevelanders during the 1970s, a grim period marked by industrial decline, large-scale population flight and an urban environment so toxic the Cuyahoga River actually caught on fire. These days it still helps to be at least a little tough; a fiercely blue-collar ethos endures. But instead of abandoning the city, local entrepreneurs and bohemian dreamers alike are sinking roots; opening a wave of funky boutiques, offbeat art galleries and sophisticated restaurants; and injecting fresh life into previously rusted-out spaces. It’s a vibrant spirit best exemplified by Cleveland’s new all-female roller derby league, whose wry name, the Burning River Roller Girls, and home, a former GM auto factory retooled into a 60,000-square-foot sports facility, say it all.
1) HELLO CLEVELAND!
¶ Staring at platform shoes worn by Keith Moon or Elvis Presley’s white jumpsuit hardly evokes the visceral excitement of rock music, let alone its rich history, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (751 Erieside Avenue; 216-781-7625; www.rockhall.com; admission, $22) thankfully has a wealth of interactive exhibits in addition to its displays of the goofier fashion choices of rock stardom. There’s a fascinating look at the genre’s initial 1950s heyday, as well as the hysteria that greeted it — preachers and politicians warning of everything from its incipient Communist subversion to its promotion of wanton sexuality. On the top floors, a well-curated exploration of Bruce Springsteen’s career is on display through next spring.
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