Michael Pozega heard too many stories about his friends' teenaged children having to drive to Cleveland or Akron to see bands featuring their classmates, who also drove an hour or more to get to the gigs.
"They would pile into a car to go to these battle of the band gigs," Pozega said. "House of Blues, Peabody's, they're all over the place up there, but there's nothing around here."
The Girard native is looking to change that with Zeke's Upstairs Theatre, which opens this weekend in the city's former Masonic Lodge at 34 S. State St.
On Saturdays the venue will be an all-ages club featuring predominantly high school and college bands.
"As soon as I let the idea out, I had four weeks of bookings solid within two days," he said. "That's three bands per night."
The first concert will feature All's Well (Cody Woodley, Peter Burger, Kyle Forward and William Lauth) from Niles, Solar Pilots (Solomon Mancino, Zeke Setzer and Ryan Baker) from Howland and headliner Darling Waste from Cleveland. Local musician Jimmy Martin, host of the podcast "The Jimmy Fro Show," will serve as DJ between acts and will conduct interviews with the bands.
Darling Waste has played more than 500 shows in 11 countries, and its music has been featured on programs on MTV and VH1. Pozega said the band offered to play for free to get exposure in this market and for the opportunity to sell its merchandise.
Most of the acts at Zeke's will be local, and Pozega said he is trying to give the bands a more fair deal than they get in bigger cities. For those Cleveland battle-of-the-bands shows, the act usually gets to keep only $1 from each ticket it is required to sell.
Pozega said the bands will get $3 from each $8 ticket they sell, and the bands keep 100 percent of the money from any merchandise sales.
The Upstairs Theatre has a capacity of about 100 people, and there's also a main floor room that will feature pool tables, foosball, air hockey, arcade games and refreshments and can hold another 100 people.
"We don't have alcohol, so we can allow all ages," Pozega said. "We want to keep a safe environment. The main thing is to get something going for our kids."
While the Saturday concerts will be all ages, the space will host dances on Fridays, which will be open only to teenagers and will feature teen DJs. It is available for private functions the rest of the week.
Most of the bands booked so far play indie /alternative fare, Pozega said, although he is planning on featuring metal bands once a month. But the musical direction of Zeke's will depend primarily on what the audience wants and supports.
The bands starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, and doors open at 6 p.m. For booking information, call Pozega at 330-398-3287.