David Grohl Alley celebrates 10 years
In all of the years I’ve been doing entertainment, I’ve heard countless great ideas for projects in the Mahoning Valley that never happened.
Many of them had a greater probability for success and would have been easier to accomplish than getting an alley in downtown Warren dedicated to Dave Grohl and getting the guest of honor to show up at the dedication ceremony.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the dedication of that alley, a day in which Grohl surprised many by showing up, receiving a key to the city, toasting the David Grohl Alley street sign with a swig from a bottle of champagne and a performing for a crowd of about 1,000 people. In addition to playing a three-song acoustic set (“Times Like These,” “My Hero” and “Everlong”) of Foo Fighters’ favorites, he played drums with local act Love Turns Hate, keeping the beat on one of its originals as well as a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”
Grohl dedicated “My Hero” to Joseph O’Grady, whose hare-brained idea it was to rename the alley after a famous musician who was born in Warren in 1969 but moved to Virginia before he was 2 years old.
The idea O’Grady hatched after a barroom conversation with WNCD-FM DJ Fast Freddie Woak became a reality through persistence, determination, hard work and a lot of dumb luck.
It helped that he decided to honor a celebrity who maintains a reputation for being a truly nice guy. I remember Grohl telling the press that day that he would look like the biggest jerk in the world if folks went to that much trouble and he didn’t bother to show up.
That may be true, but a lot of people would have sent a note of thanks and stayed home. Instead, Grohl got on a plane and said all the right things.
“This was one of my most favorite places in the world,” he told the crowd in 2009. “I am very, very proud to have this and to be from here because I know I can always come back here and be home.”
He always speaks fondly of the recognition when asked about it, and he even brought his daughters to see the alley in 2015 after Foo Fighters played a concert at KeyBank Pavilion in nearby Burgettstown, Pa.
There have been several positive ripple effects from the alley.
Ask anyone who lives downtown or has a business there, it has brought visitors to the area — from around the country and from other countries too.
I feel confident in saying, if the alley didn’t exist, Foo Fighters probably wouldn’t have picked Record Connection in McKinley Heights for its 2015 Record Store Day concert for 150 lucky fans, an event that attracted international coverage from arts / entertainment publications and websites.
I bet Modern Methods Brewing Company wouldn’t have located in the alley if it was in its pre-2009 condition either.
That said, walking through the alley today, the shine of 2009 has faded.
There have been some great additions — Dan Plant’s steel sculpture of Grohl behind the drum kit, Aaron Chine’s murals painted on the brick, the musical notes along the guardrail at the west end of the alley — but some of the original artwork is badly weathered and needs to be replaced.
Some of the large photographs of Grohl currently on display at Trumbull Art Gallery as part of the concert photography exhibition “First Three Songs, No Flash: From Hometown Heroes to Hall of Famers” will be donated to the alley after the exhibition closes on Aug. 24, and they were sized to fit all-weather frames purchased with a grant acquired by Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.
However, TNP has more frames available, and the alley needs more than those photos.
Next year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be in Cleveland. It appears Foo Fighters won’t make its first appearance on the ballot until the following year, but the band is likely to be selected in one of its first years of eligibility. Grohl already is an inductee for his work with Nirvana, and for Nirvana and Foo fans making the trek to Cleveland, a visit to the alley is a short detour.
To quote a song from the Foo’s first album, “This Is a Call” to make the alley worth that trek.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at email@example.com.