Tracey Thomas invites friends and fans to join her in celebrating her first 40 years of music-making in and around Akron with a concert at Jilly’s Music Room on Thursday, Aug. 11. The show will be chock full of music, memories and special guests from the early days of the “Akron Sound.”
Thomas is an Akron Sound pioneer and the former front-woman of Unit 5 who has spent decades crafting her music.
The Akron Sound began in the 1970s and continues today and reflects the raw, industrial soul of a city that has seen better days but perseveres because it hopes its best days are yet to come.
The Akron Sound, like the city it comes from, has birthed a few musical legends. Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders and Devo each produced their own versions of that sound and became internationally famous household names.
They weren’t they only ones producing the Akron Sound, though. In the 1970s and ‘80s, there was a thriving, tight-knit community of musicians collaborating and inspiring one another to tell their stories – Akron’s stories – through their art.
One such musician is Thomas, whom I asked to reflect upon her career. She mused, “Well, 40 years passed in a blink of an eye. I can say that my most fond memories are of the Akron Sound days when we were all like one big family making music and going to each other’s shows. We had such a strong, hip underground community. It was kind of magic and I’m glad to have been part of that scene. Some of my favorite artists from then are still relevant today, either as solo artists or still in bands…Robert Kidney (Numbers Band) Tin Huey, Hammer Damage.”
Thomas has enduring relationships with her Akron Sound family. Over the years many of them have scattered, but they always return to their Akron roots to reminisce and recapture the magic of the time.
Thursday, Aug. 11, will be such a night. Jilly’s Music Room at 111 N. Main St. in Akron will host Thomas and many special guests for an anniversary celebration that is not to be missed.
She adds, “I have a lot of special guests for this show. Marc Lee Shannon from Michael Stanley’s Band, a couple of my old Unit 5 mates, my nephew Ryan (Williams) from Red Sun Rising and lots of surprises. A lot of cool people will be up and down all night. There will be a storyteller vibe. While the musicians are up and down, all over the place I am going to talk about the songs.”
The celebration will continue at Jilly’s in September. She has a show Sept. 9 with sax players Ralph Carney and Terry Hynde. Carney has played with Tom Waits, Tin Huey and the B 52’s. Hynde has been with The Numbers Band since 1968. To demonstrate the interconnectedness of the scene, Hynde is Chrissie Hynde’s brother, and Carney is uncle to modern day Akron Sound success story and The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney.
Akron is crawling with young musicians hustling to get their music heard and make a name for themselves. I asked Thomas what words of wisdom she has for them. She responded, “I’m going to hit you with the most clichéd advice for up and coming musicians who want to someday have a 40th anniversary show. Don’t do anything ‘just because.’ If you don’t feel it in the deepest part of your being, you are wasting your passion. Sometimes I forget where I stop and the music starts. I feel so connected and it’s so naturally a part of me that I feel like I’m just a floating wave of sound. Music isn’t something you can fake. You either get it or you are creating pop dance hits for money. Either way is OK, but I prefer creating for the sake of creating and digging really, really deep.”
Clichéd or not, she has taken Akron Sound devotees along on her musical wave ride for 40 years. By following her own advice, she’s succeeded in living her dream with her fellow Akron Sound pioneers and welcoming to the family those who wish to follow.
To learn more about Tracey Thomas, go to https://www.facebook.com/traceythomasmusic/?fref=ts.
For more information about Thomas’ Thursday, Aug. 11 show at Jilly’s Music Room, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1274860749191688/.