Just like the music it showcases, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means to stay stay bold and fresh.
Open just 2 1/2 years, this repository of rock is already undergoing major updating. The Hall of Fame -- one of its most popular sites -- will be four times bigger than the current space when it's finished in early April. And it will lose the current reverential tone dominated by backlighted glass panels etched with the signatures of its inductees.
While the renovation goes on, admission prices have been cut in half. Anyone planning a trip should wait until after April 3, when the new exhibit opens.
Though the popular glass panels will be incorporated into the new space, the Hall's centerpiece will be an explosive three-screen multimedia production created by Dreamchaser Productions of Dublin, Ireland, best-known for its work on U2's Zoo-TV and Pop Mart tours. The 20-by-80-foot screens will be covered with fast-moving film footage, music, interviews and animation. Also, computer kiosks, called the world's largest jukebox, will let visitors listen to virtually any song recorded by the Hall of Famers. New inductees include Fleetwood Mac, the Mamas and the Papas, Jelly Roll Morton and Santana.
The best place to start a visit is on the ground floor with the introductory film "Mystery Train," a metaphor for the earlier sounds of jazz, blues and country before this musical train picked up steam and emerged as rock 'n' roll.
As Muddy Waters puts it: "The blues had a baby and they called it rock 'n' roll."
Before visitors enter the theater, there is a warning that the second half of the film contains mature language and situations. What happens is that visitors move to another theater after the introductory portion and then parents can easily take their children out.
"I really appreciated having the option to leave," said Judith Kolko, who was visiting from Pittsburgh with
her husband, David, and their children, Rachel, 11, and Aaron, 9.
The family said they were enjoying their first visit, though Rachel said she found it confusing because there's so much to see.
Monitors beckon around every corner. Aretha Franklin is singing on one. Louis Armstrong is playing his horn on a second. And fans are screaming on a third as the Beatles make their initial romp through the United States.
There are quieter artifacts, too. A telegram to Bobby Darin in 1961 says: "We just heard tapes of your new album and are completely knocked out." The death certificate of 27-year-old Jim Morrison reads "Death of an American Citizen" with cause stated as "under investigation."
And there are performance outfits. There's Elvis Presley's infamous white jumpsuit "The King of Spades," also referred to as the "kitchen sink" because of everything that's on it. The gold lame tops and lace skirts worn by Martha and the Vandellas. The tap shoes worn by Phil and Don Everly during their boyhood dancing lessons.
Seeing these costumes and instruments, of viewing replays of concerts, of hearing favorite songs, gives a sense of the historic evolution of the music.
But more than that, it's a personal experience, with each visitor recalling where he was and who he was when he encountered the music that defined the lives of many.
"Oh, look how innocent he looks," said one woman as she saw Mick Jagger at a Rolling Stones concert.
Another, upon seeing an Elvis clip, said to her friend: "My mother loves Elvis. She'll watch him all day, all day. And I end up watching with her. I don't know why."
What: Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Where: East Ninth Avenue at Erieside Avenue. (Watch for signs on I-90 West.)
When: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday until 9 p.m. The gift shop remains open half an hour longer than the museum.
Admission: $14.95 for adults; $11.50 for seniors and children between 4 and 11.
Other information: There is a paid parking lot (with nearby disabled parking). Strollers are welcome and there are wheelchairs available. Cameras and videotaping equipment are not allowed; if you show up with photographic equipment, it will be checked in a box in the coat room. Coat checking, located on the ground floor, is free. Nearby is an ATM machine and restrooms. The Eat at the Beat Cafe offers light meals and a grand view of the ever-growing Cleveland skyline.
Parents can check at Visitor Information Services regarding exhibit content. The museum is wheelchair-accessible and elevators serve all levels. Closed captioning is available at its three main cinemas.
A visit to the museum can take between 3 1/2 and 4 hours, depending on how much reading and listening you do. If your feet and energy level are still willing, the William Mather Museum, which is in a lake freighter, beckons on one side with the Great Lakes Science Center on the other.
Telephone: The events line number is (888) 764-7625; Web site: www.rockhall.com