Walking up to Fifth Third Field, you will notice the usual fanfare of Dragons shirts, jerseys, hats that people will be proudly displaying as they enter the ballpark. There will be the folks walking up and down the sidewalks. Some with large groups of other individuals. Some simply walking solo. The area around Fifth Third Field is starting to really come back to life. For a period of time, the area surrounding the minor league stadium was dormant. What were empty, decaying buildings are now becoming and/or transitioning to restaurants and shopping centers. What was the old Buckeye Brass & Iron Foundry in the 30s is now residence to Warped Wing Brewery, one of the fastest growing breweries around the area. New luxury apartments are starting to pop up-giving more of an excuse for people to continue to move closer into the city. Also seeing some new life being up into it is the formally known Canal Street Tavern. Currently under the name Canal Public House, the music venue is merely steps away from the ballpark. When you come down on weekends this summer before the first pitch, you will find singer/songwriter Steve Makofka playing the piano.
For the past couple of years, Makofka has been also going through some changes within his life. During this time, he has become more involved in the music scene and has released his debut EP Back To Normal. Makofka went in to record Back To Normal in December of 2013 at F.M. Records in Dayton, Ohio. The recording of the EP only took an all-day session, Makofka mentioned. Makofka was able to record the EP so quickly was mostly in part with the band that he assembled. Local Dayton musicians guitarist Todd theFox, bassist Chris Barnett, drummer Jay Madewell have all backed Makofka throughout the open mics around Dayton, including the now departed RnR Playdate. The group played the songs that are on the EP during the allotted times during the events. The familiarity is also the reason that the band was chosen. “I had to use those musicians is because I felt like the songs themselves would have suffered without the chemistry…the songs, the music, the style-all grew up together with those people,” Makofka said.
Makofka officially moved to the Dayton area in 2000. Originally residing in the outskirts of Atlanta, Makofka took a minister position at a church in Centerville. For 25 years, Makofka followed his passion for ministry after attending Grace College. For 25 years, Makofka taught and guided others through his instruction and faith. He would prepare couples for marriage as being their counselor. He would be involved with events within the congregation. Over time, however, Makofka decided to step down. Makofka’s enjoyment of teaching and helping while being in the ministry life led him to go into substitute teaching for a period of time. Nevertheless, playing music and performing became Makofka’s love.
To some, they view Makofka’s music as his way to continue being able to preach. To Makofka, he sees it at a different vision. To him-the simple pleasures of playing and the connecting with people are what really drives his music.
The concept of Makofka’s introspective EP Back To Normal explores and summarizes the past four years of his life. From working small stints at Kings Island to the housewares department at a retail store during a holiday season to working in a music store influenced the old school country, honky tonk opener “Something Else”. “Back To Normal Blues” has Makofka coming to the realization that the way life was will not be coming back (I can’t get what I want/And I guess that’s just too bad/If I can’t get what I want I’ve got to learn to want what I have). “February In Dayton”, the acoustic tune which highlights Makofka’s stellar play on the accordion, talks of the feelings we all experience during the winter season. Shaun O’Shaugnessy, who was the engineer of the EP, allows Makofka and company the freedom to be raw and unpolished. Just the way the band played these songs at the open mics around Dayton. “I wanted to capture that on this album”, Makofka explained.
The road of life hasn’t been the straight and narrow that Steve Makofka thought it would be. The year’s post-ministry life have thrown him more curveballs than a Major League baseball pitcher tosses at an opposing batter. However, Makofka has found happiness and joy through his love of making music and performing them to live audiences.
Performing especially to those that will be walking up to the ballpark on those gorgeous summer nights this year.