The East End was buzzing Friday night as it took a step back to an earlier time when the East End Festival was about the music and not an outdoor meat market. There were still plenty of quality cuts strolling about, but it was the excellent music line-up that made the night.
I started out with Amanda Lee Peers and The Driftwood Sailors, who have officially transitioned from dreamy acoustic mysticism to full-out rock. I kind of miss the minor melancholy but dug the bluesy attack a la "Houses of the Holy." Next it was the JJ Lang Band as it kissed the sky with its big engine chugging beneath Lang's vocal arrows. The Natalie B Band stomped through some bluesy boogie as the sun sank behind. It brought to mind some Big Joe Turner lyrics to mind (call me at the office and I'll sing 'em to you).
Blackened Blues broke out the hip-hop-rock hybrid with some Roots Collider in its ranks and the kids couldn't sit still. Same went for Audio Influx as the band burned the groovy soul well into the evening for the beer- and sun-soaked crowd.
It's not like they're pickling their bodies in alcohol or making arrangements to join Walt Disney and Ted Williams in frozen limbo, but at this rate let me Jimmy the Greek it for ya: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are gonna be here forever. If the fork in the road gives you a choice of either The E Street Band or The Asbury Jukes, juke it, baby. The road may be rougher and tougher, but there is still rock 'n' roll paradise to be found when you get there.
It's basically a barroom-rock outfit -- the soundtrack to come-ons, fist fights, and nine-ball. The band is relentless, as demonstrated Thursday night at the first dry night of the season for Party in the Park. Southside Johnny's vocals were a little ragged, but that just added more twist and torque to the gut wrench. It was a bit loud (I could hear it from Broad Street), but when it's good, loud is a plus.
The band's un-self-aware joy was illustrated by periodic jumping around -- not like ninjas or methodically cool rock 'n' roll stars with their screw face and gunfighter stance, but as 4-year-olds taking utter delight in the beat. An estimated 2,500 people or so braved the cool, rejoicing in the blue sky and the righteous blue-eyed soul.
I'm amazed -- even scared a little -- of the fragility of the path that led me to something I love. If I hadn't been someplace in particular at a particular time I never would have met so-and-so, or experienced such-and-such. Hell, I almost didn't meet my wife, and that would've sucked.
So, on Friday night me and the toe-headed Pink Flamingess were taking our time getting to CMAC in the persistent drizzle. Opening bands weren't our concern; headliners The Lumineers were. If we had dragged our asses or hung out in the parking lot with the beer-helmet crowd we would have missed Richmond, Virginia's J Roddy Walston and the Business -- and that would've sucked, too. With a hint of N'awlins swagger and sweet heat, Walston and his ragged denim crew parked themselves in and around the other bands' gear and proceeded to slay the damp and shivering hipster dragon with some down-home, rough-and-raw rock 'n' roll.
Walston's voice was amazingly soulful but lacked the trappings of a soul-singer as he swept the piano keys with long hair and nimble fingers. And the band's grasp of classic strains was only bested by its equally impressive harnessing of its warm, crunchy tone. Kind of Allman Brothers, kind of Black Crowes -- or Black Oak Arkansas -- kind of Dr. John, kind of pretty great. I can't wait to see this band again.
L.A.'s Cold War Kids followed. Short answer: they sucked. Long answer: they write very interesting tunes with a lot of dynamics and clever hooks, it's just the sound that sucked eggs. The bass was so subsonic and loud I almost shit myself. It completely drowned out everything else on stage. The audience seemed to enjoy hearing songs they recognized (when they could recognize them, I suppose), but I can't be the only one that was there plugging my ears and running for the porta-potty.
It's got to be The Lumineers' sincerity and lack of fanfare that has won the band its fans. Now, I'm not saying that rock concert pageantry is dead. But it is nice to hear and see a band that has perfected its music and lets the components of the old song and dance fall where they may. For instance, the band didn't hold on to its mega-hit "Ho Hey" until the end of the set, like you'd expect. And all the musicians on stage seemed to be playing for each other as much as for the packed CMAC shell.
The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival announced today that Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings -- one of the most buzzed-about acts at this year's festival - has cancelled its upcoming album release and touring schedule for this year due to Jones' recent diagnosis of stage one bile-duct cancer. The band will not be performing its free concert as part of the Jazz Fest on June 28.
Instead the James Hunter Six will take the 9 p.m. slot at the East & Alexander stage, with blues singer Shemekia Copeland taking the 7 p.m. slot.
The full press release follows:
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings Cancel Album Release and Touring For 2013 - Including Appearance at Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest on June 28
Health Concerns Necessitate Postponement
James Hunter Six to Play at 9PM -- Shemekia Copeland Added to Lineup at 7PM
Both Concerts Free!
Rochester, NY--June 3, 2013--Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings announced today, that plans to tour and release their upcoming album in 2013 have been postponed.
According to her tour management, "Sharon Jones, who was scheduled to perform at a free concert at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival on June 28 at 9PM, has been diagnosed with stage-one bile duct cancer, which has fortunately been discovered early and has not spread. It is expected that the immediate proposed surgical solution will lead to a full recovery, but because of its invasive and complex nature, will necessitate a rather lengthy convalescence. A new release date and rescheduled tours worldwide will be announced at a later date."
The James Hunter Six, previously scheduled for 7PM on June 28th, will now play at 9PM. Added to the schedule, now performing at 7PM on the 28th, will be two-time Grammy nominee, Shemekia Copeland. Both are free shows on the City of Rochester East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage presented by Rochester General Health System.
John Nugent, Producer and Artistic Director for XRIJF said, "We send Sharon our very best wishes for good health and a speedy recovery on behalf of the festival and all her fans here in Rochester. She will be missed and we hope that she will be able to join at a future festival."
In a statement, "Sharon would like her fans to know that she is anxious to get back on her feet, and that she is "down, but not out!" Give The People What They Want will NOT be released on Aug 6, 2013 as previously scheduled."
Jones said, "Over the last few weeks I haven't felt good and I didn't know what was going on. We sadly had to cancel shows while I went through a series of tests and short hospital stays. We just found out that I have a stage-one tumor on my bile duct. Luckily we caught it really early and fast and the doctors say it's operable and curable! I will be having surgery very soon and will have to rest and recover. I'll be staying in touch and keeping my fans and friends updated on my progress. I'm looking forward to getting back on the road to give the people what they want!"
Guest conductor Tito Munoz pulled out all the stops Thursday night as he conducted the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps" ("The Rite of Spring"). The musicians of the orchestra filled the stage, including no fewer than 10 kettledrums and a gong struck by a huge mallet. It was precisely the kind of chandelier-rattling sound Stravinsky intended, and it left me wondering why the word "spring" appears anywhere in the title. It was clear that Munoz not only knows, but loves this iconic piece by Stravinsky.
Also on the program, which will be repeated on Saturday night, was "Finding Rothko" by American composer Adam Schoenberg (b. 1980). Part of the 15-minute work inspired by painter Mark Rothko is available for previewing on the composer's website (AdamSchoenberg.com). Some of the longer, sustained notes captured the majestic emotions a viewer experiences when standing in a gallery, viewing Rothko's canvases. But was the piece true to Rothko, the artist? You'll have to let me know your thoughts, because I can't say I would ever have thought to use, for example, a triangle or the upper registers of metal xylophones to express either his work, particularly post-1947, or to describe my own reaction to his work. It was an interesting piece to hear, particularly on the same program as the Stravinsky.
The long work of the program was the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 in d-minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 30, a work in three movements, of approximately 45 minutes in length. At the piano was Leonardo Colafelice, 17 years old, and the gold medalist of the 2012 Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition, among other global piano contests.
Colafelice's performance raised every question associated with a young musician, competitions, and the bridge from competitions to professional orchestras. There is a line of argument in the classical-music world that puts these monster concertos on the "approved" list for contestant selection. There is a thrill among audiences who revel in watching a young person with hands blurred as they dash up and down the keyboard. There's even a willingness for some to say that they don't care if a young musician has missed notes because, "Just imagine how good it will be." And there can be an unheralded talent at the baton, when a conductor understands working with a young musician who is a guest soloist.
The issue I debated last night was whether to write a review considering Colafelice's age, or whether to write a review as if I didn't know how old he is. What I can say, having followed his performances during the competitive and final rounds in last year's Eastman competition, is that Colafelice is demonstrating measurable growth as a pianist. It is clear that he engages in disciplined practice and it is abundantly clear that his stage presence reflects the many, well-deserved bows taken by this young man.
But, I am going to raise the question of programming for Colafelice. Rachmaninoff is, by my sensibilities, the God of composers for the piano. Rachmaninoff is so much more than a beautiful melody or a flash of hands or the lowest of notes. Rachmaninoff is about artistry and about the complexity of emotions, especially love.
The opening theme, which repeats several times, is deceptive. It is a single note, the same in each hand. And yet, it is exquisite as a melody with phrasing. Each of those repetitions should be blocked off and pulled out and considered. What is the relationship of one to the next? What has happened in between to advance the story? Where will it eventually culminate, and how do you use the earlier presentations to build toward that end? The melody, most especially the first time it is played, is not a simple line of individual notes.
Another early consideration for any soloist with an orchestra is the relationship of the instrument to the orchestra. Just because the soloist is out in front does not stop the soloist from having to learn the complete score. So, for example, in the latter part of the first movement, there is a conversation between the piano, the flute, and the oboe. These three instruments should be speaking with each other and wrapping each other's sounds into a blend that pulls the orchestra along with it.
And so yes, I agree, I look forward to hearing Colafelice perform the Rachmaninoff third piano concerto some years hence. But, for me, on Thursday night the gap was too wide between a performance in a competition of peers, and a performance with a professional orchestra of the RPO's caliber.
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will repeat the program Saturday, June 1, 8 p.m. at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St. Tickets cost $15-$82. For more information visit rpo.org.
'Twas damp and cool within the Bug Jar's walls Wednesday night as a damp and hot Clockmen banged on the beautiful crowd like a brass-knuckled Basilio with a body bag. I've seen these cats a number of times, and this show's particularly ragged onslaught was one of the best. Recently the phrase "food-truck rodeo" has popped up in our lackadaisical lexicon. And I got to thinking: The Clockmen are the soundtrack to a truck rodeo where larger-than-life dudes in big hats wrestle Mustangs and Broncos and Rams, and busty midget cowgirls on horseback fire confetti cannons and firehoses hooked up to tanks of Genesee Cream Ale, and monkeys with jetpacks fly a...
Anyway, the band's superiority is a result of its raw imperfections. At one point the bass and drums seemed to be playing at different time signatures. If this wasn't on purpose, it still sounded pretty cool. The set was loud and urgent, and slightly celebratory as it was announced that a little Clockman is due in November.
After that set the four members of Fox Force 5 took the stage for the band's highly anticipated world debut. All musicians know that you can only have one first time. You can have a pile of crappy shows, a pile of great shows, but that vertigo-inducing belly flop you get from popping your bandstand cherry only happens once. I was thrilled to see and feel this new punk outfit's utter glee as it raged through its raunchy set. The tightening up I was initially going to say the band needed actually happened while it was on stage. Give 'em a listen, they'll rock your pants. The hard part's over.
Wednesday night the sky looked like one big black eye as I moseyed the grey ghost downtown. I had heard word from my buddy Jason (he's the one who turned me onto Morphine) that North Carolina knockout Nikki Hill simply had to be seen. I dove into the fracas she was creating at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and was promptly blown away. So was the crowd who clapped thunderously between thunderclaps.
The crowded dance floor was in a rapid boil. This was some of the best r&b-injected, soul-ified kick in the blues I have ever heard. Hill commanded the stage perched on sparkly mules and beneath a sky-high turban channeling the sweet 'n' sour bouquet of switchblades that was once held by Etta James.
Hill's voice was sweet with just a hint of ragged rust that shone through whenever she leaned on a note. This was like a less punk-careening , more authentic-leaning Detroit Cobras. Her band was top notch as it wove through a set of awesome originals, punctuated by some Little Richard, Otis Redding, Irma Thomas, and so on.
Between sets, I stood out in the parking lot with the band discussing its expert take on TarheelSlim's "Number 9 Train." How do you like that? I thought me and Steve Grills were the only ones around who cared about Tarheel Slim.
Nikki Hill returns to Rochester to play Abilene in July. Be there, I'm warning you. Hell, I'm gonna go twice.
UPDATE 5/21/13 to correct the spelling of Pat DiNizio's name.
The Slackers are just so cool. The Bug Jar was like a Frigidaire when these Brooklyn cats rolled through town to rock steady last Thursday night. The band's groove is punctuated by an understated beat; it hits your hips and feet but never clobbers you over the head. And sure the groove is a solid, mid-tempo, pulsing ska, but elements like David Hillyard's funky phrasing, hint at much more. The band sounded fantastic, though I would have dug a few more selections off its "Redlight" CD.
Friday afternoon marked my first plunge of the year into the sea of flowers and fried dough that is the Rochester Lilac Festival. Mikaela Davis was on stage with her abbreviated band and her mysteriously captivating sound. Davis' harp dwarfed its diminutive master as she coaxed a wash of electric, eclectic color from the instrument. It was further complimented by some colorful guitar accents and trills that in spots sounded psychedelic. Her overall sound was gentle and sweet. This is what I imagine lilacs sound like.
After Davis' dewy delights, came the sweat, leather, and denim of the upstate troubadours in The Brian Lindsay Band. As I've said many times before, Lindsay is our version The Boss -- imagine "Darkness on the Edge of Smugtown." Lindsay and his tight band of outlaws were loud and solid and rocking with a set of hard-hitting Americana, celebrating where we stomp, hang our hats, pick up our women, and brag about all of it. And there's just something about a Telecaster turned up and banged on and twanged on by a man with something to say.
Power-chord masters from New Jersey The Smithereens followed with a cool set of hits opening with "Only A Memory" and closing with "A Girl Like You" with plenty of nods to The Beatles and The Who, along with the band's own lengthy catalogue in a generous 90-minute set. The guitars were big and loud and front man Pat DiNizio -- also big and loud -- still has his smooth baritone intact, and was a charming host as the crowd lapped it up in the glow of the setting sun.
Made it back to the festival one more day to see Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys play some simply perfect Western swing. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts and cowboy boots, the band was the stylistic equivalent of the sound on stage. Guitarist Ashley Kingman was on fire as the band wove in and out of its 25-year catalogue, playing for the rug-cutters who adapted to the grass and dandelions.
[ Slideshow ] Lilac Festival 2013
Friday night marked the first part of The David Mayfield Parade's two-night stand at Abilene. By the time I made the scene the place was packed and sufficiently lubricated on Genny, Jim, and Jack, and show openers The Tarbox Ramblers' opening set was full of lowdown, drop-tune, and swampy Beantown voodoo.
The headliners from Columbus, Ohio, kicked off in high gear, playing hella loose and reckless, and succeeded in winding things up high and tight like a first-time inmate's haircut. Mayfield's guitar work is utterly brilliant and mad in a sort of demolition-derby way. It sounds as if the guitar can't make up its mind, or has ideas of its own as the frets shout at Mayfield's fingers, "Go here; no, go here. That's right, now here. That's it, that's it. Now doesn't that sound cool?"
Cool collided with beautiful when, toward the end of the set, Mayfield and his stage-right bottle-blonde vocalist ventured into the crowd to harmonize a gorgeous lament over each other's honky-tonk heart.
Saturday night was a big surprise as I discovered a fantastic Rochester singer/songwriter named Jeremy Laurson as he played at Tala Vera. Backed by a thrown-together-yet-capable back-up band made up of members of Meta Accord and Moon Zombies, Laurson went from hook-laden heavy pop to gentle-as-the-dust-in-the-air salvos. His guitar work was efficient and interesting but hard to classify (in a good way). It was understated and casual, leaving room for the material to swell sweet bordering on epic in its impact.
From the jungles of Vermont, Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck rolled into town and followed Laurson's killer set with a banjo- and guitar-driven set that riffed heavy with the ghost of Dylan floating between the lines.
Drove the Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry, so I drove the Caddy to The Dinosaur and stumbled in as The Teressa Wilcox Band was sinking its teeth into Lucinda Williams' "Joy," with blood running from its grin down its chin. Sure, it's Wilcox who all the eyeballs gravitate toward. But every single player up on that stage is a major-league heavy hitter.
The audience at Thursday night's Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra performance (Peter Bay, guest conductor) was treated to a "sound bath" - there is no other way to describe the beautiful and interesting composition "From Me Flows What You Call Time," by Toru Takemitsu, performed with NEXUS percussion ensemble. Paired with Karen Tanaka's "Water of Life," this is a must-hear concert.
The first half of the program was only the Takemitsu work, and it deserved to stand alone. The stage was filled with the orchestra musicians, as well as the five percussionists of NEXUS. Each of the percussionists occupied a large space. Two percussionists were in multi-sided, multi-rowed sound cages filled with all sizes and types of bells, gongs, cymbals, drums, wood blocks, wooden jiggers, and rain sticks. These areas were approximately 7' high by 6' wide per side. The middle percussionist had xylophone and, primarily, several large steel drums. The two back percussionists had xylophones and more bells, gongs, and cymbals. On each front wing of the stage was a tall, wide bar, supporting more than 20 long chimes. The metal instruments were made of all types of metals, thickness, shape, and sizes. And each percussionist used a variety of mallets.
NEXUS was a feast for the eyes, as well as the ears. Each percussionist moved as if taking part in a water ballet. The entire arc of their bodies was part of the creation of the sound. At one point, percussionist Bill Cahn created the loudest sound of the work, a sort of rolling thunder on a huge cymbal that began with the smallest of movement, but rose gently and surely through larger and larger movements, creating more and more sound until it started to recede to where he was barely moving, even as the smallest of sounds still penetrated to the upper reaches of the hall.
The Tanaka piece "Water of Life" was a world premiere with the composer in the house. Like the Takemitsu work, the Tanaka piece captured nature with perfection. I could just as easily have closed my eyes and believed I was standing at the shore, so closely did the music emulate both the surface and the undersea experience. Even so, each composer's work was distinct. The Takemitsu composition was as highly abstract as wind, while the Tanaka composition had a sufficient blending of recognizable elements to give it a more grounded, standing-at-water's-edge feeling.
As per the program notes, Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) was a Japanese composer. Karen Tanaka was also born in Japan (b. 1961). The Takemitsu piece was inspired by a poem, "Clear Blue Water" by Makoto Ooka, and the Tibetan "Wind Horse." The Tanaka piece found inspiration from the Biblical reference to the water of life, and is a prayer for the tsunami victims in Japan.
The RPO always impresses me when it takes on these grand works that couldn't possibly have a readable score. Works that seem to lack the Western version of a metronome tick-tocking.Works that depart, or maybe never begin, with classical form. And, while there has been much intentional public relations coming out of the RPO to advertise its purpose in seeking out lesser-known composers, what I would say is look for more of these spectacular, memorable works from anywhere around the globe and then allow your audience to say, "I want to hear more of that."
I was not, however, as "joyeuse" with the performance of the French composers' works on the program. By Maurice Ravel, there was "Menuet antique" and "Le Tombeau de Couperin," and by Lili Boulanger, there was "D'un matin de printemps" (On a Spring Morning). My first consideration was whether these pieces were an appropriate pairing with the Takemitsu and Tanaka because, as performed, the styles were too different. My second comment is that I was not convinced as to the performances being in the true style of the composers, the eras, or the opportunities for performance idioms that could have used a more French romantic interpretation to generate a more cohesive overall concert.
The RPO will perform the program again Saturday, May 11, 8 p.m. at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St. $15-$82. RPO.org.
Was it Tuurd? or perhaps Craap?
Nevermind that another band was on the lineup that night. Thanks.
real glee the show?
Don't forget Little Ann!