The mid-90's music scene in Rochester was a blur: a whirling cascade of bands and clubs packed with fans, their iPhone-less hands in the air. Back then, a phone call — on a plain phone — cost a quarter. And it seems that the technology developed to promote bands wound up being their undoing. But before this unfortunate dichotomy, bands like The Raw Magillys roamed the earth in platform shoes, adding fun and an intense originality to the scene.
Like the cell phone, the roots-rock term "Americana" was in its infancy as well. But The Raw Magillys was just that: an Americana band blending psychedelic splendor with heavy rock guitar and dashes of accordion-fueled mirth and mischief. The band packed clubs like Milestones and Richmond's and recorded one album, "The Moon Gets High." It was raucous and fun, everything galore; and though the Raw Magillys's sound essentially defined the era, it sadly faded away, its members morphing into other bands or other parts of the country.
Until now. The Raw Magillys is back, Jack. And not just for a little self-indulgent, "Hey, remember when?" but rather, its back with shows and studio time booked and new members in place — the works.
Why did it end? When did it end? Nobody in the recently revived Magillys seems to know.
"Can we just say in days of yore?" asks lead singer and ringleader Heidi Magilly. Though she and her stage sister Hildi Magilly, along with drummer Roy Stein, are a little hazy on the original dates, they are clear on when it started up again.
"It fell into place by accident," Heidi says. "A good accident. Recently, when Hildi came back into town from Miami, we started jamming together. Then we started playing as a band. It sounded really, really good. And we realized how much we missed it. It all fell into place. It was as if we'd never stopped."
The Raw Magillys started practicing in earnest with new bassist Alex Goettel. Goettel was a perfect fit and he locked in with the drums — and the whole band — quick-like.
"And he can sing really, really well," Stein says.
Goetell hit the ground at full giddy-up.
"It was fun coming into a band that was so fully formed," Goetell says. "I try to describe the band's style to people and it just ends up with 'You've just got to check us out.'"
On stage, The Raw Magillys is aggressively friendly, antagonistic, and coy. Heidi's plugged-in squeezebox (named Waldo Ball) plays counterpoint to the band's secret weapon: Hildi's big, bad Les Paul. She wields it like a Viking. There are hints at hillbilly boogie and lingering expanses a la bands like The Stranglers and The Gun Club. And if that weren't sweet enough, the band passes out brownies and chocolate chip cookies to the crowd.
The future looms bright for this resurrected quartet ... so does the studio. But the live show is the thing right now with perhaps a more focused sound. According to Hildi, there's nothing the band won't try.
"I would hate to limit us because we could really do anything," she says, "as long as we Magilly-fi it."
And they love to play. Stein recalls a double bill one night with NRBQ. The band's horn section was all set to defect. "That's when their horn section asked to join our band," he says.
"That show was fantastic," Heidi says before Hildi adds, "It must have been, because I don't remember that."
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