Wednesday, March 26, 2014

CONCERT UPDATE: Lilac Fest announces three headliners

Rusted Root, The Original Wailers, and Eddie Money will perform free shows

Posted on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 5:09 PM

The Rochester Lilac Festival today announced three headliners for the 2014 edition of the festival, which will take place May 9-17 in Highland Park.

The concerts announced for the newly named CarMax Center Stage are:

-World-music/pop/jam act Rusted Root, which will perform Thursday, May 15.

-Reggae legends The Original Wailers, performing Saturday, May 17.

-Pop/rock act Eddie Money, he of the two tickets to paradise and taking you home tonight, who will play Sunday, May 18.

All concerts are free, as is admission to the festival.

The full 10-day concert lineup and schedule of events will be released on Monday, April 7. For more information visit

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Concert Review: The Greener Grass Band at Sticky Lips

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 4:04 PM

When asked, "What's up with the Filthy McNasty's?" the band's guitarist, Greg Cole, copped a big shrug coupled with a whaddaya-want-from-me? face. But put a guitar in the man's hands, along with a glass slide, and he knows exactly what to say.

Cole was guesting with The Greener Grass Band at Sticky Lips Thursday night. The room was in flux as I rolled up on the scene; dinner tables were being bussed and doggy bags were distributed as the late-night crowd transitioned into the room, libations in hand.

The Greener Grass Band is essentially a jam outfit with an obvious affinity for reggae. And with Cole parked and playing stage right, The Allman Brothers and ol' Slow Hand were prevalent as well. The band puts a lot of energy into its jams, with frequent dynamic emphasis as all on stage shouldered the groove and got down without over-playing or letting it get away from them. It was energy without the drama. Rock on.


Concert Review: RPO: Christopher Seaman, Berlioz, Beethoven, and Bruckner

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 9:58 AM

In a season filled with guest conductors, it was nice to head to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Thursday night with calm expectations for a pleasant evening, lead by RPO Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman. The program selected by Seaman included a massive Bruckner symphony, a Beethoven piano concerto, and a short Berlioz overture. In all, the audience left rewarded for its optimism.

Seaman was the music director of the RPO from 1998 to 2011, and is now its conductor laureate. He leads the RPO in one concert per year, otherwise traveling the globe as a guest conductor and teacher with more than 40 years of experience at the podium. In 2013, Seaman published "Inside Conducting," sharing his insights and experiences.

The primary work of the night was the Symphony No. 6 in A Major by Anton Bruckner (Austrian, 1824-1896). Bruckner is not a household name, though he should be. So much goes on through the orchestration; even in its most brooding passages, the pieces includes short, light, and airy motifs. Bruckner wrestles with the realms of spirituality with a constant reminder not to lose faith.

Seaman and the RPO have a way of pulling off these kinds of scores that makes an audience member feel as if she's never heard it before. Seaman is a master of tempo selection and he breathes deeply through long phrasing, much in the way that I thrilled at guest conductor Jun Märkl's interpretation of Mahler's "Titan Symphony" earlier this season. This level of interpretation entrances the audience.

And, again as with the Mahler, I pass out gold stars to those masters of the trumpet in the RPO brass section. Their tone was clean and clear, and their unison was exemplary. In terms of entrances and pulse, it simply doesn't get better than their execution.

Also on the program was the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19 (German, 1770-1827). I've put the composer's dates into this review because it's interesting to consider how much music evolved from Beethoven to Bruckner. The concert is worth attending for the juxtaposition of those two pieces alone.

The program notes indicate that the RPO first performed this Beethoven piano concerto with Glenn Gould at the keys, and I marveled at the thought of what that performance must have held for its audience. Unfortunately, this was indicative of where my sense of last night's performance came up short when listening to pianist Jon Kimura Parker. Parker is comfortable as a guest soloist and with the work, but, for me, it was missing a playfulness that I really like in some of Beethoven's works. This piano concerto is one that should evoke the high-handed humor of the court, even as it edges with sarcasm. A work like this should leave the audience feeling like it just watched opera, particularly at points where the piano lines play with instrument lines to create something akin to a competition of the witty and the vain.

Finally, the program started with a nine-minute "Roman Carnival Overture" by Hector Berlioz. From its opening, it was a pleasant reminder of Seaman's masterful selection of tempo and orchestration.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra repeats the program Saturday, March 8, 8 p.m. at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St. Tickets cost $15-$82. For more information visit the RPO website.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Concert Review: Jessy Carolina and the Hot Mess at Abilene

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Talk about a buzz; there was a big one coming from the Abilene hive Saturday night. I made the scene and wiped the steam off my cheaters to the dulcet tones of the Charlie Mitchell Quartet as it wound up its set by cruising through a creamy rendition of "Autumn Leaves." The group added a warm backdrop to the increasing chit-chat that reverberated off the walls.

Those walls were filled to bursting by the time headliner Jessy Carolina and the Hot Mess piled into its little corner. Teams of swing dancers warmed up and stretched while putting finishing touches on the moves they were soon to bust. Jess and the Mess kicked in and the dancers were off with a whole lot more up and down than side to side on account of there being practically no room to even stand.

The New York City ensemble pumped and wailed in a style that in the 1920's was referred to as "hot music" -- a heady cocktail of Tin Pan Alley, bluegrass, Dixieland and a pervading salaciousness and attitude that rebelled against polite society (namely Prohibition and prudish sexual mores). And man, Carolina can belt. Rubbing her belly board, she sang sweet like Holiday, cute like Boop, and loud as if shot out of a Southern diplomat's bullhorn.

Sadly, it was impossible to fully enjoy the show, as the band seems to have an inordinate number of fans over six feet tall, and who don't know how to shut up. The band was boisterous but frankly not loud enough, resisting the urge to ratchet up the volume. Viewing deficits aside, the band played a fantastic show.


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