Friday, March 27, 2020

The F Word: The uplifting side of live-streaming

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 9:00 AM

The same internet that’s been blamed for driving a wedge between musicians and audiences may be the very thing that saves our sanity and our souls. This is abundantly clear when you search the web and get inundated with new songs, one-on-one performances, and virtual windows connecting to those who are hurting as bad as you. The live-streaming feeds aren’t ideal, but they’ll do in a pandemic pinch.

The other night, there was nothing on TV so I found myself surfing the web, and I came across local pianist Bobby DiBaudo tickling the ivories on an original composition he called “The COVID-19 Blues.” It was beautiful. And though the times may call for a more rough ‘n’ tumble strain, “The COVID-19 Blues” is more of an ambling, W.C. Handy type of affair. It was truly a command performance, and nobody was there.

“It’s just that we are all cooped up in our houses,” DiBaudo says, “and my friends wanted me to play something and post it.”

I soon found myself on Danielle Ponder’s Facebook page, where she and keyboardist Avis Reese were laughing their way through “Proud Mary,” complete with choreography. Though they’re serious musicians, the obvious fun they were having was palpable and appreciated.

“We were just having the best time,” Ponder says. I think we didn't realize how much we needed that as well. We read everyone's comments and it really lifted our spirits.”

I left Ponder’s site for Geoff Dale and the Three Heads guys goofing and mugging for the camera. It was like reality TV for beer drinkers. They weren’t playing music — just fooling around, cracking each other up. But it was uplifting; when it comes to connecting online during the pandemic, you don’t even have to wait for a live-streaming concert.
Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The F Word: Musicians feel the pinch

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2020 at 12:49 PM

This past weekend, I didn’t go to the St. Patrick’s Day parade, with its doused-in-green, not-so-sober charade. Nor did I see Greg Townson do the duckwalk, with feeling on the ceiling. I didn’t go to London or France, so it’s safe to say I never saw anyone’s underpants. My cheers fell on deaf ears and bounced off empty halls’ walls. The Rochester music scene was a skeleton of itself. There was nothing to see, hardly.

In the coming weeks, a lot of musicians are gonna feel the hit from the panic surrounding the novel coronavirus. People are going to be wary about stepping out for a while, and there’s only so much you can do with a GoFundMe page. It’s gonna hit those in our music community for whom live performance is their lifeblood.

So I’m encouraging an impromptu “support Rochester musicians” initiative. Yeah, that’s the ticket. You can purchase their music online. Donate to virtual tip jars when musicians livestream their performances from home.  Maybe offer to pay for pizza delivery or dry cleaning, or whatever. PayPal can be a musician’s best friend. Who’s with me?

Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at

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Monday, March 9, 2020

The F Word: Say when

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2020 at 1:47 PM

Yeah, it was snowing sideways Friday night, so what? That wasn’t going to keep me from hearing pop-indie femme fatale Caroline Vreeland open for hipster-popsters Roses and Revolutions at Three Heads Brewing. In a sparkly dress that looked like she had poured herself into and forgot to say when, Vreeland snaked through the sold-out crowd to the stage.

Let me stop there to clear up a few things. Comparisons have been made with warblers like Nancy Sinatra and Patsy Cline, but that’s just lazy and it falls short of the mark. Nancy Sinatra can’t really sing, and Patsy sang more about being heartbroken than actually being a heartbreaker.

Vreeland is a heartbreaker who had the guts to open her 30-minute set with a noir-ish cover of “You’re the One That I Want.” That’s right, the tune from “Grease” — and it sounded great. She proceeded to treat the crowd with selections from her new album “Notes on Sex and Wine.”

Dispatches from the couch: I have to insist you check out the documentary “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band from Texas” on Netflix. The band talks about its 50-year anniversary with lots of vintage and live music footage. They may not be sportin’ sparkly dresses, but man, are they bad and nationwide.

Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at

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Monday, March 2, 2020

The F Word: Run from cover

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 1:00 PM

I’ve been kinda live and let live when it comes to tribute bands. Who are they hurting, really? Just because they didn’t write the song doesn’t mean they can’t play it accurately or in some compelling way.

However, the numbers are out of control, and I know it’s easy to spout off about musicians who perform other people’s music full-time. Low-hanging fruit, right? But these bands are setting listeners up for chronic complacency.

There are one-off “tribute shows” that come around once a year, and a lot of local artists get together to play the songs of a beloved musician. Quality and creativity still seem to predominate. Examples include the Dolly Parton tribute, Johnny Cash Birthday Bash and the recently performed Conor Oberst tribute show. Some tributes are monthly, such as the Son House night.

But while looking for some shows to see this week, I stumbled and kept stumbling upon tons of regularly performing, dedicated tribute bands. For now, I’m gonna give a pass to classical, jazz, and the blues, or we’d be here all night.

The following tribute bands (and several more) just played or are about to play in Rochester, so if you wanna go, here ya are. I won’t think any less of you: Big Martha (Allman Brothers); Zac Brown Tribute Band; Eric Carlin’s Half-Dead (Grateful Dead); Nile Singers: Floyd Fest (Pink Floyd); The Lizards (Phish); No Quarter (Led Zeppelin); and Start Making Sense (Talking Heads).

That said, my advice to cover artists who want to get out of this cult of copy is simple: take the lyrics from one song, mash them up with another song, and just rip-off the blues.

Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at

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