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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Monday, February 24, 2020

The F Word: Giddy-up

Posted By on Mon, Feb 24, 2020 at 3:05 PM

I kissed the canvas twice this weekend with two knockout shows, starting out with The Tragedy Brothers who plied and rectified their electrified Americana in front of a modest gathering at Three Heads Brewing. There was plenty of giddy-up from the stage spilling out onto the dance floor, from which cries of “Yahoo!” could be heard. This couldn’t prepare me for what I saw next at Skylark Lounge, as Kryst bludgeoned the packed room with a sexy-tractor-pull bump ‘n’ grind. In fact, the band scrambled my brain with the intense drive and surge. I recovered by the time I got home, but had to laugh when I read my notes: “This is a betal mand that contends ammands attention with sheer ca-rush, careen and kerrang.”

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

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The F Word: Up against the grind

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 9:44 AM

Last Friday night, while cruising around in my all-wheel drive, I found myself being pulled, being inexplicably drawn as if by a tractor beam to the Rosen Krown. There, a fairly impressive gathering of Rochester’s leather-clad, low-down-and-out were there to burn Cupid in effigy while The Grinders fiddled for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

This was a flashback to the mid-'90s, when the band dominated this overcast burgh with loud and snotty barroom rock ‘n’ roll, singing songs of teenage lust and petty crime. The show on this night starred guitarist Paul Morabito (Chesterfield Kings, The Moviees, and Lovematics), and featured songs from the Grinder hymnal — along with some Jethro Tull and the Stones — and ended in a fistfight. If you throw beer cans at the band, you get what you get. This is the kind of thing that happened back in the day — like the time I put Todd Grinder through Richmond’s ceiling during a show.

And hats off to my honey, who did the cell phone boogaloo and scored us two tickets to the Stones in June. So scratch another one off the bucket list.

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

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Monday, February 10, 2020

The F Word: the neighbor of the beast

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2020 at 5:49 PM

The Tin Man and I rolled out and into the upstate tundra Friday night to a gallery downtown, to give thanks and praise to the sensational photographer Aaron Winters. He shoots wildlife in the Serengeti region in Africa, risking life and limb; he also shoots wildlife on stage at concerts in Rochester, where there isn’t as great a risk of getting trampled in a stampede or becoming someone’s lunch. This photography show was for his African material, and I’ve got to say there’s two things that have me in awe: Winters’s precision shots, and the access the beasts afford him.

Later the same night,
The Iron Maidens entertained a sold-out audience at Montage Music Hall, playing all of the IM hits, like “Run to the Hills” and “2 Minutes to Midnight.” The Los Angeles-based band was polished and impressively tight. But it must be tough defining yourself with someone else's catalogue, especially in a genre in which pulchritude is not necessarily on-brand. I’m just saying, a lot of us are used to getting our metal from gargoyles like Dio or Ozzy. Elvis and Dean Martin impersonators have been trying to live up to similarly high standards for years. But can you imagine Eddie officiating a wedding in a little chapel off the Vegas strip? Hell, I’d go.

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

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Monday, January 27, 2020

The F Word: Parkinson's just got a little cooler

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 1:00 PM

I’m certainly not in the “we’re not handicapped, we’re handi-capable” camp, nor do I want to give Parkinson’s disease too much deference in my life. But my jittery friends Ozzy Osbourne and Neil Diamond recently added their names to the list. Now Diamond has up and quit touring because of his diagnosis. Of course, I don’t know the details, but I think that may be a bit drastic. Ozzy and his wife Sharon are fighting with all their might, though I’ve had a sneaking suspicion he’s had it for years. Alan Alda and Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton have all joined the ranks of those who have the disease. I’m proud to be among them. Parkinson’s just got a little cooler. And what the hell, maybe I am just a little handi-capable.

I went from a true negative to a False Positive last Friday at the luxurious Lux Lounge, where it was déjà vu all over again. When it was Snake Sisters Café, I used to stomp the stage. I was reunited inadvertently with members of The QUiTTERS, Nod, and The Thundergods who made up the scene and filled in the gaps back then. The False Positives’ Dave Harrison was slinging his guitar from the altar and driving his band hard, which played with a vintage garage kerrang. These guys were more than capable.

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

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Monday, January 20, 2020

The F Word: Grandpa Presley

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 5:26 PM

Even as I celebrated what would have been Elvis Presley’s 85th birthday this past week at Record Archive, it was getting harder and harder to keep up his legacy amid the fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches, and virtually everything from his square movie catalogue (except “Pocket Full of Rainbows”).

But if you’re like me and Albany’s The Lustre Kings, you still indulge in the music, the voice, and even some of the stuff from Elvis’s “Hollywood” period. The Kings rocked the joint as the scent of peanut butter and bacon wafted out from the door.

And hey, here’s another way I put Elvis in perspective: He was a grandpa. Allow me to elucidate with a quick anecdote.

I was backstage at a Chris Isaak concert in Pittsburgh a while back. Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie, was opening the show. At one point she introduced her two young children, and I, slicker than snot, burst out with “Wow, your grandpa is Elvis.”

Tammi Savoy and Chris Casello rocked the Abilene foundation a little looser than their debut there in autumn. I think you can blame that on the fact that the audience knew what to expect a little bit more, and weren’t wrapped up in “Holy shit, what’re they doing up there?” And man you just gotta hear Casello play the super-vibrato of The Viscounts’ “Harlem Nocturne.” The spirit of Grandpa Presley rocked among us.

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

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Monday, January 13, 2020

The F Word: 'No one will ever know'

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 4:48 PM

“If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song” is nothing short of brilliant. This year, participants were instructed to write a song including the phrase “No one will ever know” in the title or in the song itself. Rochester songwriting nobility and lyrical glitterati set to the task like rabid dogs.

In large part, credit has to go to Sarah Long Hendershot, who ran with this concept and fleshed it out a few years back with “Don’t Go Drinkin’ on an Empty Heart,” performed by a few musicians who piled into Bernunzio Uptown Music. Friday night’s show at Hochstein Performance Hall was a near-sellout. MC Rick Staropoli kept things rolling at a decent clip, offering up baby-boomer trivia between performers — with references to Jimmy Hoffa, D.B. Cooper, and Linda Lovelace, whose name I shouted out, knowing full well Staropoli was looking for Mark Felt as an answer...I was robbed.

Now, I could go on and on about the various performers, 21 in all. But there are far too many highlights to shine a single light on. Ross Bracco did a treatment of the song with stringed accompaniment that was heartbreakingly gorgeous. We’re talking goosebump territory here. The Lipker Sisters were dyn-o-mite, with the Lipker Mom filling in for an absentee sister. Jeff Riales’s voice boomed deep, and is suitable for weddings, funerals, dancing with your sweetie, or even ordering Chinese takeout. My WXXI homeboy Jeff Spevak waxed weary, Beat, and blue. A personal highlight was Dick Storms, with the phrase “We storm the dance floor waxing Argentine,” among other notable quips. Storms appeared on stage with two dancers, cutting a tango rug that came off sublime and subtly salacious.

All were supported by a crackerjack house band that brought the music home. But this wasn’t just about the music. It was about the community as a whole. No one will ever know — unless we keep this up. Whaddya say, Sarah?

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

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