Thursday, March 21, 2019

The F Word: Is It True?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Is it true, pretty baby, what they said about you? This week, two music icons were taken from us. R&B-soul shouter Andre Williams and surf guitar originator Dick Dale. Something ain't right here.

I had the pleasure of sharing the bill and playing with these legends, and I've had the chance to meet both of them. Dick Dale had the largest guitar sound in the world. It wasn't just loud, it was a picturesque, volcanic seascape; it was the roar of the untamed beast within.

One night, The Frantic Flattops — my band at the time — were playing select dates with Dale. We were backstage in Cleveland one night, celebrating Dale's return from "getting his head together" in the hills of Northern California. He taught us to tell if a piece of jade is real with a simple piece of hair. And he always spoke of himself in the third person. "Dick Dale likes you guys."

But the most memorable encounter was a hot night at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago around 1992. When my band got the opportunity to open the show for Andre "Mister Rhythm" Willliams, who had penned classics like "Jail Bait," "Bacon Fat," and "Shake a Tailfeather."

Now, The Frantic Flattops had learned a rock 'n' roll barnburner called "Is It True?" I had first heard it on a live Barrence Whitfield record. It was a salacious slab of breakneck rhythm and blues, and we had begun closing our sets with it. I had no idea it was an Andre Williams tune. So that night, as so many nights before, we closed out our set with "Is It True?"

Andre was in the dressing room tying his tie in front of a busted mirror when I strolled in sweaty and disheveled. He wore a red pinstripe suit. He was tack-sharp. He addressed me immediately.

"You guys are playing my music," he said. I thought he was being complimentary, like, "You guys are playing my kind of music."

I was clueless. "Thanks, "I said.

He reiterated. "No motherfucker, you're playing my song."


So halfway into his set, he brought it up with the audience. "What should I do with 'em?" he asked. A light bulb went on over his head. "I know," he said. "Let's get them up here and do it the right way." That was the night I played "Is It True?" with the legendary Andre Williams. It was cool — downright Frigidaire.

A couple years later, Williams played the Bug Jar in Rochester. I got dressed up and made the scene. I went down to the dressing room to say hello, not really expecting him to remember me.

"Hey Andre, I just wanted to say —" He cut me off, pointed at me and smiled big. He remembered.

"That's right," he said with his gold tooth display. "The 'Is It True?' Boys."R.I.P.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

The F Word: Rochester Music Hall of Fame

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 5:16 PM

Every year, with the announcement of the latest inductees into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame comes a groan of disappointment from some local musicians and their fans. We're not simply talking sour grapes or envy here.

It's just that there's a lot of scuttlebutt surrounding who gets picked, and the fact that sometimes their links to this town are tenuous at best. And the musicians who make beautiful noise here get overlooked in lieu of artists with greater celebrity. The Rochester Music Hall of Fame is bringing in talent from outside to celebrate Rochester. They're looking without Rochester, instead of within. And this is, well, it ain't cool.

The RMHOF lineup over its past eight years has consistently catered to a 50-years-and-older audience and frankly, it's beginning to get stale. There are so many genres, subgenres and periods of music rooted in Rochester to choose from, spanning from William Warfield and Cab Calloway to Wendy O. Williams and The Fugitives. Let's add in the styles that'll attract different generations.

There are plenty musicians who haven't left for greener pastures, opting to stay right here and make the scene night in, night out. And they should be counted in. There are bands of note like The Chesterfield Kings and The Colorblind James Experience, who have been looked over in the past, and artists like The Hi-Risers, Mastodon, Joywave, and Mikaela Davis, who are out there currently making it happen internationally. And they still call Rochester home.

Everyone on this year's list is on there deservedly. I mean, Dave Kane? institution. But I get the feeling that the board of directors doesn't have that much faith in the people of Rochester to get their asses in seats to sell out Eastman Theatre's Kodak Hall. They seem to feel the need to pad the lineup with artists like Gary Wright performing his hits "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive." And though I'm a big Beach Boys fan - sing it with me: I wish they all could be West Irondequoit girls - Al Jardine spent about five minutes in Rochester as a child when his dad worked at Kodak and RIT. Using this logic, they should include David Bowie because he spent the night in jail.

All I'm saying to the board of directors is goose it a little, fellas. Dig into some of the obscure artists and music, the stuff that make this a great music town. And stop trying to make these ties to Rochester that are anything but.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

The F Word: Rockin' with the remnants

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 10:59 AM

It was a busy week here at F Word HQ, starting off on Wednesday, February 20. I went to Record Archive's Backroom Lounge, where folks jammed in to hear Escape Terrain jam out on the smooth side of instrumental jazz. Apart from some Stevie Wonder wonderment, for the most part the band traversed original terrain with some deep dives into funk and some creamy soul.

I was once again in the Backroom Lounge on Friday, February 22. People who were there for the Fickle 93.3 happy hour stuck around for the dissonance and ragged grace of Buffalo Sex Change, who confounded a few with its drive and VU-type cool, and played with an indirect nod to Nod and Scrappy Joe alt-tuning. 'Twas raw and right on.

Following Buffalo Sex Change was Albany's Shana Falana, who brought psychedelia mixed with a kind of lost innocence, like Mazzy Star playing at being a genie in a bottle. Once Falana rubbed the lamp, the music floated unfettered and free, captivating the curious.

Same night, different set of circumstances entirely. Classic bands like Journey, Cheap Trick, The Stones, and The Who are missing original members due to death, retirement or irreconcilable differences, but I can still rock with the remnants.

Pat Benatar's lead guitarist and lead husband Neil "Spider James" Giraldo blew through town, landing at Montage Music Hall with Derek St. Holmes, who was Ted Nugent's guitar player and singer on the early stuff. As a fan of classic rock, time marches on when it comes to seeing my favorite bands alive and intact. I've seen Nugent do "Stranglehold" live, but never with its original singer, St. Holmes. I got to hear it on this particular night, but without Nugent. And though the silver-coiffed Giraldo didn't sing any Benatar tunes, that in-your-face flash guitar still hit the nostalgia bone. And man, what a gentleman.


Goddammit, those Lake brothers are something else. Every little thing they get there greasy mitts on turns to rock 'n' roll gold. I went to check them out at Abilene on Saturday, February 23, in their newest inception. Reminiscent of The Jam, The Shine blazed through a set as it opened for The Surfrajettes, Toronto's all-female, instrumental surf sensations. The quartet hung ten--or rather, 40--for what seemed like 700 fans. It was sardine city, so packed in fact that I couldn't tell my pockets from anyone else's around me. By the way, Lenny Polizzi, I have your wallet.

My last stop of the night was to go experience Sole Rehab at an undisclosed location on the city's north side. The place was packed with a sea of bobbing heads as DJ Nickl burned down the house.

Everyone was dancing, everyone was moving. Everyone but me, which gave me a kind of slow-motion vertigo. But the music's throb won me over, and by the time I left I was groovin' in my car. I simply couldn't help it.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

The F Word: Too much practice is bad for you

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 9:00 AM

It's good to know your instrument and your limitations therewith. You've got to noodle around, jam with the radio. pick up a couple of flash tricks, and get to a spot that's beyond the scope of your talent. If you've got something that few can do, do it.

But too much rehearsal is no bueno. In order to live and breathe, music has to be interpreted somewhat loosely and in the moment. And if all of the rust is polished off, so goes the soul. Too much practice is guaranteeing a screw-up. It creates a conditioned response.

If you see a band flub a note, a line, or a lyric, chances are it's a band that rehearsed too much, ridding itself of flexibility and spontaneity. On the other hand, if you see a band on stage smiling all of a sudden, then you probably just witnessed a mistake that was handled quickly, with the intuition left intact and unsoiled by too much rehearsal.

So this past Saturday at Abilene Bar and Lounge, I watched Texas troubadour Rosie Flores rehearse with her Rochester pick-up band - drummer Greg Andrews, bassist Brian Williams, and saxophonist Mark Bradley. She was schooling the trio in material from her brand new release "Simple Case of the Blues." This album is rootsy, bluesy, swing-tastic, and for the most part, in a language these three cats spoke fluently.

The session went on for about four hours, with the band emerging confident and ready. There were a few loose ends and trouble spots - as is to be expected with limited rehearsal time - but other than that the band was ready.

All the hard work paid off, and Flores and the boys positively rocked the house that night. But had they rehearsed too much, they wouldn't have packed such a punch. It wouldn't have provided a situation where each musician on stage needed one another. It would have been like the music was playing them.

So I leave you with this: Don't practice. Otherwise, you won't know what to do when someone hits a sour note, plows through a break, or forgets a line. Rosie Flores and her band played an awesome show because they didn't over-rehearse or try too hard. Remember, too much practice is bad for you.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

The F Word: Frank Goes Out With His Fly Down

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 10:55 AM

If you wanna see who's looking at you, or more importantly, who's looking out for you, the next time you go out leave some crumbs or dried-up BBQ sauce in your beard. Or better yet, leave your fly down and see if anyone says something. More on this in a bit after these important messages:

On a sad note, this week legendary Rochester band The Fugitives lost its original drummer, Bobby "Bamm Bamm" McCarthy to heart attack. McCarthy was key to the band's driving sound and image. The Fugitives, all grease and tailpipe exhaust, played barroom rock 'n' roll. The first time I saw them in Shatzee's on East Main way back in 1987, it was pure, denim-and-leather swagger that left me with scars that haven't healed yet.


After scouring the supermarket for paleo alternatives to grub and surreptitiously trenchcoating the local bookstore for recipes, I high-tailed it over to Three Heads Brewing for the rock 'n' roll carnage unfolding therein. It was a double bill starring Anamon and Periodic Table of Elephants, with close to 300 eager fans. PTE casually mounted the bandstand first, and for the next hour commanded it with the endurance and power of an angry heavyweight with an ingrown toenail. The sound was thick and dangerous in its dexterous, mid-tempo grind. The band was joined by one of the Three Heads, Geoff Dale, for a couple of Matthew Sweet covers, in which Dale exploded out of the gate with two impressive leads. Sweet.

Anamon has its own rules in its approach. For instance, the twin-guitar attack proves there are no wrong notes. Saturday night was no different, with the band slugging away melodically. With over-the-top prowess, Overhand Sam shaved off bits of sound that supported Ana Monaco's voice, which incidentally sounded particularly big and sweet Saturday night. Sweet.

I was talking earlier about messy beards and unfastened dungarees and how they can be a good indication as to who has got your best interest at heart. Well it's plain to see that the people at Wegmans, Barnes & Noble, and Three Heads Brewing have no love for Frank. I include my wife in that list, but I must say she's getting better. I got home from my excursion and went in directly to see a man about a horse, only to find my fly was down - meaning it had been open all night. Thanks, everybody. Now you don't have to police my crotch 24/7, but a nice, discreet "Dude, you're letting the horse outta the barn" would be swell.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

The F Word: Censor-esque

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 11:36 AM

In this world of political constriction, there are words we can no longer say. And the fact that we never should have used them to begin with is lost on some folks.

There are phrases that embody racism, sexism, abuse, and hate. And there's no getting around it. We consider some words so insidious that we only refer to them with the letter they begin with. You know: the F-word, the N-word,the C-word, and so on. However, spewing these abbreviated words is cheating and just causes the listener to say it in his or her head, thus defeating the purpose of trying to clean things up. It's rather peculiar. I bet if you approached a woman and said, "Hey, C-word," you'd wake up with a crowd standing around you and a mouthful of loose teeth.

I'm not advocating censorship, no. I just want to keep you aware of what you're saying and the origin of the words or phrases you use to frame it. Some words aren't outwardly hurtful; take, for instance, the avocado.

The Aztecs considered the avocado an aphrodisiac and called it "ahuacatl," which means "testicle." Come on and have a ball.

I've had the pleasure as a music critic to write about music I love, like gypsy jazz. But wait: that's a slight at the expense of the Romani people. Known mostly as a nomadic race in Europe, the Romani were mistakenly thought to have first come from Egypt, and have been unfairly characterized as swindlers and thieves. Not to impugn his work, but as much as I've written about Django Reinhardt and his ilk, I've always referred to the music as gypsy jazz. So from here on out, I'll be referring to gy--(there's that word again) as being Django-esque.

And I've got a feeling that the PC police have their eyes on the phrase "girl group." Since we're on an "-esque" kick, how about "estrogen-esque"? I'm not sure it'll translate with punk and metal, though.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The F Word: Now I Wanna Be Your Cat

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 4:00 AM

Rocco, the cat who let's me live in his house, talks a lot for a cat.

He chirps, chortles, meows, and yows between extended naps. And I respond, which leads to a cross-phylum kind of conversation of his meowing and my matter-of-fact patter. I refuse, however, to speak to him in baby talk. I treat him as my equal, even though there are things I can do that he can't, and vice versa. I'm not flexible enough to lick my own ass.

But back to the baby/pet talk. I recently had a first-hand baby talk experience at a check-up with the vet the other day for Rocco and his sister Dixie. Rocco was surprisingly timid, and the vet was very sweet, with an abundance of affirmations: "There, there," "Aww," and "What a good boy." The thing is, when explaining to me and my wife what she was doing during the exam, she didn't cut the pediatric palaver – and I loved it. I pointed this out to the vet and she laughed, but kept talking to me like I had four legs.

We walked out at the end of Rocco and Dixie's appointment, and I felt elated, appreciated, and loved. I felt like an animal. That is until I tried to get my wife to address me in pet-speak (because I'm a good boy, yes I am). She refused. Me-ouch.

So I was thinking. What about Rochester bands incorporating this idea in their between-song banter? I'm not just talking about the pretty voices like Mikaela Davis or The Demos or Jon Lewis. But don't you think it would be trés cool if Hot Mayonnaise's Jorge Alvarado offered you a treat simply for rolling over in front of the stage? Or what if Sulaco's bass-slingin' Lon Hackett scratched you behind the ears. Or better yet, how cool would it be if the entire audience at a Pony Hand show started howling like cats and dogs in heat? Fetch! F-out.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

The F Word: Eating the ALPO

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2018 at 6:15 PM

Part of my job as a music critic at CITY Newspaper is wading through a lot of music and recommending it to you all—or at least telling you what to expect and what to avoid.

The question I get asked the most is whether or not I like everything I hear. The criterion is simple: I don't have to love it, but I have to believe it. It's easy to like a band because it sounds good or plays in a style you inexplicably love. However, hating a band or style of music is a much more complex thing—in my case, especially with contemporary pop music.

I hate the over-singing, the auto-tune, the insipid lyrics, the whole phony facade of it all. It makes me angry because it takes precious time away from the bands I love. So I've decided to embrace my hate. Hell, it's worked in other aspects of my life as well—specifically when dealing with cigars, corned beef hash, and brown shoes.

About five years ago, I started smoking cigars at the rate of about one a year. I love the artwork they come packaged in and their un-lit aroma is intoxicating. They remind me of my Uncle Fred. But the love affair with cigars ends there. They taste like sucking the exhaust pipe of an overheating payloader and the cancer they promise. I don't know why I feel the need to smoke them, honestly.

Same thing goes for corned beef hash. I eat it annually just to remind myself why I don't eat it more often. Corned beef hash lies. It lures you in with its aroma and hearty appearance. You put a forkful in your mouth and you get hints of baby throw-up and ALPO.

That all changed this past weekend, when I had a bite of my wife's hash at The Original Steve's Diner on Penfield Road. It was delicious and was made all the more so when you consider I went in there with my mind made up. It didn't suck. It rivaled my French toast.

I went shoe shopping the other day and bought a pair of brown shoes. No big deal, right? Never in my adult life have I purchased or worn brown shoes. But they didn't have my size in black, so I punted and took a chance on what turned out to be a very comfortable pair of shoes. It's not like they were sandals.

Perhaps this is my age of enlightenment and maybe I should embrace more things I hate like liver and onions, crumbly blue cheese, just to remind me of my deep hatred and perhaps discover I like it (not likely). Maybe I could embrace Taylor Swift and any artist that falls under the category "new country." I could start using emojis, with my face planted in my cell phone everywhere I go. Nah, I'll just have another cigar.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fresh Cut: 'Pedaling' by The Able Bodies

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 9:30 AM

It's hard to imagine a lecture on bicycling merged with music that makes you want to cut loose on a dance floor, but The Able Bodies pull it off on "Pedaling." The indie pop duo's fourth single, "Pedaling" fits a couple of found sound clips to an upbeat, synth-pop template that defines the pair's musical vision. Just when you're wondering if you should be dancing or taking notes, the song spins blissfully forward with robotic vocals, anchored by a pulsing retro beat and a seamless blend of synthesized and real instruments.

The Able Bodies — consisting of Eli Flynn (vocals) and John Viviani (guitars, production) — describe the song as a statement about moving forward and focusing on life's goals. The riff to "Pedaling" floated around for a few months, and once Viviani experimented with the vocoder effect in Ableton Live, the track came together in a few weeks. It was recorded at Viviani's home studio during the summer and was mixed by audio engineer Sam Polizzi.

The video, shot around the Cobbs Hill Reservoir, casts Flynn and Viviani as fitness enthusiasts. The often humorous portrayal has the duo riding bikes around the loop and performing other physical exertions. "Pedaling" is a joy to look at and listen to, from start to finish.

For more info on The Able Bodies, visit

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The F Word: Laughing Through Tears

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 4:00 AM

If you see me crying on the street, chances are I'm actually laughing. Yet when something is sad, I cry...then laugh. As an addendum to Parkinson's, I have developed pseudobulbar affect, or PBA. It makes me feel like crying all of the time. The only problem is that I'm rarely sad, if ever. But who wants to laugh constantly?

I slipped out last Thursday to Abilene to check out Ross Falzone with Erin Futterer, who set my heart a-flutterer. It was magic. It was Tin Pan Alley ensconced in velvet. It was a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. There was nothing weird on stage: just Falzone and his guitar next to Futterer, who was parked behind a piano brandishing a French Horn.

I was enchanted, entranced, entertained. But as the duo worked through its set, I felt the laughter coming on, which meant the tears weren't far behind. My face started to screw up, and the tears began. I'm fearful of this because concerned patrons ask why I'm crying, only to be rebuked with, "It's OK, this is how I laugh."

The problem has recently brought about situations which I can address from either side--laughing maniacally, or sobbing my eyes out. My wife caught me in front of the TV, wracked in sobs and giggles the other night. The fact that Trump is actually still the President, the passing of John McCain and Aretha Franklin--all of it came crashing down in a torrent of tears followed by laughter. Why? Because it all seemed so effing funny. I mean, what will you do when you read this? Will you laugh or cry? Somebody get me a tissue, please.

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