Thursday, April 16, 2020

The F Word: Abilene's Danny Deutsch believes

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2020 at 9:46 AM

With an unpredictable future looming precariously before them, Rochester-area club owners have been caught in a kind of COVID-19 limbo. How are businesses that rely on a regular live audience staying afloat?

To get to the bottom of this, I first rang up Abilene Bar & Lounge's Danny Deutsch.

Deutsch is an impresario and true music fan, which can be a tough position to be in when trying to make a living promoting live music at your establishment. His roots rock honky-tonk, Abilene (located at 153 Liberty Pole Way), shines with local, regional, national, and international talent virtually every night of the week. That streak ended a month ago with the advent of the pandemic.
Abilene Bar & Lounge owner Danny Deutsch - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Abilene Bar & Lounge owner Danny Deutsch
"Our last day of business as usual was March 14 with the Don Diego Trio," Deutsch says. "Two of the guys were stuck in Italy and one guy got stuck here," he says. "We haven't had a live band since that date." Like every other venue, Abilene has had to endure being shut down.

In his mandatory vacation, Deutsch misses the camaraderie of the staff and customers. "Video chat doesn’t do it for me," Deutsch says.

Currently, Deutsch talks to promoters while rubbing a rabbit's foot. "It's really dicey," he says. "I'm talking to booking agents about dates in April of 2021." Regardless, he says he has every intention to reopen soon with bands, beer, the works.

In the meantime Deutsch says he's getting the place spruced up, in anticipation of a triumphant re-opening, but he's willing to be patient. "The health of all of us is too important," he says. "I can wait."

Apparently, so can his dedicated customers and fans, some of whom have randomly mailed checks to Deutsch to show support and to help out. He just shakes his head in appreciation.

He also says that Abilene isn't extravagant in it's day-to-day, nor is the club in immediate danger. "We pay our bills," Deutsch says. "We run it pretty close to the bone, here."

Though he doesn't know when, he promises to open as soon as possible with bands already queuing up to play. "I'm looking forward to it," he says. "My September is great."

Frank De Blase is CITY's music writer. He can be reached at frank@rochester-citynews.com.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The F Word: What's your side hustle?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 10:52 AM

Recently, I found myself reaching out once again to the COVID-19-weary community of Rochester musicians, a hardy bunch with as much resolve and survival instinct as anyone, anywhere.

That the average working musician has to supplement their income to make ends meet is nothing new. Ask them and they’ll tell you: There are literally hundreds of dollars to be made in the music business. From time to time, musicians have to become bartenders, baristas, Uber drivers, and servers, or risk sleeping on mom and dad’s couch.

But those jobs aren’t an option right now. So, when I posed the question “What is your side hustle?” on social media, it didn't take long for the weisenheimers to surface with their supplemental answers.

Several different spellings of gigolo came up, as did pornstar. Starting a church was another one. Casino dealer. Reaper of a steady windfall from scratch-off lottery tickets. There was even an M.D. in there. “I tried to be a doctor but I didn't have the patients,” one said.

Initially, I thought nobody understood the question. But it slowly dawned on me how important it is to have a sense of humor throughout all of this pandemic pandemonium.

Many bands and solo artists are trying to squeeze a little bread out of live streams with virtual tip jars. For others, like Don Mancuso of D-Drive and Lou Gramm fame, the situation is equally dire.

“Work has all but dried up for me,” Mancuso says. “I had two to four shows per week with one of the eight projects I play with, as well as my solo acoustic stuff. Twelve students, now down to three online lessons. Session stuff, guitar tracks for hire...nothing.”

But Mancuso isn’t letting moss grow on him. He’s still selling his wares and working on improving his craft. He’s adding tour videos to his YouTube channel and expanding his viewership. He’s writing and recording new material — including an unplugged version of “Pray for Tomorrow,” due next week. The free time at home has also allowed him to hone his skills as a vocalist for acoustic shows performed at nursing homes with Michael Sidoti, and given him the opportunity to repair and set up guitars for fellow musicians.

Anonymous Willpower’s lead singer Suzi Willpower is the queen of the side hustle. Her side hustles have side hustles. She drives for Lyft and Uber, she cleans houses and washes windows, and she just started delivering for Instacart.

Willpower’s heart goes out to the legions of musicians here and abroad, hurting right now — including the ones in her band.

“Since teaching music isn't considered an essential job, they are hurting for dough,” she says. “However, on a good note, this had given us time to finish our latest CD, ‘No One Will Ever Know,’ due on April 24 on Bandcamp.”

The Byways’ frontman Alex Goettel says that prior to the pandemic, it was bartending for him. “Then three weeks ago, I picked up a job stocking at Aldi’s,” he says. “So, whatever pays the bills.”

I’m not saying it’s not bad out there; it’s scary, both financially and psychologically. But musicians here are making their way through the emotional tundra just as they did before, B.C. — Before Coronavirus.

They find ways to keep paying the rent and, most importantly, keep playing music.

Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at frank@rochester-citynews.com.
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Thursday, April 9, 2020

The F Word: For recovering alcoholics, it’s one step at a time, online

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2020 at 11:07 AM

Alcoholics Anonymous is a close-knit organization whose members are couched in privacy. AA members look for help from within, without the worry of reprisal or judgement from their friends and neighbors. Their peers are there for one another, day or night, on the phone, in a group meeting, or one-on-one.

And in the disruptive uncertainty of now, these “Friends of Bill,” as they call themselves in reference to AA founder Bill W., need the services and support the organization provides even more.

One such local AA member, Doug, whose last name CITY is withholding in the spirit of anonymity, is a bass player and frontman for a Rochester-based hard rock band. Like many local musicians caught up in this pandemic, Doug isn’t working. And even though there’s currently no place for him to play, AA has provided Doug and others like him a place to go for support or to help provide support.

He says whether a meeting gets shut down or its members are practicing social distancing, there are protocols in place to ensure AA members continue with their recovery.

“Most of the meetings I go to are shut down,” Doug says. “In early recovery it is suggested to get a lot of phone numbers. So if you can’t get to a meeting, you call other people in recovery and talk through whatever is going on — if you want to drink or you’re struggling with emotional sobriety.”

As a sponsor, Doug meets with other members a safe six feet apart. Of course, there is video conferencing, too. “I have also been doing meetings online,” he says. “People can google them for a number of options.”

AA has multiple resources online, at aa.org, for people in recovery looking to stay plugged into the program and connected to the community. “Anybody struggling right now and feeling powerless over drugs and alcohol, I suggest they reach out,” Doug says. “There is help available even when things are as crazy as they are.”

For more information about how to connect with AA meetings in Rochester during the pandemic, go to rochester-ny-aa.org. A complete list of online meetings both nationally and internationally can be found at aa-intergroup.com.

Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at frank@rochester-citynews.com.
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Monday, April 6, 2020

The F Word: Clap hands

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 2:39 PM

I had a ball the other night watching blues pianist Hanna PK on FB as she streamed and strode the 88s. The song she played ended in a crush of glissandi and boogie-woogie thunder that ran from the bass to the treble clef. It was beautiful. PK gave a curt bow but nobody clapped. Nobody whooped or hollered. Nobody cheered. Nobody was there.

Social distancing has gobbled up our hoorays and it’s swallowed our hurrahs. I imagine it must be hard for a performer when there’s no way to read an audience or find the reward in their applause.

“It’s awkward,” PK said. “I don’t really like playing alone in front of the camera with no audience. I think I’ll get a wind-up toy monkey that bangs the cymbals and I’ll play for him.”

The internet has proven to be an invaluable tool during the current pandemic. It’s keeping us together. Artists like PK are savvy and have taken to using virtual tip jars through sites like Venmo and PayPal to fortify their greenback stack in these lean times. But wouldn’t it be nice to hear some appreciation, too?

The applause isn’t always there for singer-songwriter Amanda Ashley and her Facebook show, “Afternoon Cocktail,” either. But does she miss it?

“Of course I do,” Ashley said. “But you’ve got to realize, I’ve also played live venues where sometimes nobody pays attention.” She looks forward to returning to the stage playing in front of a living, breathing, applauding crowd. Even though it won’t exactly be normal.

“It’ll be a new normal,” she said. “I’ve been doing live-streaming stuff for years. It keeps me in touch with my fans out of town.” That includes the ones she can’t hear clapping.

I suggest we download a clapping app on our phones and computers — not that app used for finding misplaced cell phones with a clap of your hands, but something similar to canned laughter. Instead of sounding like guffaws from an old episode of “All in the Family,” though, it could be the thunderous applause of “Live at Budokan” proportions that these artists deserve.

Or social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram could install “applause sound” reactions to go with the “likes” and “loves.” It’ll complete the performance, and it will let these musicians know just how we feel. So c’mon, give ’em a hand.

Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at frank@rochester-citynews.com.
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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 frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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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 frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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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 frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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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 frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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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 frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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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 frank@rochester-citynews.com.

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Crossmolina @ Virtual Little Cafe

Crossmolina @ Virtual Little Cafe

5 Second Rule @ Penfield Amphitheater

5 Second Rule @ Penfield Amphitheater

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Trio Ghidorah @ Virtual Little Cafe

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