Friday, May 17, 2019

The F Word: Redacted

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 12:50 PM

Overkill thrashed and trashed Anthology along with Death Angel last Wednesday. It was all faded denim and faded tattoos in the mosh pit, which routinely dispensed the wounded like a thrash-metal Pez. Overkill singer Bobby Ellsworth screeched and raged on the stage, part-Wicked Witch and part-motivational coach: “C’mon Rochester, I can smell ya but I can’t hear ya.”

My first stab at taking in the Lilacs and their soundtrack was on S-a-t-u-r-d-a-y night with NYC’s asphalt troubadour, Willie Nile. He and his black-clad trio played four-on-the-floor rock ‘n roll, where all fear to tread, except perhaps Paul Westerberg. It was the perfect blend of punch and poppy.

Later that night at Skylark, with maximum gorgeousity and skill, the Sirens & Stilettos burlesque troupe                                                                                                            and if you weren’t there to witness it , then you’re                                  -.

The following Monday, Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People, along with The BB King Blues Band, rocked indoors as the inclement weather shut down the Lilac Festival for the day. Everyone raves about Ponder’s voice, myself included. But her command of the stage and the audience should also be noted. She puts the buzz in the biz and had us wrapped around her finger so tight we left looking like a bunch of sprung springs. She didn’t leave much room to rock for The BB King Blues Band, who laid it out rather straight and perfunctory in Ponder’s wake.

On Wednesday night, back at the Lilac Festival grounds in Highland Park, Eli “Paperboy” Reed played slick soul with some rather sloppy guitar. But it didn’t detract from the show. In fact, it added a bit of humanity to his voice — a voice that was, frankly speaking, almost too good.

Weather-wise, there was more of a drazzle than a drizzle. Mother Nature apparently had a full bladder and a migraine during Paperboy’s set, and didn’t let up with the chilly waterworks until Lee Rocker slapped the first few descending notes of “Stray Cat Strut.” Rocker busted the clouds with his group and played all the hits we wanted, including guitarist Buzz Campbell’s take on my single-most-favoritest song, Santo and Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.” Hearing these Stray Cat tunes outside the context of the band proved in my mind how perfect its catalogue remains, to this day.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

The F Word: Twitterpated immensely

Posted By on Mon, May 6, 2019 at 2:20 PM

CITY music writer Frank De Blase shares his thoughts on live sets from Maybird and McKinley James. - FILE PHOTO
  • CITY music writer Frank De Blase shares his thoughts on live sets from Maybird and McKinley James.
If you get a lot of live bodies to flood the joint, Radio Social can come off sounding pretty good acoustically. This place is a gas. The music still has to contend a bit with the thump, roll, and crash of bowlers bustin’ maples, but it’s not so bad. I mean, it could be a rifle range. But no, it was simply the background clatter of gutters and strikes as Maybird unveiled its new album,”Things I Remember from Earth” front-to-back this past Friday.

Because I was timing my arrival —- I don’t want to go to a show too early and stand there wondering what to do with my hands, or screaming into someone’s ear “Good, good’ Unfortunately this caused me to miss show opener Mikaela Davis’ set, but the beautiful vibe she exuded from the stage was still palpable.

Maybird was put together right and tight and outtasite as they combed through each track of the album and gave it a psychedelic dusting, which revealed hints of Joy Division. What makes Maybird cool is that each member of the band is a utility player, ready to sub in or switch on. There’s no slack. Don’t nobody ride the bench on this team.

Later the same night: Straight outta Nashvegas, Rochester homeboy McKinley James rocked to a full Abilene house with another guitar player, Austin John Doody, who strangled his snow white Stratocaster from beneath the brim of his cocked fedora (remember: if you’re going to play on stage wearing a hat, make sure you put some English on it).

It twitterpates me immensely to my core, to hear James writing and performing more and more of his own stuff. He’s taking a turn into soul and R&B, where it’s not as cluttered as, say, the rockabilly James was playing when he busted in on the scene a few years ago. Now the songs are stressing their own importance, sharing space with James’ incendiary guitar work.

I split Abilene to catch the Link Wray birthday show just in time to see the bands loading out. As hot, angry tears rolled down my face, I bellowed, “Have you seen Junior’s grades?”

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The F Word: Clunkers and gems

Posted By on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 at 3:40 PM

I still say the shores of Lake Ontario — complete with spent trash and dead fish — weren’t enough to inspire The Beach Boys’ Al Jardine, or give him resident status in the Flower City oh-so-many years ago. Regardless, Jardine was part of The Rochester Music Hall of Fame class of 2019 induction ceremonies; a show that had a number of gems and very few clunkers. Let me start with telling you I was pleasantly surprised.

In no particular order, let’s look at a few of these clunkers and gems.

Folky Christine Lavin is an astute, wise, and wonderful lady, but the crowd didn’t seem to connect with her. Perhaps it was a little early in the show. Or perhaps musicians from Geneva are simply too far away to be on Rochester’s radar.

Gary Wright was initially slated for the clunker bin. But he sounded great, singing two of his 70’s transistor radio hits — “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive” — during nominee’ Jack Allocco’s set. So what if Wright isn’t from rochester. Give that man a gem.

Booking empresario Jeff Springut let my 18-year-old ass into the Red Creek to see Buddy Holly’s Crickets back in 1986. I will never forget him for that. John Hall of Orleans played two of his band’s hits, “Dance with Me” and “Still the One,” for the Springutt portion of the program. The performance was a bit of a clunker for me, because I don’t particularly like those songs, but let’s give him a gem for doing them so well.

Rochester radio legend Dave Kane was honored by the whoops and howls of the gregarious glitterati. He said his 38 years at the station were an example of “an astounding lack of ambition.” Gem.

WCMF, on the other hand, was a clunker. Being on the airwaves for 50 years is no small feat, especially since they play, in tight rotation, the same artists that they played when I was in high school. I mean, the station single-handedly ruined Led Zeppelin for many of us growing up here. Talk about lack of ambition.

The winners of the night by far were the three students who received the Douglas Lowry Award: pianist Raymond Feng who ran out of keys as he cascaded up and down the keyboard; vocalist Natalie Leclair, who proved you can scat without the letter “Z”; and jazz guitarist Robert Varon, who took the stage like a boss with his band. The future looks bright. Bring your shades. Gem, gem, gem.

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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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In each of our busy lives, we can all get a little bogged down in routine, forget to have fun with food culture, or forget to eat at all until we're raging. Bearing that in mind, our approach to this year's edition of DISH was to take it a day at a time — dividing the features, spotlights, and tips into the days of the week. read more ...

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