I preface this statement by making one thing clear about a part of my life: I have never tasted alcohol.
That’s right: I’ve never had a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or sipped any particular cocktail known to man. I’ve never asked for one, and I’ve never needed one. I don’t see alcohol as an agent of good in this life. What good does alcohol bring, anyway?
Which brings me to the point of this story: while I have Irish in my blood (and proud of it), seeing the insane debauchery on this St. Patrick’s Day Saturday makes me feel grateful that I don’t drink on that day - or any day.
For anyone who does drink responsibly - even on St. Patrick’s Day - who believes this writer is somehow going to slander them, this is not about those people. It is about those who believe getting drunk gets you to have fun, only instead to have you do things you probably would regret years, months, weeks, days…better yet, even minutes later.
This St. Patrick’s Day Saturday in Rochester was a cold one, with snow falling throughout the day. It was no matter to the crazy young people dressed in Irish green, some even sporting taped green mustaches (why wasthata good idea?). As the day wore on and people went from bar to bar to bar finding an opening to get plastered, one thing stood out in my mind: Does anyone realize what happens to your brain when you get blitzed on alcohol?
From what I understand, it makes you do crazy things - and some of those things you don’t take back. You scream “Whoo!” just to be the center of attention. You call your best friends names you probably would never call them in your life. Sometimes you even fight with other potential patrons, cutting in line just to get inside a bar, only to have you stopped cold by police. I saw that happen for the second straight year in Rochester alone. And of course, when you wake up Sunday morning, you may end up with the motherlode of all hangovers.
Now I’m sure some will read this column and do one of three things: mock my straight-and-narrow approach, call me derogatory names, and basically make the assumption I don’t know how to live it up and party. I know those may come my way, if at all. Yet I have no shame in admitting such things as not getting drunk on St. Patrick’s Day - there’s no real reason for it at all. I’m fully aware it’s the one time of the year where people use it as a reason to “be Irish” (especially if there’s no Irish ancestry at all) and get drunk during the holiday weekend of March. While there are those who will be civilized with their drink - and likely get a taxi to get them home, there will always be those who will act like hooligans after their favorite team loses, traffic and police be darned.
It’s possible the insults will come, but I won’t mind. I’m comfortable in knowing I don’t need alcohol to have fun - especially on St. Patrick’s Day. And I certainly don’t need it to look like someone I’m not, or someone I’ll regret being not long after the haze of the drink has settled itself out.
For anyone in Rochester looking for something to do Thursday night or Saturday evening - or just overwhelmed by so many options, let this show be your option.
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, WE WANTED TO LIVE is my one-man show, a monologue about my high school life and how it led me to be the person I am today. It’s being performed on Thursday, September 20, at 8pm at the MuCCC (142 Atlantic Avenue, Rochester). There will also be a condensed 45-minute edit of the show on Saturday, September 22, at 6pm at the same venue.
It’s a “pay-what-you-will” event on both nights, which means there’s no set cost to get in. Just bring a buck and a friend, and you’re in.
It’s going to be an ultimate show of reflections - hope you can check it out. And tell your Rochester friends to stop on by.
To summarize the Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers show from last night in Rochester (and the second time I’ve seen them live):
- Opened with “Rainbow’s Cadillac” (complete with a trumpeter-vocalist from the opening band Van Ghost)
- Heard “Mandolin Rain” and “Jacob’s Ladder” for the first time live
- Actually requested “Go Back to Your Woods” (his song with Robbie Robertson) and it was played as the second song
- Rocked “The Way It Is” by changing up the rhythm - but still making it sound like the classic it is known to be
- Also proved he may be the only person to make the dulcimer and singing “Big Rock Candy Mountain” cool
- Also got to meet Bruce, talked to him about his son’s basketball team (UNC Asheville) almost beating Syracuse; he said the referees didn’t do their job - but as a father, he couldn’t have been prouder of his son and his team
Before he departed for the bus, I was able to get a picture with him. If it ever gets posted, I could have looked better (especially by looking at the camera!). But in the end, it doesn’t matter - I met one of my favorite musicians, got a picture of him, and said “Thank you for making music fun again.”
Bruce Hornsby is great, and meeting him is an experience I’ll never forget. End of story.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written on this page…I don’t know why it took so long, but I found something good to mention on here.
There’s going to be a fringe festival in Rochester in the fall, and I’m thinking about taking part in it. The theater group I’m involved with is doing a multiple-slot event over the course of 8 days in September, with each slot being an hour. So I could come up with a 45-50 minute show, allowing those who would go before and after me time to set up and leave.
At this point, I’ve got an idea in my head, but I’m not ready to fully share - except for one element. It would have to do with something in my past, and maybe telling some stories about that element would be my way of letting it go for good. And who knows, it might actually be entertaining. Really? Maybe.
But I need the idea first to come together. I’m sure it will.
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Sometimes after a long day at work, talking to someone you’ve known for a long time can be a good remedy -
Even if they’re half the state away, though if it may feel like half a world away,
Even if you haven’t seen that person face-to-face in what seems like an eternity (and a half),
Even when you and her webcams don’t seem to cooperate in video and sound,
Even when you have to resort to talking on the phone just to hear her voice -
It’s all worth it, because you hear her voice on the other line. And even when you can’t see them, they can see you…and they’re smiling. They’re just glad to hear and see you, and feel nothing has changed.
A good friend can make you feel like the best person in the world. And I just spoke with one such friend. Thanks, Candie.
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On St. Patrick’s Day, I had written my experiences of experiencing the holiday in downtown Rochester. I had written a beginning in which I mentioned a police officer trying to revive a fallen man near the South Avenue parking garage. It turns out it wasn’t one of those stricken and collapse situations.
According to YNN Rochester, it was reported the man had actually jumped from the top of the parking garage. He never survived. Police reported no foul play in his death. Who knows if those people who were around him were actually related - but merely stunned passersby who watched a man take his last leap of life?
Who knows what may have gone wrong for this man that led him to this, but what a sad turn of events on St. Patrick’s Saturday in the Flower City.
NOTE: No parts of this writer or the writer’s car were harmed during the making of this commentary. The various incidents described in this are surprisingly true.
For someone who has always had a hard time fitting in or finding a relationship, those things can be hard to deal with on random days. Yet there is one day I don’t feel such guilt or depression - and all the better.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Rochester turns into Crazyland - where there are no rules, anything goes, drinks are available everywhere, and everyone can just act as wild as they want without a care in the world - unless you get caught.
Before this Saturday in March really began, I had watched a harrowing sight while getting out of a parking garage. A man looking to be in his 50s was being revived - or attempted to be - by a waiting officer. Friends and a woman who had to be his wife stood by nervous, or helpless in the situation. The day hadn’t even begun, the parade was still hours away, and there was already a chance of tragedy occurring on St. Patrick’s Day - hopefully that wasn’t to be. Then morning became afternoon, and the atmosphere changed - drastically.
I only go to check out the parade on St. Patrick’s Day, and when the weather is good (temps in the 70s with sun & clouds), the crowd goes in the thousands. That means lots of pushing and shoving just to get from one end to the other, and it could take longer than a regular walk down East Avenue downtown on an average day. People decked out in their best green were fighting to get a good view of the parade, and then there are those who just wanted to get back to their cars or find their friends to go to the nearest bar or pub.
It seems St. Patrick’s Day now has become a perfect excuse to get drunk early, drunk in the middle of the day, drunk late, and drunk often. Now this writer has never had the moment of being plastered in alcohol, and it’s probably for the better. Sometimes strange things can happen when one is so lost in the drink - they can scream, dance in a not-so-funky style, throw cups and bottles on the streets, and it seems the only thing they say is “Whoooooooo!” Maybe in Crazyland, that word would be the official motto.
The later afternoon showed one of the more outrageous moments this writer’s eyes has ever seen. Outside a bar at the corner of East and Alexander, a crowd was mobbing the entrance. Two guys were having a verbal argument - over what they were arguing about, who knows. Yet the verbal became the physical, as the men suddenly got to a fistfight and grabbing each other’s shirts. Their friends were helpless in trying to stop them, and even two officers & the bar’s security took a long time to subdue the situation. After taking a few steps back to avoid the situation, I just had to say to myself: “All of this just to go to a bar?” A younger gentleman turned to me and said, “It’s St. Patrick’s Day, what do you expect?”
It seems on St. Patrick’s Day, wherever one lives, their city or town becomes Crazyland - and even Rochester is no exception. People go from bar to bar looking for excitement, thrills and drinks, all on the same repeat cycle. Friends and lovers take in the atmosphere in the hope of having a good time, or just acting as crazy and/or stupid as they want to be. Yet this writer doesn’t feel saddened about not feeling a part of it - getting drunk, possibly facing down a fistfight, and trying to locate lost friends in the middle of a wild scene isn’t exactly an idea of a good time.
As it was said at the start, sometimes it’s hard to feel being a part of a group or having a relationship. What does it have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? In the traditional sense, the answer is probably nothing. Yet it’s better to get through the day intact than dreading the inevitable hangover for the Sunday after. There’s no worry about finding a potential love or making friends on this unofficial holiday of getting crazy. Can this writer get a “Whoooooooooooooooooo!” on that, with a crazy dance to go along with it? Even behind a computer, it would look really embarrassing - especially if this writer tried doing all of that.
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So February 14 comes again. I don’t celebrate it for Valentine’s Day, I only mark the day because that was the day I was born.
At 1:24pm this afternoon, I officially became 28 years old.
At 27, I was working part-time in television news, a world I had dreamed of working in since childhood. Now at 28, I’m going full-time at a call center. And yet somehow, things have been looking up.
So many things have changed in the year since the last change of ages - new job, new place, same determination to get a woman to fall in love with me (still working on it), holding incredible friends (have that going for me), discovering new music (that’s worked), and being reminded every day of having the greatest family in the world (never a doubt on that).
The everyday struggles will be close by, but they won’t slow me down. I think 28 is going to be a great year. I’m looking forward to each day of it.
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Violet Mary has vowed 2012 to be a breakout year - with new gigs and a new album on the horizon. Their WXXI OnStage performance is set to appear at some point this winter. And at the Lovin’ Cup Friday night, the five-piece blues-rock explosion kicked the year off with an hour-plus set that included the appearances of some new tracks destined for the as-yet titled third record.
They set the stage with the opening “Whiskey Drinking Woman” (side note here: 2 shirts with that song title were sold), then the back-to-back cover powerhouse of Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” and “The Letter.” Three new songs were next up, with the blues-infused “Take the Train” and “You and I” - the latter song possibly being heard for the first time anywhere. Another new song performed was ”With the Sun,” which may be the most pop-infused track they have ever done - and it still comes with a bluesy edge to it. Their take on U2’s “One” and the original “Black Stones” soon followed.
Guitarist Mike Muscarella reminded the audience of hearing some new songs for the first time, but then declared in his own words “to music nerds,” the next few songs would all be in the key of D. Their After the Plunge track “Leviathan” (a deep cut not played in a while) got on board first, before going right to what has quickly become one of the band’s best covers, Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Then the next song was another newbie, the self-explanatory “Bub’s Midnight Blues” (inspired by one of Mel Muscarella’s own daughters’ nicknames). They wrapped things up with notable covers of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and the soaring “Mountain Time.”
The last song of the night proved to be Mel solo, but the occasion was notable. The death of legendary singer Etta James led to Mel performing what may considered to be her greatest song, “At Last.” With Mike holding the paper of chords and notes, Mel performed it to a very appreciative Lovin’ Cup audience and was a melancholy but sweetly perfect note to wrap the show with.
Next up for Violet Mary is the beginning of what could be a regular residency at Sticky Lips in Henrietta starting next month, then Rochester music fans will get to see them on TV with their appearance at WXXI’s OnStage. If you haven’t caught on to Violet Mary yet, you better do so now - if these gigs continue to go as well as they seem, 2012 could be more than a breakout year. It may be a breakthrough.
VIOLET MARY = Scott Butcher (drums), Scott Cranfill (guitars/percussion), Marty Dorren (bass/backing vocals), Mel Muscarella (keyboards/tambourine/lead & backing vocals), Mike Muscarella (electric guitar/lead & backing vocals)
Set List: Whiskey Drinking Woman, Heartbreaker, The Letter, Take the Train, You and I, With the Sun, One, Black Stones, Leviathan, Fat Bottomed Girls, Bub’s Midnight Blues, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Mountain Time, At Last
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I spoke with two middle-aged women at Violet Mary’s debut show at the Rochester institution Dinosaur BBQ on Friday night. One of them asked me about the band, if they were local, and what I could expect. I gave her the info about each member, that they were based out of Farmington, and that she would hear great covers and originals. She hoped I was right.
It turns out for last night’s show, there were more covers than originals - and they still put on an epic performance. The five-piece played at least 30 songs, though even with a set list prepared, they seemed to move around or add tunes throughout the night - a feeling of throwing a lot of “audibles.” Then again, the dancing I witnessed from random members of the audience, including from a group of young high school-age kids, may have influenced that decision.
While this show was cover-dominated, a few originals sprinkled in - “Off the Wall,” “Black Stones,” the bar-appropriate “Whiskey Drinking Woman,” and also two new originals. The first, “Bub’s Midnight Blues” (inspired by one of keyboardist Mel Muscarella’s daughters), takes an almost prison gallows feel and lifts it with a gospel blues tone and rocked it. The second, “Take the Train,” is another chugging rocker that seems rougher than the previous newbie mentioned - but through a little road testing, it will grow to be a good original.
What was a bit surprising may have been the originals they didn’t play - the new rocker “Disaster Medicine,” “Some Things You Never Wish Away” and even “Release” were among the songs not on the set list. Guitarist-percussionist Scott Cranfill later said the material’s heavy nature may not have been appropriate for the band’s first night at a new venue (though it could one day re-emerge at the Dinosaur for future gigs, who knows). For this concert, the darker-edged songs got the rare gig off.
Yet the night belonged to the songs the band wished they had written - the surging opener “The Letter,” two Zeppelin classics, Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge,” Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” (a harmonic highlight), the returning “Sunshine of Your Love” (which they had not played in a long while, especially with bassist Marty Dorren), and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” got the VM treatment to jammingly good effect.
There was one song guitarist Mike Muscarella said was the highlight: John Mayer’s “Vultures.” One reason was a brilliant false-ending effect he brought with drummer Scott Butcher. When Butcher thought the song was over, Mike carried him back into the fold - twice - and yet Mayer’s tune seemed to be more intriguing than it had been. And also on that song, the high school-age dancers latched onto it as their motivation to move in the cramped space in front of the band. Mike later said they were the kind of audience Violet Mary could play more to, and be really successful with. It would be just another element that would make the Violet Mary train stronger than it already is.
In the end, one word stood out from last night’s concert: epic. It started around 9:50pm, and they proceeded to go three hours without taking any set breaks. When they did, they would only return for a brief encore set…at around 1:10 on Saturday morning. They went through just four more songs before finally calling it a night at around 1:45. For those who catch VM at the Fairport Landing, they may be used to seeing a long show there. But in downtown Rochester? Surely those who stayed around for the whole thing wouldn’t have expected it - but they were glad they did. And that also includes those who did have to leave, but were happy to see it anyway.
So on Violet Mary’s last gig for 2011, they pull a stunning debut gig at a new venue - and one that surely has to bring them back again and again. They ended the year with a bang, and who knows what to expect in 2012 - with a new record, an appearance on WXXI’s OnStage, and more gigs to knock out. For the die-hard VM fan, if you thought 2011 was a great year, there’s a funny feeling for 2012 to be even better…by a long mile.
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