Yesterday, Friday the 29th, was my first outing to the Rochester Big City Summer Fest. The wife and I arrived there entirely too early, thinking we’d get food while we were there. Well, when I get to criticisms later in the post, I’ll get to that.
But since the Big City Summer Fest is in it’s first year, the crowd was predictably small most of the time we were there. We also didn’t stay for the later shows, and bailed to find dinner around 8:30 or so, so I can’t speak to what things looked like later in the evening.
I’ll get into discussing more of the goings on after the flip.
It seems as though they needed to make some adjustments to the lineup late in the game today, because the schedule posted on the BigCitySummerFest.com website (and therefore this website) did not match up to what was going on. J-San and the Analog Sons were to have played at Keys and The Legendary Dukes were to have played the big outdoor stage, but in fact, J-San took the big stage at about 7pm and where the Legendary Dukes played – if at all – I don’t know. That was kind of a disappointment, but fortunately, J-San laid out some great reggae music for the crowd.
Fortunately, there was another, more fortuitous, set change. Elana James was set to play at the former Tiki Bob’s at 7pm, but instead played a little side stage not advertised in the fliers that they’d dubbed “Pocket Park.” I have no idea if this is the real name for it, or how back that name might have extended, but it was a nice little place for the music they were laying out. The full name of the band was Elana James and the Continental Two, and they played very rootsie, folkish music of a type you would expect to hear on Prairie Home Companion. Every one of the three of these musicians was incredibly talented, and I have never, ever seen anyone play upright bass like Beau Sample in my life. They ended with a knock-down, drag-out barn burner of a finale, with the fiddle burning, the guitar picking away and the bass getting the hell slapped out of it. Fantastic, though my wife’s favourite of the night was Ida Red, which I believe is a classic. We bought the album on the way out the door.
Elana James’ set ended about the same time as J-San’s, and as we wandered back over there (well, ok. I ran back that way because that’s where the only port-a-potties were. As I age, I hold my beer for shorter and shorter periods. . . ) The next act on the big stage was Small Stars. Small Stars is apparently a band out of Texas, and they play straight-ahead rock and roll in the classic vein. In fact, fans of Pulp Fiction’s immortal sock hop sequence would have been pleased with the opening number, Chuck Berry’s classic “You Never Can Tell.”
These guys were pretty cool, but of course, straight-ahead rock and roll gets old for me rather rapidly. Besides which, we were both starving and in dire need of sustainence. We checked out a couple of songs and I snapped a bunch of pictures, then we moved on.
We jumped back to the house and parked our car, then wandered into the South Wedge scene that is so great in the summer time. There has to be a way to make it possible to have a festival down there that’s at least as cool as the one in High Falls. I’m not a believer in High Falls as a cultural center (because, you know, I’m a student of the obvious), but the Wedge has proven itself to have sustaining power with places like Beale Street.
We had dinner at Beale Street, which was much better than I remember it from meals past. Perhaps they have a new cook, but the blackened chicken I had was just so moist on the inside that it totally played against the dryness of the spices beautifully.
But back to the Fest, what of my impressions of the festival as opposed to the music? Well, I think that the first order of business for next year is to improve the food situation. There were three food stands at the fest: a little burger cart, a “Ragin’ Cajun” trailer and a stand setup by Calabria of Gates. They all basically sold the same stuff, and no one seemed to be concentrating on snack-type foods. You could get sweet potato fries at the Ragin’ Cajun, but they were terrible.
It goes without saying that the schedule needs to be adhered to. I’m not sure what was up – and you can only do so much when shit hits the fan. Maybe some promoter or club owner (my two favourite types of people in the world) wanted to grab extra cash they thought they could get from the Dukes. Whatever is the case, these things need to be decided before the gig.
I’m looking forward to catching The Atomic Swindlers at the show tonight. They’re playing at the old Tiki Bob’s instead of Sky Bar because their venue has changed for a third time. We’re going with friends, so this should be fun. I spoke with April Laragy of the Swindlers via MySpace.com and she had this to say about the show:
“There is never an average show. Everyone is special and unique in it’s own way. We always try to give people a reason to say, ‘I am soooo glad we saw Atomic Swindlers instead of going to that championship soccer game…’ Heehee!!”
I asked if they’re planning on playing anything new, “Every song we play will be extremely unfamiliar to them….wait…is that good or bad?” And as for the other goings on in Rochester, “Will there be other things going on in town that night?? I thought they were shutting down the city for our show?!?”
Also featured tonight will be Brian Lindsay and the Bootleggers, Dave Donnelly, Patrick Sweeney, Ruthie Foster, The Park Avenue Band and Those Rusty Strings, which is a collection of Rochester rock-and-roll monsters:
Those Rusty Strings at Keys Piano Bar (Saturday, June 30, 2007) – Upcoming
A Rochester based line-up of jam band all-stars. Comprised from members of Beeeater, Sanduleak & Folk. In various forms, these guys have opened or played with The Neville Brothers and Victor Wooten. City Newspaper called Brian Dudley “a monster on the guitar”. Come on out for a night of great music.
So, come check it out tonight! If you see me, say “hello,” and I’ll take your picture, maybe! Tonight’s festivities promise to be fantastic!