Published in City Newspaper (Rochester)
2003 || 2004

Sounds Boxes in 2003

Clive Gregson

How often does someone that Guitar Player magazine considers ìone of the 1000 great guitaristsî come to town?  Clive Gregson had the talent (and audacity) to be the other  guitarist in the Richard Thompson Band through the 1980s.  A Mancunian born and raised, Gregson now lives in Nashville, perhaps lured there by his association with Nanci Griffiths.  In 1996 he travelled to Dublin to play on her Other Voices, Too album and was then was nominated for a Nashville Music Award in 1997 in the category of artist/songwriter.  Indeed, Gregson wrote all of the songs on his most recent solo album Comfort and Joy.  Oh, and he played all the instruments, sang, engineered and produced the album.  We arenít talking just a guy, a guitar and a tape recorder either; there is banjo, mandolin, accordion, drums and bass all woven together in immaculate arrangements.  Gregsonís music falls somewhere between that of Fairport Convention and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and his warm baritone somewhere between John Hiatt and a nice neat glass of Scotch.

Clive Gregson will appear on Thursday, October 2, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix:  $8 advance, $10 day of show.  271-3354

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Critics' Choice Awards 2003

Best band: Wild Geese

Saturday night at the Irish festival; the schedule is a mess.  I owe Wild Geese a longer set.  Only 35 minutes the night before.  Irondequoit has an 11 p.m. curfew. I decide to push it; the Geese are worth it.

The crowd on its feet as the band goes on; they know.  Chanting: ìGeese. Geese.  Geese.î    The band explodes; part Pogues, part MC5.  Rebel songs you thought you knew.  But here: furious, headlong and deeply felt.

Ten after 11.  The town says shut it down.  But this is rebel music.  There will be one more.  The band joins hands across the stage.  ìIrish Waysî, a prayer for peace.  Only voices, singing.   Just a little larger than your own life.  What you need.

Best hardware store: Huntís Hardware

My plumbing: immobile with rust, crumbling under my fingers.  At Huntís I scan the shelves, unable to focus.  Too much to do.   A clerk at my elbow: ìFind what you need?î  I mutter something inarticulate.  ìWell. If we donít have it, Dave can get it from the other store.î  Sizing up the old parts, she says  ìHereís one and hereís the other one.  Just trim off the extra length.î  She glances at the rust.  ìBill can get that apart for you.î  Bill and Dave Hunt are in the back room, being handy, efficient and telling each other what to do.  Daveís got my rusty problem in the vise.  Bill says ìThis wayís easierî and moves it, frees it, and cleans it.  ìThatíll work now.î  Thanks.

Best bagels: BrownSteinís

Sunday morning bagel run.  The store window postered with community events.  The bell tonks as the door swings open.  No mood music or saturated colors on the walls.  A clean linoleum floor and gleaming chrome coolers.  ìMorning.  What can I get you?î Mr. Brown (Mr. Stein?) has the sleeves of his sweatshirt rolled up.  ìA dozen bagels, please.î  A big brown bag is snapped open; a ëdození is 15 bagels here.  There are concessions to goy goofiness in the bins:  blueberry, cinnamon.  But mostly honest stock; salt bagels to die for.   ìSomething else?î  Chive cream cheese scooped and weighed.   The smell in my car.  The knife through the perfect texture.  My teeth in the dense, chewy bread.  I should have gotten some lox.  Next Sunday.

Biggest public eyesore: The Inner Loop

One car.  No cars.  Four in the afternoon.  An empty trench arcing around downtown.  Vacant lanes of patched, cracked asphalt.  The railing on the bridge: faded green, flaking and blistered with rust.  The slope between the sunken highway and street grade, too narrow and steep to mow; junk trees sprout in thickets, sporadically hacked back and made more misshapen and forlorn.   The train station, post office and 14621 stare south across thin air and pavement from less than splendid isolation.  Downtown cuts its losses and turns it back. 

I dream of dumptrucks.  They back up to the precipice.  The hydraulic groan of a full bed rising.  The hiss of fill, falling.  Crackling across the empty road.  Months later:  children play on level green ground, laughing.

***

Sim Redmond Band

I will now do the unthinkable and compare the Sim Redmond Band with the Grateful Dead.  My Deadhead friends used to go on about was how each show was different; the band could be really on or really odd.  The Dead took chances on stage, rearranging their songs on the spot.  Sometimes it worked, but it was always exciting.  In a sense it seemed to be a lesson in how to conduct your own life: trust your instincts, go with the flow and attempt know, really know, the minds of your compadres, so that you will all go together and that will be a beautiful thing.  Even the attempt is a beautiful thing, because it means you believe.

The members of the Sim Redmond Band are young enough to be the children of the Grateful Dead, and they have inherited from those ancient Bay Area wastrels the idea of music as a spiritual adventure.  But whereas the Dead drew heavily on bluegrass and old time, the Sim Redmond Bandís music is infused with the sounds of central Africa and Jamaica.  That said, the sound of the first SRB CD The Things We Will Keep (1999) owes more to Little Feat than Thomas Mapfumo.  It was on Good Thoughts (2000) and Life Is Water (2001) that the African influence came to the forefront.  Recent live performances, however, have featured many new songs that show a new more integrated direction.  A frequent high point is their rendition of Richie Stearnsí ìBaghdadís Childrenî.

Sim Redmond Band plays on Friday, December 5, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 11:30 p.m.  ULU opens at 10 p.m.  Tix: $7.  325-6490.

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Groovefest

Keyboard player Marc Check (5 Spiced Fingers) says that Rochesterís jam band scene needed a new focal point.  To that end he and Tim Roy began to organize Groovefests. After Groovefest I happened at Steel Music Hall in August, John Chmiel offered to host Groovefest II at Water Street.  So now youíve got something to do on the day after Christmas.

Check grew up with the Dead phenomenon and played in a number of jam bands within what he recalls was a thriving local scene.  For twenty years in the 80s and 90s he and other folks organized an annual party/concert at the Dogwood and Tupelo shelters in Genesee Valley Park.  It began to dissipate after the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, and at present no single local venue consistently supports jam band music.  There is, however, an increasingly popular virtual focus at www.rochestergroove.com, which keeps track of and supports local bands.

This Groovefestís headliner is The Niche, whom Check describes as playing a ìreggae-Phish-Zappa thingî.  The other bands appearing (in alphabetical order) are Checkís own 5 Spiced Fingers, Blind Hope, Buddhahood, Donít Bother the Dog, Groovenut, Jupiter 4H Project, Kevin MacConkey and Swamp Padres.  Both the main and club stages will be in rotating use, so concert-goers can experience continual grooviness.

Groovefest II happens on Friday, December 26 at Water Street Music Hall and Club, 204 N. Water Street, starting at 6 p.m.  Tix: $5 (advance); $7 (door). Available at Aaronís Alley 244-5044.

***

Wild Geese

You might want to wrap up the long Christmas weekend by spending Sunday evening with Wild Geese.  Youíve probably already had too much to eat and drink, so you might as well get a little hair of the dog.

The Geeseís new album, Back to the Boozer, features their latest line-up, including Mike, the new ëfifth Gooseí, on mandolin and zendrum (must be seen to be appreciated).  The title cut includes references to several Rochester people and places; go to enough shows and you might end up on the next album.

Wild Geese will appear Sunday, December 28, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Free. 325-6490

Sounds Boxes in 2004

Brian Conway and Brendan Dolan

Anyone who missed Brian Conway last fall at McGinnityís is going to get another chance.  This is Irish traditional music that the Smithsonian Institution thinks is worth issuing; Conwayís most recent album, First Through the Gate, is on the Smithsonian Folkways label.  The New York-born Conway plays the fiddle in the ëSligo styleí, which he learned largely under the tutelage of the late great Martin Wynne.  The fiddling of the County Sligo is a high ëornamentedí style, full of rolls, runs, and slurs.  It was made famous by Michael Coleman in the early 20th century and remains popular through the prowess of practitioners like Conway and Kevin Burke.  Conwayís repertoire is broad, going beyond the usual jigs, reels and hornpipes to include strathspeys, flings, polkas and slides.  His playing is clean and precise, bristling with improvised fills without ever being gaudy.  It is smooth, even elegant, while still rhythmic and compelling.  Remember: this is dance music.

In addition to an evening performance, Conway and his accompanist, Brendan Dolan (keyboard and flute), will offer workshops in the afternoon (at 12 and 2 p.m.) for those interested in honing their playing skills.

Brian Conway and Brendan Dolan appear Saturday, February 7 at East Rochester High School, 200 Woodbine Drive, East Rochester at 8 p.m.  Tix: $10 (advance), $12 (door), $5 (students).  271-3354 or 234-2746

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Sim Redmond Band

The last time the Sim Redmond Band played Rochester it was to a sold-out crowd.  The sound board stopped working half an hour before the end of the show, so the band dove into a massive all-acoustic percussion jam.  The audience didnít leave, they joined in.  According to Redmond, ìAs the crowds grow, our confidence grows, and weíre more open to try new things on stage, and explore the songs in different ways.  Iíd say that some of our most interesting performances have occurred in Rochester.î

The band has been performing a lot of new material over the past year, fine tuning it in concert as they record their new album.  Their first album, The Things We Will Keep, was full of driving jam-rock.  Good Thoughts and Life Is Water incorporated African percussion and tunings.  The new songs suggest SRB is in the process of developing their own distinct sound.

Sim Redmond Band appears Friday, March 12, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 11:45 p.m.  (Buddhahood at 10 p.m.) Tix: $7.  271-3354

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Danú

Danú has a new member.  Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh (av-low-eev) spent her childhood living on small islands off the coast of Ireland, where she spoke Irish as her first language. Her father was manager of island co-operatives in the Aran Islands off Co. Galway and also on Cape Clear off the coast of west Cork. It was here she heard a wealth of songs, mainly in the Irish language sean-nós (shahn-no-sh; ëold wayí) style and began to absorb the island musical culture. Danú plays centuries old dance tunes with an urgency that seems quite modern. But they have always varied the pace of their shows, slowing down to deliver traditional songs in both English and Irish. The sonorous vowels and gliding, murmuring consonants of the Irish language seem almost sung even when spoken.  Danú donít need to talk Irish politics; they are the living embodiment of a resilient culture.

Danú appears Tuesday, March 16, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door).  271-3354

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Bohola

Bohola are players in the pure drop tradition.  In the world of Irish traditional music, "pure drop" means strongly traditional.  Other practitioners include Lunasa and the Chieftains.  Uilleann piper Seamus Ennis made an album in 1973 called The Pure Drop, and you wonít find a better pedigree than that. 

Bohola are out of Chicago, but Jimmy Keane, the accordion player, is London-born, and Pat Broaders, the dordan (bass bouzouki!) player and singer, is from Dublin.  Sean Cleland, the fiddler, is a veteran of the Chicago Irish trad scene and once played with the alt-rock band the Drovers.  The newest addition to Boholaóshe was not with them on their last visit to Rochesteróis singer Kat Eggleston.

'Pure drop' is a driving, hypnotic style that grew out of session playing and away from the ceili dance setting.  It is more about musicianship; several players lock into the melody and play in unison with slight harmonic nuances thrown in to add dimension and tension.  Keane likens Boholaís sound to ìa four-handed glove - instinctively darting in and out of the music as if we were ëas-oneí playing the same big instrument.î  Ever wonder what the Chieftains would sound like if they played like Phish?

Bohola appears Thursday, February 12, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix:  $8 advance, $10 day of show.  271-3354

***

Wolfstone

Those of you who are still carrying a torch for Linda Rutherford & Celtic Fire or were blown away by Enter the Haggis at last yearís Rochester Irish Festival will probably like Wolfstone quite a bit.  Celtic rock is essentially the slightly unholy marriage of power chording and traditional music.  You wire the fiddle and the bagpipes, give the players a row of effects pedals at their feet and ëturn it up to 11í, so they can be heard in the mix with the howling electric guitar and pounding drum kit.  Together since 1989, Wolfstone has developed impressive chops and they know how to pace their sets.  The instrumentals are tightly executed rave-ups that include both traditional and contemporary tunes.  The songs are paeans to life in the Highlands and romantic ballads that will help you to remember that you brought your girlfriend to the concert with you.

Wolfstone appears Tuesday, March 23, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door).  325-6490

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Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco Road Runners

Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Road Runners are the latest in the series of bands brought to town by the Rochester Cajun-Zydeco Junkies.  Zydeco is the dance music of the Creole population of southwest Louisiana.  The Creoles are French speakers of African or mixed African and European descent who have been in Louisiana since the 18th century.  Their culture is entwined with but separate from their fellow Francophones, the Acadians (Cajuns).  Michael Tisserand in his book The Kingdom of Zydeco says that before he heard zydeco he associated the accordion and the rubboard, the signature instruments of this music, with Lawrence Welk and washing clothes.  Like Tisserand, when you hear zydeco you are going to forget about both.  Hearing Leroy Thomas play the accordion will remind you of the first time you saw someone pick up a violin and found out why they call it a fiddle.

Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Road Runners will appear Saturday, March 20 at the Harmony House, 58 East Main Street, Webster, at 8 p.m.  Dance lesson at 7:15 p.m.  Tix: $10 (advance); $12 (door).  586-0476

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Full Frontal Folk

Full Frontal Folk is four females from Philly fearsomely flailing away at the folk form. On their first album, Storming the Castle, they covered artists ranging from Tom Waits (ìJockey Full of Bourbonî) to Bad Religion (ìAnesthesiaî) with plenty of room left for traditional songs like ìWayfaring Strangerî and ìDidnít Leave Nobody But the Babyî.  This eclectic repertoire is held together by soaring, interlocking four-part harmonies delivered with verve and spirit.  Although they all claim to have come from some sort of purist folk music background, their approach to performing this stuff owes more to the Nields or the Roches than to Joan Baez or Peggy Seeger.  Last October at Milestones they were flirting with and sassing back to nearly every man in the audience, even the sound man.  A Full Frontal Folk show is not good clean fun.  This is a welcome relief given the (salvation) army of sanitized folk that marches from venue to venue in this country alternately preaching polemic to the choir and bending the collective ear about unhappy personal relationships. FFFís second album, Sweet Mystery of Life, will be released April 1 (in keeping with their irrepressible sense of humor).

Full Frontal Folk will appear Saturday, April 3 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue at 7 p.m.  Tix: $10 (advance); $12 (door). 271-3354

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Tempest

Mandolin player Lief Sorbye and drummer Adolfo Lazo have formed the core of Tempest since 1988. The terrifyingly good (and apparently ageless) fiddler Sue Draheim has left the band after two years service and has been replaced by original fiddler Michael Mullen, who left in 2000. Sorbye (who is Norwegian and quite tall) draws on the folk music of Scandinavia and the British Isles for traditional tunes and songs.  He also allows it to heavily inspire his own compositions. The band may begin a song with a quiet mandolin and fiddle accompanying a subdued vocal, but five minutes later the audience finds itself in the middle of a maelstrom. Tempestís music is progressive rock in a folk-rock wrapper (that keeps falling off). Comparisons to vintage Jethro Tull are not off the mark. This summer Tempest will release a box set called (fetchingly) The 15th Anniversary Collection, which will include rare studio, radio and live material.

Tempest will appear Wednesday April 21 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. Tix: $10 (advance); $12 (door).  271-3354

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River City Slim & the Zydeco Hogs

The zydeco scene of the Northeastern US is heating up and the next blast to hit Rochester will be from River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs of Hartford, CT. If youíve been hearing about this music and havenít checked it out yet Ö well, why not? Sometime during the 1950s elements of rhythm and blues got grafted onto Creole music and zydeco was born.  Maybe youíve only heard of Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat Zydeco, but lot of the regional bands take their cue from the late Boozoo Chavis. Chavis brought a stomp and drive to zydeco derived from the blues and just by being Boozoo. The Zydeco Hogs would seem to have the blues influence down, complete with stage names like ìBlind Markî, ìToadî and ìSmokiní Johnî. Their rubboard (washboard) player also doubles as the fiddler, which is unusual in a zydeco band. Youíll dance. Youíll sweat.  You will have fun.

River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs will appear Saturday, May 15 at the Harmony House, 58 E. Main Street, Webster at 8 p.m.  Dance lesson at 7:15 p.m.  Tix: $10  586-0476

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The Strawbs

The Strawbs came to Rochester twice last year as an acoustic trio and now return as a fully electrical unit. They began their career in the geologic past as a bluegrass outfit called the Strawberry Hill Boys, immediately morphed into a Brit-folk group and by the early 1970s had evolved into a progressive rock band. One of the pivotal albums of the latter period is Hero and Heroine (1974). Thirty years on the line-up for that album has re-united for a brief North American tour, which kicks off in Rochester. This reunion is as historic as (although admittedly less improbable than) Jethro Tull deciding to reunite the War Child line-up.

Guitarists Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert, who, with Brian Willoughby, comprised the most recent acoustic version of the band, will return in its electric incarnation with keyboardist John Hawken, bass player Chas Cronk, and drummer Rod Coombes. The playing of the acoustic trio was unbelievably tight and you can likely expect more of the same from this line-up. They have just spent several months putting together their latest album Déja Fou. The title can be translated as either ìcrazy againî or ìsuccessful againî.  Could be both Ö and fun.

The Strawbs will appear Thursday, June 24 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix: $22 advance; $25 door.  325-6490

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Phønix

It was a cold and snowy night this past January when the Danish traditional band Phønix came to town.  But, perhaps driven by a combination of curiosity and cabin fever, a good crowd turned out to see and hear three Danes play bass clarinet (!), accordion and hand percussion while a fourth sang five-hundred-year-old ballads in a language that nobody in the audience could understand. In spite of the language barrier and with help of spoken introductions in perfect English, everyone present got progressively more enthusiastic and the evening ended with a standing ovation. This was all to the great delight of the band, who on the previous night had played to twelve rather more indifferent people in New York City.

Phønix begins its set playing tunes that wouldnít sound out of place at a church social (in Denmark, of course), but as the evening progresses and the intensity and drive of the music builds you might find yourself having random thoughts about rowing to England and pillaging some churches. Thatís when you might remember that the Danes were once Vikings and thatís when you might realize that Phønix has tapped into something deep and elemental. Thereís more to Denmark than stylish furniture and pastry.

Phønix will appear Tuesday, June 29 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix: $10 advance, $12 door.  325-6490

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Brave Combo

Brave Combo played at David Byrneís wedding. (Yes, that David Byrne.) Need I say more? Brave Combo backed up Tiny Tim on his final album.  (Yes, that Tiny Tim.) More? OK. This is a polka band. Wait, wait, I know youíre thinking Lawrence Welk and matching gingham outfits. Itís not that kind of polka. Then again, it is. Polka, you see, is cool. You just didnít know it. Yet.

Polka is popular all over Europe from the Baltic countries (Mr. Welk was Lithuanian) through Scandinavia to Ireland (especially in County Kerry) and down into Italy and Spain. Hence its popularity in Latin America (hence Mr. Byrneís interest). Polka, my friends, is world music.

Brave Combo formed in 1979 in Denton, Texas, which is north of Fort Worth. At that time a lot of young people were turning to punk as an antidote to what rock music had become, but guitarist and accordion player Carl Finch turned to polka. Finch decided to take all the energy, imagination and curiosity that was in him (and missing from late 70s rock music) and channel it through the dance music of the German and Czech tradition. Almost immediately the band began to combine polka with other musical styles, including Tejano and conjunto, township jive, reggae, Armenian folk, Cajun and zydeco. This global mélange characterizes their entire repertoire, which includes, with fitting irony, classic rock gems like ìSatisfactionî, ìInna Gadda Da Vidaî and ìPeople Are Strangeî.

Over 25 years Brave Combo has issued 24 albums with titles like Polkamania (1979), Polkatharis (1984), Polkas For A Gloomy World (1995) and Kick-Ass Polkas (2001).  Their latest CD, Box of Ghosts (2003), is comprised entirely of music by classical composers, including the polka-ready ìSlavonic Danceî by Dvorák and the not-so-polka-ready ìSwan Lakeî by Tchaikovsky. Hey, letís party!

Brave Combo will appear Monday, July 26, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. Tix: $10 (advance); $12 (door).  271-3354

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Crasdant

Check out Welsh band Crasdant for the obscurity factor alone. In Scotland and Ireland the Gaelic language holds on at the geographical margins of the country and relatively few people speak it. In contrast, Welsh is widely spoken in Wales and always has been. It is the reverse when it comes to music; Welsh traditional music is comparatively little heard, especially outside of Wales.

Crasdant deploys many of the instruments familiar to fans of Celtic music: fiddle, accordion, whistles, flute and guitar, but also harp and pipes (ëpibgorní). The harp is the most ancient of Celtic instruments, but is not often lugged around by touring bands. Crasdant play in a Baroque style redolent of the 18th century. As you listen to this intricate dance music, donít be too surprised if, out of the corner of your eye you see in the corner, tapping his toe and nursing a pint of bitter, the ghost of Turlough OíCarolan.

Crasdant will appear on Wednesday, September 1 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 7 p.m.  Tix:  $10 advance, $12 day of show.  271-3354

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T Broussard & the Zydeco Steppers

Before there was zydeco, there was Creole music. And Creole music is still around. Bryant ìTî Broussard is a zydeco musician descended from a Creole dynasty. His mother Mary Jane Ardoin is reputedly the only female accordion player who continues the Creole style. Her uncle Bois Sec Ardoin (b. 1916) also continues in the Creole style and played accordion for many years with Cajun fiddlers Canray Fontenot and Dewey Balfa. T Broussard played drums and ëscrubboardí on stage with his mother from a young age, but didnít learn the accordion and put his own band together until he was in his early 20s. After some ups and downs in life worthy of a blues song, Broussard is now fully dedicated to playing zydeco music with its Creole roots showing proudly.  His latest CD Git It Down, Git Down includes reworked Creole traditionals, all flavors of zydeco and his cousin Keith Frank on guitar.

T Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers will appear Saturday, September 11 at Harmony House, 58 E. Main Street, Webster at 8 p.m. Esther Brill leads a zydeco dance lesson at 7:15 p.m. Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door). 533-1616
 

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Rochester Irish Festival

The Rochester Irish Festival, like the universe, is expanding. In 2002, when it moved from Gates to Camp Eastman in Irondequoit, the festival occupied only two of the three tents erected for the Oktoberfest. Last year the Irish spread to all three tents, using the third as a bazaar for Celtic goods and as a showcase for heritage events. This year there will be two stages going throughout the three day festival.

The Main Stage will feature bohola from Chicago, Knot Fibbín from Ohio, Téada from Ireland and local favorites Dave North Trio, Wild Geese, One Road, Celtic Music Society, Penfield Pops and, of course, the Dady Brothers. The Heritage Stage will feature Jim Payne & Fergus OíByrne, the Blarney Bunch, as well as some musicians from the Main Stage.

Between musical performances, as in past years, the floor is given over to the various traditional step dances schools, and the Kanack School, which teaches children to play traditional music. New this year in the Heritage Tent will be a ëhoolieí (music and dance party), a jam featuring bohola and members of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and a set dance workshop presented by Comhaltas.

Oh yeah, and thereíll be beer too.

The 10th Rochester Irish Festival will be Friday, September 10 (4-11 p.m.), Saturday, September 11 (12-11 p.m.) Sunday September 12 (12-6 p.m.) at Camp Eastman, Lakeshore Blvd., Irondequoit.  Tix: $5/day (children under 8 free).  See www.rochesteririshfestival.org for more information.

***

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention has been together for only 38 years, but they have an 800-year song catalog to draw from; ballads like ìMatty Grovesî were composed between 1200 and 1700. Only singer/guitarist Simon Nicol remains from the original Fairport line-up of the 60s, but bassist Dave Pegg has been in the band since 1969 and fiddler Ric Sanders is going on 20 years. As wild cards like Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick bowed out, a certain amount of English jolliness has replaced some of the Celtic moroseness. But ìIím Already Thereî from the new CD Over the Next Hill begins as something not out place in the Gerry Rafferty catalog and then suddenly morphs into a tune that smells delightfully of heather and sea spray. ìWillow Creekî bounces along with credible Latin syncopation conveying all the loin-warming pleasure induced by the sight of a beautiful woman on a horse.

Fairport Convention appears Tuesday, September 28, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix:  $18 advance, $20 day of show.  271-3354

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Irish Day

The local chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (Irish Musiciansí Association) will be fulfilling its mission to bring Irish traditional music to the public.  Itís annual ìIrish Dayî is now in its third year.  The bulk of the day is spent in workshops devoted to teaching skills musicians, aspiring musicians, singers, dancers and those simply interested in Irish culture.  The participants have ranged in expertise from rank beginners to those who are frankly pretty good, but would like to get better.  The instruments taught include the old stand-bys of Irish music, accordion, fiddle, guitar and the tin whistle, but also some rarer birds like hammer dulcimer and harp.  The whole affair is quite relaxed and culminates in a performance at the end of the day.

The 3rd Annual Irish Day will be held Sunday, October 10 in the Music Department (Building 6) at Nazareth College, 4245 East Avenue, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Registration is at the door.  389-2525

***

Danú

Six Irish guys with musical instruments walk into a bar.  One of them asks a barfly, ìWhereís the stage?î  The barfly, partly baffled by the heavy accent, slurs, ìI dunno.î  The musician says ìNo. Weíre Danú.  Now, whereís the stage?î  The barfly says ìAll the worldís a stage.î  The musician turns to his bandmates, ìGreat.  Weíre not lost anymore.î  This conversation, or one like it, may well have taken place on one of Danúís previous visits.  When they eventually take the stageóthey are very friendly and like to wanderóthey tear the place up. Their most recent album, The Road Less Travelled, and this tour feature their new female lead singer, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh.

Danú will appear Tuesday, October 12 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix: $15 (advance) $18 (door).  325-6490

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Kevin Naquin

Music is apparently in the blood.  Kevin Naquin is the great-grandson of Hadley Fontenot, the accordionist on the first Balfa Brothers album.  He grew up surrounded by Cajun music; even his babysitter played a mean accordion.  We should all be so lucky.  But those of us who canít play (and some of us who can), can always dance.  Press reviews of Naquin and the Ossun Playboys stress that while these young folks (Naquin is only 21) hew closely to the tradition, they can really lay it down, and well-known hybridizer Steve Riley is often cited as an influence.  Naquin started playing accordion at 13 in Acadiana, LA and by the age of 19 he was touring southern California.  Even if you donít like to dance, itís great to hear someone besides Serge Gainsborough sing in French.

Kevin Naquin and the Ossun Playboys will appear Saturday, October 16 at the Harmony House, 58 East Main Street, Webster, at 8 p.m.  Cajun dance lesson with Esther Brill at 7:15..  Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door).  586-0476

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Draíocht

ìDraíochtî is the Irish word for ìmagicî and it might be pronounced something like ìdrah-ee-ocktî, but you should probably go see June McCormack and Kevin Rooney to really find out. Flautist McCormack and harper/concertinist Rooney play Irish traditional music in a way that is making Sean OíRiada smile from the Beyond. OíRiada was a professor at the University of Cork who had an unreasoning dislike of ceili bands and pushed to get traditional music played and accepted as ëart musicí. (His first success was to get Paddy Moloney to start the Chieftains.) McCormack and Rooney play ëIrish musicí with the gorgeous melodies at the fore and the rhythm carried by perfect adherence to the time signature, rather than being pounded out on a set of congas. 

McCormack and Rooney will lead flute, whistle and harp workshops 1?3 p.m., October 17 at East Rochester High School.  Call 334-3345 for more information.

Draiocht will appear at Saturday, October 16, 2004 at Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church, 1200 Winton Road South at 7:30 PM.  Tix:  $12 (Golden Link members); $15 (non-members).  234-5044

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C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band

When you go out to see C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band this weekend, you are going to see and hear something a bit different from most of the zydeco bands that come through.  C.J.ís father, Clifton, was often called the ìking of zydecoî, but then, so was Boozoo Chavis.  While Boozooís zydeco was infused with traditional Creole and country music, the Cheniersí sound is shot through with rhythm and blues, and C.J. is not shy about adding elements of funk and soul.  C.J. was as a saxophone player, but learned the piano accordion at the elder Chenierís request. C.J. gradually assumed leadership of the band before his father passed on in 1987. Since then, through relentless touring and guest appearances with Paul Simon, the Gin Blossoms and on television, C.J. Chenier has steadily expanded on the base of popularity that Clifton Chenier worked so hard to build for zydeco.

C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band will appear Saturday, November 6 at Nolaís, 4775 Lake Avenue, Charlotte at 10 p.m.  Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door).  663-3375

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Acoustic Strawbs

The recent flurry of Strawbs visits began in early 2003 when their acoustic incarnation (Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Brian Willoughby) appeared to support Baroque and Roll, which featured acoustic arrangements of older songs. I was rather stunned by the precision, complexity and passion of their playing. In an era when singers all seem to imitate each other, it is also refreshing to hear a voice like Cousinsí, which can not be mistaken for another and is even less likely to be imitated. In summer 2004 the band came through with a full electric ensemble, actually a reconstitution of their early 70s Hero and Heroine and Ghosts line-up. They had just recorded their first album of new material in a decade: Déja Fous. The upcoming appearance will be an acoustic performance with Chas Cronk returning to sit in for Brian Willoughby.

The Acoustic Strawbs will appear Thursday, November 11 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m.  Tix: $20-$22.  325-6490

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Full Frontal Folk

The Full Frontal Folk females, in a fetching turn, grace the back cover of their new CD with full dorsal nudity (pun probably intentional). I was not surprised to find that three of them sport elaborate lumbar-level tattoos.  On the new Sweet Mystery of Life they have fleshed out their ensemble by adding a drummer and have leaned more on the traditional canon than on singer/songwriters. They very much have their collective hand firmly on the pulse of contemporary folk. To wit, a cover of ìCat Eyed Willie Claims His Loverî by the recently late and much missed Dave Carter, a cover of a Woody Guthrie lyric with music by Slaid Cleaves, who like Billy Bragg, Wilco and the Klezmatics, has apparently been allowed into the Guthrie Archives, and an electronica version of ìWayfaring Strangerî. Their four-part harmony on ìGeneral Taylorî will likely be a show-stopper.

Full Frontal Folk  will appear Saturday, November 20 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door).  271-3354

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Lissa Schneckenburger Band

What happens when you are raised by parents with a penchant for fiddle tunes and a record collection of 70s singer/songwriters, you start playing contradances in rural Maine at eight, and ten years later you go off to the New England Conservatory? Well, you become Lissa Schneckenburger. She heads up three bands: Phantom Power (contradance), Halali (Scottish) and her eponymous ensemble (a little of everything). Unusual among fiddle players, she will also lower instrument to sing, songs of her own composition, by friends and traditionals. Backing her up are guitarist Matt Heaton, who records Irish trad with his sister Shannon, and bassist Corey DiMario, who also plays with fiddler Laura Cortese, one-third of Halali. Schneckenberger lets her affection for Liz Carroll inform her Irish playing, while Alasdair Fraser haunts the Scottish and a bunch of players sheís heard since the age of six shape the New England tunes.

The Lissa Schneckenburger Band will appear Tuesday, November 23 at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 8 p.m. Tix: $12 (advance); $15 (door).  271-3354

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Enter the Haggis

Piper Craig Downie is the one constant factor in the evolution of Enter the Haggis from a Celtic folk-rock to a Celtic progressive-rock band.  Between Let the Wind Blow High (1998) and Aerials (2001) there was a complete turnover in personnel, excepting Downie. The original band depended much more heavily on acoustic instrumentation. While the present incarnation deploys acoustic fiddle, guitar and bagpipes with regularity, one ends up using words like ìattackî and ìmaelstromî to describe their sound. This is a good thing. ETH blew the roof off the tent at the 2003 Rochester Irish Festival.

Fiddler Brian Buchanan has a slashing rhythmic style that is generally Scottish, but is essentially his own: a classically-trained violinist gone berserk. A high point of most shows is his own composition ìArcturusî, which, by the look on his face, usually tests even his abilities. Downie leavens the proceedings with a healthy dose of absurdist humor. His song titles say it all:  ìDonald, Whereís Yer Troosersî, ìThe Mexican Scotsmanî, ìMartha Stuartî. The antics of these two are anchored by a guitar, bass and drums power trio who havenít entirely forgotten all the Rush they listened to in high school.

Enter the Haggis appears Friday, December 17, at Milestones, 170 East Avenue, at 7:30 p.m.  Tix:  $12 advance, $15 day of show.  271-3354

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Hibernian Weather Channel Productions

Last revised:  May 3, 2005