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Jeff Spevak

Arts & Life Editor

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.

He has also been published in Musician and High Times magazines, contributed to WXXI, City newspaper and Post magazine, and occasionally performs spoken-word pieces around town. Some of his haikus written during the Rochester jazz festival were self-published in a book of sketches done by Scott Regan, the host of WRUR’s Open Tunings show.

Spevak founded an award-winning barbecue team, The Smokin’ Dopes, and believes Bigfoot is real. His book on the life of a Lake Ontario sailor who survived the sinking of his ship during World War II will be published in April of 2019 by Lyons Press.

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Provided by KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival

One year ago, the giant fantasy undersea visions of Plasticiens Volants’ French inflatables bobbed and weaved in the crisp fall air over the heads of thousands of people on Rochester’s Parcel 5. London’s Massaoke karaoke singalong of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” echoed off the sides of downtown buildings. 

Provided by KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival

Big-name comedians, mainly at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, have been a major part of the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival though its first eight years. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, that kind of show is not in the plans this year when the event opens next week.

Roger Kirby

The world has reached the point where, after a tough day at work, you can’t pull up a barstool and unwind with an expertly made Negroni cocktail without feeling like it’s an act that puts your friends and family in danger.

Not since the coronavirus pandemic, “when the world changed,” Chuck Cerankosky says.

“But we’re all still here. The bars are still here, we’re struggling to survive. We’re trying to navigate through this forest of precautions and guidelines and morality.”

Provided

In his four decades of working in the music business, Quake Mark says he’s had a gun pulled on him three times, he’s been shot once, stabbed twice, overdosed once, been in three bus crashes, four bus fires and has survived two plane crashes, including with the Goo Goo Dolls in 1999 when the band’s plane skidded off a runway in Italy.

But this coronavirus pandemic could be the end of his career as a sound technician, production manager and tour manager, “which is a fancy way of saying I’m a very high-priced roadie,” says Quake. 

Geva Theatre Center announced its 2020-21 season in March, although Artistic Director Mark Cuddy added the caveat that those plans could be challenged by the coronavirus pandemic.

That caveat landed this week, as Geva released plans for its “Reimagined” upcoming season, with four audio shows by Black writers and directors starting in October.

In less than three weeks, the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival will do what the Edinburgh Fringe Festival could not pull off for the first time in its 73-year-history. 

Put on a show.

And that’s no knock on Edinburgh. It’s just a reflection on how huge that nearly monthlong event is. In 2019, it presented more than 60,000 performances of 3,800 different shows. But faced with the coronavirus pandemic this year, the lumbering Edinburgh simply couldn’t pivot to the internet and virtual performances, as so many younger and smaller fringe festivals are now doing.

Gateways Music Festival/YouTube

 

Falling in line with other festivals throughout the world, the Gateways Music Festival, postponed from earlier this summer, has confirmed plans to go virtual in November.

The event, which has brought classical musicians of African descent to Rochester since 1995, first partnered with the Eastman School of Music four years ago. Last year’s seven-day event was its largest ever, with 17 public programs, more than 30 community performances and 125 musicians. This year’s Gateways, a five-day event starting on Nov, 9, may be equally ambitious in a different way, when set against the challenge presented by COVID-19.

Wicked Cool Records

It’s nothing but the best for The Empty Hearts when the band goes off in search of inspiration. As Andy Babiuk tells it, there was this one night …

“I was backstage at a Stones show, hanging out with Mick Jagger,” Babiuk says, “and he goes, ‘Hey Andy, I have this song that I think would really work for The Empty Hearts.’ And he literally like, sang the whole song to me.”

Alas, it was, literally, a dream gig.

“And so I got up and I hummed the song into my iPhone and went back to bed,” Babiuk says. “Had I not done that, I would have never remembered it.”

Kurt Brownell

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra confirmed Tuesday that it is postponing or canceling all of its September, October and November traditional programming. In place of the performances: Five livestreamed concerts, without an audience, from Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

The affected shows include all philharmonic, Pops, Sunday Matinee and orKIDStra Series performances, as well as a series of specials that are being rescheduled for next summer. Events scheduled for December and beyond remain in place while the RPO awaits further word from the state.

cdc.gov

For the fourth straight day, the Monroe County Department of Public Health on Saturday reported no deaths related to COVID-19.

Governor Andrew  Cuomo said on Saturday morning that, statewide as of Friday, hospitalizations have dropped to 523, the lowest total since March 17. The governor said that Friday’s total of 88,668 reported tests is also an all-time high. New York reported five COVID-19 related deaths on Friday, continuing a dramatic decline in a state that has seen more than 25,200 deaths to date.

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