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 Photo

While the summer COVID season has forced the cancellation of many long-standing Western New York events, the Memorial Art Gallery’s M&T Bank Clothesline Festival will be happening Sept. 11-12 on the museum grounds.


After 20 years of writing its own history, you’d think people could talk or write about Blackberry Smoke without referencing The Allman Brothers Band. Or Lynyrd Skynyrd. Or The Marshall Tucker Band.

Charlie Starr pays no mind to our need to place his band in such a box.

“Not really,” says Blackberry Smoke’s lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter. “Because I love those bands, so dearly.”

One man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

“It’s like, ‘Well, it could be worse, you know,’” Starr concedes. “They could say, ‘You guys remind me of the Bay City Rollers.’”

Max Schulte/WXXI News file photo

In some respects, it’s as though the coronavirus pandemic never happened. Over the last couple of weeks, blueswoman Carolyn Wonderland was at Abilene Bar & Lounge. Oliver Wood, lead singer and songwriter of the Wood Brothers, was at Anthology. Irascible and invaluable social critic Steve Earle was at Point of the Bluff Vineyards.

This was how it always was, back in the day.


A music festival dominates our perception of what American culture was a half-century ago. It is Woodstock, of course. Properly filmed and recorded, it’s a touchstone that social historians, documentary makers and dads who once dropped acid -- but not the brown acid!! -- return to repeatedly.

And now, after that same half-century, we have found another one.


After nearly two decades of shining the klieg lights on women both in front of and behind the camera, Rochester’s High Falls Women’s Film Festival is making an abrupt turn.

Sometime this fall, the yearly festival will evolve into a monthly series shown at The Little Theatre, 240 East Ave. The theater is operated by WXXI.

Along with the films, directors and actors will be brought in to preserve the festival's connection between the audiences and the filmmakers. Previous guests have included Lynn Redgrave, Diane Ladd and Leslie Stahl.


After a year’s hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Five Star Bank Party in the Park joins the sudden summer crush of concert announcements, with nine dates at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in downtown Rochester.

The series opens with an unusual mid-week combo. A Wednesday, July 14 show features the Baltimore funk and jam band, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.


The scene was something that might have been directed by John W. Borek himself. Three people, including two women in angel wings, opening the show -- show would likely have been Borek’s own word for this memorial -- by sashaying through the crowd, displaying photos of Borek and his wife, Jackie Levine, flinging rose petals into the bright afternoon sun, and throwing in a ribbon dance for unexpected good measure. 

Geva’s Mark Cuddy to retire next year

Jun 24, 2021
Provided by Geva Theatre Center

Longtime Geva Theatre Center Artistic Director Mark Cuddy announced Thursday that he will be leaving the regional theater in July 2022, after its 49th season.

“It felt like the right time to kind of turn the page,” he said. “I want to get everything open. I want to get season 49 produced, well, and get our audiences back.”

Cuddy said three factors played heavily into his decision: the pandemic, the theater closing in on its 50th, and his age. Cuddy is 66 and said retirement was on the horizon.

Sergio Kurhajec

Cindy Cashdollar did not use the past year of pandemic retreat as an opportunity to reinvent some aspect of her life. “I did not sit down and learn Japanese flute, or learn Indian raga scales or do anything like that,” she says. “I didn’t learn how to quilt, I didn’t learn how to become a photographer.”

What she did do was finally, after all these years, get into the cardboard boxes of history she’d been squirreling away: posters of shows she’s played, photographs of the musicians she’s played with.

Aaron Winters

The KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival is firing up what it once considered “a pipe dream for us.”

After having conceded this spring that September’s Fringe would not include two major pieces from past years -- the glittering Victorian Spiegeltent and the open block off Main Street, Parcel 5 -- it now seems assured that both will be part of the 12-day festival this fall.

“It’s a result of the guidelines changing faster than anyone thought they would change,” says the event’s producer, Erica Fee.