WXXI AM News

Across the Universe

Our musicians, our writers, our artists, the culture that comes to visit us, the Elvis impersonators, the stars. WXXI Arts & Life Editor and Reporter Jeff Spevak takes a look at the local scene each week in Across the Universe.

Provided

Rock royalty has played the tiny room known simply as the Bug Jar.

There was The White Stripes, before the duo became indie-rock favorites. The Black Keys, before returning to town a few years later for gigs at Blue Cross Arena and Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center. Vampire Weekend. The 1975, sharing a bill with Rochester’s Joywave. 

Provided by Amy Collins and Tim Clark

The silence of the past year has been deafening.

“If it wasn’t COVID, we’d be out almost every night listening to music,” says Amy Collins. Or perhaps she and her husband, Tim Clark, would be playing music themselves.

True, there are still a few venues where stages remain lit, heeding to state-mandated coronavirus pandemic guidelines with varying degrees of compliance.

Fred SanFilipo

For most of 2020, I’ve been working from a second-floor room at my house in Charlotte. Typing, doing phone interviews, waiting for a neighbor to finish mowing his lawn so I can record something for broadcast. October came and went quietly. For the first time ever, no trick-or-treaters showed up at our door on Halloween. 

October also marked my first anniversary of working full-time at WXXI. And doing the math on my fingers, I see that I have actually spent more days working from this room, rather than at my desk at 280 State St. -- because of the coronavirus pandemic, of course. 

Leah Stacy

“The start of this story,” says Donny Clutterbuck, “could potentially be the trials and tribulations of becoming a different business every month.”

Thanks, Donny. I’ll take it from here. 

Clutterbuck is the bar manager at Cure, which offers French farmhouse cuisine at the Rochester Public Market. It’s one of the small treasures on the culinary scene here. And like all restaurants and bars in the COVID-19 era, the trial it’s been undergoing is the coronavirus pandemic. As an orange zone designee, Cure is open only for takeout. 

Joseph Fox

“I can imagine what things sound like even though I am deaf,” Robert Panara wrote in his poem, “On His Deafness.”

I can imagine the strumming of a guitar, I can imagine the rustle of a star.

Provided

Optimism has been in short supply throughout 2020.

And clarity is virtually nonexistent. The Supreme Court has declared that New York state’s attempt to force churches and synagogues to adhere to coronavirus pandemic guidelines is a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. But after a tough day at work, if all you want is to sit down in front of a beer and listen to a blues band, your favorite bar is finding it tough to survive under those same COVID-19 guidelines.

Provided

If it weren’t for Willie Mays, we might never have been blessed with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

That’s just one of Penny Sterling’s revelations in “The Story Behind the Story of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ ” presented live at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Zoom. Sterling will reveal the secrets she has uncovered before allowing viewers to ask questions or share their own Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Rochester Broadway Theatre League

This is, John Parkhurst says, “the longest intermission of our lives.”

As we churn toward what epidemiologists predict will be the darkest period yet of the coronavirus pandemic, venues such as Rochester’s Auditorium Theatre are shuttered in uncertainty.

“Right now, you plan for the worst and hope for the best,” says Parkhurst, chief operating officer of the Rochester Broadway Theatre League. “And if we can be open in March or April, it’s still a possibility.”

Provided

Amy Collins has never seen the northern lights. In the coming months, she aims to address that glaring hole in her soul.

Collins and her husband, Tim Clark -- both folk singers -- were hurtling down the New York State Thruway earlier this week, after leaving Rochester the day following the election. Behind them was Burlington, Vermont. Just ahead, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. They were at the head of a 52-feet-long, one-ton truck, pulling an RV trailer loaded with things they’ll need over the next five or so months of touring the country.

Jason Milton/WXXI

Danielle Ponder and her band -- Avis Reese, Derek Bennett, Levi Bennet and Jonathan Sheffer -- are on the stage at The Little Theater. In front of them are 280 seats, virtually all of them empty.

This is not the gig from hell. This is the COVID-19 reality.

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