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.

Warner Bros. Pictures

A murmur of excitement rolled through the area’s movie-going community, long in coronavirus limbo, when word came out early Saturday afternoon that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had just announced that theaters throughout the state – umm, except you, New York City -- could reopen as of this Friday.

The news seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Then reality hit: Restarting an industry is not as simple as firing up the popcorn machine and hitting the projector “on” switch.

Provided

Winter’s coming. A long season of coronavirus discontent is settling over us.

A shift in our community interactions has already proven to be inevitable.

After a slow, downward spiral, one of downtown Rochester’s iconic bars, Richmond’s, closed last weekend. The place goes back more than three decades, back to when it was Schatzees.

Illustration by Jacob Walsh/CITY News

Morning glory vines have overtaken my backyard this summer. They are deceptively beautiful, with their lush greenery and scattering of delicate trumpet flowers creeping up the deck railings, thin tendrils reaching out to embrace the legs of the grill. The morning glory grows with startling virility. If the dog stood for too long within its reach, I might have to tear the vines from her legs.

But in truth, the morning glory is a lie. It is a noxious weed. If I allow it to spread, it will kill everything beneath it.

For fans of metaphors, the morning glory is 2020.

John Solberg

As best as Francie Marx can reassemble the story after more than seven decades, Robert Marx was 19 years old, serving in the U.S. Army Air Force as a military policeman somewhere in Europe. World War II had just ended, and he was assigned to sit outside the cell of a prisoner. Francie recalls Robert describing him as "a pathological killer."

"And if the guy wanted a cigarette, Robert would light one, put it on the floor, push it forward with his foot," Francie says. "This guy could then smoke the cigarette."

Smart art must make smart choices.

And the process often means making far more compromises than most artists will admit to. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the arts to re-think everything. As in: To what degree will our society be embracing virtual presentation of the arts?

The answer is being explored in a major way during Rochester Fringe. It is a petri dish of virtual performance as we watch what kind of bacteria, mosses or pleasantly edible fungi emerge over this 12-day experiment. Is virtual arts useful culture, or is it contamination?

Provided by KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival

Yes, there are very good reasons why the two presentations of Cameryn Moore’s show at the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival start at 10:30 p.m. It’s past the kiddies’ bedtime.

And, looking at it another way, it’s bedtime for adults as well. 

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. 

Jeff Spevak/WXXI News

The Spring Chickens had a gig last week. It was the first live-music performance I’d attended since mid-March.

That’s quite a stretch of home quarantine for someone who is usually out three or four or five evenings a week. Maybe attending shows, or eating dinner at a restaurant or a friend’s house, or wandering over to a neighbor’s house with my dog. 

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.”

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