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 by Judith Schaechter

Had it been a minute faster, or a minute slower, on a 2,825-mile journey, the Titanic might have been just another passenger ship that never met an iceberg.

That's the cruelty of timing. We're seeing it now in the arts, as musicians gauge whether they should release a new work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, or wait until it's OK to throw a party.

There's a new album out by The Heavy Love Trust's titled "Always Kinda Nothing". Check it out on your favorite streaming platform. 

To mark the release, we've got The Heavy Love Trust's Benton Sillick with us on HomeStage to play the only song he's written during quarantine.

Screenshot from Facebook.com

Here's what the coronavirus pandemic is teaching us:

Slow down.

A screenshot from Angels in the Rafters video on YouTube

Monday morning, Facebook greeted me with this message:

You have seven events coming up this week.

Seven. That list used to run into the hundreds.

We don't know what to do with ourselves. Have we forgotten what the arts can do for us?

As a percussionist, Marty York is all washed up. On Monday evening, he was banging on the washing machine at his home, pounding out a rhythm, whacking a cowbell.

This is music in the age of coronavirus. Musicians confined to their homes, stripped of creative connections, driven to abusing large appliances. York is the drummer with Watkins & the Rapiers, a Rochester band stripped of its Monday-night residency at The Little Café. 

Imagine you're driving in a car through the mountains, and up ahead is a tunnel. You enter the tunnel, and immediately the sunlight disappears. You don't know how long the tunnel is, how long the darkness will last, or what you'll see when you come out on the other side.

That's where we are now.

Courtesy Rounder Records/Jacalyn Meyvis

Idle hands are the devil's tools. Unless we place a musical instrument in those hands.

The coronavirus pandemic has put virtually every musician in the country out of work. But many have responded by retreating to their basements. Recording a song. Then letting it run loose on the internet, where an innocent browser will uncover something beautiful. Such as the Rochester band Violet Mary, and its stunning version of Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song."

Courtesy of Matt Ramerman

For this moment, a dramatic response was called for. It was time to come up big. Matt Ramerman had what he calls a local "power roster" of musicians lined up and ready to go this weekend. He had sponsors. He had a venue, the biggest club in town, Anthology. The technology needed to stream the show live on the internet was ready. The message: We're down, but not out …

Hollywood Records

Coronavirus' vast, leathery bat wings are slowly encircling the planet, casting a shadow across the globe, choking out light, our culture. Go home, draw the curtains closed, turn on the television, do not answer calls from friends inviting you to dinner or a movie.

The moment calls for a new cautionary label. It was duck and cover, for those who survived the Cold War. Shelter in place, for those who heard shots from a lone gunman in the next classroom. Now, social distancing.

Provided by Madrigalia

As the winter solstice rolls around, the pagans have decided that bows and arrows simply won't do, they'll need cannons to vanquish their foe. And so the cannons do their work, and the pagans parade the bodies of their victims through the town. And then, "The song goes into cannibalism," Cary Ratcliff explains, as the pagans hand out extra pieces of meat to the poor.

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