Picastro – Rochester – The Bug Jar, NY – 2002-08-16

Where: Rochester – The Bug Jar, NY.

When: 2002-08-16

It just goes to show you what’s valued most when it comes to music in Rochester. A good rock show on a Friday night is rare, and a good turn-out at a show scheduled as early as 7 is even more rare, but with four strong bands / musicians on a single bill, the Bug Jar had a great turn out. Unfortunately, the club wanted everyone out by 10 p.m. so they could bring in a DJ and get a whole new crowd of people to pay a higher cover and groove to someone called Soul’d Out. And I hang my head in shame.

Because of the early start and ridiculously early end time, this whole show was messed up. Several of the musicians didn’t even make it here in time. So around 7:30, the guitarist from the Canadian band Picastro stood up on stage with a small guitar and belted out about six blues-rock tunes. No one knew who he was, and he looked like he was 16. We had no clue what was going on.

But things got straightened out a bit, unfortunately too late for the remaining musicians to do a full set. Mike Kinsella, whose solo act is called Owen, took the stage for a beautiful if short set of acoustic finger-picked guitars. His voice is amazing, as he rises to stress words you wouldn’t expect and played some beautiful acoustic guitar. He finished with a Sheryl Crow cover that was surprisingly good.

It seems the lead singer of Picastro finally showed up, and she wanted to play, coming six hours for this show alone. So Picastro took the stage for three short songs that were pretty but broke up the flow of the night. She played guitar and sang in a soft, slow-core style, while the guy who played guitar before played a tiny cello. It was pretty, but the musicians were uninspired and hurried, and the ultra quiet music set the crowd back.

Fortunately, Chris McFarland was anything but quiet. Coming all the way from Austin on a nationwide tour, it was a shame McFarland only had time to play three songs himself. But he ripped through three tunes that included a new one with some fantastic effects making his acoustic guitar sound like an electric at times. He added a song from the stellar As if to Lay to Rest album and finished with a Leonard Cohen album.

Following McFarland, Kyle Fischer, the guitarist and co-singer of the popular Rainer Maria, played a very unique set. Predominantly performing music from his solo album, it was an odd mix of acoustic folk-inspired songs and up-beat rockers driven by electric guitar and a drum machine. He even ripped out a dance-like number accompanied strictly to the mechanized beats that saw Fischer dancing into the crowd, sticking his hand down his pants, and shaking it hard. He even finished with a cover of Rainer Maria’s “Artificial Light,” toned down to a single guitar and his vocals instead of his female counterpart’s. The club’s owners must have relented to some degree seeing the surprisingly big crowd and let Fisher play to 10:30, but no one wanted to see the bands end.

But the best part of the night, for me at least, was yet to come. As Fischer and Kinsella started their drive back to New York, McFarland and his friend/roadie for this part of the tour stayed with me in order to have their van fixed the next morning. Because the show ended early, McFarland brought his 12-string guitar up to my living room and belted out an hour’s worth of music from both of his albums. Amazingly passionate, loud, and impressively talented, these songs were amazing, made even more emotional and urgent from the intimate setting. Few acoustic performers will put as much emphasis into their vocals and still be able to rip out talented, intense rock songs on an acoustic guitar like this. It was an amazing experience, and even with my long admiration of McFarland’s emotional rock, I was astounded.

All in all, the night was a good one. The Bug Jar had a good crowd, and the line-up was excellent, with plenty of acoustic guitars, folk-inspired rockers, and some nice covers. And the late-night show to end the night for me made it one to remember. If only the club (and Rochester in general) didn’t value DJs and canned music to the degree that the best indie rock venue in town kicked everyone out at 10:30, just when they were having fun.