Gregg Yeti – Rochester – Visual Studies Workshop, NY – 2004-10-23

Gregg Yeti
Where: Rochester – Visual Studies Workshop, NY.

When: 2004-10-23

See, all along I had this theory. It seems that Rochester, NY, had tremendous potential for live music. It’s a great stopping point between cities like NYC, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, and others. It has five decent-sized colleges with 15 minutes of each other. It’s one of the largest cities in the state, and it has an extremely active arts community. But there’s really only one club that gets live bands on a consistent basis, and I’ve been to many there with about five or six other people and an otherwise empty bar. Even this club will kick bands out early so it can have DJs spin disco music on a weekend.

Gregg Yeti
The thing is, I saw great bands playing Buffalo every week. Buffalo is only an hour or so from Rochester, and there’s fewer colleges and fewer people in the city. The only reason, I thought, that Buffalo drew the bands is because it had more clubs that booked them, and because it promoted its shows better. So my theory was that with some effort and interest and some promotion, live shows in Rochester would work. The potential just had to be tapped.

So in an effort to get some fantastic bands to Rochester and promote DOA, I held a DOA Night. And I promoted the hell out of it. Local indie/alternative radio pushed it, the daily paper had a blurb about it, and I canvassed the colleges and record stores and coffee shops. These were not hardcore bands or niche bands: the music was so pretty and accessible, I figured, it would surely draw a decent crowd. And that’s all I wanted. As this site’s name will clue you in, I have no delusions of packed venues and overflowing dollars. I just wanted to cover my costs and give the bands enough money and give people a great show.

And yes, the show was great. More than that, it was above and beyond my expectations as far as music is concerned. Gregg Yeti, formerly guitarist for Syracuse, NY’s Flashing Astonishers, hasn’t played solo much at all, but sporting a cheap three-song EP and stretching his boundaries, he began with a short, tight set of acoustic singer/songwriter tunes in the vein of Paul Westerberg. More strumming than plucking, he gave the songs something of a textured feel, and his vocals – low in the sound on purpose – complimented it nicely. His songs are strong, and the EP’s well worth seeking out. Catch him at a show or in town and he’ll probably give you one and thank you!

Then came Hula. With only four-fifths of the band in attendance, they decided to back off the band songs and feature mostly songs by singer Chad King, who released one solo album and has a second on the way. King’s style is much more Americana/alt-country, and yet it came across beautifully in a live setting. With guitar, bass, soft drums, and lap steel-sounding slide, the tunes were rich and gorgeous despite the band’s own admission they hadn’t practiced them much and they had no prepared set in mind. What impressed me the most was the versatility: King could do the alt-country twang one moment, and the next possess a rich and deep tone the next. The songs went from alt-country to Low-esque slow-core (more akin to the band’s normal style) to ballads and rocking numbers. Although I didn’t make the comparison on King’s album, in discussion with Yeti after Hula’s show, we both agreed that he’s taking a Howe Gelb-like route to songwriting with absolutely stellar results. (Listen to a song from Hula’s set here.)

Saeta (pronounced, I finally learned, “say-etta”) came all the way from Seattle for a three-show East Coast mini-tour, hitting Rochester after New York City and Philadelphia, and I couldn’t have been more happy to see this trio. Although cellist Bob Smolenski doesn’t play with the band in Seattle much, he came along on the tour, and the trio of piano/guitar/cello came across beautifully in a live setting, everything I hoped for! Lesli Wood’s gorgeous voice complimented Matt Menovick’s gravelly vocals perfectly as the band played a number of songs from its fourth full-length, We Are Waiting All for Hope, including the album’s Magnetic Fields and Smiths covers. The trio even got the violinist from Tarantula to join them on one song. In short, it was an amazing show, rich and beautiful, and I could tell those in attendance were awed. (Listen to a song from Saeta’s set here.)

But, regardless of being warned, I was still unprepared for Tarantula’s live set. This four-piece, consisting of cello, violin, guitar, and percussion, plays long and experimental instrumentals that go from beautiful to powerful, influenced by World music as much as a Godspeed-esque approach to post-rock. On album, the songs are beautiful and flowing, soft and intriguing. But live, the band takes its sound to a whole other level, a level almost completely unheard of.

I’ve never seen a band play live where, when a song is completed, the audience has to remember to breathe before clapping. In fact, after several songs, I heard people audibly utter “holy crap!” or “wow” to themselves before applauding. The intricate and gorgeous cello and violin, the amazing drumming, the classical-style guitar, and plenty of effects pedals lent these songs an astounding power and an urgency bordering on chaos yet still reigned in. When the band finished its last song – the apparently Spanish-influenced “Palo Borracho” – the crowd was almost too amazed to cheer. It was an astounding effect, one usually missing from a live show and one I never experienced in so intimate a setting. (Listen to a song from Tarantula’s set here.)

So yes, the bands were amazing. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the bands, who were all so nice and had so much fun. And even with my own high expectations from hearing them all before on album, I was constantly surprised and impressed. I highly recommend seeking out these artists, whose live shows eclipse even their recorded efforts, which themselves are excellent.

But what disappointed me then and more so after the glow of the music has faded was the crowd. In short, there wasn’t much of one, and I have no idea why. We promoted the show throughout the city and its colleges. I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have done more, personally, to improve attendance. So that leaves me with one new theory about Rochester: it does not want live music. Other than a few oddballs like myself, there is no desire for amazing and talented bands that don’t get regular and tired airplay on modern-rock radio stations or local heavy-metal cover bands. People just don’t care in Rochester, and that’s very hard for me to accept.

So this was most likely the first and last DOA Night. Don’t expect another anytime soon, at least not in Rochester. And while I still plan on trying to help bands that want to play here find a venue, I’m not going to put my heart and soul into it, and especially not my money. Rochester just doesn’t care. But I do…I love the music, and these bands made the night – if not a success in terms of attendance – beyond a success in terms of the pure love of music.

A special thanks to everyone who helped me with this show, and a very special thanks to the bands for showing up to play and having a good time despite the weak turnout. Delusions of Adequacy appreciates it, and there’s still a semblance of hope left, even if I see no alternative but to give up on Rochester.