Herb Gross & The Invictas dialed it way back to the beginning of garage rock time two weeks ago at The California Brew Haus. The boys in the band still tool around in a Cadillac hearse. They played a two-night stand to a packed --- and diverse as I've probably ever seen --- house. Former Projectile drummer (now living in Albany) Brian Goodman brought his mom, who he pointed out knew more people there than he did. Projectile guitarist Jerry Flannigan spied a hot blonde gyrating on the dance floor only to realize she was his aunt when she turned around.
The band kicked off at 9 p.m., slowly easing the crowd into a frenzy with Kinks and Stones covers. It's when they pulled out their own "Long Tall Shorty" that the place really started jumpin'.
What really struck me was the band's edginess. Though all the original cats are in their late 50s and early 60s, they clearly exuded a delinquent air. Just a bit of that rock 'n' roll danger crept out from beneath their pleasant, golf-shirt exteriors. Besides being a blast from the past for a ton of the folks there, it was proof that Rochester has a pretty cool rock 'n' roll past that's fun to visit if you know where to look.
Wouldn't it be cool if other bands followed The Invictas' lead and graced us with an encore? Hey, let's hear from The Showstoppers, The Capris, The Young Tyrants, Absolute Grey, Empty Grave, New Math, The Rumbles, The Heard, Red, White, and Blues Band, The Wilderness Family, Dog's Life, Zezozose, Uncle Sam, The Brass Buttons, The Now, The Raunchettes, The Shop Class Squares, The Antoinettes, Empty Grave, Steve Alaimo & The Redcoats...
If you want a picture of Rochester up-and-comer Teddy Geiger, all you need to do is approach any teenage girl with a camera phone. There seems to be a whole gaggle of 'em at every show just a-clickin' away and squealing. OK, so the kid's shaggy and cute but he's talented, too. His music is moody pop without too much angst (I'm guessing his girlfriend hasn't dumped him yet).
Geiger and his band casually took the High Falls Party in the Park stage Thursday, June 9, and launched into his piano-driven, mid-tempo rock. The sound was outstanding: loud and full, yet discernable. The crowd instantly warmed to him despite his minimal stage banter and apparent shyness.
Geiger left the stage, making way for Tumbao and a pretty wicked thunderstorm that chased everyone away for a while. Tumbao braved the inclemency nonetheless with its polyrhythmic Latin boogie for those with umbrellas or those who didn't mind getting soaked.
The clouds parted and the throng returned for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's set. When this band first hit the scene during the mid-'90s swing craze, they were essentially a Royal Crown Revue knockoff and frankly a little bit of a novelty. But somewhere along the line these guys got really good. On Thursday they played tight and brassy with jazz precision and jump blues guts. They had the whole Festival Site jitterin' and buggin'.
And then there's the new school...
Mild-mannered coffee barista Ian --- the wild and loose teenager --- transformed himself into a gyrating, writhing, slithering, lizard king, offering me a Saturday-night respite from Jazz Fest. As frontman for The Teenage Junkies he howled and ranted and igged like Iggy. In fact the band's whole set was pretty Stooge-positive. I'll continue to make fun of their stupid name, but I really, really like this band. The raw energy and sweaty reverence with which they played felt real.
Ending this night of loud animal-charged energy were The UV Rays, celebrating the release of a brand-new, blood red, four-song record. This band played wildly unpredictable and loose. The songs were great and pure '77. They are why some folks are afraid of rock 'n' roll and why others can't get enough. The crowd boiled while singer Kevin Wilcox surfed on top and bottles broke and bodies flailed. 'Twas a way cool spectacle.