The F Word: Clunkers and gems


I still say the shores of Lake Ontario — complete with spent trash and dead fish — weren’t enough to inspire The Beach Boys’ Al Jardine, or give him resident status in the Flower City oh-so-many years ago. Regardless, Jardine was part of The Rochester Music Hall of Fame class of 2019 induction ceremonies; a show that had a number of gems and very few clunkers. Let me start with telling you I was pleasantly surprised.

In no particular order, let’s look at a few of these clunkers and gems.

Folky Christine Lavin is an astute, wise, and wonderful lady, but the crowd didn’t seem to connect with her. Perhaps it was a little early in the show. Or perhaps musicians from Geneva are simply too far away to be on Rochester’s radar.

Gary Wright was initially slated for the clunker bin. But he sounded great, singing two of his 70’s transistor radio hits — “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive” — during nominee’ Jack Allocco’s set. So what if Wright isn’t from rochester. Give that man a gem.

Booking empresario Jeff Springut let my 18-year-old ass into the Red Creek to see Buddy Holly’s Crickets back in 1986. I will never forget him for that. John Hall of Orleans played two of his band’s hits, “Dance with Me” and “Still the One,” for the Springutt portion of the program. The performance was a bit of a clunker for me, because I don’t particularly like those songs, but let’s give him a gem for doing them so well.

Rochester radio legend Dave Kane was honored by the whoops and howls of the gregarious glitterati. He said his 38 years at the station were an example of “an astounding lack of ambition.” Gem.

WCMF, on the other hand, was a clunker. Being on the airwaves for 50 years is no small feat, especially since they play, in tight rotation, the same artists that they played when I was in high school. I mean, the station single-handedly ruined Led Zeppelin for many of us growing up here. Talk about lack of ambition.

The winners of the night by far were the three students who received the Douglas Lowry Award: pianist Raymond Feng who ran out of keys as he cascaded up and down the keyboard; vocalist Natalie Leclair, who proved you can scat without the letter “Z”; and jazz guitarist Robert Varon, who took the stage like a boss with his band. The future looks bright. Bring your shades. Gem, gem, gem.