Fortunately, Rochester's fertile music scene is diverse and doesn't lean in one direction. Some bands have lofty aspirations of hitting the road and hitting it big; others are into it for the beer and a chance to get out of the house once a week. All of those bands are spread out over a broad spectrum of styles and innovation.
There is punk, jazz, rock 'n' roll — and all that falls under that umbrella — garage, rockabilly, hip-hop, singer-songwriter, folk, metal, blues, country, Americana, and so on. And the scene is constantly shifting with new blood coming in. Just when you don't think it'll get any better, it does.
Here are eight artists (in alphabetical order) who are planning for a big year. They caught our attention and we want to make sure they catch yours. Dig ...
Not everyone sets out to be a rock star. Austin Lake, the guy behind Aweful Kanawful, always wanted to be a stuntman. "Evel Knievel had his own record," he says. "And I thought it was a good publicity stunt to put out your own record. And now I'm hooked on this music thing. I realized I had some stuff I wanted to get out there."
Aweful Kanawful recently released "Brave As Hits," an album (cassette actually) of lo-fi elegance and innovation. It is all Lake with a Tascam 8-track recorder and pirated instruments. It sounds like the production you'd find on Sun Records when Ike Turner was an A&R man. But the songs for the most part aren't your stock 1-4-5 bop. There's more of an angular twist that snakes its way throughout. awefulkanawful.bandcamp.com.
Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers
In the unlikeliest of music scenes and the equally unlikeliest of climates arises The Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers: four gringos who have this sensual strain of music down, including its Portuguese tongue and subtle yet powerful syncopation. It's a slow shimmy set to stun; it's languid and elegant; and it's the perfect soundtrack to date night (unless, that is, you're content in stopping at second base). facebook.com/bradleybrothersmusic.
Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People
Though she's been bubbling beneath the surface of the Rochester scene for a while now, the word is out: Daniele Ponder is a force of nature. With tours of Europe behind and ahead of her, Ponder is solidifying her sound: a tremendous blast of sophisticated soul, hip-hop, R&B, and rock. The woman can belt for sure. daniellepondermusic.com
In the never-ending quest to corral punk — to throw a saddle on it and ride — bands and their fans spend countless hours in circular debate over this flexible genre's beguiling definition and their own adherence to its limits. What is punk? Who is punk?
Punk is a sound and attitude perfectly exemplified by Rochester's Green Dreams. Some punks are too punk to admit they're punk. Not Green Dreams; the band packs a pristine punch, but the edges are still frayed. There's urgency but no anger; there's fun but no hollow frivolity; it's declamatory but not duplicitous. Can you dig it? greendreams.bandcamp.com.
With a trail of empty beer cans in its wake, Hot Mayonnaise swings like a hammer. This is simply awesome barroom rock with one eye on the arena. Brilliantly raw and instantly recognizable guitar parts full of sexified anger go head to head with vocals that come off more as a growled threat. hotmayonnaise.bandcamp.com.
Deliciously fuzzed out and psychedelic in all its mid-tempo grind and glory, King Buffalo takes the sludgy dirge of stoner rock and opens it up to a thunderous and very dynamic trot. Fans of The Amboy Dukes or Monster Magnet will love this band. It has several singles out including a split with Sweden's Le Betre, and has contributed to a Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland compilation. King Buffalo's debut full length, "Orion," is cleared to land in early 2016. kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com.
Just hearing 14-year-old McKinley James saw off a slab of instrumental rock like Link Wray's "Black Widow" tells you we're on to something here. At his abbreviated age, James tackles vintage rockabilly, blues, and R&B with the same fervor as its originators — and with an amazingly reverential accuracy. Mark my words this kid is going places.
For those of you who like classic transistor pop and rock, The Temptators is your band. If you like the yesterday intensity of The Sonics married to the nascent blast of The Mooney Suzuki, The Temptators is your band. If you like musicians with an eye for Beefheart ingenuity and Zappa–esque hairpin time signatures ... well, you get the picture.
This band will blow your head off, live or on cassette. That's right: The Temptators' debut release, "Welcome Home," is on cassette tape. So if you're driving an '83 Caprice POS with a cassette deck and a busted cigarette lighter, you're golden. thetemptators.bandcamp.com.