The Bug Jar's Bob "Bobby T" Teresa was casually shaving his mug one day back in April when he discovered a lump on the side of his throat.
"I said to myself, 'That doesn't look too good,"' Teresa says. His doctor said the same thing. They ran some tests and did a biopsy. It came back positive. "Squamous single cell carcinoma in the tonsil," he says. "And it had gone into my lymph nodes." It was serious. Thus began his arduous journey to hell and back.
For the next umpteen months, Teresa has endured five weeks of chemo, seven weeks of radiation, and the emotional teeter-totter and brain screw of uncertainty that goes along with a cancer diagnosis. In August, they put in a feeding tube — he had lost more than 20 pounds. The doctors were aggressive, and Teresa has been told this is a form of cancer with a high percentage of curability. His doctors exude the same confidence he has.
Teresa has an appointment in early January when he hopes they'll give him the all-clear. Until then, it's the crossed-fingers stage.
And in the meantime, countless friends, bands, and colleagues have rallied and put together four benefit concerts — two in December and two in January — to help offset mounting medical costs. He tears up when he thinks about the amount of love and outpouring support. Yet there is no one more deserving than Bobby T and all that he has done, does, and continues to do via the Bug Jar.
Teresa has been an important fixture on the Rochester scene for years. He has been at the Bug Jar in one form or another — customer, DJ, bartender, bouncer, booker, and owner — since 1989.
"The philosophy of the Bug Jar is very simple," he says. "It's original live music. You can throw in a cover here or there as long as it's in the vein of rock 'n' roll."
Over the years, the Bug Jar has hosted some big names on the rise, when they were still burning up the road in a shitty van to oblivion — Arcade Fire, Alkaline Trio, At The Drive-In, The White Stripes, and recently Ron Gallo.
"These were bands we were so lucky to get on their first record here at the Bug Jar before they hit it big," Teresa says. "You felt like they were playing in your living room."
And if there's a face to put on the Bug Jar and on the scene it helped to create and continues to foster, it's Bobby T. When the concept of putting together the benefit for him at one of Rochester's larger venues, like Anthology or Funk 'N Waffles, in anticipation of a big turnout, Teresa balked.
"I was like, 'Why don't we do a couple of smaller shows at the Bug Jar — where it should be.' And it was amazing the response from all the local bands who wanted to support it," he says. "It was touching, really. We said we can do different genres each night — more importantly let's get some bands down here that I want to see if you're gonna drag me down here sick and all."
Teresa has finished with the barrage of treatments. The lump is gone and his taste buds are slowly returning.
"I haven't had a full meal since August," he says. "Food still tastes like shit. But I'm putting on some weight." That's good news, keeping in mind the man's lanky frame.
Teresa has been positive in relentlessly staring this monster down. He credits Barbie T. "She's been great," he says with tears twinkling in his eyes.
Teresa cracks a gregarious grin and realizes it's a good thing he was shaving in the first place. "If I had been one of these big bearded guys, I never would have known."
Bands making this righteous scene Friday are Hot Mayonnaise, Malarchuk, St.Phillip's Escalator, Leus Zeus. Saturday features Blurring, Anthropic, The Grinders, Tuurd, Babayaga.