Starting off with a bang; I’ve imported the Scorgies.com blog & will be expanding the content to incorporate other notable Rochester venues and gigs. It’s about time…
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Patti was the second vocalist for the Targets, a band started by former New Math bassist Robert Slide and guitarist Sue Metro. The Targets reunited at the Scorgies Reunion in 2008 and played a few songs as an adjunct to the New Math set. Patti had been battling cancer for a number of years and had been in and out of hospice for a few months in 2013. Obituary from the Nov. 21 Democrat & Chronicle:
Henrietta: Nov. 16, 2013, age 52. Predeceased by parents & brother. Survived by husband, Chris; step-father, Irv; children, Jennifer (Charles), Catherine, Caleb, Justice & Noah; former husband, Randy; grandchildren; 8 siblings; many nieces & nephews. Trish will be greatly missed & loved by many.
Calling hours, Friday 3-5 PM at Metropolitan, 109 West Ave. Memorial Service, Saturday 11 AM at New Hope Church, 3355 Union St., N. Chili.
It all started in 1984… that’s the year a 16 year old by the name of Mick Alber snuck into Scorgies to see the Chesterfield Kings…. now, some of the bands that Mick has loved over the years are rallying together to help him defray some of his medical expenses.
For many years, Mick Alber was a beloved member of the local music scene in Rochester NY. Recently, a severe flare up of ulcerative colitis has required that Mick have major, life-saving surgery.
In a better world, Mick Alber would be a legendary Disc Jockey, like L.A.’s Rodney Bingenheimer, a universally-recognized icon of the Rochester Rock & Roll scene. His friendship with long-time on-air partner Mike Murray began with a fortuitous meeting at a Scorgies Chesterfield Kings show in 1984 (Mick, 16 at the time, had snuck in). From that meeting, their partnership developed into one of the longest-running radio shows in Rochester history, Whole Lotta Shakin’ (now heard Saturdays 4-6 PM on 88.5 WRUR FM).
Whole Lotta Shakin’ has been a driving force in our music scene, a haven for local bands and a key element of “the Rochester Sound.” Over the years, Whole Lotta Shakin’ highlighted Upstate acts like New Math/Jet Black Berries, the Chesterfield Kings, The Projectiles, McFadden’s Parachute, Squires of the Subterrain, Dan Frank & the True Believers, Badenovs, SLT, The Insiders, The Hi-Risers, Frantic Frank & The Flattops, The Absolutes, The Ohm, The Moviees, The Quitters, The Thundergods, Cousin Al and The Relatives, The White Devils, The Chinchillas, The Presstones, Dark Charly & The Tombstones, Absolute Grey and others too numerous to mention.
In recognition of Mick’s contributions and in light of his medical condition, a slew of Scorgie’s era musicians have pulled together to organize “For the Love of Mick: A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Benefit” to help Mick defray some of the expenses surrounding his care. It will run from 12-9 PM on Sunday, March 6th at Abilene, 123 Liberty Pole Way.
12-12:30 Dark Charly
12:30-1:00 Big Red & the Sideburns
1:15-2:00 The Ohm
2:15-3:00 Dan Frank & the True Believers
3:15-4:00 The Chinchillas (with Beth)
4:15-5:00 The Enablers
5:00-6:00 Jet Black Berries
6:15-7:15 The Pawns
7:30-8:00 The Stan Merrell Band with Cousin Chaz & Cousin Al
8:15-Close The Imaginary Band
From Pee Wee’s notes: “Kevin has moved to New York. He came back to finish off some stuff and do this job. Everyone took their equipment home. Looks like this is really the last one. The last two songs they played were “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Taking Care of Business”.
Not sure if that last statement is completely true; the tape cuts off 3/4 of the way through a cover of the Cramp’s “Garbage Man.” Kevin always honored his influences…
However, they did do another old cover that night that was especially appropriate, considering Kevin’s exodus to Manhattan… a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway”[audio:http://www.rockinrochester.com/mp3/runaway.mp3]
This next tape was recorded by noted Scorgies soundman Pee wee on a Maxell XLI-S normal bias cassette tape on a hot summer’s night in July, 1983 (anyone have the exact date for this show?). No other details about this tape, just a note from Pee Wee that right channel was a feed from the sound board and the left channel was from a well-placed room microphone. The song I’m posting is from the close of the set: “Invocation,” from the EP “They Walk Among You”. I’ve mixed the tracks for your (Mono) listening pleasure.
New Math – Invocation: [audio:http://www.rockinrochester.com/mp3/invocation.mp3]
Don Scorgie was fortunate to have to have a great sound system in the club, and one of the best guys at the mixing board was Alan Paprocki, AKA the legendary Pee Wee (an oxymoronic nickname ‘cuz he was sooo tall). Pee Wee mixed for Personal Effects, Delroy Rebop, the Press Tones, New Math and other national acts. . Fortunately for us, he also ran a line out to a tape deck and made some killer tapes. I’ve been tasked with digitizing the Delroy Rebop & New Math tapes. So, without further delay, here’s a smidgen of New Math live on 3-25-1983:
New Math, Die Trying: [audio:http://www.rockinrochester.com/mp3/dietrying.mp3]
I saw the Rochester music review in a recent issue of the City newspaper. It brought back many fond and painful memories and lessons of Rochester music legacy and lore. I was looking for somebody to fill me in on Luke Warm.
I remember him as a delightful character on the scene (during my original duration in it). I was in the Commercials and we played Scorgie’s, usually as an opening act, from 1982 until about 1984 or so. Obviously, I encountered Luke on every occasion. I gotta hand it to this guy. If he was in a band or had any musical ability – HE NEVER TALKED ABOUT IT IN FRONT OF ME – he never said “come check out my band” or anything of the sort. When I read the review on his musical efforts I was really shocked! Maybe I’m stupid, but I was NOT out of the loop in the old days at Scorgie’s…I was there almost every week for about two years straight. How did I miss him? Nobody spoke up, especially not Luke.
The really sad part is, not only was I denied a chance to hear him do his musical bit, but also the other guys in the bands I opened for (especially the members of the group Passenger), just sort of wrote him off as the club’s resident idiot/lush/foolish jester behind his back. So, being very young at the time, just wrote Luke off as a “happy drunk.” I scared him once by acting like he was interfering on my date with the young lady I was with. The girl and I were there as “friends-only” (as she was probably under-age at the time), but I did kind of a “hey man, step off” gag, and he vanished in the crowd, tail between his legs. Now, back then, I could probably beat my way out of a paper bag…if it was wet. Anyway, a couple of the guys from the Clichés or something got a big laugh out of it.
So, I knew that he was very ill by the late 1980’s (when all us new wavers were hard up for gigs and had to settle on playing Schatzie’s) and I learned that he passed away several years ago when it happened. Tragic thing. It made me think real hard and thank God I’m still here. Thanks for bringing the info home to me.
It’s hard to pin the best way to keep in touch with folks these days. Hardly anyone I know writes letters or sends postcards anymore. Pretty much everyone (except Duane and Paul & Peggi) relies on their cellphones and either doesn’t have a land line or barely uses it. Email is old school; and Instant messaging is passe.
Having said that, I set out this past August to connect with Scorgies alumni using Web 2.0 resources and social networking and was able to contact a wide variety of Scorgies alum (like Rock and Roll Joel).
Working on a tip from a blog comment, I discovered that Meegan Voss (of the Antoinettes) continues to create and perform music in NYC with her husband Steve Jordan (of Late Nite Band and Xpensivve Winos fame). Their band is The Verbs. Great music, neat stuff. I can envision a Verbs/Atmomic Swindlers/Velveteen Fox show right now! It would rock, totally!
I was able to contact Meegan through the Verbs MySpace page and we exhanged smoe pleasantries. Here’s a message Meegan sent prior to the reunion:
You know Stan, I wanted to say “thank you” to Don because he was always supportive to The Antoinettes and gave us such great gigs. Our first was opening for Marianne Faithful at Scorgies! I was trying to send a post to Scorgies but wasn’t able to get in. I also wanted to say that The Gun Club and Jim Carroll gigs were some of the best that I’ve seen still to this day. It was such a great stage to play and the room lent itself to comment from the audience. It was always a happening. I don’t remember a dull show, do you? It’s an absolute crime the place isn’t still open and rocking. There was a club in Syracuse called Jabberwocky that should never have closed as well. Do you know how lucky we were to see these incredible national acts just breeze through our small city? Steve, my husband, never ceases to be amazed that I’ve seen pretty much anyone who was anybody play in a small club with a small audience. I would love to be at the reunion but I’m in rehearsal. Our new album is about to be released so there is a lot of work to be done.
Thank you for contacting me about it. I hope you have a blast at the reunion.
p.s. tell the kid that worked at the record store that that was me and I say hi! I walked out when they wanted us to display all of John Lennon’s music the moment he was shot.
From the Jan 18th 2004 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Living Section; official reprint available at http://www.democratandchronicle.com/
REUNITED: Haunting light
If continents can drift 20 centimeters farther from each other over 20 years, imagine how a volatile rock band can scatter in that time. The drummer to San Francisco. The bassist to Maine. The guitarist to Seattle. The lead singer to Ithaca.
Twenty years ago, those four pieces were Absolute Grey, one of the best, most happening bands that Rochester has had to offer to the music world.
It was beyond music, even.
“It was multimedia in its earliest, roughest form. That’s how pretentious we were back then,” recalls bassist Mitch Rasor of a show at the Pyramid Arts Center.
“We had a big crowd, and on all of the walls and the ceiling we were showing these films we had made, and our friends who were filmmakers had made, to go along with the music. It was complete immersion, it was everywhere, and I was standing in the middle of it all, almost forgetting I was playing.”
Twenty years later, folks who weren’t at Scorgie’s – the center of the local rock universe, but now a shut-down, silent club on Andrews Street – probably don’t know what the fuss was all about. “There was a buzz going on about this particular band,” says Dave Anderson. “There seemed to be something exciting about them….”
Now the album that Anderson recorded hi his attic studio, the Absolute Grey debut, Greenhouse, has just been re-issued. It’s accompanied by a live recording of the band playing at Scorgie’s, speaking from an era when groups such as R.E.M. could emerge from the world of independent, underground music to become stars, their noncommercial integrity still intact.
Greenhouse is Exhibit No. 1 that Absolute Grey had the goods. And the fact that the band still has fans to
this day – such as R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, who’s quoted on a sticker on the new CD jewel box claiming “I still have the original LPs” – is Exhibit No. 2 that Absolute Grey is more than a passing moment.
They loved ’em in Germany, where a two-CD retrospective was released 10 years ago. They adored ’em in England, where a review of Greenhouse that is to appear in today’s London Sunday Times reads, “Squint a little and Greenhouse is stupendous….” The Scorgie’s tracks secure “Greenhouse its own little space on the lost classics shelf.”
This of a band that released only four albums in its brief lifetime, the last two on a label in Greece. We’re talking Greece the country, not Greece the Rochester suburb.
So what happened?
Rasor and Matt Kitchen, the guitarist, were students at Pittsford Sutherland High School. They went off to college. End of band, it seems.
“Beth and I tried to convince them that it was obvious we had something going on,” says Pat Thomas, the drummer; Beth was Beth Brown, the band’s incandescent lead singer, a torch shining through her band mates’ darkness. “And one more year might have been all we needed to bring it up to the next level.”
As it turned out, it’s been 20 years to bring it up to the next level. There are 10 more songs, worked on intermittently over the years, now almost ready for a new Absolute Grey release. That appears to be inevitable; the energetic Thomas will make it happen.
Perhaps the band’s premature end was also inevitable. After graduating from Sutherland, Brown was working as a clerk at Record Archive when Greenhouse was released. She was 23 and Thomas, who had moved here from Corning, was 24. But Kitchen was only 16, and Rasor 15. Yet they were already perfect rock stars. “I was too radical,” Rasor says of being kicked out of art class. As sophomores, he and Kitchen took charge of the school yearbook and used Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the story of a man who awakens to find he’s been turned into a cockroach, as the theme. “It was all gray, with pictures of, like, the chess club over decomposing leaves,” Rasor says. “The total opposite of what a yearbook is supposed to be. The seniors were furious.”
The members of Absolute Grey saved their fury for the band: “We fought like cats and dogs.” Brown and Rasor both use that phrase.
“We were so pretentious, we’d fight over poetry,” Rasor says. “We took ourselves so seriously. We were so spoiled. It’s like I wrote in the liner notes hi the CD that was released in Germany: ‘Somehow we managed to
overcome all the advantages we were handed in life to start this great band.'”
Anderson agrees with Rasor on that point.
“The guitarist and bass player were from Pittsford, and I think Beth was, too,” he says. “They had an air of arrogance about them, I must say. Matt had a very condescending tone, especially for a young kid, I thought. He was very serious; he was very intellectual about everything.
“He was the main songwriter. They were very moody, atmospheric tunes. It was kind of a downer trip, overall. But in a good way. The name says it all. Absolute Grey.”
They could see nothing but gray. Anderson recalls being in the attic studio during Greenhouse. Brown was in the basement, recording some vocals; something about the acoustics, or her needing to be alone. And he could hear her crying as she was singing her part.
“You know how they say the light in the south of France is best for painting?” Rasor says of the fuel of collaboration. “Well, being in a band… it’s the best. Being able to take ideas and turn them into songs the next day is a great, especiall in high school, when you’re filled with all of this teen angst.” Absolute Grey plunged into the Scorgie’s scene, dominated by local bands such as Personal Effects. Paul Dodd, that band’s drummer, ran Earring Records, a small label that had already released music by the Wilderness Family, the Essentials and the first Colorblind James Experience album. He agreed to release Greenhouse as well. “I remember Pat,” Dodd recalls. “He was a real hustler.”
Hustler, as in aggressive. Among the many talents of Absolute Grey was professional focus. “There was no money attached, no contract. It was just a name. A co-op. A commune. A collective,” recalls Peggi Dodd of Earring’s relaxed business ethos; she was Peggi Fournier then, a keyboardist in Personal Effects. And she was a teacher at Sutherland. Rasor and Brown had been among her Spanish students. They even recruited her to play keyboards on two Greenhouse songs. “I’d come see the band,” she says, recalling the music as “somewhat dark.”
Conceived in an attic, Greenhouse was born in the basement of Scorgie’s in the winter of ’84. “There was a huge blizzard, and I was so worried that people wouldn’t come because the weather was so’horrible,” Brown says of the record-release show. “But the place was packed, everybody was partying, and I was so gratified.”
Less than a year later, Rasor was a student at Oberlin College in northeastern Ohio when he heard that the college radio station – which didn’t even know that the guitarist from Absolute Grey was on campus – had selected Greenhouse as its indie album of the year, over the likes of R.E.M.’s Murmur.
But that was really the beginning of the end.
“I think I can speak for Matt,” Rasor says. “We both knew we wanted more of an academic career, an arts career. Absolute Grey was about to go somewhere, but it was not quite the train we wanted to be on for all that time. I’m a little more comfortable in a library than onstage.”
Absolute Grey proved to be a springboard for Rasor and Thomas in music. Rasor has found a way to combine his interests in architecture, landscaping, graphic design, writing and music – he’s working on his 23rd album, some of which are solo efforts – with a company called MRLD, just north of Portland, Maine.
Thomas lived in Denmark for a year, then used his Absolute Grey connections for a move to California, where many of the survivors of the ’80s psychedelic-rock revival lived. He now runs a San Francisco label, DBK Works, that re-issues classic records on vinyl. And new works as well, including his own solo records and, obviously, Greenhouse.
Kitchen spiraled off into a different orbit, setting down his guitar in favor of a fiddle and a civil-service job, a wife and a daughter in Seattle. The other three members of the band describe him as ambivalent about Absolute Grey,
Brown? The band’s star, with her blend of folk-rock and wailing-punk vocals, has taken the oddest – most frustrating, even – road of them all. “I’m disappointed and angry,” Thomas says, “that she never went on to do anything without us.”
Brown moved to Boston, enrolled in art school, drifted to Ithaca and started a sign-painting business, then moved to the Berk-shires and opened an art gallery. By then, she had a daughter – Indiana – with a German immigrant named Knut Schmitt.
Now she’s back in Ithaca. She and Schmitt went their separate ways years ago. Yet in a strange twist, she’s not only caring for their daughter but also the 54-year-old Schmitt, who now is battling early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
Interestingly, the 20-year-old Greenhouse has been an instrument of healing for Thomas, Rasor and Brown. It’s as though they’re seeing Absolute Grey with the clarity of the light of the south of France.
“Right now, we’re enjoying a period of love,” Thomas says of his relationship with Rasor. “But we’ve certainly had a love-hate relationship over the years. He and I have kissed and made up in a really big way.”
“And I think putting this out has made Beth realize, it’s now or never for her solo career. I sent her an e-mail recently and told her, ‘You’re probably 10 times more talented than me, but you never did anything with it.’
Indeed, recently Brown has been writing songs. She will be on the new Absolute Grey release. But her focus is on recording her own music, probably with Anderson’s Saxon Recording, and will return to Rochester this year to find some like-minded musicians to help.
It took 20 years for Brown to take the next step after Absolute Grey. “I didn’t want to do music for a while,” she says; the guitar was packed away. “You know how 2-year-olds are. They mess with stuff.”
Now Indiana is 8. The guitar is out again. Brown, who always collaborated, has discovered she can write songs on her own. “This is going to be a powerful record,” she says. “I can’t wait to do it.”
“You really need to leave that guitar out on the stand. So you can just pick it up. Anytime.”
Buttons seemed to be a cheap and easy way to promote bands and causes back in the day, and here’s a few from the collection. The top left is from WITR and reads “Rock N Roll Party,” although I can’t remember if that was a show, or just a promo button from the station. To the right of that is a Backseat Sally button, though the colors seem to have faded over the years. In the center is a Press Tones button, a personal favorite, as I always like the deco style text. I would have worn it to the reunion, but I just uncovered it the other day. Bottom left is a Delroy Rebop button, with an image of a microphone. Last time I saw Del was in NYC many moons ago. Finally there is a Cappy and the Frenchmen button, and though it didn’t scan too well, it reads “Th – Th – Th – There’s a Thing” across the top, a reference to a song of the same name, with “And It’s Called Rock’N Roll” across the bottom. Just to the right of the WITR logo on the button you can make out “89.7 fm”, and at the end of the word “Frenchmen” is a picture of the Eiffel Tower.