It’s been almost thirty years since the Rain Parade played Scorgies. That was an incredible night, of course. Absolute Grey was the opener, and Mark Theobald was behind the mixing board. The band at the gig featured Matt Piucci, Steven Roback, John Thoman, Will Glenn & Eddie Kalwa. I had the opportunity to catch up with Matt, Steven & John at their reunion gig in Atlanta at the Earl on January 19th, 2103. They were reuniting that night as part of a fund raiser for Bobby Sutliff (of Windbreakers fame) who had been in a horrible car accident in June of 2012.
The Antoinettes were the reigning girl group during the Scorgies era, playing out numerous times before venturing into the wilds of New York City to seek fame & fortune. The band was fronted by keyboardist Meegan Voss, whose Syracuse band the Poptarts made some noise in the CNY music scene. Meegan moved to Rochester with Margie Shears to start the Antoinettes and they were soon joined by Eastman School of Music student Kim Milai on drums and Poptarts veteran Cathy Kensington (aka Cathy VanPatten) on guitar.
Scorgies era Antoinettes, left to right: Margie, Meegan, Kim & Cathy
So, where are they now? Megan continues to make music with her husband Steve Jordan as the Verbs; Kim teaches at an elementary school and has a side career doing children’s music. Cathy Kensington works as an editor and lives in the Chicago area. Margie Shears, according to Cathy’s blog, lives in the Westchester NY area and works as a graphic designer.
According to Cathy, “after we did that demo, I left the band to follow my (then) boyfriend to Boston. The Antoinettes then added a guitarist (Sue Veneer) to replace me and a keyboard player (Magda– I don’t remember her last name) to take over that role so Meegan could devote her efforts to fronting the band. That was the band that ended up going to NYC and becoming the darlings of CBGB’s.” I’ve picked one of the best songs recorded in that demo session, ”If I Were To, ” a plaintive lament that captures a contemplative Antoinettes pining for a boy they could not have.
Click on the link below to play the song in a new window, right-click or control click to download the file.
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
Scorgies was a place for music and community. I wasn’t allowed. Luke Warm hated me and I could see why. No one in that joint gave me the time of day. And none of my buddies ever wanted to venture into downtown at the notorious “Scorgies”. I remember driving my buds around town to every lame ass dance place in the burbs until I got fed up and got the complaining pricks out of my car and into mommies bed just before midnight. Not getting laid at 19 will get a kid a little ornery I guess.
Once in awhile I’d go downtown to Andrews Street and just hang out till last call. Later I hooked up with some WITR guys and eventually did a show at the station. I remember the John Cale show since we drove him to the gig in either an AMC Pacer or a Pinto after an on air interview. Saw the Press Tones a lot and Colorblind James and The Ramones and so many Personal Effects Shows. Caught a few of the earlier gigs like The Cramps and New Math. Was a semi-regular in 84-85 for awhile but most of the crew I hung with wasn’t interested in the downtown scene. Eventually I lost a few friends suffering through pitchers and Donkey Kong one night at The Vineyard at Pittsford Plaza.
I remember lusting after Andi and getting hammered with my WITR partner Mike Baldwin. Later I spent some years working with Uncle Roger at WCMF and watching a high school classmate play drums with bands like The Projectiles (Brian Goodman).
But like I said I wasn’t a regular. I watched bands all over town in all sorts of different venues, often with an eye towards getting laid. Scorgies wasn’t about scoring, although I probably stumbled out of the place taking a girl home a few times. For a time I lived pretty close to the place. Often I’d find a place to park (very hard at times) go in for last call and walk the couple of blocks home.
You’d always find a friend in that place and very often some good music. And you’d also find someone in there who’d like to cut you or spit in your drink. I loved it.
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”
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:
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:
Ever so slightly off-topic, but who besides me fondly remembers WSAY? 1370AM? It was the radio-station that was so bad it was good; so awful it was great? If there ever was such a thing as “underground” radio in Rochester, this was it! You’d be rocking out to, say, anything from Talking Heads to Van Halen, and suddenly a priest and two nuns would start reciting Rosary! Good times!
WSAY: By the 1970s, WSAY had become, in effect, a free-form radio station. Brown had little input into the music played on the station, leaving the choices in the hands of the DJs, who played everything from blues to country to heavy metal, interrupted promptly every night at six for the daily reading of the rosary (one of several paid blocks of time on WSAY).
Here’s a brief but good Scorgies story.
First just a bit o’ history: In the late ’70s and early ’80s I was a regular at Scorgies and saw many great shows there. (Good thing the drinking age was 18). It was the center of my friends and my music universe, to be sure. Myself and my college crowd considered ourselves “New Wavers” or at least aficionados of the latest music. We shopped at Record Archive and listened to WUWU, the great Buffalo alternative station, and wore CBGB T-shirts that we bought at House of Guitars. We saw all the bands; Press tones, New Math (freakin’ trancendental!), Personal Effects (Peggy Fornier had been my high-school Spanish teacher), Chesterfield Kings, etc. I remember a number of times trading insults with the Country Music Rednecks that were going to the Country Warehouse (which shared the same parking area). Oh how they hated us leather-clad kids with mod haircuts and cigs hanging from our lips.
I was even in a very short-lived band with Beth Brown before she was in Absolute Grey. We were called “Seizure Salad”!
As always, I digress. On to the story…
So, one night in early ‘82 I was hanging at Scorgies with my friend Lisa Button, and as often happened we were there until they pushed us out the door at two-ish. The bands were finished, and as we were guzzling last-call, a track came on the sound system. It was this mesmerizing, driving song with this great, drony guitar riff. It immediately caught my ear. I said “Wow! Who is this band?”
Lisa replied, “Oh, it’s this new band from England called… (wait for it)…..U2.”
That’s right, she said England.
The song was “I Will Follow.”
I went to Record Archive to find their LP the very next day. That was a lucky twist in-and-of-itself because Island Records US distribution was on strike, and I had to buy “Boy” as an import. $20!!! The import version had completely different cover-art and was a much nicer package than the US version. It even had one different song. I still have it, and I think it’s worth a few bucks now.
In the spirit of the Little Rascals, as in, “Hey, let’s put on a show!” now comes your chance to turn that frown upside down, and start cashing in on the baby boomer nostalgia. Instead of just moping to your friends that, “hey, I used to play there,” you can now say, “Hey, I own it!” That’s right, the original temple of it all is up for sale. Anyone want to go in halves?
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.
The last poster was kind enough to post a couple pics. In the post, it was mentioned that they weren’t sure when Scorgies closed. For the record, it was July 9th, 1994. Technically it was about 4:30AM July 10th.
I Was, sadly, the last person to exit the place and lock the doors for the last time. I was the last Manager of the vaunted Rochester social landmark known as Scorgies. Don walked out ahead of me, and I turned the key for the very last time. It was an extremely sad day for me, and this is really tough. I don’t really feel like getting in to it right now, but sometime soon when I am in better spirits, and have more time…I’ll return and post some thoughts and stories.
I was deeply saddened, when on November 21st at a dinner for my current job… that old Rochester bars came up. It started with a Wayne County fellow mentioning the old Dolphin out in Sodus Point. When I mentioned the good-old days of Scorgies, I was told of the big article in the paper and the upcoming reunion. That was Friday Nov. 21st at 9pm. That weekend I went online, and much to my chagrin…I found this site.
This pained me beyond words. My wife and some close friends witnessed me moping for days. You see, every 6 months for the past decade, I do a Google search for “Scorgies”. And you rarely find anything of substance related to our old haunt. I do it b/c there is one period of my life I reallllly wish I had more connection to. More old pics, old memoribilia, etc. For some reason, I collected little, and took even fewer pics. A lesson I learned that following year in 95. And from 95 on, I am a total picture nut. You usually won’t find me far away from at the very least, a disposable camera or my cell camera.
Anyways, somehow, in between the last time I had searched, and the weekend of NOV 21st….ALL OF THIS HAPPENED!!! And it pains me tremendously, that I missed this reunion. Was Tommy there? Did Don and Eileen attend? Did Shaff or Big Pat come out of the woodwork? How bout Charlie? Last I heard, he was in Atlanta. UGGGGGGGGGGGGH!!
Anyway, I’ll be back. Just typing this much has made me terribly melancholy. I miss Luke like you wouldn’t believe, it was hard seeing his pic and reading your rememberances. I’ll share a bunch of Luke memories, some Don stories, etc…at a later date.
How bout the infamous Elvis Costello story?!?! Has that made it’s way on to the site anywhere? How about a copy of the famous Rolling Stone Article, from what, 1983? As part of my Google searches over the years I have attempted on multiple occasions to contact Rolling Stone to find the article, with no response. Hell, I’ve even contacted Freetime about 3 times in the hopes of getting copies of Old Scorgies ads…and no one ever gets back to me.
Anyway, please comment, and I will return!
I was up there for a holiday visit & went by Scorgies to take a photo for posterity. I don’t know how long it’s been since it closed for the last time, but the 2nd floor windows are broken out. I shot a couple of panoramic photos & decided to post them as a bookend to the reunion show. Sort of a reality check. I’m sure everyone will recall that the further door on the left was the original entrance to the upstairs bar, and the nearer door on the right led to the restaurant side as well as the stairs down to the live room. Those who were in bands will also recognize the alleyway side entrance where they would load in.
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.”
(Article mostly Re-printed from Shindig & Freetime Magazines in the 1990’s – by Del Rivers)
I still can remember standing in The Mason Jar (a local bar known for serving beer in canning jars)…as well as Scorgies…listening to Luther and The BBB’s. What we heard was a mixture of 1960’s Retro-Rock combined with early 1980’s Power-Pop. The BBB’s were stand-outs among Rochester bands like The Bowery Boys (w/Geoff Wilson), The Insiders (w/Walt O’Brien), and The Chesterfield Kings (w/Greg Prevost). Of these die-hard followers of The Kinks, The Monkees, The Byrds, and The Who; Luther and The BBB’s stood out like a set of new Goodyear Tires instead of some cheapo retreads. The snappy Pop tunes created were on par with Syracuse, NY’s Flashcubes (w/Gary Frenay) or with any other Power Pop band that was on Bomp! or Voxx Records in the early 1980’s. Luther and his boys have progressed to that arena (musically, at times) that includes Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, or early Squeeze.
As time goes around, BBB members have followed different routes…Doug Cox, who briefly formed NYC’s Tonebenders, is now climbing telephone poles; Mike Abrams, now a family man, played a roll in both The Projectiles and The Infants; Judd Williams (known as a “legend” in Boston) plays with The Lyres, Riviera Playboys, and now tours with The Amazing Royal Crowns; and finally Jeff “Luther” Holtzman carried The BBB’s flagship through the ’80’s and ’90’s. (The BBB’s briefly changed to The 3-B’s as well). Many future members included ex-Insiders Walt O’Brien and Bob Janneck; It’s My Party/Housecats/Shakin’ Bones members Ken Peters and Hank “Blast” Karuth. In the lean years, Luther worked as a D-J for local bars and co-wrote songs that ended-up as releases from myself and/or McFadden’s Parachute.
Aside from my usual “namedroppings”, a good listen to the CD (Volume One) speaks for itself. Utilizing rare vintage instruments; Luther has created an array of cool, original Rock’n'Roll as well as some updated cover songs in the bonus set. Check out the Rockabilly-influenced “The Echo”, the yearly Christmas standard “Are You Ready For Christmas”, the Psychedelic “Knee Wash”, and aggressive Power-Pop songs like “Rest Of Your Love” and “In My Mind” – all guaranteed to become repeat listeners. (On Whole Lotta Shakin’ – we usually played his “Credit Card Christmas” which isn’t on the CD).
Despite the choking cigarette smoke, and overwhelming odor of urinals (at The Mason Jar – not Scorgies!); that time was a worthy Rock’n'Roll memory and the music is still vital today. I can’t wait ’til Volume Two comes along without the ’smells’ attached to the memories!! Hail to the Great Rickenbacker!!
(Note: Since this article was written, Luther has retired from performing but has recorded about four other unreleased volumes of music with and without Dave Anderson from Saxon Recording. His former band mates now play as Shakin’ Bones). – Del.
I just wrote a Scorgies recollection with homage to Personal Effects on my own blog. I must say that the many nights that I spent at Scorgies were quite unique and will never be forgotten, even if they are hazy memories.
I hope that it is ok that I cross-post it here. If not, that’s cool, I will cease and desist!
Scorgies was the best room in the city for live bands. They had no chairs in the place. The drinking age was still 18 so the crowd was alive. Mark Nuj had the best sound system in place down there. You could stand right in front of the band or watch from three sides.
Click photo to advance. (from The Refrigerator.)
From September of 1981 to the very last day in February 1986, I lived in Rochester, NY and I loved every minute of it. It was a crazy time in my life.
When other contemporaries of mine were busy settling down, focusing on careers, procuring advanced degrees, getting married and starting families, nothing was further from my mind than any of that.
I wanted to live and to live very loudly. And so I did.
At that time I had no idea of the depths of my sad past, but I knew I wanted to be happy. Frankly, I wasn’t happy, but one must think of how the water cuts through the rock to form the canyon or how the sea pounds the rocks to create the sand. I was happy in process I suppose.
So while others were doing some of the aforementioned life living, I spent my free time slinking around all manner of unsavory nightspots, drinking, dancing and whiling the nights away. It was not unheard of for me in those days to be out until 2am, fall into bed in my tiny studio apartment on trendy Park Avenue and be up at and work by 8am the next morning. Oh to be 25!
This place was a scene unto itself and was also the venue for many a great band both local and national, international. Eventually it became my number one night spot.
This meant sauntering in and trying to look cool. I can’t imagine I ever pulled this off, but I did my best. One had big hair and wore lots of black, I think that was key. That and looking almost bored, as if you just happened to walk in unexpectedly.
I would usually be with my friend MG. My friend MG and I are no longer friends and I must say that of all my lost friendships, I mourn this one most profoundly. MG was the single funniest person I have ever known in my life. We were friends from December of 1982 until early in 2002 and I do not think the wound of loss will ever fully close.
Anyway, M and I would get into my one of our cars and head off to see what the night held for us. Generally from 1983-1986, that meant first stop was Scorgies.
After entering the smokey bar space, courage would be mustered to go to the bar. Why courage? The bartender never really liked us. Maybe he was that way with everyone, but total disdain was his usual response. Even when the place was empty, he’d generally ignore us until he had no choice. He was a real local character and he has left this mortal coil. He went by the name of Luke Warm and you can about him and his passing here. I hope that Luke is resting in peace.
Once some drinks were consumed and if it were a show night, one would stumble down the stairs to the very dark and even more smokey show space in the basement. Low ceiling, black walls (to my recollection) and always the spot to experience some great music.
There was a local band that played there a lot and to this day I love love love them and their music. Oh it is very dated and very 80’s, but ahhhhhh- I can never get enough. So many memories are tied around Personal effects and their music. You can read more about them right here as well as listen to some of their songs and see some videos. (I will have one for you at the end of this post – the song “Nothing Lasts Forever.” My favorite song of theirs is “So So Hard” but no vid for that one, but here is the audio.)
I recall some of the shows I went to at Scorgies but sadly many of them are faded due to what had to be too much beer and not enough sleep.
Except that I was getting older and in 1985 when I got to hear Alex Chilton in February and The Replacements in August I was 27 and nearing the bend to 28 years old. And my recollection of either show is shaky at best.
There were other nightspots – Idols opened in 1985 I think. While Scorgies was more of a punk place, Idols was definitely a true 80’s dance club, although it had its own punky edge.
I once went on a date there with a guy that I met through work, he was so knowledgeable about music! While we were there a song came on and he said “This song always makes me think of being at such and such.” The such and such indicated he was a young teen when the song came out.
I asked him, “How old are you?” and he looked at me and said “21!” WTF? “How old are you?” he asked in return? “27.” Ohhhhh…. We remained friends but that was that. (We each thought we were around 23 or 24.)
Another place that I spent a lot of time at in that last year was right across the street from Idols, it was called The Liberty and it was a very chic gay bar. My friend MG and I would traipse back and forth between the two – going from one environment to the other.
Such was my life in those days. If I wanted to live out loud was definitely doing so, but sadly in ways that were not healthy for me.
That said, I can’t imagine I would change too much. What happens in the past is what makes you who you are when you finally start to pay attention. Which is how I have come to see things as a 51 year old theology student, church secretary, stepmother and suburban resident.
Nothing lasts forever, as the song says. Enjoy.
Stan mentioned a “Where are they now” section so I thought I would write this!
I left Rochester in 1994 and moved to Albany, NY
I got a job selling drums at the big music store here Drome Sound. Within 2 weeks of moving here I was drumming in 1313 Mockingbird Lane Albany’s garage band! While in 1313 we released 2 45’s both of which I got to sing lead on the B-side! 1 45 even had a song I had written!!!
My son was born in 1996 and I did the stay at home dad thing! Susan from Susan & The Surftones had just moved to Albany & was out the last 1313 show. She approached me and asked if I wanted to join the band. We did a few CD’s for the German Gee Dee label & a 45 for a Belgian label. We also did 3 tours of Europe while I was in the band.
The 1st was in 1997. It was 8 shows in 10 days and was only Germany.
The next tour was 2000 and was a 1 month tour that took me to Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the next tour in 2001 was also 1 month and was some of the same but also adding Denmark.
(Thank god I have an understanding wife!!!)
After those tours I try to make it to Germany at least once every 3 years. This year I went & also visited Prague, CZ.
Now I run the mail order dept. at the local record store Last Vestige ( www.lastvestige.com ).
Most of my time is spent selling records to the Russian!!!
I started Thee UMMmm… a 60’s garage band & also Das Schmucks a 3 pc Turbonegro cover band.
I also play drums and sing with The Knyghts Of Fuzz, & Big Kombo and I do a Russian WW2 re-enacting thing www.3rdriflediv.org & http://www.myspace.com/3rdriflebrigade
Looking forward to A Projectiles reunion! The Last attempt was on a day when Rochester decided to have a MAJOR snow storm!!!
Cousin Brian Goodman
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.
From the lens of Dan Pusateri, enjoy!
From the March 17th 1995 issue of City Magazine, we have Luke’s Obit. I don’t have a credit for the author of this piece (H.B. Ward?), perhaps Chuck or Pat could fill in the rest of the details.
Andrew L. Ogrodowski, a lifelong local rocker known mainly as Luke Warm to his friends (and a few enemies), died on Friday, March 17, in his bedroom in his mother’s home in Greece. It was a warm spring evening and he’d been listening to the radio. He was 35.
His sudden death forces us to press the details of his life into some sort of comprehensible whole. Two years ago, when he was he was 33, Luke laughed, saying, “I’m just a guy who was saved by glitter and glam rock in the ’70’s,” as he tended bar downtown at the Abyss. As Luke perceived his life and tried – as he often did, to understand what it meant – that was no exaggeration at all.
The guy just wasn’t made to be normal. He invented and adopted the name Luke Warm around 1972, as a 12-year-old boy, to complete the elaborate stage persona he had conceived for his first rock band. After an early introduction to NYC glam rockers like T Rex, Luke gradually became the premier collector of rare T Rex records and memorabilia in the US.
Early in life. Luke stopped trying to fit in. “I remember a Red Wings game in the ’70’s,” recalled Luke’s friend and fellow musician Pat Lowerey on the phone recently. “There’s Luke walking down the stairs of Silver Stadium in a cape and full New York Dolls makeup in broad daylight. To him it was normal.”
Luke’s sense of style gave his rebellious energy an outlet and helped him find an identity. But unlike so many fashion bags, he never confused style with basic human grace. Lowerey, once the drummer for Luke’s best-known band, SLT, recalls a defining moment in Luke’s life. At one of SLT’s club dates, a band of hard core, head-shaved punks had been slated to open for them. Listening to them as SLT waited to go on, Luke appreciated the opening band’s energy at first, but then noticed that their lyrics were full of Anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist slurs. “These guys are skinheads!” he said to Lowerey.
That made him mad. “You know how some bands are too cool, like, ‘Don’t approach me?’” said Lowery. “Well, Luke wasn’t like that at all. As soon as he got on stage he just ripped into that band: ‘I Love Jews! I love fags! I live with a black chick!’ He was pointing at the skinheads and yelling into the mike, ‘We got a bunch of fuckin’ Nazis opening our show?’”
Like no one else in Rochester, Luke loved and devoted himself to the local rock scene. In the ’80’s he worked as a DJ and bartender (notably at Scorgies). But a career at the perimeter of the slam pit just wasn’t involved enough for him. His consuming love of music led him to moonlight as the music editor of Downtown magazine. Luke’s prose was as inflamed and confrontational as the music he loved. In an excerpt from the opening of one of his concert reviews (of a local band called “The Bulus“) in 1983, Luke demonstrated his fierce allegiance to Rochester Rockers.
“In this day and age when words mean nothing and dance means everything, it’s nice to see there are bands around to confront this idiotic way of thinking with an iron fist and the Bulus are that type of band. There is nothing wrong with mindless pop, rather fun its dumb way, but there should always be an imaginative, agressive edge to rock and roll to keep it on its often wobbly feet.”
Luke played guitar back then, too, but not, as most remember it, very well. Then, sometime in the summer of ‘90, Luke disappeared from Rochester’s nightclub world. For 18 months, he spent his free time practicing by playing along with his collection of blues records. When he re-emerged, in early ‘92, he was ready to form SLT – a band whose combination of power, intelligence, and expertise came close to what Luke had been grasping at for most of his life.
The band lasted little more than a year. But SLT is now legendary among Rochester rockers and Luke’s vision, infectious energy, and confidence in the band (“We’re the best rock and roll band in the world,” he used to shout) had everything to do with the legacy SLT left in its wake. Lowerey put it simply: “He wanted to combine the passion of music with intelligent lyrics and play it with such force.”
Luke’s death on March 17 cast a sad and sentimental pall over a crowd of Rochesterians known for dispassionate cool. His wake packed the Miller Funeral Home on Monroe Avenue with hundreds of black-leather rock and roll rebels. The line of tattooed, pierced and crying mourners strung itself through four rooms, heads shaking.
Luke’s mother, Helen Ogrodowski, welcomed every downcast punk who’d knelt before his closed coffin with a warm, appreciative hug. The phrase “He was a sweet guy, wasn’t he” was repeated over and over.
“He was crazy,” said Lowerey. “You could just call him up and he would do anything. If I needed him to do cartwheels naked down Monroe Avenue because I didn’t feel good, he’d do it immediately.”
“He was a great friend.”
audio clip courtesy Simon Ribas of the Presstones, see comments for details
Really enjoyed the show. Left without getting your #. You know us unemployed have to work together.
Don’t let the hair fool you I’m old enough.
Lou the Italian
Flower City Jukebox Vol. 2: “Rochester Rock n Rollercoaster Ride”
Hi-Techs: Boogaloo Rendezvous
The Most: Rockerfeller
The Targets: White Corvette
The Times: Rock ‘n Roll Reds
Hit & Run: I Don’t Wanna (demo)
Hypermarket: Something You Can Do For Yourself (unreleased)
Lotus STP: Townie Clan
The Fugitives: Screaming
Mission Emission: Postcard
New Math: The Restless Kind
The Projectiles: I’m Alone
Lalaland: Nobody’s Help
The Chinchillas: Love & War
Colorblind James Experience: Purple & Gold (outtake)
Personal Effects: Porch (live at Jazzberrys ’85)
The Rumbles: Third Uncle (live at The Warehouse) (Brian Eno cover)
Invisible Party: Waking World (live)
Nod: Power Doesn’t Need It (unreleased)
The Squires Of The Subterrain: This Old Raggedy Town
jump over to www.earcandyarchive.com to take a listen or download.
mega thanks to Tom Kohn for tracks 2,3,4 and to Jim Huie who supplied the lion’s helping of everything else.
First off, let me just say thanks to everyone involved with the Scorgies Reunion. I am sure my fellow Press Tones feel the same way (although some have trouble typing). Peter had our set planned out pretty good, clocking in at around 42 minutes, which would have allowed us a brief encore. For whatever reason, we ran long, and got yanked off the stage (set times were pretty rigid, and I’m not complaining, just letting you know), before we got the chance to do another number. So for your listening pleasure, here’s a live cut from when we played Abilene over the summer. It’s a song we usually finished the night with, called “Go Insane.” Back in the old days, Peter would take the solos, and at the end of the song, just leave his guitar in front of his amp until it started feeding back and annoying people. And then he’d wait some more before unplugging it. Flash forward, and now I do the lead work, and on this occasion, I started bending the strings pretty far, and so Peter started doing whale noises through the mic. It was a hoot.
Anyway, you paid for it, so here’s the song. . .
From the J. Laben Archives. Enjoy:
What is with these weird hairstyles, this strange music? Are they serious? Are they poking fun? Or both?
The Ramones, a rock ‘n’ roll band of current popularity, have a song called “Teenage Lobotomy.” There are those who would suggest they sing from experience. Take, for example, the words to their song “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”:
“I don’t care about history,
Rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll high school,
Cuz that’s not where I wanna be,
Rock, rock, rock ‘«’ roll high school,
I just wanna have some kicks,
I just wanna get some chicks,
Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock ‘n’ roll hi-igh school.”
Appearance is another strike against any claims to great mental stature on the part of the band. Tight jeans, sneakers and leather jackets, a real greasy-mean look, tell you these are the kind of guys who need permission from their parole officers to go on high school field trips.
But believe the image and you’re the fool. They’ve suckered you with rock ‘n’ roll’s favorite gimmick, theatrics, to sell you rockers’ favorite message, irrever¬ence. The Ramones’ lyrics and looks are mostly suitable trappings for their brand of music — high-speed, high-energy and high-volume rock ‘n’ roll.
Boy, they’ve got their nerve. But boy, they have their fun.
The Ramones pale in comparison with some of the other music going on these days within what is called the “New Wave.”
There is Fad Gadget, the band that uses a Black & Decker speed drill as an instrument. There is CRASH COURSE In Science, whose members make music with kitchen appliances and, in one song, become robots reading a cake mix: “Extract contents for cakes in the home.”
(more vintage theorizing after the jump!)
Like most people, I have a scattering of old newspapers, cassettes, videos, and records cluttering up my closet space. When I have the time, I try to convert cassettes and videos to CD’s, DVD’s, or stick it in a file on my computer (for YouTube or some other proper place down the line). Old mags and news clips get into bags like comic books or binders. All this takes a bit of time and expense, which I currently do not have. I only hope that when I kick it, that the cool stuff doesn’t end up in the trash. I already lost cassettes and videos due to deterioration; even some early Sony CD’s with labels won’t play anymore. A friend of mine has a cassette of John Cale playing at Scorgies. I’m hoping that he will preserve stuff like that. I have some video of Rick Baker & The Commercials now on DVD that I’m dying to upload. Many friends have bootleg cassettes of The Insiders that are impeccable. My suggestion is to preserve these things, only if you have the time or if the stuff is worth it in your heart. The best way, for now, is to get it on the internet so other fans can check it out. I thank Stan The Man, Tom Kohn, and others for getting this web site out. It may be a good starting place for your posters, stories, and a few website links to bands that are still at it! It doesn’t hurt to use a professional studio, if you have some bucks to convert and properly preserve stuff as well (not quite like the Eastman House working on 1920’s films, but to make stuff watchable and/or audible!).
I asked Scorgie – what did “Weekends” mean on the posters….he laughed so hard…it really meant “weekends” – in the beginning, that’s when he had music scheduled – on the weekends! Not during the week – music on the “WEEKENDS!”
It was a great night of music and old friends and acquaintances at The German House Friday night. I got their at seven and immediately started reminiscing about bands that played at Scorgies with Del Rivers and Brian Goodman. I came up with a few that I haven’t heard mentioned. The Rockats, (http://www.myspace.com/therockats ) a rockabilly band from New York City played their a few times and Brian said they had a record release party at the Top of the Plaza. Another band was The Memphis Rockabilly Band (http://www.memphisrockabillyband.com/) who were their a few times and a lot of fun. The third I can remember was the Glen Phillips band (http://www.answers.com/topic/glenn-phillip) who played all instrumentals and were a little different then the regular Scorgie’s bands. He was a great guitar player!! I hope those three can jog some of your memories. Too Tall Steve walked in (http://myspace.com/tootallblues) and we immediately started laughing about the only time we played at Scorgies in my first band Crawlspace and our bass player wrapped his foot around the guitar chord and his bass head came crashing down!! Don’t ask me what year, maybe ‘84-86′ ? I think Scorgie had some battle of the bands thing going. Well, it was great seeing those bands again and they sounded great !! I have to get that new Presstones cd !! Maybe Schwittek is think of giving me one.
Personal Effects super fan Ed Richter shot some great footage from stage side during the Personal Effects set. Great Pics, Ed!
Ok, all right… I’ll admit it. Like every other damn guy at Scorgies I had a crush on Peggy Fournier. I had seen the Hi-Techs live many times and oh my god there was Peggy.
One of my best friends from the late 1970’s-1980’s was Bob Martin; we were Beatles collectors and then it happened. The Hi-Tech’s changed their name to PERSONAL EFFECTS. I thought I was in. I asked Bob what the deal was with Peggy. he said “forget it, MAN! Our drummer is her man!” OH, LOL!
Well anyway, Personal Effects went on to produce the greatest local music of all time. Yes, they were the tightest, they had the best instruments and yes! They were the best.! I guess this makes me a Personal Effects Fan Boy.
I love you Peggy, Paul, Bernie and of course my close friend Bob Martin.
More photos from the show after the jump: