“Rochester, I Think We’ve Got This”

“Rochester, I think we’ve got this,” said Eli Paperboy Reed, venturing opinion at the onset of rain that would drench his listeners while he stayed dry. As though to show him that the city had more to offer than rain, his mike went dead. But he didn’t miss a beat, belting his soul out as the sound tech fixed it. He is a must-see artist who deserved more than the handful of weather-proof diehards that he got. One of them hollered that he must come back, for the weather is not always like this. What had he been smoking?

Actually, it was not like this last year. The ten-day Lilac Festival was picture-perfect almost every day. What are the chances of that happening two years in a row? I had heard Rochestarians grumbling all way from god-awful 90 degrees muggy Florida the prior week, and I had said “No worries. It will all clear out in time for the festival.” What had I been smoking?

I was there, all right, for I had come prepared with blue raincoat to slip over a warm grey jacket, which also wasn’t needed when I arrived after 4. When he waved everyone in close for the final number or two, I was close enough to get a decent photo or two, even with the crummy phone camera. Mrs. Harley doesn’t come to the Lilac Festival when the weather looks surly, so I was on my own.

It took him the entire set—I mean, he really must work on timely delivery—but at show’s end, the sun did indeed begin to pierce the gloom. A half hour later, it was full sunshine for the next group, who probably didn’t even thank him. I’d never heard of they or Eli, but that is only because I don’t keep up. The devoted fan next to me was aghast at my ignorance.

Garnering attention over the last decade, Eli was named Breakthough Artist of the Year by the MOJO awards people in 2009. Anyone who savors R & B must not miss this fellow when he comes to town, enhanced by a phenomenal backup band. How can you go wrong with someone who starts his set with ‘Go Tell That Long Tongued Liar’?





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Pinks, Purples, Greens, Blues and Cold

I knew summer was close upon us when the Lilac Festival kicked off last weekend. That’s the only way I knew. The weather sure gave no clue. I've seen R-rated weather before, but this was obscene. Joan Osborn performed Sunday and, just like when Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, she became a pillar of ice. I mean, she must have. When guitar strings began superconducting, she swore to herself she would never ever ever come to Rochester again before July. I wasn’t there, so I don’t really know, but if she has any sense, that’s what she did.

And Ricky Lee Jones, the day before, must have been blown back to New York City or wherever she came from. It was gale force winds that day. My son was biking back from Ithaca that day and tells me he had to lean against the wind nearly the whole time. That’s fine until the wind abruptly stops and you must think quick to rebalance. He really should have pulled over. How come I didn't teach him better?

But by Monday, the weather was looking up. Upper 50’s, that is, which isn’t all that great, and with a breeze, no less, but also with full sun. I made plans to get to that festival and, as family head, I ordered Mrs. Sheepandgoats to come with me, but she said ‘forget it.’ Naturally, she cherishes every opportunity to be with me, but it was only 55 stingy degrees, and she has not much use for outdoor festivals until it’s ...say, at least, mid-sixties. Of course, she could wear a parka and tuque. Everybody could, and that would solve the weather problem, but nobody wants to do that. The Lilac Festival is the first "coming out" event of the season - the first real occasion for people watching - and you don’t want to show looking like a weather-grizzled prospector from the backwoods.

See, lilacs are an early blooming plant, right up there with tulips and azaleas - and before rhododendrons, so the festival either must come in early May or shed the name Lilac Festival. Several decades of tradition argues against shedding the name. Just be grateful it's not the Crocus Festival. And Highland Park, it must be said, was truly splendid that day. Brilliant blossoming pinks, deep lilac purples, hues of green, even some yellows springing up everywhere, all splashed against bright blue sky. It's no wonder those ancients went bonkers come every spring. It's glorious to behold. You bring your camera that day, and snap pictures of all you see. Photos are digital, after all, and cheap. If they don’t turn out, you just delete them. Therefore, if you can stand the weather, you come down around suppertime, grab a plate of food from the venders, and munch it down listening to free concerts amidst the beautiful backdrop. Then, you head back home and go about your business. Without ever intending to, I've fallen into a habit of yearly Festival posts. Starting now, therefore, I'm opening a Lilac Festival category.

Monday was cowboy day; all musicians wore cowboy hats. Now, cowboy music would not ordinarily be my first choice, but you have to take what you can get. After all, I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not some nutcake religious fanatic, and I'm not about to freeze so as to take in the better-known artists of the prior two days. Plenty of Rochestarians are willing to do so, however. We are very serious about our Lilac Festival, and I am told those two frigid days were well-attended. But for me, no. Cowboys it will have to be. A fellow by the name of Jarrod Niemann played at 5:30, putting out a solid show with spontaneity and humor. He didn’t actually wear a cowboy hat (he wore the same hat that he does here) and he doesn't do the twangy country stuff. Strictly a one man show with acoustic (though plugged-in) guitar and no back-up musicians of any sort. It can’t be that easy to hold the stage that way, and chilly weather inhibited audience feedback at first, but he had a strong voice, likeable presence, clever song-writing, and the easy-going confidence to interrupt himself mid-song with obser……are those drug dogs?…..vations appropriate for the…….are those lilacs? Did I tell you I’m allergic to lilacs?…..event. Some honky-tonk and good-time songs, with one or two off-color references which, of course, went right over my head. Not a bad show. If he comes to your town, you might want to see him.

Afterwards, I might have slipped away home, for the sun was thinking about setting, but Jarrod said to stay put for the next cowboy, Jamey Johnson. Of course, I’m used to doing as I’m told, so I hung around, a little reluctantly at first, but in time I was drawn into that second performance, as well. This next fellow had backup. And lots of twang....isn't it steel guitars that do that? Exactly what is a steel guitar, anyway? He planted himself stolidly center stage, immovable (unlike the writhing guitarist to his right) singing anthems with an attitude, as if to say "if you don't like it, leave!" I didn't notice that anyone did. I, too, stayed to the end.

The final two days of the festival returned to the meteorlogical misery of the first two days, so as to achieve symmetry, no doubt. During the next week, the temperature climbed into the mid-80's. ...Sigh....



Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


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They Will Come as Sheep in Llama's Clothing

Since I started blogging, I've received many comments saying that, in spite of my name Sheepandgoats, the animals in my profile picture are not sheep and goats. I've paid no heed. Surely those comments were submitted by religious cranks intent on making me trouble or otherwise distracting me from my Mission.

However, this year for Ground Hog Day, my wife gave me the handsome coffee table book All About Animals. I thumbed through the pictures and…..by golly, they were right! Those animals are not sheep and goats. They are creatures from South America called llamas.

From Wikipedia

The llama (Lama glama) is a South American camelid, widely used as a pack animal by the Incas[1] and other natives of the Andes mountains. In South America llamas are still used as beasts of burden, as well as for the production of fiber and meat.[2]
The height of a full-grown, full-size llama is between 5.5 feet (1.6 meters) to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall at the top of the head. They can weigh between approximately 280 pounds (127 kilograms) and 450 pounds (204 kilograms). At birth, a baby llama (called a cria) can weigh between 20 pounds (9 kilograms) to 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Llamas are very social animals and like to live with other llamas as a herd. Overall, the fiber produced by a llama is very soft and is naturally lanolin free. Very intelligent, llamas learn simple tasks after a few repetitions. When using a pack, llamas can carry about 25% - 30% of their body weight for several miles.[3]
Llamas originated from the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. They migrated to South America and Asia about 3 million years ago. By the end of the last ice-age (10,000 - 12,000 years ago) camelids were extinct in North America.[3] As of 2007, there were over 7 million llamas and alpacas in South America and due to importation from South America in the late 20th century there are now over 100,000 llamas and 6,500 - 7,000 alpacas in the US and Canada.[4]

Here: (not via Wikipedia) are pictures of actual llamas.

2_llama 1_llama

Now be honest. Mine look more handsome, don’t they?

How should I rectify this error? Of course, I could just flat out apologize, but….you know, I hate to admit being wrong. Moreover, might not an apology trigger lawsuits from readers outraged at being deceived so long? Be assured I did much soul-searching. In the end, stickler for accuracy that I am, honest conscience won out.

There! I’ve made a clean breast of things. Nobody can say I haven’t. And as an added bonus, for any misled readers who now have no idea what sheep and goats really look like, I found a site with lots of informative pictures. It is (not surprisingly) www.sheepandgoats.com

The people involved with this site appear fine and upright and have no connection with me. I notice that they sell sheep and goats. For the sake of authenticity and to prove to all that I am not a charlatan, I ought to buy one of each. Trouble is, I've grown attached to these llamas and I'm not sure they would get along. Winged Migration Man told me llamas can be "ornery."


Alright, alright.....it's a lighthearted post. I admit it. But the atmosphere is lighthearted these days. It’s Lilac Festivalhere in Rochester. I've tentatively put the snow shovel away. Spring has pounced upon us emphatically. And I am about to take a stroll through the lilacs with the lovely Mrs. Sheepandgoats.  How can a person not be lighthearted about such things?

So far music highlights at the festival include Donna the Buffalo(another animal!....I like this group already), a backwoodsy Appalachian band with huge energy that had everyone bouncing. The female vocalist plays every sort of hillybilly instrument under the sun.....she must be Donna, you can't help but think. But no, their website tells us....the band just has a thing for Appalachia and buffalos. Here and there in the crowd you'd spot people in DtB sweatshirts: a goofy cavedrawing of a buffalo on the front, "herd of em?" on the back.

Earlier in the program was a young woman just now finding notice, Alyssa Coco, still in high school [!], who appeared with keyboard and three backup musicians, including a drummer so immersed in his material I could only think of a bobblehead. Mrs. Sheepandgoats liked her music, so I bought my wife a CD. I think it was the singer's mom at the CD table. That's fine at Lilac Festival, which is family oriented. You couldn't do it at the Water Street Music Hall.


Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News But Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Maria Muldaur and the New York State Bush

It was a proud day for Rochester. Our own purple bush, the lilac, was designated New York's official state bush! Actually, the deed was signed into law last year, but only now are they getting around to setting up a plaque or something in Highland Park, home of 1200 lilac bushes and the annual Lilac Festival, which started May 11.

Of course, these heady days were not just for us. Somewhere in the state, someone is hoohawing over the new state reptile (snapping turtle) and state saltwater fish, (striped bass) which join the already established state flower (rose), tree (maple), insect (ladybird), and bird (bluebird, though it ought to be robin).

Only the Whitepebble Religious Institute was less than ecstatic. Its very own Tom Pearlsandswine was named state religious nut. Former member Tom Barfendogs was named state sorehead. Is this a great place to live or what?

It actually is a great place to live, notwithstanding local cynics who so ridiculed city officials' slogan "Rochester: Made for Living," substituting "leaving" for "living," that said officials had to dream up a new slogan. Still, Rochester ranks high among metropolitan areas for quality of life. Some thinktank in Virginia just gave our town 6th overall place. (Pittsburgh was #1) The job picture is distressed and the weather is an abomination, but other areas look good.

Each year the Lilac Festival heralds, if not the beginning of summer, at least the day when you can, with reasonable confidence, put away the snow shovel. It's been around as long as I can remember and each year becomes more popular. Highland Drive bisects the park into one area Img_0531_2devoted to lilacs, gardens, and the reservoir, and a second devoted to concerts, food tents and vendors.Img_0498  It's really too early weatherwise for an outdoor festival, but since it's tied to the lilacs, what can you do? You can pray all you want, but you can't tell them when to bloom.

This year the weather has been glorious, and as always, I've made it down there for some of the concerts. Different musicians are featured all day long, from high school talent on the weekdays, to upcoming local talent and national acts on evenings and  weekends. Herman's Hermits appeared a couple years ago, Teddy Geiger last year, John Sebastian and Sally Taylor (talented offspring of James Taylor and Carly Simon) in years before that.

So far this year, the highlight for me is Maria Muldaur. Ms Muldaur is seen on the Bob Dylan DVD "No Direction Home" as a much younger performer in Greenwich Village, where Bob also hung out. She plays with some sort of washboard band, her hair parted in two absurdly long braids. I later discovered she was the artist behind "Midnight at the Oasis." (1974)

If you imagined she was a one-hit wonder, well....that makes two of us. But it turns out she has cut 31 albums since. And her "hit" is not typical of her overall music, it's bland in comparison. Most of her material, at least what she played at the Festival,  is more bluesy and vaudeville. Img_0563I swear that woman knocked birds out of the trees with some high notes. She knows how to entertain. She wallops out a blues number that just wouldn't end, interrupting herself for asides, for audience chit chat, for banter with the other band members, (great performers, all, the Scintillating Papas) in a performance bringing the audience to its feet. "I don't know if you could tell, but I milked that one a little," she conceded afterwards.

Yes, these are pleasant days in Rochester. It's not such a bad place after all.Img_0540 

Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)