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Home-grown bands take home the Fringe Festival

by Alyssa Daley- Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Sep 26th 2017 06:00 pm
Photo by Alyssa Daley/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Friday on Friday.
On Friday, Sept. 23, Friday in America performed as part of one of the last performances of Fringe Fest. The band has already released its first album, entitled `Cut the Brakes`.
Photo by Alyssa Daley/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Friday on Friday. On Friday, Sept. 23, Friday in America performed as part of one of the last performances of Fringe Fest. The band has already released its first album, entitled "Cut the Brakes".
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Over the past two weeks, the Rochester KeyBank Fringe Festival has hosted more than 15 local bands. It is a unique aspect of the festival that not only benefits the local music community but also local music-lovers. 

The price is the most enticing part for Fringe goers. Thanks in part to local music sponsors, like House of Guitars, attendees do not have to pay a penny out of their own pockets to see the eclectic lineup of bands on Friday and Saturday nights. Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23, were the final opportunities for music-buffs to take advantage of the free outdoor music and many did as by 8 p.m. each night, the entirety of Gibbs Street was nearly overflowing. The crowd’s energy was a contagious sort that the bands who performed onstage fed off. The louder concert-goers cheered, the louder and more passionate the bands’ sets became. 

Before melodic chaos reigned, the audience and bands had to gather in the right place at the right time. On Friday and Saturday, that right place was Gibbs Street. Situated directly across from “One Fringe Place”, also known as Spiegelgarden, was where some of the festival’s most sought after activities were held such as silent disco, the 3D sound experience in the Immersive Igloo and Farm to Fringe. Once the blanket of night fell on Rochester, this pop-up urban lounge was easy to find with its circus lights directed toward the sky, the twinkling of delicate party lights strung about the space and the bright splashes of color given off by eccentric lights artistically placed in key areas around the garden. However, on nights when music was set to be performed live on Gibbs Street, people found their way to this spot by following the sounds of drums, a screaming guitar and a soulful voice.

Kicking off the final weekend of Fringe Fest on Friday was Rochester’s Don’t Know Jack, who took to the stage at 5 p.m. The early slot meant a very different crowd than the one that ended up gracing the bands who played from 8:10 to 10:45 p.m., but avid Fringe fans brought their own lawn chairs and settled in to listen to the twang of the first local band. 

As the night got longer, the number of people taking advantage of the food and beverage vendors along with the merchandise tent, which not only sold generic Fringe Festival merchandise but also some of the CDs and promotional gear of the scheduled local bands, got larger. The early hour crowd of families and folks over the age of 50 gave way to the single and/or the younger generations. On Friday, Rochester’s Friday in America was the band to play during that transitional period between 7 and 7:50 p.m. The three-man band has released its first album, “Cut the Brakes”, and some members of the audience sang along as the band performed its original pieces. For Friday in America and many of the other local musicians, the best part of playing on Gibbs Street Main Stage is that they get to play for people from and around their hometown. 

“It’s one of the best feelings you could ever ask for,” Friday in America’s bass guitarist, Ben Rossi, said about performing in front of a local audience. “It’s really nice to play in front of a hometown crowd on a big stage at a venue that’s as significant as the Fringe Festival.”

Like many of the bands in the night’s lineup, it was Friday in America’s first time performing as a part of Fringe Fest. 

“This exceeded our expectations,” Rossi said. “We wanted to come out and have a good time. We didn’t think this many people would be here this late in the game, we didn’t know if the weather would be up to par or not but everything was better than what we could have hoped for.”

The local music community in Rochester is strong, and this year’s Fringe Fest music lineup accentuated that. 

“Seeing all of the musicians that we know in the audience and other people we know from the local music scene come out and support one another [was great],” Rossi said. “For example, the band before us, [Crooked North], was my guitar teacher. I took two separate group lessons from him, one as recently as this past summer, so it was cool seeing him onstage before us and … we’re going to stick around for the next band. So Rochester has a really tight knit music community.”

Some of the local bands at Fringe Fest have been recognized nationally. One of the success stories is Sirsy. More often than not, stories of how small town bands having a hard time making it to the big leagues are told, but Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti of Saratoga Springs, the two members of Sirsy, are proof that hard work and dedication do pay off.

“We have been lucky to play in every single state except for Hawaii and Alaska,” Krahmer said. “We’ve played all over the continental U.S. and we feel very lucky that we get to tour around and see amazing things and meet amazing people.”

The talented two-person band’s single, “Cannonball” has been showcased on Showtime’s television series, “Shameless”. But getting to where they are today was not easy. 

“Rich and I wanted to play music for a living and we tried, a little while, to play as a four-person band,” Krahmer said. “We couldn’t find two other people that were equally as insane as we are and who wanted to play as many shows and travel around. We just figured out how to play all of the instruments for ourselves and we just started doing it. We wanted that goal and we just set it for ourselves, and we figured out how to do it.”

During Sirsy’s set, Krahmer not only sang all of the band’s lyrics but she played the drums and the flute. The crowd cheered whenever she grabbed her wind instrument and smoothly transitioned right from playing the flute to singing without missing a beat. Coming up with a set that will keep an audience’s interest for the full set time is sometimes difficult but for Krahmer and Libutti, from the spectator’s point of view, each song choice was seamless. Krahmer and Libutti’s passion for their music was evident and increased the crowd’s energy ten-fold. 

“My favorite part [of being onstage] is how sometimes your burdens and your worries, you carry them with you and you feel them even when you’re trying to focus,” Krahmer said. “When you’re onstage it all falls away and you’re just free. If you just get to do the thing that you love and see that you’re bringing joy to other people, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

For both the concert-goers and the performers, this year’s Fringe Festival was one to remember. The focus on building up local musicians and exposing the crowd to music that almost originated in their own backyards brought a unique aura to the entire event no matter what night or what set passersby decided to stop and listen to. Krahmer was able to encapsulate the local notability of the festival’s music scene in one quote, “there’s no place like home.”

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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