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September 20, 2022 - 3:00pm


Spring 2020 saw Shinedown’s unplugged “Deep Dive” tour go up in smoke when the pandemic hit. It was going to be a rare opportunity for fans to see the hit-making group play a selection of rarely performed album cuts from across their career.

But fans probably aren’t complaining too much about the tour’s demise because Shinedown used some of the pandemic-instigated downtime to make the new album, “Planet Zero.”

The new album is a departure lyrically in that it’s the most topical of the seven studio albums from Shinedown, which formed in Jacksonville, FL in 2001 and has become one of mainstream rock’s most popular bands.

“When we started making this record, we were at a time when it was very uncertain. When we started writing, the world had just shut down,” Myers said. “It was supposed to be 10 days and it ended up being 16 months, and even more now. So when you’re in a place like that, you have all of this other stuff around you. You have people stating opinions that aren’t necessarily political or racial or anything else, and they’re still getting canceled for their opinions. So there was a lot to write about.” 

Indeed, tracks like “The Saints of Violence and Innuendo,” “No Sleep Tonight,” and “America Burning,” examine the divisions in today’s society. But Shinedown also offers moments of hope and spotlights the need for unity on songs like “Daylight,” “Dysfunctional You,” and “A Symptom of Being Human.”

A unique twist in the album is the introduction of a robot-like character, Cyren, who acts as a narrator and guides listeners through the album and helps connect the themes of the songs.

Shinedown, which also includes singer Brent Smith, bassist Eric Bass and drummer Barry Kerch, is on a tour that stops tonight at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, building a set list around a catalog that includes nearly 30 hit singles. 

“It gets a little dicey. When you try to make a set list, you want to make everybody happy,” Myers said. “Obviously, you have your, we call them the four corners. You’ve got to play ‘Second Chance.’ You’ve got to play ‘Simple Man.’ You’ve got to play ‘Sound of Madness’ and you’ve got to play ‘Cut The Cord.’ Other than that, you can kind of maneuver around a bit.”

September 14, 2022 - 10:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Claudia Hoyser, music, arts, entertainment, news.

Claudia Hoyser, who has made a couple of appearances in Genesee County, has a new video out that was partially filmed in Genesee County, in a field of crimson clover owned by CY Farms.

For record collectors, they will also recognize the Record Archive in Rochester as one of the video's settings.


September 7, 2022 - 11:48pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee Chorale, music, arts, entertainment, news.


Rehearsals start soon for the Genesee Chorale and the chorale is eager to accept new members into the group.

Rehearsals are Monday evenings starting at 7 p.m. and wrapping up by 9 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church. 

The first rehearsal is on Sept. 12.

The chorale is planning its seasonal concert for December.

Singers of all levels of experience are welcome. 

To register, visit https://www.geneseechorale.com/members

More information is also available at https://www.geneseechorale.com/join

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens

September 6, 2022 - 11:51pm
posted by Press Release in Haxton Memorial Library, Oakfield, GSO, music, arts, entertainment, news.


Press release:

Six members of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra will be presenting a special program on Sept. 15 from 7  to 8 p.m. at the Oakfield Government and Community Center.

Music lovers are invited to come to listen to and learn from these talented musicians as they perform some selected pieces and showcase each of their instruments. Each of the six musicians from the orchestra will explain how their specific instrument works and how it is unique. The audience will experience the six instruments played alone and played together as part of a six-piece ensemble.

“This program is a great way for children and adults to learn about the special qualities of the musical instruments that will be showcased,” says Kim Gibson, Library Director at the Haxton Memorial Library. “Everyone will enjoy this presentation.”

The Genesee Symphony Orchestra is a regional orchestra that presents concerts for the enrichment of our community through high-quality performances, educational opportunities, guest artists, and partnerships. It is one of the oldest civic orchestras in New York state.

The special presentation takes place at 7 p.m. at the Oakfield Government and Community Center, 3219 Drake Street in Oakfield.

This family-friendly project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regent Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State legislature and administered by Go Art!         

The Haxton Memorial Library located at 3 North Pearl Street in Oakfield provides residents with a variety of programs, events and materials that are listed on the library’s website at www.HaxtonLibrary.org.

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens.

September 4, 2022 - 8:02pm


The American Warrior Festival organization hosted a music night at Eli Fish Brewing Company to show appreciation for those currently serving in the military and for veterans of all eras. 

Performers included Joel Russlett (top photo), Billy Lambert, Travis Mackie, Rich Hancy, Josh Ketchum, and Monica Hall (bottom photo).

Photos by Howard Owens




September 4, 2022 - 7:37pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, southside, batavia, notify.
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When Jerry Smith Jr. moved to Batavia 32 years ago, he enjoyed the friendly, active vibe.

The then-8-year-old Smith would visit the Wing Ding with family and friends, eat good food, enjoy fun activities, and be part of a community spending time together.

He has missed those summer get-togethers of his younger days, he said and decided to do something about it.

Smith organized a block party in his South Swan Street neighborhood Saturday.

“Definitely, when COVID came, people were more separated. It’s the last weekend of the summer to get together,” he said while serving as DJ and selling commemorative T-shirts under a tent in front of his home. “Bringing people together is always my vision. I’ve always been doing this.”

Although the party was a first, Smith has walked his talk as a youth coach for groups such as Batavia Bulldawgs, organizing three-on-three basketball tournaments, “old school barbecues,” and other similar events, he said. When asked if he had family at the event, with outstretched arms, he said, “Pretty much everyone here,” he said. “They’re all family.”


“Hopefully we can make it a bigger event next year, on the last weekend of the summer,” he said.

He estimated about 100 people had attended the first portion of the event, and more were certain to show up later, when The Songbirds, Ray Williams and the All-Stars, and Tray da Don would take to the makeshift stage for live performances.

Smith’s mom, Willeen Woods, sat nearby under another tent as Michael Jackson and other energetic musical artists filled the air from nearby speakers.

“It’s a good day,” Woods said. “I think it’s a good thing.”

After polishing off a hotdog and other foods available by four or five vendors, 10-year-old Derrick Ponder agreed with Wood’s assessment.

“It’s good,” Derrick said, adding that he knows a lot of people at the party. “People are getting together.”


He would come again next year, he said, as he ran off to play with some other kids there.

Myrin and Dannielle Lumpkin live just around the corner, and they had a tent with some fried chicken, and are known for their barbecued, soul and Caribbean fare. The Lumpkins own Mama Dee’z, and have been happy with the interactions and feedback they’ve received at recent events, Myrin said.

“It’s a beautiful thing, this is a nice small town. It’s a beautiful thing when people come together,” he said. “I think it’s worth it. Everything they’re having, we’re going to be there.”

The catering company — soon to be a restaurant with dine-in and take-out available, he said — was at the Italian Festival and plans to pitch a tent at many more warm-weather events in the future.

“We’ll do this again,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the Italian Fest next year, we liked that.”

Any food that doesn’t get sold is given away, he said, to folks who may appreciate some good home cooking.


One attendee who asked to remain anonymous wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the block party. The “community of Batavia is not getting together,” she said, pointing to what she felt was the lack of diversity at the event. Smith disagrees with that statement.

"I thought it went very well," he said Sunday. "And it was diverse."

Those that did attend seemed to be enjoying themselves, feasting on saucy chicken wings, grilled, barbecued and fried items, talking and joking around with each other and taking in the 80-plus sunny day.

Several years ago, a city initiative was to help organize block parties throughout Batavia. While some streets latched onto the idea of a neighborly gathering, others formed neighborhood cleanups. It didn't blossom universally in the city, but there have been sporadic events ever since, including a block party earlier this summer on the city's east side.

Hopefully, for Smith, his end-of-summer Swan (Street) song brought some of those fond memories back as a first step toward an annual tradition.




Top photo:  Organizer Jerry Smith Jr., aka Venue Entertainment, serves up some music at the first-ever Swan Street block party Saturday in Batavia. June June Woods and Carline Santiago keep busy at their food station; Hanna Woods checks out the commemorative Block Party T-shirts that state on the back: Southside Thang; Tyrone Woods enjoys some vendor street fare; and above, Terry Smith fries up some chicken.

September 4, 2022 - 5:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in dwyer stadium, Robbie Nichols, batavia, news, music, arts, entertainment, notify.


When people leave Dwyer Stadium laughing and smiling, Robbie and Nellie Nichols know they've done the right thing, whether it's after a concert, a Halloween costume party, or a baseball game.

Special events at the stadium aren't about making money, Robbie said.  In fact, the two concerts the Nichols hosted this summer were costly and a lot of work, that's why there are only two of them. But they fulfill a mission and keep a promise, he said.

"For us, it's not about the money," Nichols said. "It's about us seeing people having a good time at the stadium and us keeping our word when we signed the lease for Dwyer, that you would see more than just baseball there."

On a golden summer evening on Saturday, Dwyer was filled with the happy vibe of Zac Brown fans there to see the Rochester-based Zac Brown Tribute Band.  Frowns were impossible to find on the infield grass or in the stands or in the concession area where Robbie Nichols himself was serving up cocktails in palm-tree-top plastic containers and tall cans of beer.

The good times had by all might also help fill up the stands during Muckdogs games, Nichols acknowledged.

"Maybe 50 percent of the people there had never been to Dwyer before," Nichols said. "A lot of people came from Buffalo and Rochester.  I just want people to get used to coming to the stadium. I had a couple of people say they didn't know the stadium was this nice and that they will definitely be back for a Muckdogs game."

Given the amount of work and expense that goes into putting on a concert, there won't be any more shows at Dwyer this year, but given the success of the two events this summer, Nichols plans on doing it again next summer once the baseball season is over.

"I think my wife and I like to see people happy and having a good time," Nichols said. "We like seeing smiles on their faces, and I think we accomplished that with these concerts."

The next events at Dwyer are a baseball camp hosted by GCC and Geneseo College playing a ball game against alumni, and then there is the Alzheimer's Walk on Oct. 1, followed by the Halloween bash, which was a big success last year, on Oct. 22.

Photos by Howard Owens


Robbie Nichols










August 28, 2022 - 11:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sawyer brown, jam at the ridge, Le Roy, music, arts, entertainment, news.


Jam at the Ridge closed out its 2022 summer concert season on Saturday with a big crowd and high energy for long-time hitmakers Sawyer Brown.

Photos by Howard Owens.








August 27, 2022 - 3:35pm
posted by Session Placeholder in jam at the ridge, news, entertainment, music, Jerrod Niemann, shaun abbott.


Photos and story by Joe Elmore

Friday night at the Ridge started with an opener for their concert series with the recording artist Shaun Abbott played two back-to-back sets.  He played some of his own songs plus a plethora of covers. 

His latest single release is "Never Have This Night Again," an acoustic number. 

Friday's headliner was Jarrod Niemann, who has entertained country music fans at Jam at the Ridge before. 

He sang four songs, including one about wanting half his money back.  If you’re a country music fan you will know what he is talking about.  He played hits like “Lover, Lover" (2010) then he went right into his song 'What do you want" (2010).

As his set drew to a close, he said he told the crowd rather than applause for an encore, could he just keep playing.  The crowd approved. 

He then launched into his 2014 hit "Drink to That All Night.” 








Opener Shaun Abbott and band

August 27, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, GO ART!, batavia, comedy, entertainment.


Drawing from both sides of Genesee County, GO Art! host/comedian Chris Hasenauer of Rochester, center, relaxes before Friday's show with fellow comedians Sarah Benderson, left, of Rochester, Ryan Garcia of Rochester, and, far right, Alex Brady of Buffalo. Hasenauer would like to offer more comedy nights through winter, he said, at the East Main Street site. 

GO Art! Executive Director Gregory Hallock said that the facility creates, sponsors and presents all forms of art, "including, but not limited to, fine, performing, literary, culinary, design, tech, horticultural, folk and media." Now Comedy Nights are a new venture for the downtown Batavia nonprofit.

"When they happen, they are on Friday nights." he said.


Ryan Garcia of Rochester talks about his children, first dates, work situations, personal hygiene, homophobia and being Dominican during Friday's Comedy Night at GO Art! in Batavia. It is an adult show with some expletives. 


Sharing laughts before their performances, Sarah Benderson, Ryan Garcia, Chris Hasenauer and Alex Brady get to know each other through a comedian's perspective.


Chris Hasenauer played dual roles of host and comedian during Friday's Comedy Night at GO Art!


Rochester comedian Sarah Benderson, in a voice resembling a female cartoon character, picks out a couple for her questions about dating.

Photos by Joanne Beck.



August 26, 2022 - 8:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, arts, entertainment, news, Batavia Downs.


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Once the accordion and brass kick in backed by the drummer's strong 2/4 beat, you know it's polka time. And it's hard not to smile.

There were indeed no frowns in the crowd at Batavia Downs on Thursday night for a taping of WBBZ’s Polka Buzz featuring The Buffalo Touch.

"Polka is happy music," said band leader Ken Machelski between sets. "It's fun music. You know, people get up and dance, they laugh, the songs are all about having fun --  drinking beer songs, whatnot, you know, all about the ladies, you know, pretty, pretty ladies."

Polka has a rich and varied history and many cultures of the world have adopted the 2/4 time signature for their own variation of party music.  The Buffalo Touch, thrice nominated for Grammy Awards, has developed its own style of polka over its 27-year history.

"You mention polka to somebody that doesn't know anything about it and the first thing pops to mind, the most popular is the oompa-pa. Oompa-pa. Oompa-pa,  you know the German thing," Machelski. "And that's fine. That's a Polka 2/4 beat. The Italians have a Polka. Everybody has a Polka. But ours is a Polish Polka. Our type of music has been created and evolved from songs from Poland but done American style. We add our own American twist, you know, with a couple of horns, and concertina, the accordion, piano, drums, with the ensemble. It gives us a unique sound Americanized sound."

Batavia Downs Director of Marketing Ryan Hasenauer said he was more than pleased with the event, and suggested Batavia Downs may do another polka party again soon.

"We've got all these people that are enjoying some great Polish music," Hasenauer said. "We've got the Polish specials at the Homestretch Grill, some Polish vodka, some Polish beer and a sold-out hotel. What more can you ask for? It's great. I look around and everybody's having a good time."

Not bad, he said, for an event that Batavia Downs and WBBZ decided to partner on less than six weeks ago.

"One of the things that we pride ourselves on at Batavia Downs is we're nimble, we're quick, we're able to kind of, you know, find an event that we want to do, talk to the right people, and then put it down very quickly," he said.









Photos by Howard Owens.

August 24, 2022 - 10:38am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, batavia, BID.

Everyone is invited to a Family Movie Night in the Square tonight at 7 p.m., Shannon Maute says.

Maute, executive director of Batavia's Business Improvement District, encourages families to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, pillows, or "whatever makes you comfy," as you watch "The Little Rascals" at Jackson Square in downtown Batavia. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

There will be free popcorn, and the movie is in line with the BID's Boxcar Derby event happening at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Ellicott Avenue.

August 21, 2022 - 8:00pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, downtown batavia, BID, Italian Fest, notify.


You could say that Don Antinore took his job seriously Saturday on School Street in Batavia.

He was one of three volunteer judges for the first-ever Italian Fest sauce contest. Antinore, Jay Steinbrenner and Paul Figlow carefully tasted, observed, and dripped each sauce off the spoon during their deliberations of the top three winners.

After they reviewed each type and style of sauce, the judges were ready with their selections. That is after they conferred with one another for several minutes. The Batavian remarked how soberly they were approaching the task.

Antinore, whose business card lists him as an American Academy of Chef's Culinary Hall of Famer, and an educator and coach for Hospitality Solutions, said they were giving the job due diligence for the eight contestants.


“We're doing this because these people took the time to make these sauces,” he said.

The contestants were mostly made up of home chefs with family recipes. The contest was a first for Stephanee Surabian of Batavia. She didn’t exactly have a choice in entering, she said.

“My kids decided to push me toward it,” she said, watching her three pots of varied sauces. “They think mom’s is the best.”

She had a pesto alla trapanese, made with tomatoes and freshly ground almonds; fra diavolo, whose name translates to the devil’s mouth, and includes a spicy concoction with red pepper and red chili flakes; and a parma rosa, featuring a creamy base of tomatoes with melted cheese.

Lucie Griffis of Le Roy entered her Nanny’s Italian sauce, made with canned tomatoes, sausage, pork, homemade meatballs and fresh basil. The secret to a good sauce? “Not burning your garlic and onion at the start,” she said, “is key.”

To her left was Ken Kline from Oakfield. His recipe is cooked down from fresh roma tomatoes for three days on low heat, he said. He uses fresh parsley, oregano, basil, Italian sausage, homemade meatballs, stew beef and hard-boiled eggs.

“It’s thick and not runny,” he said. “You gotta love the sauce, you gotta love the family recipe.”

The recipe comes out during special occasions and, at times, just when the mood strikes him and his family, Kline said. Handed down from great-grandma from Palermo, Sicily, it’s a favorite that depends heavily on fresh roma tomatoes, he said.

Home chef, but with a background of working in the family restaurant in Denver, Colo., Sam Prinzi of Batavia believed in slow-cooking his ingredients, many of which are home-grown in his Batavia yard.

“Slow cooking, good seasoning and cooking it down,” are keys to a winning sauce, he said. He spent 90 minutes preparing everything, and then letting it cook on low for three to four hours.

He had a display of fresh ingredients on his table: green peppers, tomatoes and garlic, with some potential accompaniments of crunchy breadsticks, a small loaf of bread and pasta.

The recipe came from his grandparents in Sicily, both who have passed away, leaving their grandson to take up the spoon and continue on with the family tradition.

Prinzi liked the event, and plans to come back next year, he said.

“They’ve got great potential if they just keep adding to it,” he said. “I think this is great for the community.”

The contest was put on a brief hold as former county manager Jay Gsell was making his way downtown with his big pot of sauce from yet another family recipe.

His wife Ann Marie and her mother, Fannie Varone, are die-hard Italians with a recipe to be proud of, he said. So proud, in fact, that his mom-in-law threatened to put the “evil eye” on him if he didn’t learn the concoction before moving with his wife out of state.

“It’s a staple, in a big pot,” he said. “We have it for one or two meals, and then freeze the rest. We call it gravy, not sauce.”

After all of the tastings and whispering amongst the three judges, it was time for the big announcement. But first, Antinore offered some tips for authentic Italian sauce: oregano doesn’t belong in an Italian kitchen, he said, suggesting instead to use rosemary; don’t use too much spice as to take away from the overall taste; and consider how much oil you use, and its source (cooking meat in the sauce, for example); and herbs are not spices, he said.

Third place went to Griffis, second to Gsell and first prize of $100 and an engraved wooden spoon went to Prinzi.

Photos by Howard Owens





Meanwhile, The Formula entertained with classic Italian songs to a mixed audience of standing and seated spectators, while others gravitated to the beer and wine tent or shopped vendors along Jackson Street.

The event was hosted by Batavia's Business Improvement District. BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said that, despite some competition from other events on the same day, "I felt it went pretty well." It drew more than 1,000 people, she said, and vendors "were happy and said they would love to come back next year."

Maute stressed the short lead time of having about four months to plan and pull this event together, when it typically takes a year to organize one. She was thankful to have the support that she had for the festival, she said.

"Events are a huge undertaking, and I am grateful for all the help and support from City Council, the city manager, my board, committee members and volunteers," she said. "I was very excited to bring this event to downtown. It was the first year, and we have some adjusting to do, and hope to grow it every year." 






Top photo: Judges Don Antinore, left, Jay Steinbrenner and Paul Figlow make their way through eight sauces to find the top three winners at Saturday's Italian Fest in downtown Batavia; Sam Prinzi won first place and the commemorative wooden spoon; Jay Gsell, second place, congratulates third and first place winners, Lucie Griffis and Sam Prinzi; visitors to the event on School, Center and Jackson streets.

August 21, 2022 - 6:53pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, downtown batavia, Italian Fest.


Danielle Lumpkin was pleased with her booth on Jackson Street at Saturday’s Italian Festival in downtown Batavia.

Known as Mama Dee’z Kitchen, her family-run catering business sold out a few times of the featured rasta pasta, she said. Made with a flavorful spice-laced jerk chicken and a creamy, white Alfredo sauce, it seemed to be a hit at the Italian-themed event downtown.

Lumpkin has been catering for the last three years, and hopes to move into some space at Eli Fish Brewing Company on Main Street. The smaller “incubator-style” space would help the Batavia chef to move her company forward until she finds a larger spot, she said.

She is known for her sauces, she said, especially her chicken wings with homemade sauce. Lumpkin plans to also participate in a south side block party next month.  Her specialties are soul food and Caribbean flavors. She boasts “the best mac ’n’ cheese in town,” and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner items, from sauce-glazed barbecued chicken and ribs, pulled pork and taco dip, to jerk chicken, fish frys, glazed salmon, potato salad and seafood Alfredo sauce with pasta.


“I’ve been cooking for more than 10 years,” she said. “And I’ve had the LLC for three years. This is something that Batavia needs; there’s no home-cooked, southern comfort food that you can find like at Mama Dee’z.”

She thought this first-time event was a good first experience, with a nice turnout, she said.

“I look forward to it being bigger next year,” she said.

She encouraged folks to check out her Facebook site for catering options. Mama Dee’z was one of several food and craft vendors selling their wares. Many people walked around checking out items such as cigars, jewelry, artwork, assorted pastas and pizza, and sweet dessert treats.

The beer and wine tent had opened at 5 p.m. and was drawing an increasing crowd in Jackson Square as kids continued to play various games on School and Center streets and in the Square.

Photos: Danielle Lumpkin, owner of Mama Dee'z Kitchen, serves up some rasta pasta during Saturday's Italian Festival in Batavia. Photos by Joanne Beck. 

August 20, 2022 - 1:46pm


A legend of British rock, Dire Straits has sold over 120 million albums worldwide. Dire Straits Legacy brought back its iconic music Friday evening at Batavia Downs, performed by musicians who recorded and toured with Dire Straits more than 30 years ago.

Alan Clark was Dire Straits’ first keyboardist, Phil Palmer and Danny Cummings both recorded "On Every Street," Mel Collins on singles "Love Over Gold" and "Twisting by the Pool," and Jack Sonni on the international bestseller "Brothers in Arms." All have performed live with Dire Straits on multiple global tours.

Other DSL members include bassist Trevor Horn (The Buggles, Yes), one of the world’s greatest record producers, Primiano Di Biase, Europe’s most in-demand and sought-after keyboardist, and last but not least, frontman Marco Caviglia who is widely regarded as the world’s leading authority on Mark Knopfler’s unique guitar-playing style.

Drawing from six platinum albums, DSL’s incredible live show features all of the classic Dire Straits hits, including "Money for Nothing," "Sultans of Swing," "Romeo and Juliet," "Walk of Life," "Brothers in Arms," "Tunnel of Love," and many more.

Photos by Steve Ognibene









August 12, 2022 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia Players, batavia, notify.


In its 25th year, Batavia Players’ Summer Youth Theater program returns from a pandemic year off with something spectacular to behold, Director Pat Burk says.

He chose the musical “Godspell” to give prominent and ample opportunity for the 15 youth actors to fully embrace their characters and bring the Gospel of Matthew to life in an atypically festive and colorful atmosphere.

“It’s about parables and things, and also excerpts from the Gospel according to Matthew. But you know, the whole premise of the show is just a very beautiful premise, and the show itself is physically gorgeous. I think people will be surprised at our setting this year … during Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” Burk said during an interview with The Batavian. “And that's another nice thing about the show, you can kind of put it into the setting you want it to be in. Originally it was in a junkyard in New York City. It was a bunch of homeless, kind of hippie vagrants, in the junkyard in New York City. We've changed that, and ours is very New Orleans, Mardi Gras-themed. and it is a very beautiful show. So I think people will enjoy it.”

The musical is a retelling of the Gospel of Matthew set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The disciples of Jesus spread his message of love and tolerance through the city streets as the time gets closer to Jesus's betrayal at the hands of Judas and his eventual crucifixion. Parables are interspersed with music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns, with the passion of Christ appearing briefly near the end of the show.

With its debut on Thursday, Summer Youth Theater’s production continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Batavia First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia.

"Godspell" began as a project by drama students at Carnegie Mellon University and evolved from off-off-Broadway to being rescored for an off-Broadway production, which became a long-running success.



Don’t let the actors’ ages, from 12 to 21, fool you; most are fairly well versed in theater and in working with Batavia Players, Burk said. There have been challenges, though, with the venue — First Presbyterian Church in Batavia. The widespread choreography and sets were too much for the Players’ makeshift stage while the new one is under construction, he said.

The troupe was invited to perform at the East Main Street church and accepted, meaning a complete transplanting of sets, the light and sound boards, costumes, props and stage setup, he said. They had to rent sound equipment, move and reset lights, and faced more challenges with designing a set for this particular show, he said, “which we want to really highlight the design and the costumes and the coloring, the colors involved in the show and how we're setting the show.”

“We had to bring in a bunch of really expert people to make that happen,” Burk said. “And I think people will be amazed. It's pretty expansive, and it's pretty impressive, actually.”

There also wasn’t room for the pit band that accompanies vocalists, he said. Their current, temporary digs consist of a small stage area inside Batavia City Centre until the theater construction is finished.

“Because the only shows that we do in there … we can have drums and guitars and bass and two pianos, and there's no room for that in our temporary space,” he said. “So the shows that we've done in there, if there is music, have either band recorded music that you purchase, and/or an individual piano. So, this show really requires a fuller pit, plus the choreography and dance numbers are, in our version, are fairly extensive, and they would not have worked in that space.”

That being said, the church performance space has worked out nicely for a breathtaking production that, contrary to what some people may think of biblical prose, is anything but boring, he said.

“It's absolutely gorgeous. And the music is amazing. Absolutely amazing, and it allows a lot of individual moments to shine within the show,” he said. “It's kind of an ensemble cast, which, there's obviously, one big important role. And then there's a bunch of ensemble roles, but they all have lines, they all have solos, they all have songs. It's also a good one to highlight the kids that are in it.”


"Godspell" takes Burk back — nearly 50 years — to when he was first cast in it at 16. He found it then — as he still does today — to be a “beautiful, beguiling, and bold” over-the-top celebration that was an immediate success amidst a swirl of controversy, he said.

“It certainly was not a traditional telling of biblical parables. What many did not realize at the time was that this musical was not about the life and times of Jesus, it was about how Jesus created this loving and caring

community from a wide array of people,” he said. “Instead of being the universal story of the life of Jesus, it used Jesus as a vessel for the story of how a community is created and how it can include all.”

Ticket information is available at showtix4u.com


Batavia Players' Summer Youth Theater cast readies for a debut of "Godspell" Thursday evening; Elise Baumer, Crystalina Baumer, Melania DeSa e Frias, Maia Zerillo and Jocelyn Coburn; front row featured actors Deacon Smith, Kai Hoag and Gabriel Burk Flanagan; Matthew Stevens as the lead of Jesus, with Samantha Jane Balbi, who is also the show choreographer; Matthew Stevens and Dorothy Sue Flanagan, the youngest member of the cast. Photos by Howard Owens.




August 10, 2022 - 11:36pm
posted by Press Release in polka, arts, music, entertainment, news, Batavia Downs.


Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced that WBBZ’s popular show, Polka Buzz, will tape several shows inside the Park Place Room on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.  Local Polka Band, “The Buffalo Touch”, will perform that evening.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on the Batavia Downs official tickets website, BataviaConcerts.com now.   Tickets can also be purchased at the Lucky Treasures Gift Shop. Tickets can be redeemed for $10 in Free Play on the day of the show.

Those wishing to spend the night can take advantage of a $69 Hotel Special, which includes $40 in Free Play ($20 per person, based on double occupancy) and includes 2 tickets to the show!  Check out the Batavia Downs Facebook Page for info on booking a hotel room to receive these perks.

“Polka Buzz” celebrates Polka music as a recorded dance party program, featuring the top Polka Bands in the country.  Local Media Personality Ron Dombrowski hosts the show and brings his knowledge of Polka music to the television screen. Dombrowski has been broadcasting polka programs since 1979 on both radio and television.

“We are excited to once again bring Polka Buzz on the road for the summer,” said Dombrowski.  “We hope to see lots of our fellow Polka fans from Batavia, Buffalo, Rochester and the surrounding areas at our Batavia Downs Show!”

The Homestretch Grill, located adjacent to the Park Place Room, will feature food and drink for those attending the event.  Several specials including Polish Beer, Vodka and Food will be available.

“Hosting the Polka Buzz on site is something we’ve been looking to do for a long time, “said Scott Kiedrowski, Vice President of Operations.  “Hosting these unique, fun and affordable events is what sets Batavia Downs apart from other entertainment venues.”

Photo via TheBuffaloTouch.com

August 10, 2022 - 7:00am


By L. Kent Wolgamott/Last Word Features

“Jukebox Charley” isn’t really Charley Crockett’s moniker. It’s the title of his newly released 11th album. But it’s a fair description of the man, who performs a jukebox full of songs, like the Johnny Paycheck-penned title cut, that brings classic country back to vivid life.

The fourth album in his “Lil’ G.L. Presents:” series is intentionally packed with Crockett’s versions of honky-tonk tunes that even the biggest vintage country fans won’t know.

“Folks nowadays don’t know any of the classic stuff at all,” Crockett said. “We really wanted to do some stuff those guys might not know. Not just to stump them. That’s the real thing. So why not put stuff people haven’t heard before?”

There’s a very personal reason why Crockett unearths obscure gems like Jerry Reed’s “Feel for You,” Willie Nelson’s “Home Motel,” George Jones’ “Out of Control” and Tom T. Hall’s “Lonely in Person” and “I Hope It Rains at My Funeral.”

“I’ve written a lot of songs," he said. “Sometimes I write good ones, sometimes I don’t. If I’ve got any chance of writing a good song, it’s because I’m learning these (classic) songs.”

Crocket brings his honky tonk sound to the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Sunday as part of the Outlaw Country Festival.

Another key influence, he said, is Bob Dylan.

“If you’re not looking at Dylan, you’re not thinking about songwriting,” Crockett said. “I know there’s a Grand Canyon for some folks between Bob Dylan and Tom T. Hall. I love Tom T. Hall. I recorded a couple of his songs on this (“Jukebox Charley”) album. The reality is if you took Tom T. Hall out of me, I’d still be good. But take Dylan out and I probably wouldn’t be doing it at all.”

Crockett, 38, began his music career at age 17, developing what he calls his “Gulf and Western” country sound as he hit the road with his pawn shop guitar, playing at first on the streets, then clubs and other venues while independently releasing 10 previous albums and overcoming open heart surgery in 2019 to correct a congenital defect.

Too independent, too country, and too distinctive for Nashville and country radio, Crockett won Emerging Act of the Year at the 2021 Americana Honors & Awards.

“For me, coming out of complete obscurity, digging a hole through the floor, if not for Americana, I don’t know where I’d be,” Crockett said.

Photo by Bobby Cochran.

August 9, 2022 - 7:00am


ZZ Top’s “Raw” is as close to being an accidental album as it gets.

The album, which was released on July 22, is drawn from a session at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, Texas in which singer/guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard played versions of such familiar songs as “La Grange,” “Tush,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’” and “Legs” in the most live, spontaneous and basic setting possible.

The performances were filmed for use in the recent ZZ Top documentary celebrating the band’s 50-year history with its classic lineup, “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas.” That was supposed to be it, end of the story.

“The tunes on that occasion unfolded quite in the moment,” Gibbons said, recalling the session in a new e-mail interview. “Our director, Sam (Dunn), wanted a sequence where we played in the present day as a balance to the film’s historical narrative. We got in there and did what we did and later, much later, realized we had an album.” 

As Gibbons indicated, upon further review, the performances captured something worth hearing in its entirety – the unmistakable Texas blues-rock boogie of ZZ Top in its most authentic state. And the “Raw” album became a reality.

That authentic ZZ Top sound will be part of Sunday's Outlaw Country Festival on Sunday.

The album provides one of the last live documents of ZZ Top with Hill, who passed away in July 2021. A hip injury had prevented Hill from joining Gibbons and Beard for last summer’s tour, so long-time guitar tech Elwood Francis stepped in on bass. When Hill died, the band barely took time off before resuming the tour, knowing that’s what Hill would have wanted. 

Nevertheless, Hill’s death came as a shock.

“It was quite sudden, and we remained under the assumption he’d rally, recover and rejoin us,” Gibbons said. “We just had to deal with the reality of departure, and the quick turnaround helped reinforce “the show must go on” ethos. Our crew, our friends, fans, and followers have been a huge source of comfort.”

Now with Francis considered a long-term third member, Gibbons believes ZZ Top still has plenty to say musically. He’s hinted that an album of new material could happen.

“Elwood is certainly in with us for the long haul,” Gibbons said. “It’s still ZZ Top, not ZZ Top 2 or ZZ Top with an asterisk. The genuine article abides!”  

Photo courtesy of ZZ Top

August 1, 2022 - 6:59pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in darien lake, music, concerts, entertainment, news, Darien NY.


Hip Hop entertainer Pitbull took to the stage last evening in front of a sold-out crowd of 22,000-plus fans at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

The laser light LED show and smoke billowing up from the stage were in beat to the rap star's hits like, "Don't Stop the Party," "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)," "Hotel Room Service," plus many more.

Iggy Azalea opened for Pitbull.

Photos by Steve Ognibene








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