Music fills the stage at Lilac Festival 2013
05:00 AM, May 09, 2013
At the press conference announcing the Rochester Lilac Festival music acts, Don Jeffries of VisitRochester made passing reference to what’s actually a very mind-numbing number: During Rochester’s regrettably but unavoidably small summer window, Jeffries estimates that the community is host to about 100 festivals.
Think of it: That’s almost 100 chances to see The Skycoasters and the other regulars.
Most of our festivals have the cutting edge of a funnel cake when it comes to new music, but this year the events went through a mini-upheaval over the winter. It’s similar to what happens in Major League Baseball, when Terry Francona, who’d been previously fired by the Phillies, gets fired by the Red Sox and ends up managing the Indians, whose old manager, Charlie Manuel, now manages the Phillies.
Managing the city of Rochester’s Party in the Park this year went to the team of Dan Smalls, a newcomer in city events, along with Gerard Fisher and Michael O’Leary, who ran the event years ago; Jeff Springut lost the Party in the Park but gained the Rochester Lilac Festival, which he was involved with several years back.
None of this has a seismic impact on what you’ll be hearing this summer at the festivals. For better or worse, the events ask for easy-to-listen to mainstream diversity and oftentimes get it. With that in mind, here are the highlights of the Lilac lineup, heavy on bands that were once staples of the MTV video era playing the free main stage in Highland Park:
Opening night: Local party band The Skycoasters, playing a wide range of danceable hits, 7 p.m. Friday. Weekday afternoons on the main stage are also filled with local school bands. Check the festival website, lilacfestival.com, for when your nephew is playing.
The Spin Doctors, an ancient form of hippie-groove band (with the early ’90s hit “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”), 7 p.m. Saturday. This is a good opportunity, before we get too deep into the festival, to point out that the national headline acts are all accompanied by a lead-in of frequently impressive local and regional musicians.
The 5:30 p.m. band is a relatively new act, Amanda Lee Peers and the Driftwood Sailors.
Eddie Money, the “Two Tickets to Paradise” hitmaker, most recently seen in a very painful Geico TV commercial, 7 p.m Sunday.
Best to get to the park early for some good local bands, including the superb dark psychedelic rock of My Plastic Sun (4 p.m.) and Teagan & the Tweeds (5:30 p.m.)
The English Beat, pop-ska band of the early 1980s, now resurrected, 7 p.m. Monday. Get there at 4 p.m. for MoChester and 5:30 p.m. for the excellent Boston country-pop-jazz band Lake Street Dive.
The acclaimed roots-rock band Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express, 7 p.m. Tuesday. Once again, the 5:30 p.m. band, the funky J.C. Brooks & the Uptown Sound, is reason to arrive early. This is actually the best night of the fest, if you’re coming for the music.
Southern rockers The Marshall Tucker Band (after undergoing serious revisions since the early ’70s, with four band members having died), 7 p.m. Wednesday. Served up with another excellent 5:30 p.m. option, Rochester’s roots-rocking The Tommy Brunett Band.
Pittsburgh’s world-music jam veterans, Rusted Root, 7 p.m. May 16. Rochester’s rock-reggae band The Lawnmowers is a fine 5:30 p.m. opening choice for this evening of dancing on the grass, in all meanings of the word.
The ’80s pop band The Smithereens (with hits such as “Blood and Roses” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep”), 7 p.m. May 17.
Dark, Brooklyn Americana band The Lone Bellow, 5:30 p.m. May 18. This act could be a real discovery for aficionados of the kind of thoughtful sound we’re hearing from musicians such as Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers and the Avett Brothers.
The afternoon lead-up is a fine western New York showcase with Binghamton’s Driftwood (3:30 p.m.) and the blues, soul and Americana of The Crawdiddies (2 p.m.).
Naples’ excellent folk-jam band The Prickers play at 7 p.m.
Closing night: On May 19, two of Rochester’s premier bands, Prime Time Funk (5:30 p.m.) and The Campbell Brothers (7 p.m.) play “Remembering Ralph,” a benefit for the music scholarship foundation named for Prime Time Funk’s late bassist, Ralph Ortiz.
The day’s strong supporting cast includes The John Coles Blues Band at 4 p.m., California’s retro swingers Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys (2:30 p.m.) and Rochester’s alt-country Dang! (1 p.m.).
Festival organizers are always reticent to discuss inclement weather, but both the Main Street Armory and Water Street Music Hall will likely have open dates to accommodate shows.