It’s time for Syracuse to flaunt the importance of local music again



There’s no national music scene without local music.

There’s no international music superstars without local music.

Simply stated: Every musical journey has to start in somebody’s garage. Or bedroom. Or living room. Much of the time, they start to jam with a neighbor. Or classmate. If they get confident, they’ll play out in public at a party. Or a bar. When the bar owner discovers people come out in bigger numbers and buy more beer, they’ll schedule two different bands a week. Or three.

Before you know it, there’s a common bond between an area’s musicians and music lovers.

In my home city of Syracuse, they’ve been celebrating this cherished connection since 1993, when Frank Malfitano, the man who directed the big downtown theater and the even bigger Jazz Fest, founded the Syracuse Area Music Awards to celebrate the scene and honor the past and present

Thursday night at Upstairs at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, the Sammys will pay tribute to the past, with the induction of this year’s cass for the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame.

Friday night at the Palace Theatre, the Sammys will party in the present, naming winners for the best recordings of 2013. Bands will play. Fans will dance.

Everybody will recognize the importance of good music that calls Syracuse home.

When’s the last time you went out to see a show or downloaded music from a band where you live?

Here’s the link to find stories about the musicians who will be enter the Sammys Hall of Fame, written by Syracuse New Times music writer Jess Novak and myself.

Here’s the link to the preview I wrote for Friday night’s awards ceremony at Syracuse’s Palace Theatre. By the way, I got the nod to expand my usual film blog duties for the New Times on this one because usual music writer Jess Novak also is a musician, and her first CD earned her a Sammys nomination.

Friday night, I will be covering the event for the New Times. More to come next Wednesday.

Who is your favorite local musician from your city or town or state?

32 thoughts on “It’s time for Syracuse to flaunt the importance of local music again

  1. Bluegrass is king here, and two local favorites, Kate Sanders and Randy Lanham. Kate went to school with my daughter, and sings Christian rock, while Randy is bluegrass all the way, having been in Reba’s band for a few years before coming home and leading the Bluegrass scene in Owensboro. Then of course there’s has been me. Or maybe could have been, if I had signed the bottom line at Arista. Had fun with Skynyrd, but just not the life I wanted. Now my son has my guitar and I keep forgetting to remind him to keep the strings loose so it won’t warp, but can’t really say I care any more. Too many demons associated with it.


      • We are about 2 hours northeast of Santa Cruz. But we do spend a lot of time there! I wish I could say we live there. Sunny Sacramento is our home.


      • I’m always chatting up Santa Cruz, Mark. No apologies necessary. It’s where the Mister and I got engaged and married. The Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz is a fun venue to see live shows. It’s where we saw the Devil Makes Three on New Years Eve before darling O came along. In the same year we saw Amy Mann at the Crest, and Eddie Veddar played the civic in support of Into the Wild, also saw Beck and La Tigre there as well. Great shows all in Santa Cruz. Love that place!


      • I can see why you do chat up Santa Cruz with those memories, Sandra. I saw Amie Mann opening for Dylan once here in Syracuse, and there was a portion of the crowd that obviously came more to see her. She did not disappoint. I saw Eddie with Pearl Jam and loved that one, too. You were lucky to see his Into the Wild benefit thing!


  2. cool, cool, cool. you are right, the music all begins somewhere. favorites from detroit area: all the motown stars. each one started very small and some were recognized on the world’s stage and others never made it big, but all gave so much to the world of music. many years back, my ex-sister in law, who went to my high school a few years before i was there, had local, bob seeger play at her prom at our school before he hit the big time.


    • Oh, that is a lifelong story, Beth, for your ex-sister-in-law. Guess who played at my prom? Bob Seger! She can be happy about that forever.

      Yes, I remember a few years ago seeing at our jazz fest the band that was famous for backing up all the Motown stars over the years. And it was a fabulous band.


      • there is a great documentary about them, ‘standing in the shadows.’ check it out if you haven’t seen it, it’s wonderful.

        okay how is this for a 6 degrees of separation? – my ex-boyfriend’s ex wife’s father was the italian guy from detroit with the back up band from motown. you’ll see him in the movie. so i am almost related!


      • I loved that film. So I guess I saw your almost-relative, the Italian guy from Detroit, Beth. I kind of wonder if there are two ‘ex’es in the sentence that that they might not be the ties that bind, to quote Springsteen, whom I once waved to when I sat in the front row of a concert at the Landmark Theatre, so now we are friends.


      • so, then you were very close to seeing me on the big screen, if you saw the italian funk brother, ust separated by a few levels of people. and it’s clear, you and bruce are official now.


      • Whenever that separation game is played, I think, well, I did like ‘Animal House,’ ‘Diner’ and ‘Footloose,’ but that’s as close to Kevin Bacon I will ever get, Beth.


    • That’s a story your ex-sister-in-law can tell forever. Bob Seger played at her prom! Very cool.

      You are right about so many levels of stardom coming out of Motown but all being so talented. At our jazz fest one year I saw The Funk Brothers, the famous Motown backing band, and what musicians they were, Beth!


  3. I like that you point out about supporting local musicians and artists. I have done this a few times, with a rap group called, “Team KNYCE” and Morgan Treni from Delaware, Ohio. (Although she grew up in New Jersey and New York, she went to college at Ohio Wesleyan University and claims central Ohio is hers now!) Great point of view! I enjoy going to Columbus to hear a wider variety of music, but do enjoy a place called, Roops,
    that has a band that plays every Friday and on Thursday nights, has ‘open mic’ night. Take it easy, Mark! Smiles, Robin


  4. Arriving in Syracuse four years ago, I discovered the local music scene (and, since I didn’t know anyone here before moving up, began creating my social network) through open mics. I’m an old hippie bass player, high-mileage, and have been part of various other music scenes, large (New York City) and small (Raleigh, NC). There is something very special about the musicians in Syracuse, and their gracious, welcoming and generous attitude has kept me here for years, even when I had some really reasonable exit points.

    Local music is everything to me. I go out to hear friends’ bands and support the scene. I’m fine with bands that play covers, but prefer to play original music myself. Support for original music is always difficult, because bar and club owners usually want to give customers what they want. What the typical customer wants is what they know, which means music already proven popular. Cool that. Breaking out with original music has always been challenging, but there are a few bands making it with that (I play with two of them).

    As you point out in the article, it has to start somewhere. A disproportionate amount starts here, in Syracuse.


    • Reverend Ken, I am so glad you dropped in here to comment about the scene. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Original music is a tough nut to crack. Bar drinkers do love their covers. Oh, to find the special balance between the two …


  5. What makes the music scene tough to be relevant is lack of recognition of every day musician, that musician who goes out in -10 degree temps and makes $50 doing covers, that musician that does not have aspersions to record original music, but prefers to perform covers because that’s what’s so many want to hear. We have so many unheard of great musicians it’s crazy! Musicians like Samy Wynn, Jeff Houston, Vynce Watson, Dexter Dixon, Hiram Swain, Darnell Jackson, Tim Reed, Travis Reed, Anjela Lynn, Deyquan Bowens, Scott Remillard, Johanna Jewitt, Don Williams, how can you make something relevant when so many are left out? Here’s the crazy thing they all still have love for Syracuse and the Sammy’s but there’s no love being shown back….


  6. Austin is deemed the “live music capital of the world,” and we did technically see a band/duo play at a bar and grill last Friday (I tipped them to play some Eagles), but mostly we are too tired to see live music bc we are coots with greying eyebrows. South by Southwest bring hordes of folks here (this year, they rejected Lady Gaga’s bid to join the fun, as she is “too big”–ha!!). We have a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn downtown, and of course every child who grows up here feels like Willie Nelson is a long-lost relative. Glad you have good music to enjoy in Syracuse.


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