Rochester Recordings preserves underground music history
Duo makes effort to chronical the "golden age" of youth and music in Rochester during the 1990s and early 2000s.
ROCHESTER — “It's important to remember that those places were a home for the freaks, nerds, and romantics,” says Rich Gill, as he reminisces about some of Rochester’s now lost music venues like the Pla-Mor Ballroom and the LoVEuGLY Cabaret.
Gill and his friend Josh Wilcox have been working to document a 20-year stretch of Rochester’s underground music scene from 1990-2010 on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. They are calling their project Rochester Recordings.
Gill, 42, currently resides in Minneapolis where he’s the program director for the Sound Unseen film and music festival. Wilcox, 41, lives in Stewartville while working telesales. Both grew up being heavily involved in the Rochester music scene. They played in bands, booked shows, made flyers, and saw every show they could.
“We realized that between the two of us we had hundreds of pictures and hundreds of hours of video tapes that were just sitting in boxes or on hard drives collecting dust, so why not do something with them,” says Wilcox.
Wilcox says that 1994-2004 was the “golden era” of underground shows in Rochester. “It starts out in the early '90s with kids renting out places like the Pla-Mor and Knights of Columbus, continues through the Last Minute Records era, and ends with the closing of The LoVEuGLY Cabaret, which was kind of the first legit music venue in the city that wasn't strictly cover bands,” he says.
He says the focus of Rochester Recordings was widened to include a 20-year period to acknowledge the scene before and after that golden era.
The Rochester Recordings documentation, which includes everything from hand-drawn show flyers for bands like Pennies for Guido to grainy videos from house shows, started off on Facebook but has moved to both Instagram and YouTube. Gill and Wilcox are the main contributors, but they solicit contributions from anyone who has materials related to the era they are trying to preserve.
Recently, Ed Araquel, who now shoots photos for big-budget Hollywood movies, sent Gill and Wilcox an archive of more than 1,000 photos he took of Rochester’s music scene in the early 2000s.
“It’s been really fun going through these and being able to share them for the first time,” says Wilcox. Wilcox says that “anyone and everyone” is welcome to contribute photos and videos to the Rochester Recordings archive.
The era that Rochester Recordings is focusing on is unique in that it predates technology that currently makes every show an easily documented event.
“The time period that we’re focusing on is basically the era right before everyone had a movie quality camera in their pocket and everything that happened was posted on social media,” says Gill. He says the effort that it took to document the music scene then is something worthy not just of preservation but of celebration since it was a time when word of mouth and hand-printed flyers is what helped create the scene.
“A lot of people have this idea that unless you lived in a huge city there was nothing going on culturally, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Gill. According to Gill, places like Sioux Falls and La Crosse all had thriving underground music scenes.
Wilcox and Gill have a few musical memories they’d really like to find records of.
“There was a local ska band called Chips & Salska that existed for only a couple months in the '90s, and photos and video of them are kind of the holy grail of the '90s Rochester music scene,” says Gill. “Aside from that, we’d love to see any photos or video of Veruca Salt and Babes in Toyland at the Pla-Mor. There’s also a rumor that Everclear played at the Pla-Mor one time, but we’ve never seen a flyer or any verification that that actually happened,” he adds.
Gill thinks it is important to keep the memories of the Rochester underground music scene alive not because of the now-torn-down buildings that housed it, but because of connection to sometimes-life-changing people inside those buildings during that period.
“Your teenage years can be really lonely,” he says, “when you don’t feel like you fit in with the popular kids at school. It can be hard to find your place if you’re interested in things like art, or theater, or weird music, or skateboarding, and when you find places like the Pla-Mor, or The LoVEuGLY, or Board To Death, and they’re full of kids with the same interests as you, it makes you feel less alone and more like you belong.”
“We really just want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support that we’ve gotten. It’s been great to reconnect with people we hadn’t talked to in years, and in some cases decades,” says Wilcox, making it clear there is much more music history Rochester Recordings will be sharing.
Gill sums up the Rochester Recordings project as a vehicle to share a love of local music history: “We just want to keep sharing these memories with people who were there and the people who weren’t there but who want to know more about this prolific time period in Rochester music.”
Learn more or share
Find the musical history preserved through Rochester Recordings:
Instagram at instagram.com/rochesterrecordings .
YouTube at www.youtube.com then searching for "Rochester Recordings."
If you have materials form the Rochester music scene between 1990-2012 that you’d like to contribute to Rochester Recordings you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rochester Recordings is able to digitize video, so they can take VHS, Hi-8, or mini-DV tapes, digitize and return them,