ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This week’s mild temperatures have many in Rochester thinking spring, which means it’s time to start planning for the Lilac Festival.
The Lilac Festival, Rochester’s unofficial start to summer, will take place May 8 through May 17. Festival organizers announced this year’s musical headliners Wednesday:
- Friday May 8 — Devil Makes Three, and Amigo the Devil
- Saturday May 9 — Zac Brown Tribute Band (two sets)
- Sunday May 10 — New Mastersounds, and Josh Hoyer and the Soul Colossal
- Monday May 11 — Giant Panda Gorilla Dub Squad, Street Pharmacy
- Tuesday May 12 — Blues Traveler, The Medicinals
- Wednesday May 13 — The Record Company, and The National Reserve
- Thursday May 14 — Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, and Kat Wright
- Friday May 15 — Blue Sky Allman Brothers Tribute Band, and Root Shock
- Saturday May 16 — Mingo Fishtrap, and Eli “Paperboy” Reed
- Sunday May 17 — Mikaela Davis, The Lizards (Phish tribute band), and Big Eyed Phish (Dave Matthews tribute band)
The festival continues upon its longstanding tradition of booking both prominent national performers as well as local rising stars — a big reason why the 10-day free festival (the largest of its kind in the country) attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually from across the state and beyond.
As always, admission to the Lilac Festival is free, but there are VIP options available, as well as ticket-required shows in the festival’s special events-tent.
VIP options include the Party Deck and the VIP ULTRA Lounge. The Party Deck costs $15 per person, per day, and offers full cash bar that includes beer, wine and liquor. It also offers a nice view of the stage and festival grounds high above the crowd, as well as private, upgraded bathrooms.
The VIP Ultra Deck costs $40 per person, per day and offers a lounge area both in front of and behind the stage, private tent, complimentary drink voucher, complimentary chair massages, food and treats from Trader Joe’s, private, updated bathrooms, and a commemorative lanyard. Both the Party Deck and the VIP ULTRA Lounger are for those 21 years or older. Both VIP options have a $5 increase at the door for day-of purchases. Tickets will be available online, with pre-sale tickets for Rochester Events Fan Club members.
For special ticketed events, the Wine Tasting Expo and Craft Beer Expo will each make a return to Lilac, on consecutive Saturdays. The Wine Tasting Expo will take Place Saturday, May 9 with two sessions — 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Craft Beer Expo will take place the following Saturday, May 16, with the same time schedule.
New to Lilac this year is a family-friendly attraction for the event. The Great DeUbois, a circus show for all ages, will be at Highland Park for the festivities on Wednesday, May 13. The duo is known for the Tony Award-winning “Pippin” on Broadway and have appeared on several late-night talk shows and concert tours with their juggling, hula hoops, unicycles, aerial skills, circus stunts, contortion, magic, and more. This show will take place Wednesday, May 13 at 6:45 p.m. It’s general admission seating and tickets for all three special events are available online.
Other Lilac events to look forward to include:
Saturday, May 9 — Garden Battles
Local television and radio personalities put their landscaping skills to the fest in Garden Battles — a fast-paced event inspired by reality based competitions like Chopped and Iron Chef. Media teams work with identical plant and hardscape materials to create 15’x’15’ gardens, aided by Master Gardeners from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. The competition starts at 1 p.m. and the winning team will make a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice with $500 going to the runner up’s charity of choice.
Representing News 8 WROC in this year’s Garden Battles will be reporter Kayla Green and meteorologist James Gilbert.
Saturday, May 9 — Lilac Parade
Although the festival officially starts the day before, the full festival feeling goes into effect Saturday at 10:30 a.m. where more than 2,500 participants will march in the Lilac Parade. The parade will feature 20 marching bands, dancers, costumed characters, popular Damascus mini cars and a whole lot more.
Sunday May 17 — Lilac Run and Dunkin’ Dash
A 5K and a 10K for the runners of Rochester, but if that’s too long for you, there’s also the 1-mile Dunkin’ Dash, which is for all ages, and includes a Munchkin pit stop halfway through. All proceeds benefit Willow Domestic Violence Center.
Both weekends — Art in the Park
Reservoir drive becomes a crafter’s paradise for both festival weekends. Art shows commence on Saturday, May 9, Sunday, May 10, Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17 for some of the very best in local art. Just a few minute walk from the main festival grounds, and adjacent to the lilac gardens, this setup is perfect for anyone who wants to kick off Rochester’s rich summer art scene. There’s also a juried show which features original work from 120 artists using mediums of jewelry, clothing, ceramics, paintings, soaps, woodwork, and more.
For more on Lilac Festival events and entertainers, visit this website.
Band Bios from festival organizers
Devil Makes Three
The guitarist/singer and his cohorts in the raw and raucous trio The Devil Makes Three have found their way on the road numerous times since first leaving their picaresque rural hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont. With upright bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean, Bernhard crafted a dozen tunes, part road, part heartbreak songs and part barnburners. While most bands are propelled by a drummer, TDM3 builds exuberant rhythms from the inside out, wrapping finger-picked strings and upsurging harmonies around chugging acoustic guitar and bass, plying an ever-growing audience onto its feet to jump, shake and waltz. TDM3’s sound is garage-y ragtime, punkified blues, old n’ new timey without settling on a particular era, inspired as much by mountain music as by Preservation Hall jazz.
Amigo the Devil
If you’ve ever heard a room full of people yelling “I hope your husband dies” in a some harmoniously sloppy, drunken unison, you’ve probably stumbled into an Amigo The Devil show. Danny Kiranos, better known to the masses as his musical counterpart Amigo The Devil, has been challenging the expectations of traditional folk, country music purists, and rock/extreme metal fans alike with his morbid, yet oddly romantic, take on folk that has amassed a dedicated and cult like fan-base. Despite being armed with only his vocals and a banjo/acoustic guitar, the live show is worlds away from what people expect of a folk show. Loaded with sing-alongs and an unsuspecting dose of humor to make otherwise grim topics accessible for fans of every genre, the songs remain deeply rooted in the tradition of story-telling that seems to be slipping away from the human condition.
Zac Brown Tribute Band
ZBTB is the premier tribute to the chart-topping Zac Brown Band. With 12 number-one singles and three GRAMMY wins, the Zac Brown Band is one of the hottest names in the music business and ZBTB is the first and most authentic tribute to their recorded music and live show. Not only does ZBTB capture the sound and creativity of the Zac Brown Band but they bring a similar atmosphere of family to their shows while engaging the audience in a way that is all their own.
From cramped pubs to concert halls, NASCAR races to backyard BBQs, and sand-filled parking lots to ocean-side stages, there are die-hard members of the “ZBTB Social Club” everywhere they’ve played. ZBTB is perpetually performing, and always looking for new places to put their “toes in the water, ass in the sand” and play music together for some new friends.
In the late 1990’s, guitarist and producer Eddie Roberts was promoting a club night in Leeds called “The Cooker.” When The Cooker moved into a new venue with a second ﬂoor in 1999, there was space and the opportunity to put a live band together to complement the DJ sets. Simon Allen and Eddie had previously played together as The Mastersounds, though with a diﬀerent bassist and no organ. Through friends and the intimate nature of the Leeds music scene, Pete Shand and Bob Birch were added on bass and Hammond respectively, and The New Mastersounds were born. Though it was raw, and more of a boogaloo sound at ﬁrst, it was powerful from the start. Their ﬁrst rehearsal was hot enough for Blow it Hard Records to release on two limited-edition 7” singles in 2000.
As a band, and as individuals, they have collaborated with an impressive array of musicians, DJs and producers, including: Lou Donaldson, Corinne Bailey Rae, Quan, Carleen Anderson, Keb Darge, Kenny Dope, Mr Scruﬀ, LSK, Lack of Afro, Page McConnell, Grace Po]er, Karl Denson, Melvin Sparks, Idris Muhammad, Fred Wesley, Pee-Wee Ellis, Maceo Parker, Bernard Purdie, George Porter Jr, Zigaboo Modeliste, Art Neville, Ernest Ranglin.
As an example of the respect this band commands, Peter Wermelinger – DJ, collector, and author of the crate-digger’s bible The Funky & Groovy Music Lexicon, places the 2001 NMS track ‘Turn This Thing Around’ in his all-time top-ten tunes, along with the likes of Eddie Harris, Funkadelic, and Herbie Hancock. The New Mastersounds are at the very top of an elite selection of acts that bring the true soul out of funk.
Josh Hoyer and the Soul Colossal
In 2017, Josh was featured as a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, and the band completed their first European tour; a 27-city stint capped with a live album release from their show in Brussels, Belgium. The hard working band completed several national tours from 2015-2017, playing more than 150 shows in 32 states each year, including opening for George Clinton, Charles Bradley, Booker T Jones, and Muscle Shoals Revue.
This is a real working band – music for the people, by the people. You hear the veracity in Hoyer’s voice. You hear the strife of a guitar amp being pushed to its limits. You hear keyboards hammering notes home while emboldened horns soar over the top of a rhythm section akin to a freight train. The raucous funk and smooth soul emanating from the stage dutifully pays homage to the past soul giants while simultaneously charging forward, piloting themselves into the modern era. This is soul music.
Hoyer formed Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal in 2012 in famed blues town Lincoln, Nebraska. The award-winning five-piece band includes some of the area’s most revered and accomplished musicians. Joining Hoyer (keyboards/vocals) is Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar), and Harrison ElDorado (drums). Inspired by the sounds of Stax, Motown, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philly and San Francisco, the band continuously crosses musical boundaries both in style and era, and joins forces each show with a common goal – to have the crowd dancing so much they forget even their smallest troubles.
Kat Wright, whose voice is both sultry and dynamic, delicate yet powerful; gritty but highly emotive and nuanced, has been described as “a young Bonnie Raitt meets Amy Winehouse.” Add to that voice enough stage presence to tame lions, and the combination of feline femininity proves immediately enchanting. There’s soul flowing in and out of her rock ‘n’ roll with a serpentine seduction. Some of soul music’s sweet, grand dames belt, shout, seethe, and succumb, while Wright sings gently like a heartache’s apology. It’s funky in spots and beautiful all over. And it hurts a little —like it should.
Giant Panda Gorilla Dub Squad
Formed in 2001 in Rochester, New York, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad first received praise for their live show, which combined world beats and reggae rhythms within jamband aesthetics. In recent years the band’s studio recordings, which showcase their songwriting and musicianship across all genres of roots music, have further cemented their legend as master innovators and artists. GPGDS’s sixth studio album MAKE IT BETTER was released September 16, 2016 on Rootfire Cooperative.
It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart. “There is a lot of intention in this release. We had a purpose to prove to ourselves recording this album [MAKE IT BETTER]. We wanted to know that we could put our heads down and do good work fast. It was a great release artistically. It uniquely sounds the most progressive of anything we have ever done while also sounding the most like our first album.” -James Searl, Bassist/Vocalist
Street Pharmacy was established in 2006 by singer, guitarist and primary songwriter, Ryan Guay. After receiving treatment for an acute case of encephalitis, Guay was left with the unusual ability to prolifically write, compose and produce music. Street Pharmacy mixes together the honesty of 90s alternative rock, reggae grooves and lightening fast lyrical flow reminiscent of golden age hip hop to forge a unique blend of reggae-rock that has kept their fans enthralled for over a decade. Guay and his four-piece band have released five full-length albums and have played over 500 shows across Canada and the US since Street Pharmacy’s inception. Their newest concept record Delusional Discourse is due out in Q1 of 2020. Stay tuned for more tunage!
A New York-based blues-rock quartet formed in 1988 by singer/harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Bobby Sheehan, and drummer Brendan Hill, Blues Traveler were part of a revival of the extended jamming style of ’60s and ’70s groups like the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin. Signed to A&M, they released their first album, Blues Traveler, in May 1990 and followed it with Travelers & Thieves in September 1991. In April 1993, Blues Traveler released their third album, Save His Soul, which became the band’s first to make the Top 100. Blues Traveler‘s aptly named fourth album, Four, released in September 1994, at first looked like a sales disappointment, but it rebounded in 1995 when “Run-Around,” a single taken from it, became the group’s first chart hit. “Run-Around” became one of the biggest singles of 1995, spending nearly a full year on the charts and sending Four into quintuple platinum status. As the group prepared the follow-up to Four, Blues Traveler released the live double album Live from the Fall in the summer of 1996. The group returned in the summer of 1997 with its fifth studio album, Straight on Till Morning.
The new millennium saw a newly charged Blues Traveler, and their sixth record, Bridge, appeared in May 2001. The next winter, Blues Traveler released the live What You and I Have Been Through. The studio record Truth Be Told followed in 2003, and another concert album, Live on the Rocks, appeared in 2004. The group returned to the studio in 2004, releasing the Jay Bennett-produced Bastardos! in September of the following year. In 2007, Blues Traveler released Cover Yourself, a collection of previous hits reworked with acoustic arrangements. The David Bianco-produced North Hollywood Shootout appeared from Verve Forecast in 2008. In March 2012, the band released 25, a two-disc set (one disc of hits and key tracks and a second disc of B-sides, demos, and rarities) celebrating the group’s 25th anniversary. It was followed in June by Suzie Cracks the Whip, the group’s 11th studio album, which was produced by S*A*M & Sluggo, and featured guest spots from Ron Sexsmith, Chris Barron (Spin Doctors), and Crystal Bowersox. Three years later, Blues Traveler returned with Blow Up the Moon, an album filled with collaborations from pop stars including Jewel, Hanson, Plain White T’s, and JC Chasez. Joining forces with producer Matt Rollings, Blues Traveler returned to their rootsy roots on 2018’s Hurry Up & Hang Around.
Forged out of a mutual love for classic reggae music, this 11-piece band led by Dylan Savage of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, is now performing their roots sound all over NY state and beyond.
The band was formed in Rochester, NY through weekly jams that served as musical therapy for one of its founding members Dave Bernis. The Medicinals play in Dave’s memory. The Medicinals feature current members of these upstate NY bands: Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, RootsCollider, Mosaic Foundation, Personal Blend, The Level 7 Experience, Hybrid Beats, Subsoil, Eli Flynn & the Everymen, and Sol Vibration.
The Medicinals have shared the stage with: The Wailers, Turkuaz, Barika, Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People, Double Tiger, Roots of Creation, Kevin Kinsella’s Bead & Bone, and Root Shock.
The Record Company
In February 2016, The Record Company released their debut album ‘Give It Back To You’ – 10 songs conceived, recorded and mixed by the band in the bassist’s living room in Los Angeles. By June 2017, the trio had scored a nationwide #1 Triple-A hit, followed up with a second Top Ten Triple-A smash, and even a third Top 5 Triple-A hit, were nominated for a Grammy, and opened on John Mayer’s first solo tour since 2014.
The National Reserve
For nearly half a decade, The National Reserve has spent its Friday nights lighting it up at a Brooklyn bar, winning over boozers and barflies with epic sets and a remarkable breadth of songcraft and showmanship.
Founded and fronted by singer-guitarist Sean Walsh, The National Reserve mine an archetypal musical seam, marrying gutbucket R&B, Laurel Canyon lyricism, New Orleans funk workouts, late night soul, and bluesy, boozy rock ‘n’ roll to create their own timeless brand of American music.
The band’s debut album, MOTEL LA GRANGE came together in 2017, produced by Walsh at Brooklyn’s Studio G with the help of longtime friend and collaborator, engineer Alexi Berthelot, and then mixed in Lexington, KY by Duane Lundy (Jim James, Ringo Starr). Joined in the studio by keyboardists Brian Mitchell (Levon Helm & The Midnight Ramble Band, Bob Dylan, BB King, Les Paul) and Brion Snyder, pedal steel guitarist Jonny Lam (Sinkane), percussionist Charlie Kessenich (Ensemble, et al.) and harmonicist Brian Hurd (Daddy Long Legs), with backing vocals contributed by Margo Valiante, Amanda Khiri (Sinkane), Kelli Scarr, and Alberta Cross’ Petter Ericson Stakee, among others.
With MOTEL LA GRANGE, Walsh and The National Reserve have crafted a rich and raucous collection that instantly places them among Americana’s finest – its force, directness, and performance not unlike some lost recording unearthed from the golden age of 70s rock ‘n’ roll.
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
While working at a pawn shop in Austin, Joe Lewis first picked up the guitar. Shortly thereafter, Joe Lewis immersed himself in the local Red River blues/garage scene, recording and performing with Austin luminaries such as the Weary Boys and Walter Daniels. Upon the release of the 2005 Brian Salvi produced Black Joe Lewis and The Cold Breeze EP with standout track “Bitch I Love You” featuring Matt Hubbard on Rhodes electric piano and the 2007 album Black Joe Lewis, both released on Italian label Shake Yo Ass Records, the band gained critical national acclaim and toured as openers for Spoon and
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears have performed at music festivals including Bonnaroo, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Bumbershoot, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Sasquatch! Music Festival, Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival, Musikfest, Latitude Festival, and Splendour in the Grass.
In 2017, his album Backlash debuted at number 3 in the Billboard Top Blues Albums Chart.
Blue Sky Brothers: A Tribute to the Allman Brothers Band
Paying tribute to The Allman Brothers Band’s (ABB) original line up are members of Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Mikaela Davis & Southern Star, The Moho Collective, The Mighty High and Dry, The Rita Collective, and The Flood.
Informed by years of intense study of the ABB sound, the musicianship in this thoughtfully curated group possesses an unmatched fire to honor the ABB’s legacy. You’ll recognize the delicate blend of great song craft and the spirit of improvisation that long ago set the ABB apart, and now inspires each unique performance by this all Rochester line-up.
Blue Sky Brothers Lilac Festival debut is sure to be a remarkable night of music as they feature songs from the acclaimed album, Eat a Peach, as well as other early classics from the band we have all grown to love and miss.
Conscious, soulful, uplifting, even healing—that’s how many fans of Root Shock have described the band’s infectious sound and energy. With a reputation like that, it’s unsurprising that this group is indebted to reggae, a class of music forever married to love, humanity, social change, and an almost tangible sense of sunlight. But Root Shock didn’t form on a beach. Instead, they came up in snowy Syracuse, New York in 2012, and since then, they’ve developed a voice that transcends genre.
Spearheaded by the acrobatic, powerhouse vocals of Jessica Brown, the Root Shock sound is at once commanding and cathartic, but never at the expense of a velvety, carefully placed jazz or neo-soul lick. When he isn’t complementing Brown’s pipes with his own earthy vocal turns, Phil Grajko gets weird on the guitar, seamlessly moving from chop chords to girthy riffs and spellbinding solos colored by Latin, prog, and psychedelic rock textures—often in tandem with mad keyboard genius Brian Lauri. Rounding out the band, bassist Bill Eppel and drummer Tyre Outerbridge make for a formidable rhythm section fluent in patterns ranging from dancehall to ska to heavy dub style and funk.
In 2016, Root Shock released a self-titled album, produced by Jason “Jocko” Randall at More Sound Studio, and followed that up with the “Many Paths” EP in 2018 & the Waves single in 2019.
Texas Music Magazine calls Mingo Fishtrap “the space where melodic pop meets gritty Memphis soul, with a twist of N’awlins funk.” Like kudzu vine crisscrossing the Mississippi Delta, Mingo’s tenacious sound infiltrates the musical landscape on a sanctified mission to shake your soul. The critically acclaimed collective has found their sweet spot. Now four albums deep, Mingo has honed its sound, rubbed shoulders with musical idols, and delivered powerhouse live shows to crowds of thousands across the country and globe in the years since the band’s inception in a tiny dorm room in Denton, Texas.
Eli “Paperboy” Reed
With the release of his new record, ‘99 Cent Dreams,’ Eli“Paperboy” Reed begins his second decade as an artist much in the same way he began his first: completely and utterly in love with soul music. Reed is ten years older and ten years wiser this time around, though, writing with the kind of freewheeling confidence that can only come from experience, and the result is the finest and most emotionally sophisticated music of his career. Cut at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis, TN, and produced by Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price), ‘99 Cent Dreams’ is an exuberant and uplifting collection, a celebration of life and love delivered by an ecstatic messenger who’s still in profound awe of the power of both. Reed’s arrangements on the album are lean and muscular, filtering vintage R&B, soul, and gospel through the heart of a modern songwriter
The new album follows the Boston-via-Mississippi singer’s universally lauded 2016 release, ‘My Way Home,’ a comeback record of sorts that rose from the ashes of a doomed major label deal. Hailed as “inspired, raw and powerful” by NPR and praised for its “urgent, electric energy” by Uncut, the album marked the beginning of Reed’s fruitful relationship with Yep Roc Records (who will also reissue his 2008 debut album, ‘Roll With You’) and showcased his resilient spirit and rafter-raising voice. The songs harkened back to the timeless music he fell in love with as a young man playing organ and guitar in the Chicago church established by gospel legend Mitty Collier, and they helped him process the wild journey he’d been through.
The Lizards, Phish Tribute Band
Phish tribute band, The Lizards are back on the road doing what they do best; recreating the authentic Phish experience for their dedicated phans. Whether it’s their ever changing setlists, synchronized dancing (trampoline-ing) or touring with their own lighting rig and director (TG5), the band is committed to giving people that same feeling as the one we’ve all felt many times before. The Lizards intend to show everyone that they, above all things, can once again bring together a congregation of like-minded people that all want the same things: good times, good music & sore legs.
Big Eyed Phish, The Dave Mathews Tribute Band
Big Eyed Phish is the only regionally touring full 7-piece Dave Matthews Tribute in the country and are based out of Rochester, NY. In the five years they have been performing they have grown to become a highly sought-after headlining act in the Northeast region for festivals, resorts, casinos, and live music venues. The band is led by front-man Brandon Depaul, the founder of the former DMB Tribute: Tripping Billies. He is backed up by a great band with fantastic musicians and is the only DMB Tribute that can claim to have a full-time lead guitar and keyboard player.
Big Eyed Phish has greatly expanded their coverage and touring area in the past two years. They were a headlining act in many festivals including the East End Festival, Dunkirk Music Series, Presque Isle Music Series, Party in the Park, Greensburg Concert Series, and many more. They have gigs as a headliner of a College Ski Week up in Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine as well as Stratton Mountain and Jay Peak in Vermont and have broken into the casino market playing the Twin Rivers Casino in Rhode Island and a multi-day run at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Mikaela Davis Band
Mikaela’s unconventional path to working songwriter began before high school, growing up in Rochester. With plans to join a symphony, she studied harp performance at Crane School of Music, but halfway through, she decided the traditional harpist’s path wasn’t for her. Mikaela moved to Brooklyn but returned to Rochester.
Mikaela’s plea for patience — a little bit sweet, a little bit angry and raw – fed a fierce 10-song collection. A joyride that pulls from rock, 70s and 80s pop, and funk, Delivery, produced by Grammy-winner John Congleton, manages to be both daring and comfortable, full of not just risks, but hooks. Then, the last place Mikaela wanted to be saved her. Rochester’s artistic community embraced her, encouraged by bandmates including Alex Coté and the group Joywave, she hit her stride. Rochester became Mikaela’s sanctuary.
News 8 WROC is a proud partner of the Rochester Lilac Festival. Check back with us for future updates, including lilac bloom status, full musical schedule, and more.