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Across the Universe

For this moment, a dramatic response was called for. It was time to come up big. Matt Ramerman had what he calls a local "power roster" of musicians lined up and ready to go this weekend. He had sponsors. He had a venue, the biggest club in town, Anthology. The technology needed to stream the show live on the internet was ready. The message: We're down, but not out …

Coronavirus' vast, leathery bat wings are slowly encircling the planet, casting a shadow across the globe, choking out light, our culture. Go home, draw the curtains closed, turn on the television, do not answer calls from friends inviting you to dinner or a movie.

The moment calls for a new cautionary label. It was duck and cover, for those who survived the Cold War. Shelter in place, for those who heard shots from a lone gunman in the next classroom. Now, social distancing.

Traci Westcott/Sarah Eide

No square on the calendar seems to have escaped. "Extraterrestrial Abduction Day" is March 20. Entire months have been claimed. November is NaNoWriMo. Translation: National Novel Writing Month. And now we're in the midst of FAWM: February Album Writing Month.

What Hubby Jenkins was hearing on a cable TV news show had reached an obscene level of sanctimonious nonsense. At a rally in Virginia, attended by 22,000 well-armed Americans, on the January day set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a speaker was appropriating the memory of the slain civil rights leader on behalf of their pro-gun cause.

"The icon of nonviolent protest, assassinated by a gun in our country, would be pro-gun," Jenkins says, slowly, evenly, incredulously.

"It's important to know your roots, and to know your history, and to be empowered to boldly go forward."

Fire, drought, rain, flooding, ash rain, giant hailstones. At least 28 people killed, 3,000 homes destroyed, an estimated billion animals dead. It's an Australian apocalypse. Containing this disaster has evolved into an international effort. 

Deb Jones has lived in Rochester for two decades, but is a native of Australia, where the landscape has been ravaged by fires since late July. After watching this unfold on television from a half a world away, she has assembled "Songs for South Australia Bushfire Relief." The show is at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at Lovin' Cup Bistro and Brews.

It is helpful to think of the release of a new Joywave album as a biological function. "I just naturally produce one every several years," lead singer and songwriter Daniel Armbruster says. "I turn it in to the record company and then they decide if they want to release it. And they liked this one, so it's going to be released."

It's kind of like a snake shedding its skin?

"It really does feel like that."

At age 76, Eric Andersen considers himself to be in "The Danger Zone."

"Half the people I knew are not around anymore," he says. "Townes is gone, Lou Reed is gone, Rick Danko is gone, Janis is gone. Joni, almost.

"You can't argue with gravity and health."

January is Jeff Riales' month. He's in the midst of a monthlong residency, every Thursday night at Abilene Bar & Lounge. And Friday night at Hochstein Performance Hall, he returns to the event that he inadvertently created, "If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song."

About a decade ago, local singer/songwriter Scott Regan, the host of the weekday mornings "Open Tunings" show on WRUR-FM (88.5), was snooping around Riales' basement. Relax, Regan had been invited, it was a party. And he couldn't have picked a better basement.