New York Minute: Charley Orlando Shares Vision for the Syracuse Music Scene

On any given afternoon, it is highly probable Charley Orlando will be spotted leaping nimbly to the stage to adjust sound equipment, prepping for the evening show. The sprightly Funk ‘N’ Waffles talent buyer keeps busy between selecting acts for the downtown Syracuse and university locations. He has become the gatekeeper for a flourishing downtown venue that stands as a go-to destination for music lovers thirsting for a dose of live music.

Aside from his technical dexterity, Orlando is also skilled in the art of compromise, acting as chief liaison between musicians and venues. With decades of experience performing in his own bands and booking acts for other venues, Orlando can empathize with the needs and desires of both parties to cultivate exciting show lineups. Behind every jaw dropping drum solo, contemplative guitar riff and danceworthy jam is a man devoted to elevating the Syracuse music scene.

On a Wednesday afternoon, Orlando took a quick break from his frenzied activity to kick back and discuss his key role at Funk ‘N’ Waffles. Manifesting a calm and collected presence, Orlando’s demeanor in conversation curiously juxtaposed the preceding flourish of activity. He instead channeled energy into exuberant responses, offering a sincerity through dialogue layered with gracious and friendly expression:

Ally Dean: You are the talent buyer for Funk ‘N’ Waffles. What has been your mission since the onset of your role with this venue?

Charley Orlando: To create a mid sized music venue for touring and local acts. To concentrate on a music community and grow it to a healthy point where musicians and venues all work together to prop up the music scene in CNY. Also the venue is designed to do all kinds of events besides music so we love doing community oriented events.

AD: What are your future goals for the venue?

CO: To keep growing the scene and the venue. To bring in bigger and bigger acts to a small intimate venue. To just be the best this place can be.

AD: Funk is a pretty sought after venue in Syracuse so you have plenty of acts soliciting a spot on the stage (I remember you quoted a staggering number of emails since December…) Are there bands on your radar that you have reached out to hoping to bring to the venue in the near future?

CO: We do get an enormous amount of inquiries (22,000+ emails since December of 2014). Really every band is on my radar. I am always looking for the next unique band. There is a lot of “same” going on out there so when I come across something that turns my head I go right for it. There are a number of great bands I have reached out to that will blow the walls off Funk … but I keep them close to my chest until it’s solid. Takes a bit to really dial in a top notch show.

AD: Are there aspects of Funk you would like to see changed, either with the physical venue or with the process for getting bands there?

CO: Funk is ever-evolving and that’s why I love it here. Sam Levey and Adam Gold and I work really well together and are always a step ahead of where we need to be. Kind of a dream team for me. The ideas are always flying and stuff gets done fast when we decide to move forward. Really we all want the same thing: the best venue in CNY.

AD: Pearly Baker’s Best and RUHA are your two current musical endeavors; what are your intentions with those projects?

CO: To have fun playing music. Pearly is a Grateful Dead Tribute Band so it’s pretty easy to get the right gigs and the band is sooooooo good! Everyone really knows The Dead and have seen them play (w/ Jerry Garcia) many times so we have close ties to the music. RUHA is a very unique original project that mixes acoustic guitar, organ, piano and ableton live triggers to fill it out. Great for festivals! Plus I love playing solo and do that quite a bit.

AD: Aaaand to keep things fun … are you feelin’ the Bern?

CO: Maximum Bern! Very into the message! It speaks to me … LOVE! Huh what a concept! April 15 Fuel the Bern’ is at the Palace Theater in Syracuse and April 16 Berning Man is at Anthology in Rochester. Two very important events for people that want change to come about!