On the eighth day of KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival, the city-wide celebration of performing arts was still going strong. I drove downtown after work on Thursday night to catch a set by Dave DiPrimo Band at Java’s Café. Even on a weeknight, people were out and about, congregating on the sidewalks or making their way to one of the 25 Rochester Fringe venues.
When I entered Java’s Café, Dave DiPrimo Band’s set was already in full swing. The mid-size cafe was standing room only tonight for the local indie quartet. DiPrimo, front and center, strummed his acoustic Martin. He was flanked by Ian Benz on bass and Karis Gregory on saxophone. Reid Hoffmeier manned the drums. They were playing a dreamy folk-art song which could be pulled off as a solo singer/songwriter performance, but is made so much richer with a full backing band.
The joy of alternative music is that the rules that govern music writing can be bent. And Dave DiPrimo Band revels in this freedom from needing to conform. Pulling on influences as varied as classic rock, soul, jazz, blues, punk, and even Latin music, they create original tunes that defy convention. Put a saxophone on a folk song? Why not!
Gregory traded the sax for an electric guitar, and DiPrimo switched to a hallow-body Ibenez for the next song, “Somethings.” DiPrimo was adept in the art of engaging the audience, getting us to sing along in a call and response of melodic oh’s and la’s. He picked up his favored Martin for the heartfelt ballad “Four Letter Word.” Gregroy was back on sax for this one, playing long, low notes full of longing and soulful expression. He stole the spotlight with solos full of fancy trills and flourishes.
The songs got livelier as the night progressed. Midway through the nostalgic “Glory Days,” the music swelled in joyous revelry. That night Benz and Hoffmeier displayed skill, but restraint. Here, they finally had a chance to go all out. Hoffmeier, in his t-shirt from Rush’s 40th anniversary tour, threw himself into the song wholeheartedly. The song also showcased DiPrimos vocal range, from crooning soft contemplative verses to belting out the strong, bellowing chorus.
Before the final song, DiPrimo thanked everyone for coming out. He told us that last year he played Fringe Festival solo, this year as a full band, and joked that next year they might expand even further with the addition of a full backing choir.
They closed out with “Selina.” DiPrimo counted in, in Spanish and the band launched into a spicy Latin-influenced number. It was a shame the room was so packed, there was no room to dance. But that didn’t stop people from moving in their seats and clapping along. In the morning, the members of Dave DiPrimo Band would be back in their college classes, but they still took the time to hang around for a while after the show to talk to members of the audience and pass out cards for a free download of their new single, “Now.”
Dave DiPrimo Band’s Thursday Setlist: American Dream, End Of The World, Know You Best, Out In The Cold, Now, Somethings, Four Letter Word, Glory Days, And It Goes, Selina
Photos by Joseph DiPrimo.