A friend is staying with me this summer, and the weather has been cooperating. In fact, since his arrival, we’ve had almost constant sunshine (and that’s really rare for Rochester). As a result, we’ve been going out on little adventures every day.
Now, through my friend’s eyes, I’m starting to appreciate my hometown more than ever, and I’ve decided to write about this in my new series, “Lucky to Live in the ROC.” In each segment, I’ll discuss something really special about Rochester, New York – something that makes me glad I moved back home.
PART 1: THE LITTLE
The Little Theatre, a.k.a. “The Little,” is located at 240 East Avenue in downtown Rochester. It was built in 1929 as part of the Little Cinema Movement (an alternative to commercial movie houses), was constructed in the Art Deco style by Edgar Phillips and Frederick Pike, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In my opinion, it’s the best place in Rochester for movies, especially if you like independent and foreign films. In addition, it has a great little café with live music and food (including a light, delicious limoncello layer cake).
We recently visited the café at The Little to hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts. Hanna PK grew up in South Korea; her parents were in a rock band. She learned to play piano at a young age, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered American blues, and it knocked her out. (My friend Aleks, guitarist for the Blue Hearts, tells me she was “gobsmacked.”)
You can read more about Hanna’s evolution as a blues musician in the WXXI news story, “Music Heals Hanna PK and the Blue Hearts.“
I love Hanna not only for her musicality (she plays piano and guitar, covers the blues and American classics, writes her own songs, and sings), but also for her huge heart, which comes across in her original lyrics as well as her stage presence. And the music she and the band play is world class. To my mind, hearing Hanna & the Blue Hearts play the blues is one of the most uplifting things I’ve experienced, here or anywhere else.
And I’m getting an education about the blues, too. After hearing the Blue Hearts’ version of Memphis Slim’s “I’m Lost Without You,” I asked my friend Aleks about it, and he sent me a link to a video – Memphis Slim performing the song along with famed guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy. I’d never heard the song before, never heard of Slim or Murphy, and now I’ve heard both of them play another great version of the song.
Then I did three things: I looked up Memphis Slim (and learned his real name), I looked up Matt “Guitar” Murphy (and learned that he played in the Blues Brothers band and even played a role in the Blues Brothers movie), and I listened to Hanna’s version of the song, which is track 4 on her new CD, “Blues All Over My Shoes.” I learned a lot that day.
As I said, I’m lucky. Lucky to live where I can hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts playing LIVE at the Little Theatre (and all over New York State).
Do you feel lucky living where YOU live?