R.I.P. Murph

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What makes a good music scene doesn’t just count on the end all and be all of sensational musicians, crowding stages everywhere. It also lands on the shoulders of the promoters and club owners, the behind-the-scenesters who sling beer while the musicians bring it on down.

Sadly, we have lost yet another important cog in the music wheel with the untimely death of Daniel “Murph” Murphy, on Aug. 5. This is going to leave a hole in everything. He was in his 60s. I sat down with Murph’s close friend and organizer of his Open Jam at the joint, Nate Coffey, to get his take on the man. 

Daniel Murphy

“Murph was a warm-hearted person who was caring, giving and helpful,” Coffey says. “He loved music, friends and family.”

It all started when word spread in the late 1970s and early 1980s about a liquor-bottle-juggling singer at the Glass Onion.

“At the weekly jam at his tavern, in between serving, he would jump up with the band singing hits like ‘What I Like About You’ and ‘It’s All Over Now,’ and any Steely Dan song,” Coffey recalls. “Good times back then. Many wild nights.”

After a while Murphy opened his own place, Murphy’s sandwich and salad restaurant. That’s where Coffey met Murph. A friend needed help with a delivery to the restaurant.

“So, I offered,” Coffey recalls. “And upon arrival I met Murph, who Immediately became a friend.”

Murphy would say “you always have a home here,” Coffey adds. He would talk about music and sing while preparing orders and always hinted at live music venue aspirations one day.

After Coffey returned from a stint in New York City, lo and behold, there it was in the old Irondequoit Town Lounge: Murph’s Pub. 

“I would stop in between lessons teaching at the House of Guitars,” Coffey says. “Murph asked me to start playing there. I played over 400 shows at Murph’s. (It) turned into a place like Cheers. We were all friends. Our open mic was born and I would play Spanish guitar  on Taco Tuesdays. People started coming out and. And the music burned on.”

Despite a health and exercise regimen—Murph was a jogger running five miles before and after work—Murph suffered a heart attack last week.

Last Sunday was a celebration of life at Murphs’ Irondequoit tavern, his latest location, in Stutson Bridge Plaza in Irondequoit. The parking lot was a gumball derby with the cars of enthusiasts, fans, musicians and friends clamoring to get in.

‘“What’s better than this?’ was something Murph used to say during our weekly jam,” Coffey says. “What’s better than this?”

Zorro, physics and bizz-buzz

I expected some hot weather hi-jinx when I rolled up on the Bug Jar reopening, but was instead  thrust into a convo surrounding a space in time. Don’t sweat, this isn’t going to test your physics skills. 

The space was packed and bizz-buzzin as the time was adding up to an approximate 511 days since owner Bobby T had a drink at his own bar. The masked and the unmasked numbers ran about 50/50. It looked like an upside down Zorro Halloween costume contest. I caught two of the bands on the night’s multiband bill.

First up was House Majority—a new band for me—who treated the crowd to some brittle bash and pop, full of shimmering guitar and attitude. 

Overhand Sam’s OHS and Bad Weapon followed. Now this isn’t a new band for me, but they never fail to bring something clever and fresh to the rock arena from the psychedelic fore. And it’s impossible to yoink licks from the singer, what with his contorted digits taking centerstage. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I swear I saw a couple of the band members in dresses. Hubba-aaaa. 

Elsewhere, Abby Feldman took the stage to showcase her new show “Self Evolution X-Press” Sunday night at Photo City Music Hall. A hilarious self-help seminar for neurotics. Feldman, originally from Rochester, now L.A., is making her way through the comedy scene with not only standup but writing with television networks such as Adult Swim and Netflix. You go girl.

Coming to town

The rockin’ daddy-o of the zydeco, that larger-than-life impresario, Woody Woodward, has teamed up with the Webster Damascus Shriners to present “Webster Jam On The Bay.” 

All proceeds for this two-day music festival will benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children. An outdoor event, with only 800 tickets per day in order to have plenty of space and a safe and comfortable environment to enjoy the bandstand and shake a tailfeather.

Consider this: Roughly 40 years ago there was a movement in the blues comin’ out of radios and stompin’ across stages. It was both slick and mean. I’m talking about the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the Nighthawks, Roomful of Blues and Mr. Downchild, to name a few. 

Well, there’s a ghost heading to this era vaporizing and blasting this gigolo blues as if he was ensconced in sharkskin. It’s Gabe Stillman and he’s got a blues flurry that he can’t quite control. Makes for a wild ride and he’s got Nighthawk muscle behind him on his new album, “Flying High,’ which goes well when letting the guitar bust the clouds.

The festival will feature five different blues, funk and R&B artists including local brassy favorites Prime Time Funk. Other performers will include Dave Riccioni and the Blue Cats, Miller and the Other Sinners, and the Carolyn Kelly Blues Band.

The ticketed event will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 20 and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 21, at the Damascus Shrine Center, 979 Bay Road in Webster.For tickets and more information www.jamonthebay.com

Here’s a comprehensive list of live shows in and around Rochester: Get Your Gig On

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