Rock ’n’ roll has followed Rob Filardo for all of his life. It’s defined him—cursed him, you might say.
It all comes in piles of drums and guitars or littered in a pile of danger and sweat in a vapor trail behind him. Filardo embodies the true spirit of it all, especially now in the visual medium of live music video.
He worships at its altar. He genuflects there too, and in the medium in the form of boxes and boxes of videotapes, videotapes of long-lost live performances of long-gone Rochester bands. Crates of LPs he found himself schlepping them around whenever he would move house.
“It’s the only thing I own anymore—boxes of videotapes,” Filardo says.
Big shows, little shows, festivals. Anywhere there was live music in town, Filardo was there with his video camera recording hundreds of hours of videotape circa 1985— 1996. He’d never done anything with them and time was running out.
“I read somewhere that videotape begins to deteriorate after something like 10 years,” Filardo says. “I said, ‘I gotta do something with these, digitally or something on YouTube.’ I said that for years and years.”
The pandemic provided a great opportunity to do it and Filardo began to chronicle these tapes—hundreds and hundreds of live shows to dig through. So he bought recording and duplicating software, a couple of VCRs, and started burning and posting shows online to see what reaction he’d get.
“Everytime I’d put it up on YouTube, I’d put it on my Facebook page as well,” Filardo says. “The reaction was huge.”
Filardo also runs the Facebook page covering Rochester’s hardcore scene. So he started there, posting live video performances of bands like Hunger Artist, Bent, Twisted Cross, Mr. Clean, Lethargy, Nuns on Death Row, Noxious, and Braintree.
He beat the drums for heavy rockers Zezozose as well and, despite being a fan, he could never dig their shows; he was busy playing drums in the band.
“Each show had some wild gimmick,” Filardo says. “But I never got to see it; I was on the drums behind everybody.”
He and his wife had a ritual. After a show, they would get food from Gitsis Texas Hots and watch the recorded show together, so that Filardo could enjoy it.
“Then I started taping the bands we played with, new bands, underground bands, bands from out of town,” he says. “And more local bands … like Koo Koo Boy, The Quitters and Big Hair.”
Filardo also recorded shows when he wasn’t playing a gig—catching bands like Nod and shows at the Bug Jar.
“I got The Ramones when they played the Horizontal Boogie Bar in 1994,” he recalls. “I had a camera that you had to put the tape right in. Also, the battery didn’t work, so I had a big orange extension cord connected to a brown one. It had a great sound, the way it compressed the audio.
“But people would be dancing and inevitably kick it out of the socket. Then I replaced it with a camera that took even smaller DAT-like tapes.”
Filardo lost the camera at a gig in Buffalo and is searching for a replacement so he can bring these tapes to life.
As these recordings are released, they have each developed not necessarily a lo-fi sonic patina, but rather a really raw and sexy authenticity that is found almost exclusively in live shows.
So, when you log on to Rob Filardo’s video archive page and dig bands like The Chesterfield Kings, Uncle Sam, Big Hair, Lethargy, Thunder Gods and The Frantic Flattops (shameless self-plug ), to name but a few, you’re getting a sneak peak of a scene that might very well have been forgotten, if not for Filardo’s archival eye and aural ear.
“I have hundreds of tapes that I’m downloading,” he says. “The comments I’m getting are incredible. I’m getting tons of requests, too.”
With three or four shows on each cassette, Filardo keeps busy.
“I do this all day and all night.”
Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.
Here’s a comprehensive list of live shows in and around Rochester: Get Your Gig On