When asked to define their genre of music, Alan Pochmara, bassist for the band Vertices, holds up his hand to answer.
“I got this guys. We are…” he starts.
Then there’s a pause. Which keeps going. And going. Then the rest of the group erupts in laughter.
“I thought he had it,” comments guitarist Charlie Reitz .
The members of Vertices–Pochmara, Reitz, guitarist Logan McKinney and drummer Elijah Richards–settle on “instrumental groove slash jam band” when defining themselves.
“It’s not a genre, really, more so like a feeling or an energy we’re going for,” McKinney says.
“An experience,” Richards pipes in.
“I think, for us, our goal is really like, when you walk out of a show, you shouldn’t really care about what genre it was,” Pochmara says. “You should just feel like, ‘Wow, that was really like nothing else I’ve experienced.’”
Audience members can decide for themselves what genre the band’s jams fall into at their upcoming InVERTed festival on Jan. 28. Likely, they’d find a sound that is progressive, jazzy and high energy, yet dreamy and abstract six- to seven-minute-long instrumentals.
The band says its name reflects the intersection and difference of taste and experience of its members. While all members attended Finger Lakes Community College in various years, they didn’t form a group.
Vertices came about in 2021 after Richards invited McKinney to a somewhat regular group practice he held with the others. It ended up being a two-hour session where every bandmate felt there was something special among them.
“(McKinney and I) had the same language as far as guitar players go. So, that was an instant connection,” Reitz says. “Before I really talked to him, we had this jam that really synced up. It wasn’t English first…”
“It was music,” McKinney says, finishing the thought.
All members agree that the connection has only grown stronger since they formed the band and committed to regular practices and shows. That groupmind has carried through Vertices’ creative output with plenty of their songs being improvisational.
There are two types of improvisation songs they do, those with a more standard jazz solo type format and others that “turn-your-brain-off-wide-open,” Vertices explains. That type requires a closeness and familiarity with each other’s styles and the ability to hear what the other is doing. Because of that, Vertices isn’t worried about running out of material.
“If you can listen, you’ll never run out of ideas,” Richards says.
That improv is often on display during live shows in “a flow state” and, they say, is aided by an audience.
“Even if it’s a small crowd, if there’s energy there, all of a sudden it has this totally new power to it. It feels like this energy builds and builds and when you hit that high and feel the vibe being reciprocated,” says Reitz.
“It’s so corny and I hate saying this, but it’s like this indescribable energy when you can get four minds talking, it’s like the Matrix. We’re all connected to the computer,” Richards says, laughing at his own metaphor.
Pochmara is the only group member who played music continuously, first in an orchestra, then jazz band and later expanding his tastes and influences even more at FLCC. Reitz, McKinney, and Richards, on the other hand, all fell out of interest with the art form sometime around middle school and returned to it in their late high school years.
Reitz started out with a classical style first, but then moved into rock ’n’ roll guitar, eventually growing interested in bands like the Beatles, the Grateful Dead and, jam band extraordinaire, Phish. His decision to stop playing completely baffles him now. Starting a group with friends in high school is what jolted him back into love with music.The others–McKinney and Richards–also returned to music, picking up where they left off.
“We had one moment where we got lucky and everything synced up,” Reitz says. “The feeling I got then is really the feeling I’m chasing now. When it’s going good, and everyone is playing, nothing else matters.”
In only about a year and a half playing as Vertices, the band agrees that the Rochester music scene has been empowering–both the community of performers and venue operators.
“There’s a whole great scene in Rochester that’s stemmed out from FLCC,” says Reitz. “Coming back to Rochester and seeing them play, it was really pivotal to making me realize, ‘This is what I want to do now.’”
McKinney, who has prior experience working in Los Angeles, appreciates the level of caring by local venues, something he did not experience in the West coast. He lists Danny Nielsen of Photo City Music Hall, Matt Green of Flour City Station, and Jeff Dale from Three Heads Brewing as supportive to the Rochester music scene.
McKinney sees the proximity to the East Coast as a boon.
“If you even just look at a map, you can see how connected we are. An hour away, we got Buffalo. Then we got Syracuse, we got Toronto. You can play Boston, New York City, Philly, all easy in a row like that,” he says. “There’s so much more closeness when you’re growing that following.”
One way Vertices hopes to grow that following is with its InVERTed Fest, a night of music and art at Flour City Station. Aside from the band, there also will be music by Painted Birds and DJ sets by DDH PVH, visual artists Dylan Kelly and Sienna Pullizini, live painting by Josh Corey (who creates Vertices’ album art), giveaways from fashion and lifestyle brand The Morning Paper, and food from local cook, Chef Ron.
“I started out from a place of wanting to make an event I want to go to,” Richards says. “So, it’s like trying to create a festival vibe in one night and we have all this, so there’s no reason you’d want to leave.”
“We found a lot of people who we thought were cool and we want to celebrate in Rochester,” adds Pochmara. “Because there’s so many little pockets and people with little fanbases, so it’s part of us trying to be collaborative, spreading the love.”
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].