The one where I talk about The Empty Hearts

The coolest thing about the location of my old shop was that I was close enough to stop by Andy Babiuk’s Fab Gear. To the locals, the shop may have served as a convenience for musicians to pick up a pack of strings and ogle the Rickenbackers or Fenders adorning the walls. Not to mention the memorabilia. Records signed from Beatles members and other faces from the yesteryears of garage rock grace the walls. Atop a glass coffee table, are stacks of Babiuk’s published works: The Story Of Paul A. Bigsby: The Father Of The Modern Electric Solidbody Guitar, Beatles Gear and the latest Rolling Stones Gear. From the days of The Chesterfield Kings to being a published author and a consultant for the film Not Fade Away (it’s because of him, all the instruments in the film were sourced to show time period authenticity!), Babiuk is a good friend of Steven Van Zandt, so it only came natural that he’d offer what would be the band name for Babiuk’s next venture.

My brother would frequent Fab Gear more than I was able to—but either way—we would be regaled with tour stories, anecdotes about The Ramones and the writing process of his books. We heard about this new band he was putting together, but he was mum on the members. Of course, with the contacts Andy knew, it had to be good. At a later point, we did learn who was in the band and that they were in town recording the album nearby.

My brother and I flipped. Elliot Easton (The Cars), Clem Burke (Blondie) and Wally Palmar (The Romantics) are in town working on this album. Oh, and Ed Stasium (producer for The Ramones and many, many others) is producing.
It was not long after, I walked into Fab Gear, while my brother was already there. As I opened the door to the tiny space, I was blasted with music. When the song stopped, Andy replied, with a slightly annoyed face. “That was a rough cut,” he sighed and started making note of what needed to be changed.

I was shocked that THAT was a rough cut.

Andy was in and out of the shop after that, flying out to LA for promo photos and promoting Stones Gear throughout the country. The same day The Connection came to visit both of our shops in May, was the day the news was released about the band name and the who’s who in the band.

The Empty Hearts. From the sacred offering of Little Steven Van Zandt’s collection of unused band names.

Fast forward to last night. The band has been in town for about a week and rehearsing heavily before they hit a few eastern-US dates and Japan. A special show at Sticky Lips Juke Joint was promoted all over local radio and news outlets (and even front page news on Monday’s Democrat and Chronicle). A packed beer and barbecue crowd waited for a new rock ‘n’ roll Fab Four to come up on stage. When they did, an hour and a half of heavy, solid and tight rock ‘n’ roll hit us in the face. Opening with the first cut on the album “Driving 90 Miles an Hour Down a One-Way Street,” the crowd ate it up like the pulled pork they must have consumed earlier. Then, we were treated to the Car’s favorite, “Just What I Needed.” Tossing a couple Cars and Romantics tunes, including “What I Like About You” into the set was the perfect end to a Tuesday night.

The Empty Hearts hit the first date of their tour tomorrow night.




Photo from The Empty Hearts website

When you feel you need to break up with your town



You’re bored with the lore of the subway system that once was, a grocery chain that eats up small business potential, large corporations that just can’t pull through anymore, a signature dish that is picnic food piled on top of each other.

The picturesque Finger Lakes are in your backyard and since childhood, they are the backdrop to many parties and events. You continue to take advantage of them until the novelty wears off. When out-of-towners are breathlessly taken away by the views, you don’t understand why.

When the regular haunts you visited in your 20’s just don’t have the same appeal in your 30’s. Or any public place, for that matter. You’d rather be home and snuggle with Netflix.

You try to give festivals, town events and other things out of your comfort zone and chance, and no. Just no. The magic is gone.

When you get to know someone new, they eventually ask you, “Why are you here? This place is too small for you to grow!”

When you constantly ask yourself, “What does this place offer me?”

You feel as if you’re in a constant circle of depression and an identity crisis.

Sometimes family and friends can be soul suckers and tear you down for dreaming big.

Staying positive and making the attempt to be adventurous still drags you down.

Jealousy becomes the prominent emotion from “friends,” because there you don’t have many forces keeping you here.

Dreaming of a fresh start becomes obsessive.

Your heart pitter-patters hard, you get sweaty palms and googly-eyed over a new destination.



Image from We Heart It.

Cupcakes made for rock ‘n’ roll

What sets my cupcake menu apart from the other locals is probably the array of flavors and the names I give them. Sure, there may be a few unoriginal flavors that other shops may put out, but you can create a diverse flavor palette together if you’re not afraid to experiment. If you don’t experiment, you don’t come up with results.

Last June, some fresh cherries were purchased with the intention of making “tipsy cherries,” a recipe given to me by an acquaintance. It is a simple concoction of Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and some brown sugar to a jug of some sort to pour over the cherries. Once the cherries are swimming around in the boozy mixture, seal it up and don’t look at them until November.

November arrived and off came the cap. The strong smell of Jim and Jack wafted out of the jug and the formerly deep-red cherries were now a muddy brown color, yet they had absorbed the mixture. Sure, the cherries can make poppable little boozy morsels or a great addition to cocktails, but the gears started turning.


I started with a chocolate cupcake. The darker the chocolate the bitter. I figured milk chocolate, being sweet would wreck the overall flavor. Next, came implementing the whiskey-bourbon flavor. I made a simple syrup with the liquid and reserved the cherries for a topping or to be blended into the frosting. So once the cupcakes came out of the oven and were cooling, I brushed the cakes with the simple syrup to infuse each nook and cranny with flavor.

The frosting? Well, with the hint of flavor that the cakes absorbed, it needed a little more. My simple butter cream frosting was flavored with the whiskey-bourbon. What it yielded was a faint mauve hue and a subtle flavor of the alcohol. Topped with a cherry, consider it an adult black forest cupcake.

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How about the name? Well, it was talked about for months to actually create a “Chesterfield King” cupcake with our across-the-parking lot neighbor, Andy Babiuk. Andy, a fixture on the rock ‘n’ roll scene and owner of Andy Babiuk’s Fab Gear, has just released Stones Gear. So what better time to celebrate a huge completion with cupcakes. With the perfect combination of chocolate and booze, our tipsy cherry cupcake is officially the “Chesterfield King” cupcake.


What inspires you? Location, Location, Location

I consider Rochester my home. Home, to me is not the actual location where my house was while growing up. That pile of wood, sheetrock and vinyl siding was nestled approximately 40 minutes away in what you would consider the “Finger Lakes region.” So why do I consider Rochester my home (besides identifying with it being a nearby city)?

Well, while I was being raised in my house, going to my little school, I actually came of age in the land of Kodak and garbage plates. It was not until my teen years that I started hitting shows and concerts, and by the time I was a senior in high school, was able to head to shows without my parents. Something about being in a city at night, catching a raucous band is the ultimate appeal to a teenager. There’s the animalistic presentation of a mosh pit, a circle pit and fists being thrown into the air along to the pulsing lyrics.

I passed on high school parties for punk shows. Monday mornings I always had a tune in my head and memories from a sweet show. I got to know people and was getting into 21+ shows, making promises with doormen that I would not drink. I wanted the music and that’s all I wanted.

Between the ages of 19-21 Rochester had a pretty decent, DIY punk and hardcore scene, with few zines circulating around and people putting on basement shows. These shows were cheap, around $3-5 with extra scratch leftover in our pockets to buy clove cigarettes and beer.

I cannot tell you to this day how many shows I have clocked in. How many bruises I have acquired (ironically enough I get them from standing, I’m not one to mosh) or how many places I’ve ended up afterward for a party.

These were the memories I capture in my writing. There’s not much action going on in the city now, but we’re all older and the natural evolution of house party>>>Friday night at the bar>>>to snuggling with your main squeeze and watch Netflix happens. A *good* show pops up once in a while, but the weekend craziness is definitely long gone.

Now that I think about it, the last “house party” I was at was probably four years ago. Sign of the times, baby.

Has your hometown or a particular location set your writing in motion?

a pop-punk break from an otherwise reclusive lifestyle

I’m honestly surprised that I did not get the chance to write about this sooner…like last week. I finally broke free from the routine for a quick blip to see Masked Intruder, The Queers and Teenage Bottlerocket.

Seeing Joe Queer is a once- or twice-a-year occasion for us, since we met officially back in 2009. He recorded my brothers’ and best friend’s band, The Anderson Stingrays in 2010 after hearing a demo. Since then, Mr. Queer and company has made stops in either Rochester or Buffalo while on tour, and we get a brief opportunity to catch up on the goings-on in all of our lives. I’ve also made it a habit, that is expected now to bring goods from the shop to give to the guys….a sweet and pleasant stray from the fast food nosh while on tour.

The Anderson Stingrays opened the show, by Joe’s request. I hate using the word SURREAL because I find it overused by celebrities and such, but seeing my brothers absolutely in awe of being able to share a stage with their favorite bands was the ultimate tops. From a chance meeting a few years back, to now an opening gig, time has really evolved.


Before the show, we were chatting with Brandon, the drummer for Teenage Bottlerocket. He was familiar with the venue, having played at the Bug Jar eight years prior (I was there!) when TBR was just an opening band for Chixdiggit! Brandon let Matt (drummer and older brother) use his kit. Like a kid in a candy store, he’s now obsessed with Brandon’s acrylic custom kit. As people were milling around, they stood at the stage, talking about drum kits. Brandon’s SJC offers a great sound. Sharp and solid pop sounds. Made for a great-sounding set. Between TBR’s generous offer of a drum kit and cabinets, this set was the best ever. Nerves aside. My dad, a drummer himself, usually stands in the back at gigs as an observer. He focuses on the sound, listens for mistakes. He’s like a coach for the band, offering suggestions for a future gig. He totally did not have any this time! Flawless set. Awesome tear down as well (no equipment to worry about).

So next up was Masked Intruder. I have heard so many things about these guys from friends from the Midwest. Understandable, since they hail from Madison, WI. This colorful masked band is the ultimate poppy-punk. I see the generation gap between these guys and The Queers. Whereas Queers are Ramones/Beach Boys, Masked Intruder is Descendents and Chixdiggit. In fact, I turned to my friend as we watched these guys and said, “These guys are like a mix of Descendents, Beatnik Termites and…”

“Chixdiggit,” he finished.


Intruder Blue sounds just like KJ Jansen.


Next of course, were the Queers. Joe has been wanting to play more of the poppier stuff from Munki Brain or Punk Rock Confidential, but the crowd still loves to sing about Ursula’s tits and drinking Bud. The biggest surprise, was actually hearing “Don’t Back Down” thrown into the set.


To end the night, Teenage Bottlerocket blasted through a kickass set. Reminiscing about their last visit in the ROC eight years ago and their evolution from opener to headliner…

It was awesome to hear them pull out a couple Lillingtons tunes.

I have been to a countless amount of shows, and I do have to say that this was one of the best pop-punk shows I’ve ever been to (right up there with Riverdales/Manges/Huntingtons). I did learn one major lesson that I will have to carry out into the next show…..

Bring more cupcakes. At least one for every band member in each of the bands. Lesson learned.



YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday #156

Many writers are in the midst of NaNoWriMo this month. I decided to forgo it this year, what with the business and all. To keep my writing fresh, I’ve decided to blog more, letting those spurts of inspiration out until I find larger blocks of time to write. That little monkey does not like to jump off my back!

This Week’s Topic is: Tons of writers are in the midst of NaNoWriMo, trying to stay inspired as we reach the dreaded middle. Share your most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!


I am fueled my motivation. Moving, writing, thinking, doing is something I’m completely content with. Call me a workaholic, call me what you want, I’m constantly moving. When I’m still or without something to do, ohhhh boy….

I tend to recite this quote all the time to myself. It is my mantra. Whether its writing or finishing that cake before the customer arrives and I am completely rushed for time. Winston Churchill, a man of many quotes, a lifestyle I semi-agree with…a man after my own heart. I’ll drink to that.

King Dork was the book that finally got me to push myself to the finish. Witty and cleverly Frank Portman delivered a fine piece of literary work that is on par with the cleverness of his band The Mr. T Experience.

Below that is a quote from Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat, one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors. I wish I had a wardrobe like Weetzie’s and my “punkrock” was as cool as hers. Come on, late 80’s Los Angeles? On each page, you can smell the smog, feel the Hollywood Hills dew under your feet, see the glitter of fame and feel the ghosts of Hollywood’s passed-on legends.

The Ramones. They inspired many bands to continue the fast-paced 1-2-3-4 bubblegum-meets-punk style that the Queers and Screeching Weasel have perfected a form since those CBGB days. The Ramones, fueled my writing. My characters love these leather-clad New Yorkers.

Rochester. I’ve lived near it, moved to it, own a business in it. I have a love/hate with it, sometimes wishing to move away, sometimes not. It is where my “chosen” family resides, the bars I swilled drinks at and caught a show, the houses that could tell stories of parties, couches where I have found myself the next morning and of course, the setting of my writing.