John Tierney

Long Winded - Short Attention Span

Nostalgia? Feh.


“I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” – Bob Dylan.

I get it.  I read the piece talking about the cultural institutions of our city that are no longer. 

It’s sad when these things fade away. I feel it too.  Especially when a town like Syracuse which for way too long has suffered from a self esteem issue, that in my opinion we allowed to be inflicted upon us from the outside, loses things that make us special.  

But if there is one thing getting older has taught me, is that today, right now, will be the “good old days” for someone younger than myself.  Everything changes, tomorrow isn’t here yet and yesterday is gone forever.  So what do we have left?

We have today, this moment, and although so many of our cultural touchstones have gone, things like our beloved Dave Frisina on the radio waves, the Syracuse New Times as well as the largest free Jazz Fest in the nation.  Maybe these things are gone forever,  but we are still here and the cultural vibe of this city is stronger than it has ever been, and if you can’t see what’s here, because you’re still looking for what isn’t, you have to open those hungry eyes of yours wider, cast that net further and open your arms to what is.  Because what is unfolding right now, in our much maligned city, is glorious.

I really have no use for “nostalgia”, not when it’s used to bemoan change and ignore the present.

Nostalgia is so devotional to past that folks let themselves be blinded by it and can’t see the present unfolding right in front of them. The internet is full of websites where people can look at historic photos of our downtown, with it’s bog box retail and movie theaters, and comment on how sad it is that those days will never be coming back, all the while totally ignoring the fact that downtown Syracuse today is nothing but a massive success story with it’s resurgence and renaissance.   I would argue it’s on the way to being better than ever.

 Look, I’m all for honoring our past, but I’m not one for giving up the present, the NOW for the sake of it.  This moment will never be again, hold on to it, the people we have here with us today will not be here forever, hold on to them.  We only have now.  

Of course that’s not to say I don’t have fondness for things of culture that are no longer around.  One of the greatest musical days of my life was waiting out the rain at OCC to see Mose Allison, followed by Dave Brubeck at Jazz Fest.  

By Carlyjay55 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I was 2 feet from the same stage a couple years later to see Aretha Franklin and I still can’t believe that voice was of this earth. Thinking about it still gives me goose bumps.  The gratitude I feel for those events fills my very soul when I think about it.  The performers I mentioned are no longer with us, and that is a hole that will never be filled, as with any soul that leaves this realm for the next.   I do hope the great Frank Malfitano can get the funding required to make this event sustainable. If you are reading this Frank, you are responsible for some of the signature musical moments of my life. I am eternally grateful.

Those performers at the Syracuse Jazz Fest were world class, among the very best.  But so is Melissa Gardiner, winner of international Jazz competitions, collaborator with multiple Grammy winners and member of our community who works so hard, playing and educating others and steering a much needed community project, you wonder when she has the time to even record a new CD.  But she did, and I can’t wait to hear it.   Her album release event will be at Salt Space on Friday June 21,  I’m going to try like hell to attend, but I can’t get a date.   Woe is the middle aged music obsessive who can’t get a sitter.

You want more Jazz?  I am counting the days until the Jazz in the Burbs series gets rolling again at the Green Gate Inn in Camillus.  Fantasic local players, in maybe the coziest venue in town and come hungry, they make a damn fine chicken wing, actually everything I’ve had there is fantastic,  and your host Dave Kaspar is one of the nicest guys around and the love he has for the music is infectious.  It’s such a chill, friendly time. 

Dave Frisina hasn’t gone anywhere, thankfully.  The Rebel still rocks but it’s moved online, which means fewer commercials, more music from a deeper dive, while at the same time hitting all the songs you love, I don’t know how he does it, and oh by the way local music at least once an hour.    Soulshine from 10AM-2PM on Sundays, Soundcheck Sunday at 9PM  and the morning mix are all staples of the Tierney’s smart speaker and Bluetooth set up.

Do you know how rare it is for a broadcaster to spend an entire career in one market?  He’s here because he loves it here, he raised his family here.  He has a stake in this community, plus he’s a great guy.  I’m fortunate to know him and we are all fortunate for him to be here.  And uh…yeah, I’m sorry for my behavior at the Soundcheck Music Fest  back in the 80’s  it may have had something to do with alcohol and my dancing to 1.4.5.  I can’t remember.

Look, if you don’t know how to get The Rebel, contact me, Ill help you.

You want more rock ‘n’ roll radio?  

How about “This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl” on Spark Syracuse?   “Three hours of the best radio on the whole friggin planet.”  for me is right up there with “the only band that matters” as far as sloganeering goes.  These guys play some of the best rock/power pop around with a good representation of local music, on top of that, they are the nicest guys you could ever meet. It’s like going to a record party at Dana & Carl’s house when their parents are gone.

The New Times is gone because they couldn’t change with the changing times.   Back in the day I used to literally grab the New Times every Wednesday the minute it was dropped off at the bar I worked at. I would pour through the pages looking for listings for events that would strike my particular sensibility.

That’s not how things work these days. These days the event announcements are almost immediate. I would argue that Facebook gets more people to gigs than just about any other source, at least in this town. Arts and entertainment weeklies are dropping like flies all over the country, those that survive go online. Thats where the eyeballs are, thats where the tourists look. The New Times either couldn’t or wouldn’t go that route but their days were clearly numbered when they switched to a subscription model. The readers are the PRODUCT, not the customer. You have to get the eyeballs to the content, that’s where the clicks are.

(Ironically to this piece as I write it, the current edition of the New Times, which is one of the final two I think, features the aforementioned Melissa Gardiner on the cover.)

You want listings and overage of culture? Look no further than CNY Alive. Fred Reed and Misse Thomas work like crazy on  this site and should be getting more eyeballs on it. You can add your listing right there.  It is one stop shopping for stuff to do around here. I can’t wait to see how they grow and fill the hole that the New Times leaves.

So look around, is there something missing in the culture of Syracuse that you’ld like to see?  Well to steal a phrase from the great Billy Bragg “Start your own revolution and cut out the middle man”.    The cool part of a of a town like this is you can stake your claim to any part of it you so desire.  I do.

There is something to do and see in this town, every day of the week. Events of such high quality that you step back and want to brag to people who have left this town, that all of this, is available to you, here in Syracuse.

Obligatory Johnny Rotten photo.

The past is gone, gone forever, and there really is no future, I don’t mean that in a nihilistic, Sex Pistols sense.  What I mean is all we as humans have is today, tomorrow isn’t here yet and while I loved those institutions of the past, and hope some can be resurrected, I can’t let that get in the way of today.  

Today is all we have.  What are you going to do with it? To quote my favorite song at the moment “get out amongst the people”.


Prolific I am not.But you could sign up to get an e-mail when I let it fly?No spam, no sale…I’m not selling anything.It’s just between you and I.


1 Comment

  1. I am forever grateful to my dear friend for inviting me to accompany him to the Syracuse Jazz Fest several years ago where we first heard Kat Wright and the Indomitable Jazz Band. It is sad that this great event has not taken place the last couple of years. Your article makes sense to me in that nostalgia is ok, but we have to move forward. Living in the past and hoping things will be the way they were in “the good old days” prohibits us from commiting to the future.
    Syracuse has always intimidated me, but experiencing the culture and the music has opened up my mind, and I need to explore the other opportunities available.

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