Music flows at Batavia Ramble

Jul 5, 2011

BATAVIA — Lynn O’Brien was one of the early arrivals at Saturday’s Ramble Music & Arts Fest because her geriatric mom, Maggie Yeibel, insisted.

“She follows The Ghost Riders. We decided to take a ride out,” O’Brien said.

The Ghost Riders opened Saturday’s day-long music festival, conducted in Jackson Square in downtown Batavia.

O’Brien, a graduate of Notre Dame High School, and Yeibel, both of Akron, were at The Ramble with a family friend, Kevin Strong.

“I love it. It’s a nice outdoor event; I would definitely come again,” O’Brien said.

She took photos of The Ghost Riders as the group put on its 30-minute set. The band was followed on the Jackson Square Stage by another local country western act, Bush Hogs.

Ghost Riders’ vocalist Bill “Wild Bill” McDonald was one of the creators of the Ramble, now in its sixth year. Its goal is to host an annual event similar to class reunion, but for musicians instead of alumni, he said.

Members of groups who played in the area in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and more recently all gathered in Jackson Square to reunite with bandmates, jam with other musicians and provide 10 hours of free music for the public. People traveled from as far away as California and Texas to participate in the 2011 Ramble, McDonald said.

“It’s like a family thing. It’s going back to what we do,” McDonald said.

“And it gives the downtown area some arts and some music,” he said.

The organizers of the event, called the Ramble Posse, included McDonald, Bill “Mild Bill” Pitcher, Kay McMahon and Mike Murray. More than 30 bands or solo acts were part of Saturday’s Ramble, a record turnout.

Performances took place in Jackson Square or on the Acoustic Stage set up on Center Street.

McMahon, an Attica resident and vocalist with several groups, compared The Ramble to Christmas.

“Every band is like a present,” she said.

This year she took the stage with Julius, a rock group she started following when she was a teenager in the 1970s.

“I wanted to be a groupie,” she joked.

“But I was too young. I was in high school.”

McMahon also takes video of each act each year and posts them on youtube.com.

Asked if she had a favorite among the acts at The Ramble, McMahon didn’t narrow it down.

“I like them all, right from the start to the finish,” she said.

Florida resident and former Batavian Becky Mruczek checked out the Acoustic Stage in late afternoon.

“I enjoy it. This year’s weather was very cooperative.

“Last year it was freezing and raining,” she said.

Mruczek, Notre Dame High School Class of 1969, said she wanted to see classmate Dick Canty perform, but she missed his set.

Mruczek said she and other alumni from 1969 were in town to celebrate everyone’s 60th birthday.

“It’s not a reunion,” she said.

Another feature of The Ramble is a tribute and memorial to local musicians who have died. A new song, “The New Band in the Sky,” written by Jim Catino, debuted during Saturday’s ceremony.

One of the deceased musicians honored Saturday was bassist and vocalist Bob “Purple” Hayes, of Batavia, who died about two years ago. Hayes performed with numerous groups, including Buffalo Road Show, which took the Jackson Square Stage at 5 p.m.

Ramble organizers also gave a special plaque to Rose Caccamise, owner of Roxy’s Music Store, in appreciation for all her years of support for local musicians.

Another part of The Ramble is community story telling. A paper tablet was available for attendees to contribute their thoughts to a tale in a string of entries.

This year’s story was started by Elba writer Bill Kauffman. It was about a man who encounters a woman with whom he thinks he has no chance of hooking up.

When he asks when she’s from, she says “Nowhere.” He tells her he’s from Batavia.

“You mean the place where they knock down all the old buildings and cut down all the old trees?” she says.

“I thought maybe it would start a discussion about Batavia,” Kauffman said Saturday.

Kauffman, who grew up across the street from Ramble organizer Bill McDonald, took in some of the music acts Saturday with his wife, Lucine and daughter, Gretel, 17.

The Kauffmans listened as Anthony DelPlato appeared on the Acoustic Stage and sang a version of “The Weight,” by The Band.