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Barenaked Ladies Have Rochester History

By JEFF SPEVAK, Rochester News, February 2nd, 2001.

Everyone wants Barenaked Ladies. And so they've fled from the attention they once courted. Three of them are hiding out at home in Canada. Two flew off to India, just in time for the earthquake that has killed an estimated 20,000 people.

But they will soon return. This time around the pop band hits what singer and guitarist Ed Robertson refers to as the "Barenaked Belt": Buffalo and Rochester, the first American cities to embrace the band.

In fact, the Barenaked Ladies held the attendance record at the Blue Cross Arena, drawing 12,971 on Dec. 29, 1998. Phish shattered the mark with 14,100 almost a year later, but the Ladies remain popular: Thursday's show is closing in on a sell-out, which will be cut off at 11,800.

Here, we've always admired the Ladies. They're hip enough to have named Maroon — the album that crept as high as No. 5 on Billboard last year 2000 — after a poem by Ken Nordine, the ultra-hip spoken-word artist of the '60s Beat Generation.

They're coming up on eight years of touring through Rochester.maybe "Thursday marks their eight..." Eight years of helping us explore all that is hip in pop culture. We've grown together in that respect.

March 28, 1993
A sold-out show at the Horizontal Boogie Bar (now Water Street Music Hall) introduces Rochester to the Barenaked Ladies. We're not so far behind Canada, though. Just three years earlier, the Ladies had been nothing more than Steven Page and Robertson opening for a musical comedy group called Corky and the Juice Pigs.

"We learned a lot from them," bassist Jim Creeggan insisted before the show. "If there's something sacred, they just tore it apart."

And at the Horizontal Boogie Bar, the Ladies demonstrated that they had learned that lesson well. Page improvised a coyote-howling version of "I Will Always Love You," popularized by Whitney Houston.

Feb. 7, 1995
A second album, Maybe You Should Drive, has revealed a more grown-up Barenaked Ladies than the group that sang "If I Had a Million Dollars."

"I think our image then was suburban and college guys making fun of their roots," Page said before a show at the Auditorium Center. "Which is really a lot of what we were. Since then, we have had a lot of life experiences. We are more worldly."

Growing up included dealing with the death of Robertson's brother, Doug, in a motorcycle accident. "Am I the Only One?" from Maybe You Should Drive, was written and sung by Robertson for his brother.

July 4, 1995
During a show at Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center, the Ladies brought out a gas grill during the show to cook hot dogs, which they flung to the audience. "They're Finger-Lakin' good!" Robertson enthused.

Women had begun throwing bras onstage as the Barenaked Ladies graduated to sex-symbol status. Robertson gathered up a handful. (You never know how long this kind of thing will last)

Dec. 31, 1995
Although Page insisted before a show at Auditorium Center that "I would never bow to anything outside the band," that may have been what Maybe You Should Drive amounted to: bowing to the people who said that the Barenaked Ladies were too talented to be fooling around all of the time.

May 6, 1996
Standing behind the stage before performing at the Lilac Festival, Page was smoking a cigarette and staring out at the lawn, filled with an unexpectedly large crowd estimated at 8,000 to 10,000 people. "I think someone's gonna owe us some extra money," he mused.

Aug. 2, 1997
"The Old Apartment" revived the Ladies' career even as angst-driven acts such as the Smashing Pumpkins were dominating the charts. "I'm not that miserable," drummer Tyler Stewart mused before a show at Finger Lakes that drew 11,000 fans. "I like to listen to songs and smile and laugh and go, `Wow, I felt that way too.' Billy Corgan? I don't care how pained he is."

July 6, 1998
Traveling with Blues Traveler for a H.O.R.D.E Tour stop at Finger Lakes, the Ladies were joined by John Popper for a song. Then Popper, Robertson and Page shared an ear of corn that a fan had thrown onstage.

Dec. 30, 1998
After the success of the band's debut album, Gordon, the Barenaked Ladies' commercial appeal had dwindled, not only in the United States, but in the band's homeland as well. But Stunt, the Ladies' fifth full-length album, gave the band star status in the United States, thanks to the hit "One Week."

"The bottom line is, as discouraging as things got, we would get onstage every night and have a good time," Robertson said before the band's record-setting show at the Blue Cross Arena. "The reaction from the crowd drove us on. It was overwhelming.... Even when our sales numbers were down, the live show was enough to keep us going."