Ciaburri, 47, passed away unexpectedly Dec. 15. His younger brother Bob said Wednesday that Brian's cause of death is still uncertain.
An Auburn native and the youngest of seven, Brian served in Operation Desert Storm as a specialist in the Army. A lifelong knack for all things technical led him to service as a tank mechanic, Bob said, earning Brian three Bronze Service Stars. His brother being so humble, Bob continued, his family didn't find out about Brian's decorations until Bob went to the VA to complete the necessary paperwork.
"Three bronze stars, that's meritorious service," he said.
Brian — whom Bob said was always his go-to guy for solving technical problems — took that talent to Auburn's music scene after his Army and National Guard service. Known as the "Sound Hound," Brian became just as reliable to local musicians and the city of Auburn as he was to his brother. From club shows to TomatoFest, if there was a concert, Brian mic'd its instruments and manned its mixing console.
Matt Weston, an organizer of Sunday's benefit, knew Brian both as a musician and as an employee of the Downtown Auburn Business Improvement District, which presents TomatoFest and other downtown music events. Brian was generous with his time and effort, Weston said, even helping bands haul gear despite a lingering back injury he incurred in Desert Storm.
"He was just a great dude," he said. "There's a big gap in our music scene with him gone."
Weston said local musicians have been talking about ways to honor Brian and help his family since the news of his passing first broke. Bob recalls about 350 people at his brother's Dec. 21 calling hours, and "16 car loads of music people" at his burial services the next day at Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Romulus.
So many musicians volunteered to play Sunday's benefit that some had to be turned away, Weston said, though he expects many will still attend and maybe sit in with other bands. Local businesses, meanwhile, have donated "tons of stuff" for raffle and silent auction prizes.
"It's pretty amazing for everyone to come together for something like this," Weston said. "If it wasn't for him, honoring him, it's something he'd be there for, doing the sound."
Bret Michaels will, belatedly, celebrate his birthday in Seneca County. Flo Rida will bring the sounds of South Florida to rural Tyre. And comedian Jessimae Peluso will return to her central New York roots.
Del Lago Resort & Casino, which opened Feb. 1, wants to give guests another reason to come and spend a few hours at the $440 million resort. If the 2,000 slot machines and 89 table games aren't enough, there's an alternative: The Vine.
The casino's entertainment venue, which holds 2,400 people, will host its first concert Friday when British rock group Bad Company performs before a sold-out crowd. The following night, Flo Rida, who performed at the New York State Fair last summer, will take the stage.
Del Lago partnered with the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua to book performers for The Vine. At least 15 acts, ranging from comedians and country music stars to rappers and rockers, are scheduled to perform there over the next three months.
Jeff Babinski, executive vice president and general manager of del Lago Resort & Casino, said assembling a diverse collection of performers was a top priority.
"Entering the market located between Syracuse and Rochester in Seneca County, you definitely want to be diverse. You want to see what works," he said. "Are we going to hit it out of the park every time? No, we're not. But we'll see how things go and how things play out and adjust as we go forward."
The Vine is split into three levels. The first floor has auditorium-style seats and standing room for patrons. A bar is available for refreshments. On the second floor, there is another bar and mezzanine, and balcony seating.
The VIP area is located on the third floor of The Vine. Babinski said the VIP area will have two blackjack tables in the near future, but the games won't be installed for opening weekend.
The Vine's first two levels can seat 1,647 people. The capacity of 2,400 includes standing room in the pit and on the wings. It also includes space in the VIP area.
"There is truly not a bad seat in the house," Babinski said. "You're going to have, as a guest, as somebody who's watching a show, a great, intimate experience."
There will be other uses for The Vine. Babinski plans to hold employee town hall meetings there every quarter. The venue can be transformed into a seminar space for businesses, or it could host an awards ceremony.
Babinski sees a lot of potential for The Vine outside of comedy acts and musical concerts.
"The space really isn't limited to shows — rock, country and comedians," he said. "It will become versatile."
An Auburn native, Petrosino is the co-founder of Monkey Boys Productions in the Philadelphia area. And last week, the production company took an order for a prop that required a few semi-sleepless nights to make: The motorized podium actress Melissa McCarthy used in her viral impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live" Feb. 11.
Petrosino said the order came in at midnight Wednesday, Feb. 8, and that "SNL" required the podium's delivery by the evening of the following Friday. A couple 16-hour days and some "excellent fabricators" later, Petrosino said, he and Monkey Boys co-founder Michael Latini were inside Studio 8H seeing their creation become part of comedy history.
The show's writers suggested fitting the podium to a Segway, Petrosino said, but the device's speed and size made it a safety issue for McCarthy within the small New York City studio. Instead, Monkey Boys created something more like a Go-Chair with a platform for the actress to stand on and a joystick for her to steer it from the podium.
McCarthy has "knocked it out of the park" as Spicer, Petrosino said. The two sketches featuring her pugnacious take on the press secretary have almost 35 million views on YouTube alone.
Contrary to her attitude as "Spicey," Petrosino continued, the actress was "very nice, down to earth and cool" as he and Latini showed her how to use their prop.
"It's really a great place to work," he said of "SNL." "Everybody's very focused on producing this great comedy."
The podium was actually just the latest of several props Monkey Boys has made for "SNL," Petrosino said. It also made the lightweight podium McCarthy used to ram journalists in her debut as Spicer the previous week, as well as the hollow shell of papers in "SNL's" Jan. 15 send-up of the Donald Trump press conference where he claimed he had divested himself of his businesses before taking the presidential oath of office.
In fact, Petrosino added, Monkey Boys has made several more props for "SNL" sketches that haven't aired. Each show typically rehearses 10 to 12 sketches, but only about eight make the cut.
"Luckily we've been making things they like and appreciate, so they keep calling us," he said.
"SNL" first contacted Monkey Boys to rent its "Little Shop of Horrors" puppets a few years ago, Petrosino said.
The Auburn native also puppeteered the comedic horror musical at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in 2008. With parents involved in the Auburn Players Community Theatre, one of Petrosino's first jobs was operating the spotlight at the Owasco playhouse. He graduated from Auburn High School in 1993, and co-founded Monkey Boys in 2006.
Petrosino said the problem-solving aspect of his work is part of what he loves about it. And he hopes "Saturday Night Live" keeps sending him problems.
"It's a wonderful opportunity, and being on set at 8H is amazing," he said. "It's a lot of fun, super exciting work, and always a great challenge."
WATCH: Melissa McCarthy as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live"
Shortly after last week's announcement that Paul McCartney will play the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, a reminder surfaced that Cayuga County used to book some big musical acts, too.
A Facebook page for Italian fans of U2 recently posted a gallery of the world's biggest rock 'n' roll band playing Spartan Hall at Cayuga Community College April 27, 1983. The gallery includes several backstage shots of the band and the show's crew, as well as several shots of the black-clad Irish youngsters sweating their little mullets off on stage.
At the time of the concert, of course, U2 wasn't the world's biggest rock 'n' roll band yet. Bono and co. were just two months removed from the release of their breakthrough third album, "War," which boasted future classics like "New Year's Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday." The band would play those and more at its Auburn stop (full setlist below).
A few years after that, U2 would move onto the Carrier Dome in October 1987 after the success of "War" and its even bigger fifth album, "The Joshua Tree."
And 30 years after that, the band made a passable guest appearance on a Kendrick Lamar track. Wild.
For Kalista Hamilton, cosplay is about expression and connection.
The 16-year-old Weedsport High School student began dressing as fictional characters out of fandom about two years ago. Her first was Castiel, a trenchcoated angel character on the CW's fantasy horror show "Supernatural." Wanting to express her appreciation for both actor Misha Collins' portrayal of the character and the show itself, Kalista started researching Castiel cosplay (costume play).
When she saw how commonly women cosplayed Castiel and other male characters as female, Kalista dove even further into the hobby.
"That's always been part of my personality," she said of her fandom for characters like Castiel. "The most extreme version of that is literally becoming someone."
Saturday, Kalista will join cosplayers from the Cayuga County area at Cosplay Invades Auburn! Taking place at the Schweinfurth Art Center and presented by Salt City Comic-Con and Cosplay by McCalls, the new event will feature photo stages, makeup demonstrations and a costume tuneup station, including one that will be staffed by Kalista.
Because cosplay can become time- and cost-prohibitive, Kalista said she often turns to makeup and photographic special effects to create characters. She's used those tools to depict mermaids and zombies like R from the 2013 movie "Warm Bodies," as well as the tattoos of "Harry Potter" wizard Sirius Black.
Meanwhile, Kalista has yet to debut a full cosplay that took her months to complete: Harley Quinn.
"Even though she's in love with the Joker she's such a strong character and has an amazing storyline," she said. "That's someone I want to be."
Piece by piece the teen ordered and assembled her custom Quinn costume, which she said is inspired more by Batman comic books than the recent "Suicide Squad" film starring Margot Robbie as the off-kilter supervillain. Kalista made the character's croquet-style mallet, and her grandmother helped make the collar.
Kalista said the costume is "very out there" for a teenager, so she's waiting for the right place to debut it. Still, the Weedsport student said the cosplay community is a welcoming one.
"Everyone's complimented, everyone's accepting," she said. "It's so cool for everyone to accept everyone's oddities and weirdness and loves."
With the new Finger Lakes Comic Con, Salt City Comic-Con and other growing spaces for cosplay in central New York, Kalista said it's easier than ever to get into the hobby. She also noted that it doesn't require believing you're the character you're depicting: Like Halloween, it's just dress-up.
Kalista encouraged the curious to come to the Schweinfurth Saturday, where the creations on its walls could provide a fitting backdrop to the creations on the attendees.
"It's an art museum and cosplay is kind of an art," she said. "I think it's great."
When the Denman brothers play Kegs Canal Side with their namesake band on Friday, they won't be "Miles Away From Home," as one of their songs goes. They'll be home.
That's why Ben and Dakota Denman felt the Jordan concert venue was a fitting place to film the song's music video. It'll be the first for Denman, which the guitarist brothers formed in Nashville with bassist Robbie Crede and drummer Ted Karol shortly after moving there from Niles in February 2016. Along with a new EP, "The Life We Live," the music video marks another successful step for the young '80s hard rock band, through which the Denmans have met both kindred spirits and guitar heroes in Music City USA.
Speaking from Nashville over the phone Wednesday, Dakota said he and Ben were inspired to pick up the guitar by their father, David.
"He'd pop in 'Van Halen I' on the stereo and play along with it, and we thought that was super rad," Dakota said.
Like David, Ben and Dakota would follow their musical passion into Auburn's music scene once they got their first guitars when they were 14 and 11. First they rocked all over central New York with Child's Play when they were teenagers, then they performed with Stormer while attending high school in Moravia. Both bands mixed select originals with hard rock covers, Dakota said.
But as the brothers reached their early 20s a few years ago, the difficulty of finding bandmates had them "just practicing our guitars and saving money," Dakota said. Then, after being let go from his job at Owasco Marine two years ago, he took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Nashville. That's where Dakota found "my people," he said.
Among them were Michael Wagener, a longtime hard rock mixer and producer whose credits include Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and Ozzy Osborne's "No More Tears." The "Miles Away From Home" music video will cut together footage of Denman's concert Friday in Jordan with shots of them at Wagener's Nashville studio, where the band recorded "The Life We Live."
In Nashville, the Denman brothers also found the bandmates they needed to realize their '80s rock vision. After making the move, Ben and Dakota began posting want ads in the city's music stores. They didn't have to look far: Both Crede and Karol worked at the very stores where the Denmans posted the ads, Dakota said, and the two quickly proved tight fits with the brothers and their music.
Since releasing "The Life We Live" in January, Denman has itself fit well within Nashville's hard rock scene. The EP features some backup vocals by Mark Slaughter, leader of the early '90s hard rock band bearing his last name. Denman's CD release show saw them open for Beasto Blanco, fronted by longtime Alice Cooper bassist Chuck Garric, who was joined on stage that night by the legendary shock rocker himself to perform "School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." And just last week, the young band shared the stage with "To Be With You" hitmakers Mr. Big.
Denman's '80s sound and aesthetic have made it a commonly requested opening act by the bands of that era, Dakota said.
"Those hard rock bands are our favorite stuff," he said, citing Metallica, Mötley Crüe and Van Halen as its major influences. "You gotta stay true to what you love and what got you into this."
Ben and Dakota write the band's songs, Dakota said, beginning with the riffs and ending with the lyrics. Though their sound owes a debt to the brothers' '80s influences, they try to blend or twist them into something original, whether it's a high-energy lead guitar line for Dakota to play or a vocal hook for Ben to sing.
But before Denman applies that songwriting process to its first full-length CD, the band will continue looking for live bookings, try to sign management and, Friday, finish filming its first music video.
"Things are happening so fast," Dakota said. "We're just gonna keep playing, keep playing."
Five questions with Denman lead guitarist Dakota Denman
Q. What's your favorite song to play live?
A. Probably the opening song on our EP, "The Life We Live." It's really high-energy and we open with it because it really gets people into it, and has a cranking guitar solo.
Q. Do you have a desert island album?
A. Something like Metallica's "Master of Puppets" would probably be right there, or Mötley Crüe's "Shout at the Devil."
Q. What's one venue you've always wanted to play, but haven't had a chance to yet?
A. In Nashville, the one venue we haven't played is the Exit/In. That's a small club. It's a cool place, the last club we haven't tackled yet in Nashville.
Q. What's the first concert you remember seeing?
A. In 2005, I saw the all-original Anthrax lineup opening for Judas Priest.
Q. Who's your biggest musical influence?
A. Definitely my dad, because he's the one who got me into playing guitar and I thought it was super cool all because of him. And he's a really good guitar player.
For the owners of Falcon Lanes, renovating its bar was a matter of bringing it into the present — and bringing in patrons who still may not know it's there.
The new Tidal Wave Bar will be celebrated Saturday at the launch of its 2017-2018 music series, which will be led off by the band STR8ON.
The new space recently had its wood paneling stripped away and new paint, fans, neon lights and more decor applied over the course of about three weeks, co-owner Terri Feldman said Wednesday. The beer posters that covered up unsightly spots in the wall have been taken down, and a new collage of .45s and record sleeves wallpaper the area behind the DJ booth.
"Basically, we took it from the 1950s to now. It looked like an old Polish Falcons club, or like you walked into your grandmother's house," Feldman said. "Our goal was to make it cleaner and crisper."
Feldman's partner, Michelle, has owned Falcon Lanes since 2007. Terri said the renovation is the first significant one they've done. Live music has been a staple there for about six years except for summers, when its lack of an outdoor space turns patrons toward area bars that have them, Terri said.
When Falcon Lanes is open, benefits also factor heavily into its schedule. It books between 50 and 60 a year, Terri said, both for individuals and entities like St. Joseph School. Aside from donating its room and opening its kitchen, Falcon Lanes also helps secure entertainment and answer any questions hosts might have.
Whether it's a concert or a benefit, Terri said she and Michelle hope the renovations make the Tidal Wave Bar more inviting to patrons.
Noting that the Polish Falcons building has stood since 1906, Terri believes many in Auburn still don't know what it is.
"It gets overlooked because it's on the outskirts, not downtown," she said. "So many people walk in the door when we do benefits, and they never even knew it was there. We've been there 100 years and people who've lived in Auburn their whole life never knew we were there."
For that reason, the Tidal Wave Bar has booked a fall schedule of music that puts fun above anything else. Bands like Bad JuJu and Sloppy Joes play classic and recognizable rock that gets people dancing, Terri said. STR8ON, which will play Falcon Lanes monthly, "drew a decent crowd" in its debut there last year.
The average room is 50 to 100, Terri said, and she hopes to raise it this fall. Even with its 90-foot horseshoe bar, she continued, the space is big enough to accommodate more people comfortably.
"We're the winter bar," she said. "Now it's a little more classy."
Walking into the basement of St. Joseph School is like a time warp — one that officials want the community to experience.
The 1950s-style soda fountain in the Auburn Catholic school's basement is one reason St. Alphonsus Parish, which includes the school, is presenting its first Oktoberfest Barbecue there Saturday, Sept. 30. Proceeds from the free event will fund the addition of accessibility improvements so people with disabilities can visit the fountain.
Aaron Wilson, pastoral minister at the parish, said Wednesday that it wants to welcome the community into the soda fountain, which he called a hidden gem.
"It looks like you walked into the 1950s in 'Back to the Future,'" Wilson said.
With period booths, stools and chrome-plated handles for ice cream and soda, the fountain is functional, he said. It was once the site of sock hops, but he couldn't recall when it last hosted an event.
After installing the accessibility improvements and clearing away the dust, the fountain could be a place for the parish's Genesee Street neighbors and the rest of the community to grab a hot dog and see a movie, Wilson said. He hopes Saturday's festival starts that process.
"We're trying to bring the community back together," he said. "Our neighbors all around us, the people in the pews. People wave politely, but we want to know their names."
The festival will also affirm St. Alphonsus Parish as "the German church in the Auburn area," Wilson said. But it won't be the Oktoberfest some imagine: Instead of beer steins and bratwursts, the event will serve craft beer and barbecue by neighbor The Copper Pig BBQ & Taproom. Desserts, cider and root beer floats will also be available.
Music will be performed by Stretch Armstrong, Perform 4 Purpose and the Van Arsdale-Patti Trio.
For children, there will be carnival games, face painting, a bounce house, a pumpkin painting contest, balloon animals, caricatures by Brad Cole, a video game tournament room and a performance by The Twin Magicians. Fingerlakes Mall's 20th Century Toys will also hold Magic: The Gathering tournaments and give free decks to the first 30 novice competitors.
Adults can also win big, as several raffle baskets will be awarded. Wilson said he couldn't believe how many local businesses donated to them — which suggests the parish is already meeting its goal.
"We're trying to become a pillar of the community where everybody's friends, and all the great things that come with that," he said.
The Fright Night Mansion has come back from the dead.
Like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and other classic horror characters, though, it's not the first time the haunted attraction has done so. In its three decades, the Fright Night Mansion has taken a few "skip years," said Chris Sweet of presenter A.P.E. Productions. Last year, it took one because its previous home, the pavilion next to the Owasco Fire Department, was undergoing renovations.
But the Fright Night Mansion is not only returning this Halloween season, it's returning to one of its first homes: Fingerlakes Mall.
After debuting in 1987 in the backyard of founder Mark Purcell, the attraction moved to the Aurelius mall for the next few years. Sweet said its first year there saw more than 6,000 people line up to be scared, from the mall's west wing to the food court. The experience helped A.P.E. Productions maximize the attraction's fright factor, he said.
"We believe a good scare is quick," he said. "The idea is to give them glimpses of our scary things, then move them onto the next, so they never really know what hits them."
Sweet said returning to the mall — which hosted the Monster Maze for several years prior — made sense because it's a well-known location. Since it's indoors, A.P.E. Productions also won't have to worry about its monsters getting cold on windy October nights. And with the Spirit Halloween costume shop and other holiday events, the mall will be a destination this season, Sweet continued.
This year's Fright Night Mansion is located in the east (J.C. Penney) wing near the food court. Sweet said it's a dark, winding maze meant to disorient patrons.
"It adds this effect of confusion, of 'Where am I and when am I gonna get out of here?'" he said. "There are a lot of areas where you might not know what's around the next corner."
Sweet said the attraction has kept many of its original items, and continues to lean toward classic scares like Krueger, Voorhees and zombies even as new horror characters are introduced. However, A.P.E. Productions does try to develop new, original sets every year, Sweet continued.
The Fright Night Mansion masters are also looking for new, younger volunteers. With Sweet, Purcell, Travis Poole, Danielle Bliss, Mike Panek, Dan and Sherry Ball and more continuing after 30 years, Sweet said it's important they find new blood like Purcell's nephew, Matt Lupien, who's been taking over more of the attraction's responsibilities.
"If we want to continue this, we need younger people to be involved," Sweet said.
AUBURN — When Doug Weed's grandfather Leland ran New Hope Mills, he'd often grab random people and take them on tours of the flour production facility.
That same desire to connect New Hope Mills to its community is why Doug, who's been the company's CEO since 2013, oversaw a recent renovation of its Auburn cafe and retail store.
"Our mission is to help families make memories around the table. We wanted to expand that," he said Wednesday in the cafe over banjo music and the bustle of about 20 breakfast guests.
Doug is the third generation of Weed to run New Hope Mills. Charles Kellogg began the flour mill on Bear Swamp Creek in the Niles hamlet in 1823, and Leland and Howard Weed bought it in 1947. The company ground flour until 1996, when its focus became pancake and other mixes. Today, it employs 45 and produces 4 million pounds of mix a year, Doug said, including 17 pancake flavors.
The cafe and store opened aside the New Hope Mills Auburn plant shortly after it opened in 2004. The dominant color was white, Doug said: a white suspended ceiling, a white floor, white shelves. A couple years after he bought the business from his father, Dale, Doug decided it was time to make the cafe and store look like the old New Hope Mills.
"I wanted to really express the brand in a more direct way," he said. "I want to connect on a very deep level to the historical aspect of the business."
Work began in August 2016, Doug said, when friend Paul Cammilleri sketched a renovation plan. After he saw it, Doug said he wanted to get to work the next day. He called it "a giant art project."
The result: Exposed ceiling joists, barn red siding and wooden beams by Gary Baldwin along the walls. Atop the beams, and occupying the new clearance, are several antique flour production machines. Doug said his family has been buying them from other mills for years, and storing them at the New Hope factory. They include an 1867 flour dropper, a wheat scalper and more.
"We tried to build everything in a way that reflects the workmanship and design and characteristics of the equipment we have," he said.
Though the space's square footage is the same, the renovation bumped up the cafe's seat count from about 15 to 40, Doug said. Those extra patrons can order from an expanded menu that includes breakfasts like pancakes and oatmeals, as well as lunches like jalapeño corn tacos and sourdough sandwiches. New items will be showcased, for half price, at weekly Try it Tuesdays, Doug said.
The project also included the addition of a vestibule and front porch. Doug said the city of Auburn was helpful with the latter, as its Code Enforcement Office suggested cost-saving measures.
"We've never regretted moving to Auburn," he said. "They've been so great to work with."
New Hope Mills will celebrate both its connection to the Auburn community and its new cafe and store space with a grand opening celebration there all day Friday and Saturday.
The event will feature live music by Lock 52 Jazz Band, Stevie Tombstone, The Cadleys and Rebecca Colleen, games like "flapjack stack" and "flyin' flapjacks," and a "medieval-looking" dunking booth Doug built. There will be a ribbon-cutting with pancake hors d'oeuvres at 4 p.m. Friday and dancing with Old Time Hoedown from 5 to 6 p.m. At 10 a.m. Saturday will be a pancake eating contest.
Aside from contractors who demolished the old porch, Dale said, the year-long project was completed by family and friends. One brother and one sister work with him at New Hope Mills, and two more brothers work with Dale at a gluten- and allergen-free food producer he started in Savannah. The Weeds also operate Schoolyard Sugarbush, which provides New Hope Mills' maple syrup.
With the renovation behind him, Doug hopes to continue growing New Hope Mills as it turns 200 years old. He noted that 60 percent of its production is for other companies, and said he would like that share to carry New Hope Mills' name some day. Ultimately, Doug said, he would prefer that none of his family business's product carry another name.
"That's not why I put the sign on the front of my building," he said. "That's not why I did this expansion and want to connect to my customers more."