A portrait of a Rochester artist (Alex Hillis) at the Greenhouse Café. And a few minutes of South Wedge night life.

A portrait of a Rochester artist (Alex Hillis) at the Greenhouse Café. And a few minutes of South Wedge night life.

Alex at the Greenhouse Café 12/7/15

Not having been in several years to the Greenhouse Café at 2271 East Main (also a location at 681 South Ave), I was impressed by its new–or maybe not so new–look.  Michelle Turner’s exquisite photographs of Rochester on almost every wall (and even in the bathroom) add a gallery feeling to the comfortable atmosphere of couches, books, piano,  fireplace and lots of plants. After all there is  a greenhouse in back.

There I met Alex Hillis, the only customer at that moment, writing away on his laptop next to a small pile of books.

Now 28, having grown up in Cambridge, NY (a small town near Albany) and graduated in 2009 from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Business Administration, Alex has made Rochester his home.  He works in sales for a Rochester based company and lives near the intersection of Merchants and Culver in the Triangle neighborhood.



Not looking particularly starving or tortured, Alex amiably told me he had taken up creative writing, trying his hand (with no great expectations) at a Rochester novel. But music is his main passion having been a member of Right Turn Racer and Last Minute.

I think a lot of young Rochestarians can relate to Alex.  He doesn’t expect to gain fame or fortune from his art.  Nonetheless, in Rochester Alex has found a vibrant community of fellow “creatives”–a term his friend uses–who are taking the journey of self-expression seriously and together.

I asked Alex–and he kindly agreed–to share his story and a video he recorded and produced with the help of Tim Mieney, a friend who owns and operates his own Rochester based video production company, Productions by Tim.

The video takes us to the South Wedge (one of our favorite places, see at end) and inside ButaPub.

I remember sitting on the kitchen floor at age 11, watching my father fingerpick a song  he had written on his antique Gibson acoustic. The very next day, despite having no idea how to form a chord or play a scale, I snuck his guitar out of the closet and began writing my first song,

I’ve always been driven to create. My friend Brian Moore, who owns and operates Red Booth Studios, one of the most well-known and respected recording studios in Rochester, always says, “Creatives can’t not create.” This really says it all.

With varying and sometimes frustrating levels of success, over the past few years I’ve spent plenty of time devising ways of marketing my original music in Rochester. I’ve played countless shows with my former bands, Right Turn Racer and Last Minute — sometimes to packed houses, sometimes not. When all is said and done, self-marketing is difficult and elusive. I think David would back me up on this.


myself and Alex at Greenhouse Café 12/7/15 [Photo: Amy Clary]

For this reason, I have not performed live in over a year. I recently discovered that the fundamental truth within my nature is that I can’t not create, and so I have begun to focus all of my energy on creation as opposed to performance and marketing.

In January of 2015, with the help of over 100 friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends, I filmed a music video at Buta Pub  for a song I recorded and produced at Red Booth Studios called Party Animal.  album

At the time, Buta Pub, was a fairly new restaurant and events venue in the South Wedge. They gave me a spectacular deal on hosting the event out of a simple desire to bring people through the door to support a local musician’s passion project. It was an incredible experience, made suitably enjoyable by several kegs of Three Heads beer (locally brewed suds, for those not in the know).The story is in the video (check out the link!). You can see Buta Pub, South Wedge night life, and dozens of Rochesterians, most of whom I am proud to call my friends (except you, Jeff Acker, haha, jk).

 Mr. Big Stuff – Party Animal (SEXY INDIE POP WITH KILLER SAX!!!)

After the video was completed, I was able to sit back and reflect on what music and the creative process in general really means to me. It’s ultimately not about likes, views, press, or recognition. All of those things are great, of course (I’ll take my Grammy now, thanks!).

It’s about the city I live in, the relationships I am lucky enough to have, and the fundamental need to express myself in a way that extends beyond my conversational ability.

Every artist, no matter how big or how small, needs a community from which to draw inspiration. Like so many others, Rochester is mine.

For more on South Wedge night life (pics and links)

What Millennials think of the Bridge Generation at Lux Loungelux

To where does the South Wedge compare?



Talker loses his innocence, Rockily, at the Cinema Theatrecinema

On the Road. Destination Little Bohemia in the South Wedge.

p. chair


Pop Quiz at the South Wedge-Ucationcity

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts


%d bloggers like this: