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Life on the road is paved with bumps for struggling musicians. Marty Boratin helps smooth them out with a place to sleep, food to eat and even space to jam.

A buyer and manager for New World Record and a Buffalo Music Collective board member, Boratin is a friend to musicians traveling through the area. Not only has his house become a home-away-from-home for them, Boratin has also taken financial losses to back concerts by artists with very limited followings.

"Buffalo is a gateway to the Midwest and the East, and you get a lot of bands passing through on off-nights. But a promoter doing this as a job won't book anything there's not a chance of making money on," says Boratin, who has brought punk-folk singer Roger Manning and alternative rockers the Geraldine Fibbers to town.

"I don't make any money at it, but it beats driving to Toronto or Rochester to see a show," he says. His rewards come in offbeat ways, including the never-ending array of band T-shirts he wears. "I don't buy T-shirts," he says. "I generally don't have to buy bath towels and socks, because you always end up with a bottle of shampoo in the shower and socks under the bed."

The musicians Boratin works with are usually on the road 200 to 300 dates a year on what he calls the "living out of a van, playing for the door and sleeping on the floor tours."

It started about 12 years ago when Boratin was an alternative music weekend DJ on WBFO. Bands would do an interview, play that night and end up staying at Boratin's legendary "Death Ranch" on Dart Street. The house was shared by five guys who were all "either in a band or working in a record store," Boratin says. "The main reason bands stayed with us was that we had a washer and dryer, and vegetables in the refrigerator."

The Lancaster resident and gourmet chef has endless stories to tell, such as Sara Craig singing a cappella Gaelic on the back porch after breakfast and punk rockers Fugazi jamming with Roger Manning in the living room.

Then there was the night Fugazi arrived from Rochester at 2:30 a.m. with a sick member and reminded Boratin of the great soup he made last time around. "I ended up out in the garden pulling up carrots and fixing the soup.

"Some bands stay five or six times a year and know where the key is hidden," he says. Sometimes the bands even reciprocate Boratin's kindness. "Hypnotic Clambake stayed when we were out of town and fed the cats and watered the plants," he says.

So much for musician horror stories. "We've never had any problems with bands staying with us. It's no worse than having relatives stay."

Wuss, self-titled album by the punk pop band with a couple of ex-Crunchy Frog members, singer John DeStefano and drummer Jayme Kelly, joined by Aaron Castle on guitar and Vince Hilliard on bass. DeStefano hasn't lost his rocking touch or lyrical power. "Loaded," the opening track, is straight out of the garage, filled with loud amps and DeStefano's philosophy, such as: "Loaded for bear/And bearly loaded." The second cut, "Happy Time," is De-Stefano in a mellow, acoustic mood with an offbeat tribute to being in a good mood "as the world burns down around me." Squealing guitars and angst-driven lyrics mark "Four Letter Word," and Wuss simply rocks out with glee on "Downhill Racing." DeStefano remains a provocative songwriter and powerful singer. Wuss is a bit more raw than Crunchy Frog, but the potential is there. -- Toni Ruberto

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