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‘Rock for the Cure’ at Tralf to benefit Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

David Shelberg won’t be able to watch his uncle perform Friday night during the second annual “Rock for the Cure” concert at the Tralf Music Hall.

Shelberg, diagnosed with leukemia at age 2, just started his training to become a police officer in Richmond, Va.

He’s now 25.

“The life expectancy has improved as have medical advancements, not only for leukemia but other cancers, as well. It helps you to become passionate about things when you see those strides,” said his uncle, Tom Lillis, bass player for The Kensingtons, a 1970s and ’80 classic rock band that will co-headline with Strictly Hip during the fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Lillis, senior vice president in Global Commercial Banking for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has been active with the Western & Central New York Chapter of LLS for about 15 years. He is vice chairman of the society board.

One of his bandmates, guitarist and vocalist Joseph Nicastro, became involved with the society about two years ago, inspired by Jacquie Hirsch, who died eight years ago, at age 23, after a battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Her brother, T.J. Hirsch, is one of Nicastro’s best friends.

“We’re going to have the best Buffalo has to offer in terms of rock ’n’ roll,” said Nicastro, an associate at William C. Bernhardi Law Offices. He also is a member of More Than Me, a band that in 2010 won a Hard Rock Cafe international battle of the bands competition in which the grand prize was performing with Paul McCartney in Hyde Park, London, before a crowd of 50,000.

The Nicastro Brothers will kick off Rock for the Cure, with Joseph alongside his brother, Strictly Hip lead guitarist Frank Nicastro. They will be accompanied by Lillis on bass and More Than Me bassist Justin Rizzo on drums.

Jeremy Hoyle and Strictly Hip will follow with a Tragically Hip-inspired set, just four weeks after the Canadian band ended its tour amid word that lead singer Gord Downie has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

The Kensingtons – a 2-year-old band that includes Joseph Nicastro, Rizzo, Lillis and his brother, Michael, and Jack Freedenberg on keyboard – will rock the show to a close.

Shelberg just started the police academy so can’t attend, though his parents, Karen and David Shelberg, will be there. Lillis and Nicastro promised a celebration of music and life, and the hope that money raised will continue to fuel research to cure leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers.

Tralf owner Tom Barone has donated the concert hall for the show and other expenses will be minimal, Lillis and Nicastro said, meaning that almost all the proceeds will go to LLS.

Rock for the Cure also is designed to shine a spotlight on one of the society’s biggest fundraisers of the year, Light the Night, a walk to celebrate and commemorate those whose lives have been affected by leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, myeloma and other types of blood cancer.

The 18th annual Western New York walk will start at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in Delaware Park. Participants can register as part of a team or as individuals at or by calling the society’s local chapter at 834-2578.

General admission tickets for Rock for the Cure are $15 each and can be purchased at,, Walmart, and the Tralf box office, 622 Main St.; VIP tickets are available at the Tralf box office for $25. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Those under 21 must be accompanied by an adult.


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