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From the Brain of Pete McGennis – Rock Opera Film, Laff In The Dark

Anyone who is old enough to know what Crystal Beach is, will be delighted to know that one of the amusement park’s biggest fans, filmmaker Pete McGennis, has produced a music video dedicated to one of his favorite attractions – Laff in the Dark (also the name of his latest soundtrack album).

The music video, in which Pete headlines his band, The Amusements, is not only a nostalgic dedication to the Park, it’s also a shout out to summering on the beaches of Lake Erie, on the Canadian side. That’s where McGennis spent his free time as a young boy, with friends and family, always in anticipation of his next trip to Crystal Beach, which is now sadly closed, with memories fading further and further away.

^Laughing Sal returns along with a cadre of kooks, real dark ride props and a rockin’ vintage tune featuring keyboard wizardry from the late Kofi Burbridge.


McGennis’s tribute to Crystal Beach is his way to keep the memories alive, and to share an experience that is no longer around. “Pete and the Amusements has the ability to cross space and time,” said McGennis. “It’s like Vaudeville on wheels. I just recorded a mandolin and strings in Maine, remotely, for two upcoming tracks. So far, we’ve produced 60 songs*, with the help of artists from all over the world. Last week I resurrected my first soundtrack with Buffalo musician David Kane. At this point, I have two full New Orleans records completed, and marinating.  I turned 50 – I’ve been in creation mode for so long, but now I’ve got to put the shit out there.”

No matter if Pete is filming a movie, or recording a song, in his brain he is as visual as he is musical. He can visualize the music… and he can imagine sounds while watch a video clip.

That’s what makes him such an unusual talent. In the end, it all comes flooding out of his brain, based on his fond memories.

“Crystal Beach was such a creative wellspring,” he told me. “When the last of us passes away, who will be there to tell the stories? It’s a vanishing spirit and landscape that I want to be able to translate. Everyone has a special place from their youth – a first love, a favorite ride… none of it lasts forever. The ride comes to an end.”

In order to recreate the magic, Pete is adding actual Crystal Beach footage to the film, which is about a person that stops into an antique shop and uncovers the charm of Crystal Beach thanks to a mysterious shop matriarch (and some unforgettable divas from The Midway). The story goes back in time, to the Park’s waning years – how it left off.

Pete told me that he always felt that he [his opus] would wind up as a couple of nuggets in a 45 bin – not a bad thing, he said. “I always found myself sifting through those bins looking for those rare finds. That’s the space where I’ve occupied. I never looked to have a career on the road as a traveling musician. Rather I prefer to roam as a multimedia storyteller using Buffalo, Crystal Beach, New Orleans and other places dear to me as my canvasses. I like to create the living history with music and dance, blurring the lines of reality.”

Once Pete’s film is released, sometime in 2022, fans will find that there are as many twists and turns as The Comet. In the meantime, he’s putting some music video teasers out there, starting with “Soul Sunshine Romance” and now “Laff in the Dark.”

“The story plays out as a rock opera,” Pete noted. “The ill-fated story of Crystal Beach, with all of the lovable characters. The spirit of the Park remains, albeit a bit of a mystery now. Volume 2 of the soundtrack – ‘Sunshine Dream’ – will be released on 2021 Record Store Day (Saturday, June 12).

People can follow the antics of Pete, and his upcoming releases on his YouTube channel, where you can watch his Soul Sunshine Romance promo (listen for some of those sounds of New Orleans). Look for his next video release on May 1. You can also find out more about Pete and his projects at

All of this, “…from the brain of Pete, with a sucker to remember.”

*Pete & The Amusements (30 tracks for Crystal Beach) and (25 tracks for New Orleans project completed) and now working on an Americana project, with about 5 tracks recorded. 

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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