Two amazing trios hit up Valentine’s Music Hall and Beer Joint in Albany NY on February 3rd. While I’m biased—the trio is my favorite band format—even those who prefer a larger cast would have been satisfied, if not wowed, by what this show delivered.
The evening featured the premier performance of Albany’s own S.C.O.R.E., a progressive outfit incorporating rock, jazz and—dare I say–metal influences. Catchy and complicated, the music stands on its own as some of the most sophisticated compositions heard on the area’s rock scene. The entirely instrumental performance spotlighted ultrasmart ensemble work in addition to killing solos and was carried off with enthusiasm, professionalism and even a little dorky humor.
Carl Blackwood’s effects-laden guitar leads the tunes with catchy riffs complemented by a variety of stylistic techniques. Blackwood’s electronic wizardry captures what rips about rock and what’s dreamy about psychedelica—nice combination, man. Steve Gregory’s seasoned bass grooves extend the music’s structured complexity and innovative improvisations with a far reach. Gregory’s musical prowess is matched by his contagious passion, and the audience was compelled to join him on his silver-ponytail-swingin’ trip. Drummer Max Figarsky impressed with his intensity and artful finesse. Beat or fill, Figarsky laid out the perfect part for each moment in the set. With that kind of touch, he stands out as one of the area’s most promising young players. Whether pulling off raucous rock-outs or contemporarily-styled theme and variations, these guys have it together every step of the way.
Before, during and after the show, S.C.O.R.E. passed out free t-shirts and home-baked chocolate chip cookies (yummy!) along with their newly minted demo CD, recorded live at Warming Room Recording Studio. Yes, I said live—an impressive effort in these increasingly manufactured times. Real music recorded in real time. Imagine that. It’d be worth reaching out to get hold of one of these limited edition demos. And after a performance like the one on Thursday, I’m looking forward to seeing more of what these guys have in their creative arsenal.
Crystal 60, the evening’s headliners, polished the night with an impressive set of creative, experimental songs performed with obvious expertise. Merging rock and jazz with elements of poetic form, the music has a dark feel that inspires movement. The audience was revved up and entranced by a bad-ass rhythm section featuring Shawn McCann on bass and Dave Harris on drums. McCann’s bass tone lends a rough edge to Harris’ crisp, solid beats. The band’s leadman, Jonathan Lorentz, sings, shouts, murmurs and sometimes rants, alternating between vocals and digging into some deep saxophone—a unique feature that sets the band apart from other local acts. Lorentz’s haunted vocals contrast with a strangely upbeat backdrop that pays homage to punk rock roots while bringing the listener in touch with something more contemporary and mysterious. Crystal 60’s sound has a twist, for sure, that offers something different from other hybrid efforts. The music has a technical proficiency and an intoxicating draw that make crystal 60 one of the more interesting bands in the area. It’s worth the trip to seek these guys out on the local circuit.
Downstairs at Valentine’s is the perfect venue for an intimate show like the S.C.O.R.E/crystal 60 event. The divey atmosphere contributes to a raw mood perfect for edgy music, a couple beers, and good times. The downstairs room is an ideal place to commandeer close friends for a low-key but big-fun night out where the emphasis is on the music. When you stop by, be sure to say hey to Ray, the area doorman with the most charm. Thursday’s crowd spanned from hipsters to hippies—off beat and right on. On the scene to give props to S.C.O.R.E that night was Sly Fox, himself, enjoying a night off from an active touring schedule of the area’s party circuit with his group Sly Fox and the Hustlers. Also there to check out the bands were members of local rock band Potter’s Field, who look forward to hitting up the live scene again after soon finishing their full length studio effort. All thanks go to S.C.O.R.E. and crystal 60 for hosting a solid party and, most importantly, providing outstanding local music.