The MOVE Music Festival is now in its fourth year of bringing emerging, independent acts to Albany, NY for one weekend of frenetic musical overload. Managing to more-or-less make good on one of their taglines of “100 Bands, 10 Venues, One Incredible Weekend,” this past Friday through Sunday, the festival organizers may still be faking it until they make it with the other: “The Northeast’s Big Music Festival.” We who grew up in the so-called Capital District generally avoid any sense of hometown pride, preferring to ridicule our area with a detached distance that has given our cities lovely nicknames like “Smallbany,” “Skank-nectady,” and the “Troylet,” or led to the emergence of self-deprecating themes like “Keep Albany Boring.” I mean, I want to ask my fellow Greater-Albanians, why do we always have to view things in the comparative negative? Of course we’re not as interesting as Portland, OR, of course our music festival is not as awesome or as big a deal as South By Southwest, of course we’re not as populous and diverse as New York, or any one of its spectacular boroughs, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean this place is a piece of shit. It doesn’t mean we have to live with an enduring inferiority complex about our lives or our music.
If you made it out to any of the venues and caught any of the acts this past weekend, you probably saw what Old School Record Review chieftain Dave Keneston and I did: a lot of talented people rocking hard, pouring their hearts out, making good art. These artists don’t need to justify their worth to anyone – they just need an audience.[i]
So for the next few weeks on Old School Record Review, we’ll be presenting you with a barrage of content from the MOVE festival, beginning with my two-part series of reviews putting the spotlight on each of the thirteen acts I managed to catch over the weekend.
Let’s get started with the action on opening night – Friday, April 24, 2015:
We kicked off that first night over at The Hollow, where local radio darling Olivia Quillio took the stage and charmed her way through an hour-long set of pleasantly melodic, soul searching folk songs. Olivia is a sweet, beautiful girl with a lovely voice and a presence that made me feel comfortable and warm – like being zipped up in an old sleeping bag. Listen to her song “The Bomb” on Bandcamp, or check out the rest of her music on her website:
Next, I walked across the street to Pearl Street Pub to check out local songwriter Andrew Mirabile, whose combination of soulful vocal power, storytelling ability, and bluesy sensibility made me think of Ray Lamontagne. His original songs followed themes of love, heartbreak, friendship, and Appalachian ambiance, interpreted through his thumb-and-finger picking and wide-ranging, guttural voice. Listen to him get sweet and smoothly hit those high notes in his tune “Merry Go Round,” and listen some more of his music on SoundCloud.
Andrew Mirabile “Merry Go Round”
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrew.mirabile.7
Back over at The Hollow, folk rock quartet Accents entertained the crowd with a unique brand of multi-instrumental arrangements and vocal harmonies. A pair of married couples who met while attending college in Oneonta, NY, Accents’ sound can vary widely from song to song as they experiment with various combinations of instruments, voice pairings, and shared songwriting duties. Their goofy sense of humor added something to their set, as they picked two audience members (a unsuspecting couple of strangers named Kyle and Ashley) as the subjects of their cover of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”. My favorite of their original songs was “Sore Eyes,” sung by Lauren Foster and featuring some of the band’s clever use of percussion. Check out more of their music on their website.
We spent the rest of the night over at Parish Public House, where prog rock power trio Squid Parade dominated my eardrums with a pounding display of instrumental virtuosity. Just a few nice, funny, young guys who met playing in a Frank Zappa cover band in college (also at SUNY Oneonta – there must be something in the Susquehanna River water), these kids just know how to play. Their complex compositions are unadorned by vocals or words, save for their often bizarre and absurdist song titles. Case in point is “Bacon, Butter, Heavy Cream.” I warn you: if you hit the play button below, be prepared to have your face burned off.
Up next were Saratoga country-rock outfit, and Old School Record Review regulars, The North and South Dakotas. These guys’ sound gets tighter every time I see them live, as they polish their ability to switch comfortably between acoustic Americana arrangements and harder rocking jams. With Colin Hunt, Mark Retajczyk, and Zack Hay working the strings and providing three-part harmonies, Mike Graves pounding the drums, and Nayt Patenaude doing whatever else is needed, the band really got the crowd stomping its feet. Some of the best tunes they played were a few new songs that should be out on their upcoming album. I also love the driving rhythm and interplay of the guitars and voices on “Troubles of Mine,” off their 2013 album Long Time Coming. Check out the rest of their music on their website or Bandcamp page.
Headlining the night were veteran rockers Rustic Overtones, whose unique brand of very danceable music combined elements of funk, punk, and soul into a gritty mashup of sound throughout their marathon, two-hours-plus set. A big part of the band’s signature sound is built off their full horn section, which brings a Motown vibe to the mix, and meshes surprisingly well with the frenzied guitar work of singer and songwriter Dave Gutter, who growls and screams his way through catchy tunes with lyrics that turn an ironic, comic, sometimes angry voice toward society at large. Mike Taylor ties it all together with his whirling work on the keyboards. Gutter’s caustic songwriting and the band’s tightly-wound funkiness were on display during their performance of “Common Cold”:
[i] I feel responsible to mention that only a very small percentage of the artists that played the festival were financially compensated for their participation. I can tell you, the musicians I saw were well worth the price of admission. In a world where up-and-coming bands have universally accepted that their music will be shared and consumed for free, we need to do our part and show up at these venues, pay the cover, buy some beers and hot wings, maybe pick up a CD if we can afford it. The venues, in turn, need to do their part and pony up some cash for these performers, and make sure they have the physical space and equipment they need to present their artistic vision fully and completely. OK, I’m off my soapbox.