Well, you couldn’t have asked for a better day in Albany, although the hot sun and soaring temperatures made it feel more like the Fourth of July instead of mid-September.
We didn’t catch all of the music – with two stages running simultaneously all day long – it was nearly impossible, especially after 2:30pm when the rapidly growing crowd made the stage-to-stage dash difficult, to say the least.
But we saw a lot of music – and it was all pretty good stuff.
Tom McWatters & the Philo Beddoe Band – featuring such Nippertown music scene mainstays as Bob Buckley, Eric Halder, Scott Smith and Sarah Clark – turned the street fest into their own CD release party in honor of McWatters’ surprise sophomore album, “A Beast Among the Civilized.”
The multi-tasking duo Sirsy drew a large crowd, and Rich Ortiz proved that he could handle the LarkFEST crowd just fine all by himself. The Charlie Watts Riots faced an electrical power problem at the start of their set, but it was quickly remedied, and their potent brand of hook-filled power-pop didn’t suffer from any power shortage.
Four-piece popsters Harper Blynn were all about the vocal harmonies, and they were soaring. Chris Barron came armed with his full band, the Time Bandits, this time around and, of course, dipped into the songbag of his old band, the Spin Doctors.
Kaiser Cartel – the Brooklyn-based duo of Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel – was utterly charming. One of the highlights of the day, they both switched back and forth between drums and guitar. And Kaiser even utilized an electric egg-beater to play xylophone. They deftly mixed a few choice covers (Lucinda Williams’ “Something About What Happens When We Talk” was killer) with their buoyant, melodic originals including “Falling,” “Okay” and “Ready to Go.” They even got the crowd to whistle along with them during their set-closing “Season Song.”
Eli “Paperboy” Reed unleashed a mighty, high-energy, soul revue throwdown backed by a crackerjack seven-piece band – a far cry from his most recent Nippertown solo performance opening for Nick Lowe at The Linda. Led by Schenectady native J.B. Flatt on keyboards, the True Loves were smoking, although the three-piece horn section sometimes overpowered Reed’s vocals on tunes like “Help Me,” “Tell Me What I Wanna Hear” and “Name Calling.”
The Jim Keller Band was a very pleasant surprise. Keller’s big claim to musical fame is as the co-founder of the ’80s band Tommy Tutone, and, yes, he co-authored their big hit, “867-5309 (Jenny).” But there’s a lot more to Keller’s music than that vintage pop anthem.
After a long hiatus from the pop scene, Keller has launched his comeback with a new album, “Sunshine in My Pocket,” and on Saturday, those songs showcased a soulful rock sound with tunes like “Wonderful World,” “Brighter Day” and especially the sizzling Willie DeVille-like soul stroll of “A Girl Like You.” Keller’s six-piece, horn-fueled band was monster, too, featuring such stellar players as former Son Volt guitarist Chris Masterson, Ollabelle/Levon Helm bassist Byron Isaacs and the knock-out drumming of the Mekons’ Steve Goulding.
Read more – Live: LarkFEST, Part I with more photos