Troy knows how to party, and Troy’s River Street Festival proved it on Saturday. With vendors of all types lining the road from one end of River Street to the other, it was almost impossible to not find something to like. That goes for the entertainment as well, with three stages – from children’s fare to local music to the main stage at Monument Square – serving up a wonderful trip for nostalgia. Except for a couple of excursions through the throngs of people in search of sustenance, we spent almost the entire day at the main stage. With one great act after another, the only thing that could possible have added to it was a special guest appearance by some fantastic weather. And we got that, too.
First up was the Graham Tichy Experience Project (or Project Experience, depending on who was announcing). This trio is made up of some of Nippertown’s best known musicians. The son of Commander Cody guitarslinger and RPI professor John Tichy, Graham has made quite a name for himself as a fantastic rockabilly guitarist. Backed up solidly by bassist Steven Clyde (aka Clyde Blotto), whose resume is way too long to mention here, and Pete Vumbaco on drums. Unfortunately, there were not very many people there to hear the brunch set, but those who were there were treated to some hot licks. Joining them on stage for a few songs was Ian Carlton, from the Knyghts of Fuzz.
Band number two, and gig two for Clyde (this time on rhythm guitar), were the Neanderthals. This collaboration with Johnny Rabb (vocals) and Eddie Angel (lead guitar and vocals), currently with Los Straightjackets, also featured Los Straightjackets drummer Jason “Teen Beat” Smay and bassist Pete Curry. The performance was truly vintage Neanderthals, right down to the furs and masks. Another guest was brought up about half way through the set. Obviously the sex symbol (since he had the shortest fur), Blue Hand Luke’s Luke McNamee blazed through song after song on his tenor sax, as the perfect offset for Eddie Angel’s searing leads. I can’t wait for the next show.
Personal faves Blotto came up for set three (gig three for Clyde Blotto, if anyone’s counting). It’s hard to sit still for a Blotto show without singing along to their hits. Although best known for their MTV appearances with “Lifeguard” and “Metalhead,” other songs delivered with their trademark tongue planted firmly in cheek are some of their entertaining style parodies, especially the lounge lizard “We Are the Nowtones” and “It’s Not You.” I am looking forward to their next show in Schenectady’s Central Park on July 17.
Last on the bill, but certainly not least were Los Straightjackets. This band is not just a reincarnation of 60’s surf music, ala Ventures or Dick Dale, but a fresh approach for this generation. The twin guitar attack of Eddie Angel and Greg “Gregorio El Grande” Townson (filling in for the ailing Danny “Daddy-O Grande” Amis) kept the audience in rapt attention. While this musical assault is going on up front, the rhythm was provided as the perfect complement by Curry and Smay. Although the surf guitar is definitely the major draw, what I find interesting is their sparing use of synchronized movements. There just seems something endearing about a group of people in Mexican Mucho Libre masks moving together on cue. We all pray for a full and speedy recovery for Amis.
Coming around full circle for the day, we finished off with the Graham Tichy Trio at the newly opened Broadway Brew (gig number four for Clyde for those keeping score). Spending almost 10 hours within a block of where we started may sound like an uneventful day, but to the contrary, with the beautiful weather and the beautiful music, I would not have wished to be anywhere else.
Review and photographs by Ed Conway