A relatively warm December day was just the right addition to make the 29th annual Troy Victorian Stroll even more populated than usual. People came to show off their once-a-year vintage costumes or for the music, holiday shopping, art or people watching. And they got it. I was there for a few reasons myself, but mainly for the promise of watching some favorite local bands performing hours before their usual 10pm start time.
I stopped into the HSBC Bank to see Johnny Rabb & the Tichy Boys, and it was a beautiful thing to hear Professor John Tichy singing an old Commander Cody number from his pre-RPI days; his equally talented son Graham with his sweet licks and rockin’ fire; and Mr. Rabb, whose voice and energy belie the 30 years he’s been out there doing his thing. Added to the mix was one of the top drummers for 100 miles, Pete Vumbaco, whose local credits would take too much space to list, and Todd Bradley on bass from the fine Hi-Risers, having just played Friday night at the wonderful Rocky Velvet reunion at the comfortably filled Pauly’s Hotel.
At the Stroll, some 60 people were sitting in chairs in the bank lobby, but the action was up close to see saxophonist Cliff Lyons’ return from Manhattan to really make it a party with his fantastic playing. Cliff recently played with Al Kooper and Will Lee and has toured Japan with Ben E. King. He alone was worth the price of admission – oh, I forgot it was free! But the whole band rose to the occasion, and my only regret was leaving and missing their second set.
Seeing the Lustre Kings, the Refrigerators and Solid Smoke in a three-hour period reinforces how lucky we in the Capital Region are even though many don’t appreciate the great musicians and bands we’ve had; though we’ve never had a local band hit the big time, a number have flirted with fame and perhaps Phantogram are the closest now. I recently saw them close the stage in fine fashion on the last night of the three-day Bumbershoot fest in Seattle.
But back to the sunny Sunday Stroll… Solid Smoke were doing their thing at Broadway Brew – funky bass from James Scott, one of my all-time top five bassists from this area in some 30 years of seeing local bands. Their mix of R&B, Motown and funk is a winning formula together with great vocals and song selection; just try not dancing.
The Refrigerators were holding court in the large room in the back of Bootleggers with their four-piece horn section front and center, former drummer Todd Hanhurst now a lead vocalist (for more than five years and showing it with his stage presence) and the nine other musicians in true harmony; helped by relatively few personel changes over the years.
Daisy Baker’s, as with everwhere I went, was packed, and the people were rewarded with the Lustre Kings. Mark Gamsjager’s longtime roots and rockabilly band is to my ears the best ever with the great Kevin Maul on double-steel guitar and occasional vocals. The first set had one sax player who was joined on a trio of numbers by Sax-O-Claus Luke McNamee, raising the temperature and bringing out the smiles in the lucky attendees.
I can blame the Lustre Kings for my not seeing more bands that day or staying longer elsewhere, but whether it was “Sleepwalk,” “Peter Gunn,” “Rumble” or Tommy Love’s take on Chuck Berry’s seasonal “Run Run Rudolph,” it was hard to look for greener pastures when the band is doing that thing that lets you know you’re in the right spot. My compliments to Mark for allowing Kevin to take so many solos, and when they traded solos I thought, bring on the rap and country that rules so many charts, rock is not going anywhere.
Review by Steve Nover
Photographs by Sebastien Barre See more of Sebastien’s photos from the Victorian Stroll here.