Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Timothy Reidy
The Historic Albany Foundation’s decision earlier this year to return the ownership of the former St. Joseph Church to the City of Albany not only left the future of the building in question, but also the future of the Restoration Festival, which for the previous three years had been one of the galvanizing, community-building events on the Nippertown music scene.
Fortunately the folks from festival organizers B3nson Records decided to carry on their mission to help renovate and maintain local buildings in need of repair, moving their operation across the river to another former church. Earlier this month they presented the fourth annual Rest Fest as a two-day festival at the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside, a former church in Troy. A non-profit arts organization, the CAC has set up shop at the historic Woodside Church and Chapel in Troy to serve as a sustainable incubator for contemporary artists. While its international artist residency program opened in 2009, the grand opening of its performance and exhibition space isn’t scheduled until May, 2014.
But music fans got a sneak peek at the venue with the opening night of Rest Fest, as seven Local 518 bands donated their time and talent, performing alternately on stages in the CAC’s adjacent Church and Chapel buildings.
The Church stage kicked off with the intimate, ethereal chamber pop of Swamp Baby, a band that performs so rarely that their Facebook page proudly boasts the slogan, “One show a year, but it’s really good.” They aren’t lying. Guitarists Mike Hotter and Nick Matulis led the way through an exquisite set that deftly balanced hope and melancholy, wrapped in a warm sonic-wash cocoon.
On the opposite end of the musical spectrum was the hot-wired country-rock-bluegrass-jam band amalgam of Greenwich’s Eastbound Jesus, who are definitely bound for bigger stages. While vocalist-guitarist Adam Brockaway fronted the kickin’-out-the-jams band, Zack Infante’s lap steel guitar and Luke Anderson’s banjo anchored a country-tinged sound that stretched far beyond the kind of music that your’re likely to hear on any contemporary country music radio station.
B3nson Records torchbearers Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned – who have been busy, busy, busy cranking out a CD-a-month since January – once again delivered a strong, solid set, with bandmembers seemingly switching instruments at will, whether it was guitarist-vocalist Alex Muro switching over to bass, or drummer Ryan Stewart slipping out from behind the kit to take over the lead vocal chores.
But it was the Parlor who really made the crowd jump and shout. Evolving in just a few short years from the loose, folk-centric We Are Jeneric – a play on the names of bandleaders the sultry Jen O’Connor and the hyper-active Eric Krans – to the full-force funk-rock juggernaut now known as the Parlour with a four-piece horn section, they roared through genuine gems like “Tear Down the Coastline” from their stellar 2011 debut album Our Day in the Sun and a very tasty batch of new tunes from their upcoming disc.
Good tunes for a good cause…