Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photographs by Kirsten Ferguson and Timothy Reidy
The second day of this year’s Restoration Music & Fun Festival, held for the first time at the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside – a Neo-gothic stone complex perched precariously on a hillside in South Troy – got started early in the afternoon on Saturday with quiet, reverent music. We were in a former church, after all.
Architecturally, the new Rest Fest location – although historically important – couldn’t quite match the towering St. Joseph’s Church in Albany, which last year provided a stunning setting of both beauty and decrepitude: high vaulted ceilings and gorgeous stained glass windows along with chipped walls, leaky ceilings and crumbling plaster depictions of Jesus.
Ownership of St. Joseph’s Church has since returned to the city of Albany, so the purpose of the annual music and arts fest – started four years ago by local music collective B3nson Recording Company to raise funds for the church’s restoration – shifted this year to an equally worthy cause in the Contemporary Artists Center, which is transforming the long vacant church and chapel at Woodside into an arts venue.
Festivalgoers trickled into Woodside’s church with its heavy wooden monastic doors on Saturday as the Accents kicked off the afternoon with subdued and soul-baring folk on the “church stage.” Tor & the Fjords, a project of Albany librarian and songwriter Tor Loney, had just opened the day on the festival’s “chapel stage” with a set of introspective indie. And Matt Durfee & the Rattling Baddlies followed with dark-tinged emotional pop highlighted by a murder ballad based on a true-life love triangle that ended disastrously in Cohoes.
But the somber-reverent mood shifted once Party Boat brought their beach party rock to the church stage. The Saratoga Springs band bounced happily around on tunes like “Origami Gift Set” and “Losin’ Cool” that melded buoyant surf pop with Cavern-Club-era Beatlesque harmonies. They looked like they were having fun, and it was contagious.
A fan did a bizarre form of improvisational yoga – off-kilter downward dog poses – during Beaked Whale’s set on the chapel stage. Bathed in green light streaming from moss-colored stained glass windows, the Saratoga County trio hit on elements of the best ’90s indie rock – a bit hazy, quirky, experimental and melodic. Wild Adriatic, a slick power-rock band in vests and ties, sounded louder than their three-piece size on propulsive ZZ Top-meets-Black Keys blues-rock. And Albany’s Bear Grass, led by Katie Hammon, followed with homespun indie and darkly melodic pastoral pop.
The eight-piece Lucky Jukebox Brigade made the day’s best use of the church’s physical space, treating listeners on the chapel stage to a chaotic parade where music came from all sides, as their horn players popped up on the balcony to blow notes before disappearing and re-emerging from a door marked “private” to bring their joyous sounds through the crowd. Slaughterhouse Chorus, one of the hardest acts of the day, were blazing in their inimitable vein-popping way, offering up a barrage of road rock meets cow punk, highlighted by “Built for BBQ” from their 2012 self-titled album.
A crowd seated on the floor of the chapel, including an extraordinarily well-behaved Norwegian Elk Hound puppy, remained transfixed for the engrossing performance by Ryder & Hazel with the Dust Bowl Faeries, a project of artist/performer Ryder Cooley, a disembodied taxidermy sheep named Hazel, Karen Cole on lapsteel and drum, and ambient musician Sara Ayers on vocals and keyboard. Cooley, in massive eyelashes, alternated between singing saw, ukulele and accordion while turning her back to the audience frequently to fix us in Hazel’s plaintive stare. The group was shrouded in fog during riveting and mournfully strange ruminations on the natural world, including “Hazel’s Song” and “Zebra.”
Barons in the Attic had a working class punk vibe, gussied up with keyboards and reams of choruses, and pretty near stole the whole show, except for maybe the young audience member in a ninja mask who turned the front of the stage into a showcase for his precociously smooth dance moves. Headliners Man Man – the one non-local act on the bill – even incorporated the kid into their set of day-glo and gloriously deranged dance-rock, with the swarthy and mustachioed frontman Honus Honus lifting the young man triumphantly up in the air over his keyboards.
Josh Potter’s review at Metroland (Day One & Two)
Andrew Gregory’s review and photographs at the CRUMBS Blog (Day One & Two)
Greg Haymes’ review at Nippertown (Day One)
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Country punkers the Slaughterhouse Chorus, up next in the church, were perhaps the loudest band at the festival — although Barons in the Attic, which played just before Man Man, also on the church stage, could have easily taken that title, as well. Between the two, experimental Hudson artist C. Ryder Cooley led her trio, the Dustbowl Faeries, through an eerie set of esoteric indie pop over in the chapel. Man Man finally took the stage at 10:30, more than a half-hour late after an excruciating soundcheck. The group more than made up for it with an energetic performance drawing from all three of its albums, but with particular focus on the new On Oni Pond, due out next week. The group’s eclectic sound, combining elements of electronica with full-throttle rock and plenty of theatricality, got the now-packed house dancing right from the get-go. Pianist, lead vocalist and all-around mastermind Honus Honus was the main focus throughout, jumping up and down at his keyboard during early number ‘Top Drawer’ and pumping the crowd up throughout the band’s hour-plus performance.”