Review and photographs by Jessica Ayotte
This year at PearlPalooza in downtown Albany nine bands performed on two stages – alternating continuously throughout the day. Sponsored and hosted by 102.7 WEQX-FM, people were able to watch bands from all over the world perform on the main stage – Gentlemen Hall, Cayucas, Said the Whale and Crystal Fighters. Headlining PearlPalooza was Portugal. The Man.
And the local stage at the other end of the street played host to four popular Local 518 bands – Eastbound Jesus, Wild Adriatic, Stellar Young and Titanics.
With the best weather that a late-September day could give, the first band I had the pleasure of seeing was Santa Monica band Cayucas. With their music ranging from indie pop to surf pop, the three-piece band played a lively and relaxing set Saturday afternoon, including “Deep Sea” and their radio single “High School Lover,” from their recently released debut album, Bigfoot. If I had to compare their sound to any other band, I would say they sound very much like Vampire Weekend. People in the crowd soon made this connection, too, and every person I talked to really enjoyed their performance.
After Cayucas’ set, Said the Whale took the stage. Coming all the way from Vancouver, B.C., the Canadian band took the stage with the most energy I’d seen that day. With four albums and an EP under their belt, their newest album, Hawaiii, was released just last week. I noticed that not many people knew who they were at first, but when they played their song “I Love You,” everyone was singing along. Said the Whale played a variety of old and new songs, including “Camilo (The Magician)” from Islands Disappear (2009) and “Loveless” from Little Mountain (2012). I have to say, Said the Whale had a really unique sound. I’m not sure if it was because of their diverse use of keyboards and guitars, or because they had two lead singers, but it flowed together really well.
Soon after Said the Whale, Crystal Fighters began. The band came on stage one person at a time, each twice as peculiar as the person before them. Covered in rhinestones and gems, this was one of the oddest performances I have ever seen, but it was quite entertaining. Crystal Fighters formed in 2007 in London, and their music has been described as “fast, mesmeric and passionate,” surrounded by forest-like scenery on stage, this vibrant group of musicians had some of the most upbeat music I have ever heard. With three albums and an EP to their credit, Crystal Fighters pumped up the beat for such songs as “Champion Sound” and radio single “At Home” from their album, Star of Love (2010). Not many people knew who they were, but they easily had one of the best turnouts of the day. They had the whole crowd listening, and mostly watching them throughout their whole set, which is what stuck out most to me. Their new album, Cave Rave released earlier this year, features one of their most popular songs “You & I.” Hopefully, Crystal Fighters will come back to Albany very soon; it would be a show worth paying to see.
After a very long day on North Pearl Street, Portugal. The Man was finally ready to play. This was my second time seeing them live, and I already knew that they would put on an excellent performance. This was before they decided to start two, highly obnoxious smoke machines that flooded the entire stage throughout the whole set. As I tried to get the best pictures I could in the cloud of smoke, I walked back in to the crowd to see what kind of view everyone else had. The entire stage looked like it was engulfed in smog, and all you could really see is a guitar here or there, and the lights behind them. Don’t get me wrong; I can see spewing some smoke out at the beginning to set the ambiance, but keeping the smoke machines on the entire set was just annoying. After such a visual performance from Crystal Fighters, Portugal. The Man had a tough act to follow.
Although the smoke blocked the visual aspect of their set, they started out with their newest single from Evil Friends (2013), “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Along with playing most of their songs off of their new album, Portugal. The Man snuck in some throwback songs for the diehard fans. They sounded great, and played a nice variety of old and new material. Next time, I’d like to see a little less smoke, and a little more Portugal. The Man.
Lauren Halligan’s review at The Saratogian