Review and photographs by Jason Spiro
How great are the Figgs? You don’t know? What are you kidding me, or do you live in the trees? Somehow even if you lived in the trees, say outside of Woodstock, I’d still expect you’ve heard of this great band piloted by Pete Donnelly, Mike Gent and Pete Hayes. They were legendary as young upstarts, stars of the upstate New York alt-rock scene before they left high school. Later they backed Graham Parker, an English rocker of some repute, lately a resident of the Woodstock area. Maybe you’ve heard of Parker – well, of course you’ve heard his tunes – or you saw him featured in Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40,” where his legendary status and talent were gently, lovingly lampooned.
The Figgs proper have all moved away from Saratoga Springs, to parts disparate and equidistant, but this has not diminished their rapport, their tight tunefulness or their fans inexorable enthusiasm. I walked in during their second set and were it not for the desire to capture a few frames for posterity, I’d have skanked and pogoed amidst the sweaty thrall (with very few stock-still hipsters in evidence, dancing was the rule if not the norm).
This is such a great band, even when they switch instruments – a move that in less able, sincere or competent hands can read like a parlor trick – they sustain the greatness. For a brief but memorable segment, Gent slid behind the drum kit, allowing Hayes to grab the microphone to deliver lead vocals, while Donnelly switched to guitar. Mike Pauley from the Charlie Watts Riots leapt onstage to commandeer the bass, while Hayes danced and clapped as he sang, further delighting the audience. Then they finished out their set, again as a trio, called back for encores. ‘Twas a fitting Figgs’ swansong at the soon-to-be-demolished Valentine’s Music Hall…