The guy was sitting about a third of the way up the center section of seats in College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, meticulously setting up two small microphones on a tri-pod. Photographs may have been prohibited for John Medeski’s solo-piano show, but apparently digital recording was cool. No big whoop, really, since audience recording is as prevalent at Medeski Martin & Wood concerts as it was at Grateful Dead shows back in the day. But, as this young man was going to find out with the rest of us, this would not be an MMW show – not by a long shot.
Mind you, Medeski looked the same, coming out onstage in faded black jeans and wearing a rumpled grey jacket over his signature untucked Hawaiian shirt. (I’m thinking he wore the jacket because hey, this is kinda-sorta a piano recital, in a concert hall designed for such, so you have to be a little more formal.) Medeski also carried an armful of supplies with him: An extra-large bottle of water, a case just big enough for his Melodica and a small black satchel that could have carried sheet music. Medeski only touched the water during his 90-minutes-plus show, but I’m guessing he was being a good camper and preparing for every eventuality.
He definitely needed the water after his opening “number,” which started with the first notes of the title track from A Different Time (the solo-piano recording he released earlier this year) and ended with a brilliant reading of the MMW classic “Where’s Sly?” In between those two pieces, there was an unbroken 67-minute ride that went from bare-bones classical music to bawdy boogie-woogie, with hefty side orders of dark avant-garde thunder that must have made the brain inside the digital recorder think, “What the fuck are you DOING to me?” Another MMW piece – “Otis,” which closes A Different Time – was “somewhere in there,” as an out-of-breath Medeski told us after it was all over, but there were also old folk songs and Great American Songbook titles that either flew by so fast that you barely saw them, or were so transformed that they were barely recognizable.
‘Twas a big weekend of spring fever on college campuses around Nippertown last weekend.
Media-wise, the Big Event was UAlbany’s annual Fountain Day on Sunday, and, of course, the turning on of the podium fountain garnered plenty of gushing coverage in newspapers and on television.
But there was some collegiate rockin’ goin’ on around the Capital Region, too – even if they were in-house, students-only events. Or at least, they were supposed to be.
On Saturday, the College of Saint Rose hosted its annual Rose Rock festival with We the Kings as headliners. Also playing during the day-long Rose Rock rockin’ were Buffalo-based Free Henry and recent Garage to Glory Battle of the Bands winners Try Sarah Topps, as well as A Sound Decision and Fairhaven.
Meanwhile, Siena College hosted Musical Mayhem on Friday, which was the college’s own Battle of the Bands. Several local bands duked it out on campus, and there was some heated competition. The LateShift emerged as the grand prize winners, which meant that they had the honor of performing again the very next night, opening for Dashboard Confessional and Kevin Devine at Siena on Saturday.
“Pretty mind-blowing experience to play on a stage that big with such a powerful sound system backing us up,” declared LateShift guitarist Mike Davies. “It was a really great time.”
Co-sponsored by the College of Saint Rose and The Times Union, the final round of competition took place at Saint Rose on Friday evening, where each band had 15 minutes in the spotlight to impress the panel of judges.
Formed a half and a half ago at Saint Rose, the indie/progressive rock quintet Try Sarah Topps features vocalist Kyle Albano, guitarists Jared Dirolf and Gary Ljungquist, bassist Frank McNenney and drummer Kevin O’Connell. The band is slated to play the annual spring festival Rose Rock on the Saint Rose campus on Saturday, April 24.
As the Garage to Glory winners, TST will receive an EP Master CD, a Sennheiser wireless microphone system, a music performance video filmed at Saint Rose, four hours of professional design services for the CD cover art and a profile story in The Times Union.
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