As the NYC rock trio Blockhouses get set to play a pair of dates around Nippertown with the Figgs this weekend, they’ve also just released a brand spankin’ new single, the super-catchy “One More Time to Get Home” b/w “Little Sweetie.”
Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
Although Howard Glassman’s new music club the Low Beat quietly opened back in February, he celebrated his new Central Avenue joint in grand style on Friday, April 4 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan during the day. At night, the Figgs — whose “Sucking in Stereo” poster features prominently behind the club’s newly refurbished bar — christened the place with a nearly three-hour set that contained elements both old and new, like the Low Beat itself.
There were new songs from an upcoming album that the band was in the midst of recording at Seth Powell’s Soundcheck Republic studio in East Greenbush. And one of the oldest songs of the night was a rare live version of “Apple Brown Betty,” a jazzy, funky instrumental by bassist Pete Donnelly that appeared on the long out-of-print Put Me Up cassette-only release by the pre-Figgs band the Sonic Undertones.
“Don’t Ask Me Questions: The Unsung Life of Graham Parker and the Rumour”
Directed by Michael Gramaglia
(Virgil Films), 2013
Available on iTunes now
Available on DVD on Tuesday, April 8, $19.99
Funded in part through a Kickstarter campaign, documentary director Michael Gramaglia has captured an intimate portrait of veteran rocker Graham Parker’s journey from England to Woodstock, from the days of his early success with his band the Rumour, through his long and varied indie solo career, to the recent Rumour reunion – more than three decades after the band’s break-up.
In addition to a delicious array of vintage performance clips, there are a number of insightful talking heads in the film, most notably Bruce Springsteen, Nick Lowe, Judd Apatow and Joe Jackson. Naturally, the members of the Rumour also weigh in with some frank commentary, and Parker himself reveals a calm, comfortable and confident side of his personality that’s a far cry from his days as one of the guiding lights of the Angry Young Men of the British New Wave.
And for Local 518 music fans, yes, the Figgs – who have frequently been Parker’s backing band between the Rumour years – make an appearance as well. Only one song – “Broken Skin” from the 2010 album, Imaginary Television – is included, so there’s nothing from the legendary The Last Rock and Roll Tour, recorded live at Bogie’s in Albany in 1996. But both Pete Donnelly and Mike Gent (sporting as Incredible Casuals t-shirt) appear in brief interview clips.
AND, YES: The Figgs – minus Parker – are back in Nippertown tonight (Friday, April 4) for the grand opening show of the Low Beat in Albany. Chalaque opens the show at 8pm, and advance tickets are $10. You can bet that it’s gonna get mighty crowded, so if you want a good spot for the show, why not head over to the Low Beat at 10am today (Friday, April 4) for the official ribbon cutting, and then just hang out all day?
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.
Former Local 518 post-punk power-popsters the Figgs recently headed into Marc Maron’s garage to chat with the comedian. Now the results of that freewheeling conversation are available for your edification on the latest “WTF With Marc Maron” podcast, described thusly, “Mike, Pete and Pete from the rock group the Figgs cram into the garage, instruments in hand, for a little talking and a little jamming. The guys tell Marc what has kept them together for 20 years, how a car commercial gave them a second wind, and why they keep grinding it out when their lives have taken them all in very different directions.”
And you can catch the Figgs rockin’ it live next month when they return for a pair of holiday homecoming concerts – at Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany at 8pm on Friday, December 20 with Kitty Little, and at Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs at 9pm on Saturday, December 21 with the Charlie Watts Riots.
Former hometown heroes the Figgs – well, they’re still our heroes, but they’re not really hometowners anymore – dished up some of the tastiest rock & roll that we heard last year with stops at Valentine’s Music Hall and Putnam Den in celebration of their 25th anniversary. Now it looks like they’re trying a different tact for 2013 – with the bandmembers rolling into town one at a time.
On both nights the first set was just the trio (including songs from the latest album and other more recent material) and the second set with Guy Lyons (heavy on Couldn’t Get High and other albums of that era).
Two holiday songs:
On Friday night: “Merry Christmas, Girl” (which Jed Parish of the Gravel Pit wrote as a joke to imitate a Figgs song, and then the Figgs covered on their Christmas single from long ago
On Saturday night: “(Sucking on a) Holiday Treat” by the Gravel Pit
Two nights MIA:
No “Father Christmas” this year – maybe it’s the line about wanting a machine gun to scare the kids on the street? Just speculating…
Review and photograph by Joel Patterson
Rock and roll is not complicated. Its force and majesty is all about the simple. Some of the best songs are just short, everyday phrases, repeated twice or three times. The Figgs are such masters of this craft that they made your correspondent and the 75 or so other party hounds at Valentine’s Music Hall in Albany last Friday night forget about everything happening outside its walls (as well as whatever was going on upstairs?)