LIVE: 518 SongFest @ The Egg, 5/18/18
Review and photographs by Amy Modesti
Happy 518 Day to all of the Greater Nippertown residents this past Friday evening! The Swyer Theatre at The Egg in Albany was the place to be to celebrate 518 Day, as it was the home of the fourth annual 518 SongFest, a benefit event for radio station Exit 97.7 WEXT and Columbia Arts Team. This annual event, hosted this year by Andy Gregory and Dave Michaels of WEXT, featured some of the Local 518’s finest musical talent, including Sandy McKnight’s Pop-Clique, Sydney Worthley, Super 400 and Moriah Formica, as well as Grammy Award-winning songwriter Julie Gold.
Sandy McKnight’s Pop-Clique opened the fest with a set of original songs, including “Somerville” and “Right for Each Other, reminiscent of Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” with a catchy beat, an acoustic feel and melodic vocals that made me feel like I was relaxing on the beach.
Julie Gold followed with a batch of her beautiful, piano-driven tunes that she had penned for herself and other acclaimed artists including Bette Midler. Later she performed her own rendition of “From a Distance,” after the Q&A session with Gregory, Michaels and the evening’s other female performers – Worthley, Formica and Super 400’s bassist-vocalist Lori Friday.
Young up-and-comer Worthley started off on her own high note in a series of her own original songs based on the challenges of finding love, losing love and then re-discovering herself through her songs “1, 2, 3” and “Jane,” both played on her acoustic guitar. She closed out her set with the emotional “Better Than You,” with its profound lyrics.
Super 400 – featuring Joe Daley (with only a snare drum and brushes), Kenny Hohman (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Friday – are now in their 22nd year as a power rock trio. For the first time, they performed their own original songs (and a cover tune from Chrissie Hynde) acoustically, but the trio kept the rock genre alive and well with their renditions of “Green Grass End,” “Flashlight” and two more original songs that were written in dedication to Hohman and Friday’s daughter, Ellie.
“The Voice” contestant Formica concluded the festival with a short set of original and cover tunes, including her newest single, “Slave,” as well as a duet with her brother Gabriel of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” which wrapped up the night. Formica had to cut her set short since she had started to lose her voice during her performance, but her performance was still strong, and it was easy to see why she was such a serious contender on “The Voice.”
This year’s line-up of performers were not only unique and entertaining, but each act had their own unique story to tell to their audience, both in their musical performance and in the Q&A session, which allowed each of the artists to elaborate on how they were inspired to become musicians and how it became their path to bring life and joy to their fans while telling their own story through music.
The witty Gold provided great insight and honesty, Gold reminiscing about being inspired to write her own songs after hearing Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and reading who the songwriter was. Even coming up with her own version of the “Jeopardy” theme song that earned laughs and applause from the audience, Gold made it clear that it’s important to “be honest with yourself” and that “my life and all our lives are interesting.”
Worthley has been performing music on both guitar and piano since 2012, gaining inspiration from her parents and such artists as Tom Petty and Taylor Swift to perform her own storytelling songs that reflect on her personal experiences and whatever is happening in her life at the moment.
Friday recalled several highlights in her personal and her musical life that drove her to become both a musician and an instructor for the Troy Music Academy. Early in her life, she acquired her love for music from her father who would always be listening to Chuck Berry. In 1983, she and her father had attended a Hall & Oates concert at the Glens Falls Civic Center, which fueled her drive to pursue a music career. Years later, Super 400 signed a deal with Island Records, but they were soon dropped when the label was bought out. This allowed the band to start from scratch and begin to work hard to record more music on their own. In February 28, 2011, Friday had truly realized that she was destined to open up the Troy Music Academy with her now-husband Hohman, after a serious car accident changed how she saw her life evolve. She realized she can still perform music, establish a music school where she is able to give back her knowledge of piano, bass, and vocals through her teaching to students both young and old, get married and start a family. Her strong drive for family, love of music and the bond that she has with her bandmembers is what drives her today.
Formica, a senior in high school, is planning to put a year aside to focus on her music career before deciding if she wants to attend college. Her stint on “The Voice” allowed her an opportunity to be involved in all aspects of music, but it’s not easy for artists to become famous over-night. Inspired by her love of Korn, Aerosmith, Amy Lee of Evanescence, Formica continues her mission to keep the rock genre alive through her original songs. She’ll be kicking off the new season of the 2018 Rockin’ on the River concert series next month.
2018’s 518 SongFest put a spotlight on some great female musicians, allowing each one to bring on her own unique twist to her songwriting and storytelling, and share it with Greater Nippertown fans at the Swyer Theatre. It was an entertaining evening in celebration of the Local 518 music scene on 5/18/18.