Live: The NoLaNauts @ Lark Hall, Albany, 08/14/21
When I go out for live music, I generally seek out artists that perform original material. Not that I don’t enjoy a good cover band as much as the next person. But you don’t really have to seek out cover bands…they find you. At weddings, at the bar on the weekend, at your town’s gazebo on a midsummer evening, etc. Some are quite good, some less so, but they generally get the job done. There’s just usually not much interesting to write about.
The NoLaNauts exist outside of that realm. They’re not so much covering songs or a given set of bands. They’re not really a jam band either, though they certainly know how to ride a groove. The NoLaNauts try to capture a city, a mindset, a way of life. They are all about New Orleans, and they’re on a mission to transport you there every time they play.
The eight members of the NoLaNauts rolled into Lark Hall last night, playing before an enthusiastic and appreciative (if criminally small) crowd on Albany’s newest showcase stage. And they delivered…getting the intimate crowd up on their feet dancing almost immediately. Their catalogue is carefully curated around their mission…think Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, the Meters, Cha Wah, etc. It takes you down to the parishes and the bayous and immerses you in that culture and that music.
The band is a realization of the dream of guitarist Tom O’Connor and drummer Brian Lawlor, who have been playing together for decades. Fleshed out to an eight-piece – two guitars, two drummers, bass, keys, sax, and horn – they easily handle the complexities of the pieces they have chosen. Almost all of the members contribute vocals, so they avoid any feeling of “sameness” while they play. It is not sit-down-and-enjoy type of music, it definitely wants you on your feet or at least shaking something. The trio situated at the front of the stage (guitarist Tom O’Connor, bassist Brian Bean, and guitarist Ben Moss) easily commands your attention with their frequent interplay. A special nod should also go to Rick Rothermel on keys, who soulfully grabs the focus and holds it any time he comes in on keys or vocals. Every member exudes enthusiasm and confidence… you have absolutely no doubt that they love this music and love playing it.
They played two energetic sets, the sounds wafting out the open windows onto Lark Street past 11:00. I overheard a couple who paid to come up based solely on that – they heard the music in the street and followed it to its source. That’s the ultimate compliment for a band. You should follow suit – this is a band worth seeking out.