Have you ever been to a concert and gotten the chills because the crowd or band hopefully both were just amazing? It’s happened a couple times to me, the feeling is like none other. It usually happens at unexpected times, when I just happened upon a cheap local band that blows me away with their performance or it could be at an arena with 40,000 people, plucking on their air guitars, hands raised in praise and voices screaming the lyrics. Needless to say, for a music lover like myself it’s a good feeling- unfortunately its rare. I am not saying that a good concert isn’t good, I am saying that the feeling of pleasant surprise is rare. I can probably count on my hands, the few shows I have seen that have put into a euphoric high, the type of high that makes you call your best music buddies and go through a diatribe about the bands stage presence the crowds interaction and their musical prowess in general.
I was in Albany this past shabbos with a friend from Monsey and he wanted to go out on Saturday night. To anyone who knows me, this sounds ridiculous since I hate dance clubs, dislike bars and just don’t like going out in the traditional sense. I am more of a coffee shop, bookstore, bike ride on a Saturday night type of guy- since Sundays are usually my most active day. Of course I felt bad that he had driven all the way up and I would ruin his Saturday night, I would have been content with a book or maybe some writing.
So we drove around, I refused to go to a dance club, for multiple reasons, Jewish and personal I dislike dance clubs. I happen to dislike provocative dancing done by half naked folks who feel the need to have sex with their clothing on in public with people they just met, it actually bothers me quite a bit. I dislike bars, because I just don’t think I anyone should pay $3 for a beer no matter how much “atmosphere” there may be. I always wondered what someone meant by atmosphere- in that dart boards, loud music and neon Keystone Ice signs never really did atmosphere or décor any justice.
Then of course you have classy bars or lounges as some folks call them, which are basically regular bars, with lower lighting, lower chairs and higher priced drinks. The people are the same, they just wear Banana Republic instead of Abercrombie and drink wine instead of coolers and Blue Moon instead of PBR.
My kind of bar has loud music and hopefully good beer. I am a fan of micro-brewed beers and bars with interesting characters. In the bar has interesting people then it changes things, unfortunately most bar populations are made up of the guy with spiked short hair, wearing a white button down shirt, untucked draped over blue jeans with white k-swiss shoes and the girls wear jeans which require two helpers to hold them while the girl in them. The conversation usually revolves around how drunk they got the night before and how little school work they do, and how boring the town (enter any college town) they live in is. I personally like the bars that feature a diverse crowds, preferably interspersed with an array of people hopefully interesting, though the folks who walk around with a Hegel book tucked under their arms are pushing it a bit.
So we went to this place called Browns Brewery in Troy, which is located in an old factory- which I love, because these places always have cool interiors and interesting historic pictures gracing their walls. On the walk over we passed by one of most visited concert venues, Revolution Hall- no it is not a Proletariat meeting hall. As we passed we heard the shrill of a fiddle backed by some bass driven funk, it sounded good, I even knew who it was because I had checked Jambase earlier. So my buddy decided we should go on in, I was poor and not wanting to spend any dough, but a remarkable thing happened. My friend asked how much time was left, the bouncer said 20 minutes, and after producing our ID’s we were let in for free.
I have been to many shows at Rev-Hall as it is known locally and amongst Jam band fans worldwide, since they usually get jam bands to play at their hall. The crowd was wild, stamping their feet, fists raised in the air, people were singing at the top of their lungs, and the band was going nuts. The first you noticed was this fiddle player bouncing around the stage with this brilliant high pitched squeal emanating from his Violin. Then you had this Emo/Hipster Napoleon Dynamite look alike bassist, reminding me of the grunge shows of the early 90s.
The energy was amazing, I stood mesmerized as this Irish/rock/funk hard to place them into a genre played like madmen, and was even more amazed that everyone in the crowd was into it. Not just into it with the slow head bob and the beer glass steady in one hand, with one hand tapping the chest- into it. Nope, this was unlike anything besides maybe this Poison/Warrant show I saw in Darien Lakes, NY. This was full steam, it was nothing like NYC shows where 75% of every show is too cool to dance or head bang or scream the lyrics. This was making me so happy, even more happy because this was free. There is something to be said for entering an amazing awe inspiring show for free.
There was no such thing as a wall flower here. Then the band struck up another song and the flute dude whipped out a bagpipe and the ever present chills came. This funky/modern day Irish anthem was being shouted as the audience clapped and fisted the air. It reminded me of all the other times I had gone to shows, not hearing the bands material before, but being blown away. The first time I saw Addison Groove Project in Rochester at this tiny bar called Milestones- I stood on fire at that show, grooving and dancing like mad, almost got dehydrated I was so pumped up, and there 100 people there up against that stage that was throbbing with blowing brass and thumping bass.
Then there was the first time I saw Galactic in NYC. That was and will always be one of the most memorable shows of my life. As was the first time I saw Dream Theater in Toronto, I drove 3 hours by myself to see my favorite band in 2002, and was blown away, my arms were sore after picking on my air axe all night and head banging my shoulder length hair. They were usually firsts, these bone chilling concerts of high energy. Stanton Moore Trio at Red Square in Albany, another Marxist sounding place eh, that show was insane, the closeness of the crowd standing transfixed on the speed and energy of Moore’s drumming. Or even the time I first saw the Deadbeats Albany’s Dead cover band- on a Wednesday night with 30 other dread swaying hippies, I was entranced by their vocals, as if Jerry had come back to life and we shouted the words and flowed like there was no one in the room.
Saturday night was like this, it was amazing and we were there for their two encores and amazing jam session at the end. The men wearing kilts, the red haired women and me in my yarmulke all flowed and hung onto every word, that the white sun glasses wearing fiddle man was saying.
Oh the bands name was Enter the Haggis