Review by Brett Jones, Photos by Darren Kemp
There’s something exciting about looking at equipment on an otherwise empty stage, waiting to be used. As soon as audience members rounded the corner into the backroom at Bug Jar on Friday, January 17th, they were greeted with BabaYaga’s tasteful, bare-bones set up: a Marshall head atop two 12 inch speakers on the left, Orange amp and Gibson Les Paul to the right, drum kit front and center. The sound BabaYaga gets out of this set up is my favorite part about the band: warm vintage tones, cranked to the max. Todd Dentico threw down huge bass energy with sturdy notes that popped every time. Dave Fein’s guitar licks were steady and tastefully distorted, and his solos were like climbing a ladder, occasionally breaking a rung just to mix things up. As for Adam Banachi’s vocals, the screaming wasn’t muddy or jarring, but instead blended nicely with instruments for a tight, powerful sound. Adam’s vocals and stage presence could be the perfect metaphor for BabaYaga: a grimace, not a front.
BML took the stage next, just before midnight, to a diverse audience of old timers, college kids from the bar, metal die-hards and even a few cops. Cutting right to the chase: as soon these three guys take the stage they transform into a well-oiled rock-and-roll machine. Tight, on point, and unassuming, BML lets their sound speak for itself. Transitions are subtle but happen quickly; in a matter of seconds BML can discretely move into a new phrase and have audiences getting down to a new lick or tempo, without knowing how they got there. Since Friday’s show was a release party for the band’s new album, That There Dog’s A Chicken, the set featured a bunch of new songs with a few classics sprinkled in for flavor. Coincidentally, two of my favorite tunes came after the following phrases: “We’re gonna play an old one…” and, “This song should be interesting…we haven’t played it in a while”. This preference by no means discredits BML’s new stuff—which is detailed, contrasting and well executed—but is instead a testament to their history. These guys have been around for just under ten years now, and they command respect on stage without relying on gimmicks or familiarity. From start to finish, BML challenges themselves and the audience through complex scales and transitions at a super-fast space, hitting and fleeing high points and drops in the blink of an eye.
Two things are for sure after Friday Night: Genesee Bock is back with a vengeance, and, in the hands of BabaYaga and BML, heavy rock-and-roll is alive and well in Rochester, New York.