In its seventh year, the B3nson Family Funsgiving was in a new space, but held true to the sounds and energy that have made it a familiar tradition in the Albany music scene. A year ago Funsgiving was held where it had always been, at the now defunct, and sorely missed Valentine’s, packing the rooms on both floors. This year, instead of walking a flight of stairs between stages, it was between the doors of Pauly’s Hotel and The Low Beat on Central Ave. Two rooms, seven bands, all for ten dollars, and it would prove to be a pretty excellent deal.
Brooklyn four piece Leaks/Mirrors made the trek to Albany to kick off the night at Pauly’s. It was apparent people had paid attention to the warning that music would be starting early, the crowd was pretty sizable by the time the music bounced over next door for the first set of the night at the Low Beat from Secret Release. Guitarist Mike Campana and keyboardist Dan LaFave trade off vocal duties with a sound that is easy to listen to, easy to like and easy to move to. Don’t take “easy” as a negative, it simply means they’ve crafted their songs so nicely that it’s tough to hear them and not want to move closer and see what this band, relatively new in its current form, has to offer.
After a nice set from Neighboorhood of Make Believe over on the Pauly’s stage, Bear Grass’ set inside The Low Beat felt like some sort of mid-winter barn show. The wooden interior, the crowd bundled up in hats, scarfs and sweaters on what was the coldest day of the season so far, huddled around the stage with drinks in hand. Standing in the back of the room, the band’s often soft demeanor led them to being sometimes easily overlooked. However, stepping closer into the crowd, their warm sound was absolutely captivating. Bear Grass’ sound felt bigger than usual, with layers of vocals and guitars, and Katie Hammon’s lead vocals seeming to gain even more power and confidence over the past year.
Back over at Pauly’s people were filling in the room for Hammer Hawk, the trio that creates rock in all the right ways. Hammer Hawk makes music that feels good to yell along with. It’s rock with alternative roots that feel almost comforting, and familiar. Familiar in its most kind interpretation can sum up Funsgiving. If you’ve been to one before, the faces are familiar. While some of the bands were seasoned Funsgiving veterans, the ones that weren’t, had mostly been there before, just in different forms. B3nson is a music collective of musicians and friends with bands that are constantly evolving, where one project ends, someone is inspired to take a sound in a new direction and a new one begins.
The crowd was at its peak during The Parlor’s set, who was celebrating the release of their new EP, Ghost House. Where Bear Grass’ set felt in need of a fireplace, the only thing missing from The Parlor’s set could’ve been a disco ball. Covering the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams”, with the dual vocals of Jen O’Conner and Donna Baird, along with the contagious, wild energy of frontman Eric Krans, The Parlor ensured there was a smile on the face of everyone in the room. Funsgiving favorites, they knew exactly how to get the crowd all warmed up and moving throughout their set, playing old crowd favorites and great new tracks.
Closing out the night was the band that has quickly become a party-time favorite in Albany – Rival Galaxies. For people in it for the long haul, there was no better band to close out a great night of music. They’re the type of band that even if you had no clue who they were, and you walked into one of their shows, they’d have your attention, and have you moving in an instant. Think LCD Soundsystem with a hint of punk energy. Drummer Todd Richards is so precise he at times seems more machine than man, and bassist Nick Wallas finds a groove that fits perfectly and lays it down solid, making for an ideal rhythm section for a live dance band. The energy from Matt Ferguson on synths never ends, and neither does the unique range of sounds he creates. Even if guitarist/vocalist Mike Fuccilli didn’t nail all the words to their cover of Semisonic’s “Closing Time” to end the show, it didn’t matter. When you put out a sound and energy like they do for a full set, and a room is filled with that many good friends, perfection can be thrown out the window in exchange for an honest, good, yet slightly cheesy in all the right ways, drunken singalong. Let’s be honest, sometimes, nothing feels better.
B3nson has created a musical collective that from the outside, seems completely organic. Over the years they’ve provided truly quality sounds, and great texture to the musical landscape of Albany. It’s friends and musicians that would be throwing this annual party each year whether anyone else showed up or not. But, we’ll keep showing up, because their constant output of music is something Albany would sound far less vibrant without.
Aside from Funsgiving, The B3nson Recording Company is responsible for the annual Restoration Festival, along with countless great shows and releases throughout the year. To keep up to date on what they have going on, find them on Facebook.