A tale of two guitars is where Friday the 13th started at The Hangar in Troy. An extension of The Ale House across the road on River Street, The Hangar’s unique room welcomed Albany’s SoulSky before a charged set by Popa Chubby and his band. SoulSky is in some way a local supergroup, formed by Jeremy Walz of Right Coast Soul and NY Blues Hall of Fame member Mark Emanation of Folding Sky. Their set – the tale of two guitars – featured an authentic Hudson River rock and roll sound with Emanation and Walz sending jams back and forth to each other in a conversation. There was a mix of originals and covers, covers easily rivaling the original version. Emanation took Soul Sky’s rendition of “Almost Cut My Hair” right out of the water with a relentless solo heard all the way down by the Green Island Bridge.
After a short break, Popa Chubby made his way to the stage from his merch table which he was tending to and chatting with folks before and after his set. He spared no haste in kicking his set in high gear on his well-traveled Fender. He traveled effortlessly and seamlessly throughout a set comprised mostly of his own songs with a few stellar covers thrown in the mix.
The Chubbster chatted with NYSMusic a few days before the show, sharing his diverse NYC music background of both traditional blues and the hardcore/punk scene. That background didn’t hide in his playing. His original songs reflected a genuine blues-style storytelling performed in the structure and passion of the genre with a big, bold, yet not over the top sound. Aside from his own works, his setlist was true to his form, honoring greats like Robert Petway with “Catfish Blues,” Hendrix with “Little Wing” (which he played with a lot of emotion as a tribute to that weekend’s events in France) and a tune penned by Hoagy Carmichael before ending the set with a medley of The Ramones, Ventures and other early punk and rock licks.
The most fitting way to describe Popa Chubby on stage is one in character with his guitar. A musically-trained ear can usually detect a clam or two in anyone’s playing, but his playing was in such a groove with itself and his band that none were apparent. Popa Chubby is an act not to miss, and fortunately he comes around to the Upstate area from time to time.