The Hollow Bar and Kitchen was in a New York state of mind on Friday night. Albany progressive rock quartet Ampevene, celebrating the release of its new album Ephemagoria and Brooklyn-bred Cousin Earth threw down the perfect blend of Led Zeppelin-esque energy and a quirkiness in the Frank Zappa vein at Albany’s leading rock club.
Kicking things off with “Rometheu,” Ampevene put on display its prowess for technical proficiency, led by guitarist Gabe Stallman and bassist Mack Hogan trading runs. Hogan’s thumping rhythm was a constant throughout the group’s set. “Tracalysis” was followed up with an all out rock ‘n roll drum solo from Brian Fahey.
Pulling from one of their main influences, Ampevene launched into the chunky opening chords of the Nirvana mega hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Stallman added a unique spin to his short solo, making the song take a psychedelic spin. “Goliath” preceded “Tumultous,” the latter of which morphed into a crowd pleasing segment featuring Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.” The jam saw the crowd grow a little rowdy and the band responded with the highlight of their set. “New Song” and “Valencia” closed out the set to a roaring applause from the band’s friends and family in attendance.
Up next was Cousin Earth, playing their first headlining show at the venue. The five-piece group melds together a wide array of musical variety, proved right out of the gate with a searing take on the “Zelda” theme song. Joey Calfa, on his trusted electric ukulele, showed his prowess on the unconventional rock instrument by transforming each note into a blend of guitar and ukulele.
“Zelda Sarias Song” > “Think of all the Things” > “Tale Spin Theme Song” was next, as Calfa and bassist Corey Feldman, who plays on a Kala U Bass the size of a ukulele, continued to feed of each other’s energy. Tara Lawton, who also plays the melodica, and Terry Brennan held down the vocals with the confidence of a seasoned opera singer, giving the band a sometimes Vaudeville-like feel.
(Side note: I first saw Cousin Earth a little more than three years ago, just as they were transitioning into their new name from Ukulelian. They opened up a small festival and the crowd was sparse to say the least. I was unsure what this band was going to be like given the irreverent instrumental selections, but the band blew me away that afternoon. Since then, Cousin Earth has been on a steady upward climb, and their headlining slot at the Hollow was proof of their professional work ethic.)
“Dancing Fool,” “Keep it Greasy,” “Super Fun Laser Beams” and “Alive” allowed each member to stand out at times, while also showcasing their incredible improvisational skills. Drummer Nate Searing held it all together throughout the night, while at the same time providing a loose and fun atmosphere.
The funniest part of the night is when they burst into a cover of actress Natalie Portman’s rap from Saturday Night Live. Attendees sang along and the band had some trouble containing laughter on stage.
The closing segment of “Blisters,” “Keep On”>”Scuttle Buttin'”>”Little Wing”>”Capricorn on the Cob” saw Calfa switch between his ukulele and his cherry red Fender Stratocaster to do his best Jimi Hendrix impression.
All told, this show was great in every aspect. As both Ampevene and Cousin Earth continue to ascend and grow, both groups still put all of their effort into a pleasing live experience.
Cousin Earth setlist
Zelda Main Theme> Zelda Sarias song > Think of all the things > Tale Spin Theme, Dancing Fool > Keep it Greasy, Super Fun Laser Beams, Alive, Womp > Natalie Portman Rap (SNL) > Womp > Space Worms (future folk) > Tarantella Napolitana, Spiritual Spun, Blisters, Keep On ( show me the numbers, Ian), Scuttle Buttin’ > Little Wing > Capricorn on the Cob
Encore: Son of a Bitch