Its that time of the year again. We have been blessed with so much great music throughout 2018 and it will be impossible to cover it all. Stay tuned throughout the next few days as we delve into some of the best bands, albums, festivals and towns in New York State – and beyond. These picks have been curated from our wonderful staff to expose you the vast talent of musicians that pass you on the streets and dwell in your neighbouring towns. Each day will introduce new music for you to listen to, but for now – the good stuff – THE BANDS.
Best Under the Radar band from New York
From their Ben & Jerry’s shake-blend to intoxicating performances across New York, Formula 5 has a calculated recipe, placing them as the top voted ‘Best Under-The-Radar Band’ for 2018. Since they were coined as Best Alternative Rock Band in 2016, the Formula 5 has become a recurring customer on NYS-Music’s Best Of. The Albany funk-band is dominating festivals like Rock The Dock, Catskill Chill, Adirondack Independence Fest and Disc Jam, while disrupting smaller venues in New York State and beyond. The band’s ruthless tour-schedule gained them praise across the country, which will continue into the new year, to the Northeast, Midwest and Colorado.
Edging on Formula 5’s coattails are new kids on the block, Witty Tarbox. The Buffalo=bred indie-surf ensemble will celebrate their two year anniversary on New Year’s Day. Their first EP The Adventures Of Schmitty: Issue #1 V. Rare puts an edgy twist on Upstate’s jam-band culture. Listening to “Schmitty & Bags” will open up an electrified rabbit hole, riddled with screaming guitar, thunderous toms and over-the-bar groves. Witty Tarbox is multifaceted, dumping all your musical inspiration into a blender where none of the flavors get lost. Instead, they have their own layered place in the mix, complemented by unorthodox instrumentation. Crack one open and find out for yourself.
After discovering Brooklyn’s Escaper, you will be gridlocked centerstage wondering: What the hell just happened? Escaper released their second studio-album this year, Edge Detection, that detonates musical genres and resonates through the shrapnel. They are the explosion – a mess of sounds that shouldn’t fit together, but they do. It’s exhilarating. Ironically, there’s no escaping. From smooth jazz-saxophone to a vortex of organ, arena-rock guitar and metal-esque drum fills, Escaper delivers. Edge Detection captures their free-form performances and jam roots that make you almost-obligated to the live experience. Escaper has only been around for a few years, but have shared the stage with John Fishman (Phish), Galactic and Aqueous and are taking New York State by storm.
Best Under The Radar Bands: Discovery
Cold Lazarus: Reggae-infused intellifunk jam rock – Jamestown, NY – Est. 2017
The Goodnight Darlings: Indie-pop rock – New York, NY
Dirty Blanket: Dirty string-slingin’ bluegrass – Finger Lakes Region
Groovestick: Powerhouse funk trio – Albany, NY
Intent To Sell: Hip-Hop/Rock – Buffalo, NY
Rootbrew: World-beat infused americana – Rosendale, NY
Mike Powell (& The Black River): Renegade-Folk Songwriter – West Carthage, NY
Space Bacon: Jamtronica rock quartet – Brooklyn, NY
Wuriliday: Soul-funk goodness – Albany, NY – Est. 2017
Best Band EVERYONE Should Be Listening To
Like them, or not, Phish remains a staple in the world of jam-band music. It is expected that they swept the competition for Best Of. It’s the simple fact that: they have done it before. From books, boxsets and fanclubs, the sea of Phish is endless. Start swimming.
For you newbies, swing on over to your local Ben & Jerry’s and pick up a pint of “Phish Food,” and indulge. Again: it’s been done before (hint hint). Go to LivePhish.com and listen to every live performance with a click. Your marshmallow-fudge covered lips will grin when you realize who that cutting-edge band got the idea from or when you recognize that solo-lick, jamming in your parents basement.
“The intention that this band is so great at, is to stop thinking,” said Mike Gordon. It is the reason Phish was, and still is, the example in jam-band culture. They remain at the top because they are captivating and, in-truth, one could argue that it is you, the Phans, who are propelling their motion. “When we feel a surge, we surge, it happens all the time. Thunder will happen or lightning and I’ll hear the crowd go Wahhhh. Then we just ramp up,” said Trey Anastasio.
Phish is set out to do another New Year’s Eve run at Madison Square Garden starting on December 28. Phish made their debut at Madison Square Garden in 1994. The four-day run sold out, expectedly so, and will mark 60 Phish performances at The Garden as we break into 2019. Catch more details on Today’s (Monday) SiriusXM ‘Ask Trey’ on Phish Radio, Channel 29.
Best Live Cover or Tribute Performance
Pink Talking Fish
Founder and bassist, Eric Gould came up with the idea of a fusion tribute to three of his most beloved bands: Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads and Phish. The intent is to “heighten people’s passion for music by creating something fresh.” Collectively, the musicians of Pink Talking Fish are equally inspired by these crossroads, as are their fans.
“If you enjoy the adventure of music, this is its epitome” said Gould. Pink Talking Fish embarks on a musical journey filled with rhythms you already know and love.
In their rendition of Phish’s “Makisupa Policeman,” PTF incorporates Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” without straying from Phish’s Reggae feel. The band is further driven by the concept of setlists. Gould has always been intrigued by the construction of sets and how they influence the audience. Setlists are “musical candy to read on paper. And people are salivating over it.”
Set List: Speak To Me, Breathe, Down With Disease, On The Run, Thank You For Sending Me An Angel, Time, Mike’s Song, *Great Gig In The Sky, Weekapaug Grove, ^Money, ^*Take Me To The River, ^*Us & Them, ^*Any Colour You Like, Ghost, Down With Disease Reprise, Once In A Lifetime, Brain Damage, Eclipse
Encore: 18 ^*Julius
* w/ Elise Testone on Vocals, ^ w/ Matt Wayne on Sax