Bad weather be damned, the spirit of rock n’ roll was alive and well this past Friday night in downtown Albany. Snow. Freezing rain. Subzero temperatures. Widespread power outages. Mother Nature threw a little bit of everything at us last weekend, but despite nasty conditions throughout the northeast, live music at The Hollow never missed a beat thanks to Ampevene, Hilltop and Baked Shrimp on Friday, February 4, 2022.
Known for having a keen ear and an uncanny ability to spot young talent, Guthrie Bell Productions served up yet another winner on February 4th, bringing three of New York’s most buzz-worthy bands together for a triple stacked bill of hip shaking live music, impressive improvisation, psychedelic live art, and a triumphant return home for Albany’s own Ampevene.
Kicking off the icy evening was Capital Region based quartet Hilltop. Coming off a breakout year that saw them play their first festivals and secure opening slots for bands like Midnight North, The Jauntee and Annie in the Water, Hilltop has continued to evolve and only seem to get better and better with each performance. Showcasing their sense of humor and an eagerness to “jam,” the short but sweet set on this night shows a band with all kinds of untapped potential and left us wanting more!
Keeping a close eye on conditions outside during set break, the heavy wet slushy snow was just beginning to freeze, but inside the venue things were just starting to heat up as the charismatic Long Island trio Baked Shrimp took the stage. Fresh off a celebratory 21st birthday bash at Nectar’s for drummer Jager Soss, the ambitious young band rode into Albany red hot, firing on all cylinders and kept the party going with a scorching set of high energy funk, blues, and psychedelic rock. Baked Shrimp, which also features Jared Cowen on guitar and vocals and Scott Reill on bass, is quickly earning a reputation for melting faces wherever they play, regardless of what’s on the thermostat.
It’s been a milestone year for the guys in Baked Shrimp. Now in their fifth year as a band, January saw the release of their third studio album, Pork Etiquette. On tour ever since andwith just two stops left on this Winter tour, it was clear the boys had no intensions of simply phoning it in. Taking the stage armed with confidence and playing every note with passion, for just three dudes, Baked Shrimp create a huge sound and routinely impress. Opening with the one-two punch of “Pig Hearts and Mechanical Parts” and “Penuche Took the Fudge,” Cowen’s blistering PRS guitar work instantly grabbed the attention of everyone in the room and never let go. “Molly Ann,” “Ollie Blue” and “The Narcissist” came next before the boys dusted of “Tail Fin” for the first time in 36 shows. Holding it down on the low end while also engaged in a constant battle to keep the hair out of his eyes, bass player Scoot Reill was in fine form on the evening. Between utilizing his vocal talents and consistently finding a rock solid groove to build on, it was around this point in the set where a glance around the room revealed nearly everyone who was there was finally up on their feet and dancing. The energetic set came to a close with a tune called “Can’t Cut The Mustard.
A tough act to follow perhaps, but you have to remember this was Albany, and that means it’s Ampevene country. It had been quite some time since the genre blending, prog-rock leaning juggernaut had last headlined The Hollow and even against the cold, rain, and snow, nothing was going to stop them from playing this homecoming throwdown. Typically a four-piece ensemble comprised of Gabe Stallman on guitar and vocals, Mack Hogan on bass, Ava Smith on keys and synth and Brian McKinney Fahey on drums, to help commemorate the occasion on this night however, Ampevene, invited a couple of friends to join in on the fun; recruiting both Adam Siegel and Bob Morris on Saxophone and percussion to help fill out the sound.
As local artists converged to compare progress of their live paintings, the music of Ampevene surely helped inspire their other worldly results. Opening the show with a pair of songs from their 2018 debut album Ephemagoria was the “Valencia” followed up by “Rometheu.” From there, fans were treated to a taste of some unreleased music with “The Chemistress” and then a song so new that it’s only been given a working title of “Mauve Crown.” A visceral mix of heavy layered riffs, psychedelic noodling, unique time signatures and jaw-dropping falsetto vocals, Ampevene is better heard than described. Purposely designed to trip you up and trip you out, Friday night at the Hollow the band went far out. All the way out until reaching “Dazed and Confused” territory during the song the “Enhancement” as awe struck fans roared in approval for perhaps the biggest crowd pleasing moment of the night. With time left for just one more, a ballsy decision to cover one of the bands biggest influences. The Mars Volta and their 2008 song “Goliath.” While very few would even attempt such a feat, front man and lead guitarist Gabe Stallman completely knocked it out the park, bringing the show to a cathartic and triumphant close.
While the ice storm of 2022 may have kept some people from coming out, there was something about the vibe on this Friday night that just felt special. Like something hip was starting to happen and you were lucky enough to have a glimpse into the future. From the artistry and creativity displayed on stage and off, to making eyes and sharing smiles with complete strangers; a musical community slowly rediscovering itself after a long hibernation. With so much talent and creativity right here in our backyard, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about how far some of these bands could potentially go, but rest assured dear reader, we here at NYS Music intend on keeping you covered every step of the journey.
Baked Shrimp – 2/4/2022 Albany NY / The Hollow
Pig Hearts and Mechanical Parts, Penuche Took The Fudge, Molly Ann, Ollie Blu, The Narcissist, Tail Fin*, Can’t Cut The Mustard
*LTP – 8/21/21 (35 shows)
Ampevene – 2/4/2022 Albany NY / The Hollow
Valencia, Rometheu *, The Chemistress, Mauve Crown^, Teratomic, Enhancement $, Goliath%
* contained Tracalysis by Ampevene tease
^ Tentative title for new song
$ contained Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin tease
% The Mars Volta cover