On Sunday, May 14th, The Academic stopped at the Bowery Ballroom. On their “Sitting Pretty Tour,” the young four-man band from Ireland brought their alternative Irish flair to New York City. An intimate crowd dotted the Bowery floor to swallow up any standing space. The venue selection ensured the audience was in for a treat, for the ballroom sound system holds the power of electric guitars and bass incredibly. This deemed important, because The Academic are proven rock revivalists.
Alternative/indie band, Summerdrive, opened for The Academic. Their set was short but effective, for their performance livened up the waiting crowd. With intriguing synths and intentional drumming, Summerdrive gave a tasteful while all the same riveting show. They heavily created a similar listening experience that the Bleachers or COIN would.
Not long after Summerdrive left the stage and the instruments were swapped, The Academic made their way onto the stage. Hoots and hollers elevated the band’s excitement as they gazed upon the crowd. Bassist, Matthew Murtagh, and guitarist, Stephen Murtagh sauntered onto stage followed by drummer, Dean Gavin. Lead vocalist, Craig Fitzgerald amped the energy when he approached the mic with an electric guitar slung over his shoulders. “How are you doing New York? It’s been a while!”
The setlist rolled by too easily, sewn together by impressive guitar solos and conversation with the audience. They emanated a wildly unique sound that seemed to be in conversation with different decades of alternative music. Accents from melodies of The Talking Heads, guitar riffs from Led Zeppelin, and more modern personal lyricism like that of Cage The Elephant or The Neighbourhood were present in their performance.
Classic-rock married to indie, The Academic has mastered the art of the guitar. Their Irish origin gifted them with the ever presence of rock and roll, and since the U.K. never parted ways with the music genre like America did for a while, they had continuous exposure to the evolution of rock. I look like a million when I play my rock n’ roll.
At the end of a drum-heavy song, the guitarists and singer circled around the drumset. They surrendered their instruments’ sound to Gavin while he masterfully annihilated his drum solo and bowed down to him on his throne. The Bowery lights synced up with his percussion, creating a strobed visual. Gavin’s solo was absorbed by the audience as were the multiple guitar solos throughout the evening.
After playing some songs from their new album, “Sitting Pretty,” released February 10th, Fitzgerald took a moment to give thanks to the crowd. He asked if anyone in the audience attended their show last year at Mercury Lounge in the city, and pockets of shouts volleyed amongst the crowd. In this interlude of crowd engagement, he complimented the high energy and inquired, “Any Irish in the crowd tonight?” A strong majority of the hands shot up. He grinned.
The Academic hosted a very engaging show. With dramatic dancing and conversational interactions with fans, the atmosphere was endearing. Towards the end of their set, lead vocalist Fitzgerald got onto the floor to be level with the crowd. While he sang, the crowd enveloped him. Phones shot up above heads to capture the moment, and fans sang excitedly around him.
He returned to the stage to finish out the rest of their set. The vivacity was contagious. Small groups of friends merged with strangers. By the end of the show, there were no strangers in the room, only people with a mutual affinity for rock and four Irish musicians. Fitzgerald and his bandmates showered thanks to everyone for attending, and even more gratitude to the staff at Bowery Ballroom. “Give it up for everyone working in this beautiful venue tonight!”
The Academic put on a grand show in a small but iconic venue. Their musical future brightened on Sunday, for they collected many new fans. The “Sitting Pretty Tour” is only the beginning for this refreshingly genuine rock-band.
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