Actor Ezra Miller’s band plays house show in Albany
By ELI ENIS
The presence of two Hollywood actors, a selection of musical acts ranging from experimental jazz to grunge punk, and a wide array of framed, tasteful nude photos spread throughout the house. Oh, and free popcorn. That’s what went down in a rather unassuming house on Morris Street in Downtown Albany last Thursday, Feb. 18. That house is called The World Citizen Party House, and for them, an evening like that isn’t out of the ordinary.
Currently one of the many DIY house venues in the Capital Region, the WCPH typically hosts a bill of local and underground touring musicians at least once a month. However, unlike the standard basement setup of other DIY venues such as the beloved Treehouse, the WCPH melds many types of art and creative expression together in a layout that consists of both living room and basement performance areas. As one artist plays in the shockingly clean basement, surrounded by walls covered in regional art, “permanently borrowed” street signs, and local politicians’ campaign signs—one of which is altered to read “Erect Gay Boner”—the other artist sets up in the living room upstairs. Considering the low ceiling and small circumference, the acoustics of the room actually sound halfway decent and the positioning of the stage in the far left corner allows for ample viewing space.
On the other hand, the living room is much narrower and the presence of a large piano and a series of recording equipment takes up a good portion of the room, forcing attendees to squeeze together and kneel down in front in order to get a good view. However, given the exceptionally inviting atmosphere of the WCPH, there’s absolutely no reason to complain about getting closer with your friendly neighbor and striking up a conversation about the always-eclectic lineup of musicians.
On Thursday, the WCPH was proud to present Sons of an Illustrious Father, the somewhat bluesy and at times noisy indie rock band of actor Ezra Miller who’s known for his roles in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Astonishingly enough, actress Shailene Woodley of films such as “Divergent” and “The Fault In Our Stars” also made an appearance. However, both stars kept a low profile and could’ve been mistaken for any other member of the crowd. Rather than ducking away to support an ego, both of them respectfully listened to the other performers, all of which were particularly talented.
Rad Scientists, a funky, impeccably tight jazz sextet kicked off the night with an energized, and at times jaw-dropping collection of original tunes. They consisted of two saxophonists, a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and an apparent frontman/keyboardist who introduced each song, one of which he said was inspired by a period of binging on NASA videos. Nerdy, classically trained and an unconventional experience for most of the punks in attendance, Rad Scientists were thoroughly intriguing and some of the keyboard, drum, and guitar solos were truly incredible displays of musicianship.
Despite them being a tough act to beat, singer-songwriter Another Michael, accompanied for the first time live by three other musicians, followed with a familiar, yet distinguishing group of sunny day R&B pop. Their warm melodies were carried by a tender, unobtrusive backbone of piano twinkling, acoustic strumming, and occasional percussive thud. Most of the songs were short, easy to listen to and sort of just ended without developing into anything grandiose or pretentious. Another Michael’s simple, charming approach to an often tiresome genre was delightful, once again earning a thumbs up from members of the crowd who wouldn’t usually consider them to be a part of their musical spectrum.
Once again, a stark change of pace ensued as the grungy Saratoga punks Candy Ambulance ripped into distorted riffs that brought the pace up a few notches. Although nothing particularly astonishing instrumentally, the band was inherently likeable and their blend of grunge, punk and rock had universal appeal. Olivia Quillio, armed with just an acoustic guitar and a beautiful set of pipes, followed with a sound that one attendee compared to Fiona Apple. Her bubbly banter in between songs complemented the good-timey aura of the packed living room and her songs were met with enthusiastic applause.
Finally, the staunchly progressive, social justice-infused three-piece Sons of an Illustrious Father capped off the evening with a style that’s difficult to place. Miller, positioned behind his drum kit, had somewhat of a spoken word vocal delivery, as he alternated verses with frontperson and guitarist Lilah Larson. However, the music teetered precariously between driving indie rock and experimental something or other.
Regardless, the band didn’t seem particularly concerned with articulating a specific style, but rather focused on a socially conscious, albeit a tad ostentatious, progressive platform they wanted to convey. Despite being a bit heady at times, their music was intriguing enough for everyone in the room to take something from and the ones who really got what they were going for would’ve made the band proud.
The WCPH definitely does things differently than most DIY spots. There’s a certain odor of creativity and individualism that permeates throughout the building and everyone who basked in it that evening left reeking of something special. Art is alive and well in Albany.