Free show at The Low Beat confirms Albany scene is thriving
By ELI ENIS
It was about 35 degrees on the night of Jan. 28, but a cascade of warm air and geniality surged through the tiny dive bar The Low Beat as friends, bandmates, and strangers alike crammed together. The occasion? A mixed bill of four local musical acts performing for free. And although it was announced less than a week prior, the show managed to draw roughly 70 people, which easily feels like 100 in the small confines of the venue. Whether the strong attendance was attributed to the nonexistent entrance fee or the tremendous variety of styles between the performers, it was a great night for underground music in Albany.
Pinesheets kicked off the show with an avant-garde selection of experimental synth pop. Armed with just a series of samples and a microphone strapped with an echo-like, distorted effect, the one-man act had the room questioning whether they should bop their heads or focus all of their brainpower into dissecting the many sonic layers. The mediocre sound system most likely contributed, but nearly every lyric was indistinguishable. However, that didn’t seem to matter because the focus was more on the atmosphere it evoked rather than specific thoughts.
Concert attendee Jaran Chance said, “This is next level indie,” meaning that it definitely didn’t appeal to everyone.
Although Pinesheets’ “zone-out” tunes didn’t transfer particularly well in the live setting, it is thoughtful music worthy of a second chance via headphones.
Hill Haints followed with a stark juxtaposition of loud, garage-esque, rock and roll that never once slowed down. Featuring an odd range of ages within the band—the white-haired vocalist/guitarist and balding drummer looked to be twice as old as the bassist—the four-piece cranked out powerful, albeit repetitive, rock riffs coupled with screeching solos reminiscent of California stoner rockers Fu Manchu. The sudden increase in energy inspired numerous attendees to start jumping around up front and the temperature of the room seemed to increase by five degrees.
Although not as fast-paced, the even noisier Scum Couch took the stage next and were thoroughly intriguing. Their heavily distorted blend of droning, rhythmic alt-rock with deranged experimental sections without feeling pasted together. Vocalist and drummer Mark O’Brien was captivating to watch as he simultaneously wailed on his kit and into his mic, the latter of which used an effect to make it sound like a megaphone, before finishing the set by walloping up and down a keyboard positioned directly behind his drums.
Despite performing for only 15 minutes, Scum Couch were magnificent and would have been the highlight of the night. But then Throat Culture went on. Currently revered as one of Albany’s best up-and-coming local bands, Throat Culture played a unique style of loud, groovy hardcore music that’s easiest to compare to another fantastic Albany hardcore band, Drug Church. However, Throat Culture has its own individual sound that differs from the more traditional, mosh-part-heavy hardcore of their Albany contemporaries Born Low and Trife Life.
In fact, Throat Culture does not have a single mosh-part in any of their songs, instead focusing on bouncy rhythms and savory grooves. Nevertheless, their lack of china cymbal smacks didn’t stop the place from opening up into a chaotic pit that embodied the ’80s style of “slam-dancing” rather than modern “hardcore dancing.” Bodies were being thrown about and the tame, drinks-in-hand ambience of the previous set was instantly wiped from existence. However, no blood was shed during the ruckus and the only apparent victim was one of the other bands’ bass drum that multiple people got chucked into. Vocalist Seth Eggleston continued with the evening’s theme of vocal distortion, as his frantic yells were channeled through some sort of reverby effect pedal.
Throat Culture was the perfect cap to an excellent night for the Albany scene.