Well, I’m not one to normally review local gigs but I felt that tonight a band was worthy of one; or at least to a degree. Rarely do I venture out on a week night these days to head to a local dive to watch local talent, often the local talent is well, untalented to be quite honest. However, having played in a band for several years while living in Boston I do appreciate the dreamers on stage putting forth as much effort as they can to possibly be “the next big thing” ; and most will eventually realize that it’s near impossible.
Sadly, in Albany the capital city of New York State, there is only one remaining real place for indie bands and the occasional punk band to play and that would be Valentine’s. Valentine’s has been around since I was in high school in the 80’s; interestingly enough they have remained while others have come and gone. It’s a cozy dive, with very little room to have a real show (perhaps 60 patrons max if they are lucky) and the sound quality is so-so; basically if you don’t have ear plugs you are asking for ringing ears for hours afterwards. The door guy was friendly and the bar maid nice enough, although she seemed far more entranced to finishing her copy of “Twilight” rather than actually smoozing with those of us at the bar.
The band that I went to see is named Nixon’s Spirit, a self proclaimed punk rock band that was offering new music that night for us to hear. Upon entering the bar it was your typical Thursday night gig in the winter, dreadfully empty. Man did it bring back painful memories of when I use to gig out in Boston and my band would get a third spot in the line up on a tuesday night during a snowstorm. The result was often a painful turnout and a bar owner (TT The Bears Place specifically) giving me the evil eye and asking the question, “I thought you guys said you could draw people?”; ugh! To add insult to injury we would never get paid and often find a $50 parking ticket on the U-Haul van we rented that night.
Suprisingly the clubs in Albany are far more understanding and polite; Nixon’s Spirit was supposed to go on at 9:00 but I was informed that the singer would not arrive until 9:30. I was in amazement that the bar was cool about it. In Boston if you are expected to go on at 9:00 it mean’s 9:00 and you have exactly a 45 minute set, no flexibility whatsoever. So, if you’re singer doesn’t show up…tough shit, play since the clocks ticking! I was shocked that everyone was so layed back about this gig starting later. Granted, you have to keep in mind that at the time there were literally only 5 people in the bar at the time; clearly noone was getting rowdy for the headliner to go on any time soon.
Nixon’s Spirit did eventually go on and the first few songs were mediocre at best; the singer seemed off and the band still in the mode of warming up. The band became much tighter by the third song (but I could not tell you what the name of the first three were) yet the lead singer was far more focused on drinking his beer than interacting with those of us in attendance. This was a facet I found odd, for much of the time the singer seemed to want to have his back to the audience and sing his song’s to his band; much of the first part of the gig seemed like we were mererly spectators at a rehearsal space. Perhaps that’s being punk rock, right?
It was my understanding after talking to the bass player (Chris Cappadozy) that this gig was merely a last minute thing that they were using simply to test new material and see what worked and what did not. I have to admit that as the evening wore on the band got tighter and the song’s became more appealing to listen to; especially songs like 58,000 and 8 and X-Rated Man. These songs had a very catchy punk rock rhythm and clearly the crowd dug what they were hearing. The band ended the night with a song called Substance Abuse and it was ok, but not great.
Nixon’s Spirit has potential, I really do think that if the refined their sound and picked particular songs from their catalog to play at live shows they would gain fans rather quickly. If you are in the Albany area and have a chance to catch these guys playing, take a chance and check them out.
You can learn more about Nixon’s Spirit by clicking here