Live: Free Energy @ Valentine’s Music Hall, 11/22/10

Free Energy
Free Energy

Nobody should have anything to complain about as far as the live music scene goes in Nippertown these days. Seems like every night something interesting is going down around these parts. Case in point: Monday night, not traditionally a “party night,” there was some hot music happening around town.

The evening started off with by catching a set of Ramblin Jug Stompers at the new home of their monthly residency, McGeary’s in Albany. A healthy crowd was there to enjoy traditional folk, country, jug and bluegrass music, served up in a down-home, friendly style by the Jugsters (Wild Bill, Mister Eck, Bowtie and Cousin Clyde), along with a plethora of special guests that included: “Lonesome Val” Haynes, Kim Kilby of Tern Rounders, bassist Rick Bedrosian, sax-man Luke McNamee and more.

We could have hung out all night soaking in the sweet jug-sounds and enjoying the hospitality of McGeary’s first lady Tess Collins and her staff … but there was rock & roll to be had!

Further uptown at Valentine’s Music Hall, there was a youth movement going on. Free Energy’s debut album, “Stuck On Nothing,” struck a chord this year, contributing to the top-down-crusin’-time soundtrack of the summer. The band plays a heavily ’70s-influenced brand of rock & roll blending jangling Cheap Trick-ish power-pop with T-Rex boogie and Thin Lizzy-styled twin-guitar-fueled anthems.

Not knowing what to expect from the band live, being familiar with them only through the album, it warmed this old rock & roll heart to see a strong crowd of 18-year-olds to 20-somethings at the show – dancing, singing along, jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air. Boys and girls dancing together to rock & roll … yeah, rock & roll… not hip-hop, not moshing to death-metal, not twirling to endless jams, not line-dancing to new country, but having free-style fun at a good old-fashioned rock & roll show.

We got there right as the Canadian band Hollerado were kicking into their set of straight ahead, Tom Petty-influenced rock. Good solid fun, but perhaps a bit too jammy at times for the connoisseur of the three-minute rock song. They ended up with all the members of Free Energy jumping on stage to dance, sing and turn things into a wild frat-house party. Hollerado closed by segueing into the instrumental breakdown of the ’60s garage nugget “Psychotic Reaction”, leaving me wondering if I was perhaps the only one in attendance who knew the song.

Haling from Philadelphia, Free Energy wasted no time getting on stage and turning it into, and I quote, “A Monday Night Dance Party!” Listening to lead singer Paul Sprangers talk to the crowd in-between songs was like being in a friend’s basement during a kegger – just your bud’s band playing to you and your pals – but as soon as they counted off a number, it was full-fledged rock star mode. Wind-mill power chords, dueling guitars, arms flailing about and the whole band in constant motion living up to their moniker.

Tearing through one sparkling tune after another from their full-length release, (listen to the catchy “Hope Child,” “Free Energy” or “Bang Pop,” and tell me these tunes don’t stick in your head like gum to your shoe), the boys brought the young audience into the fold by handing a group of girls the microphone to handle background vocals and inviting people onstage to sing and dance. I mean, damn, the Hollerado guys were on stage more during Free Energy’s set then their own.

It was a party – a rock & roll party and not a bad Monday night out on the town. Nothing earth shattering. Not breaking any new ground. But a damn good-time and reassurance that rock & roll did not die with the dinosaurs. No, it is still alive and well. There is a new rock youth movement… and “The Kids Are Alright!”

Review and photograph by Tim Livingston

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