LIVE: Schenectavoidz, Battleaxxx, Turf n Turf, and Girth Control @ the Hangar on the Hudson, 10/29/2021
So I don’t think I’ve ever seen any review of a live show that begins with a mention of the sound engineer. In fact, it feels like sound engineers are pretty much hardly ever mentioned in live show reviews. Well for me the show last Friday started with the sound engineer, onstage with a guitar testing the microphone…
First off I missed Schenectadavoiz. Which I was really pissed off about (you can read about them at my article from the week before here). And I want you to know that I’m very professional and get to shows I’m reviewing on time for the most part, but when the police are at your door there’s really not much you can do. Why were the police at my door? To find out that you’ll have to read my book… just kidding. But seriously I had a good excuse which is good because Schenectavoidz was awesome the last time I saw them.
But instead, I walked in to see Troy Pohl onstage testing the equipment for Battleaxxx. As you probably all know, Pohl is locally famous for having done the sound engineering and recording of the first Che Guevara T-Shirt album. And he also was in some local band… suicide love or ninja brains… I can’t remember. Kamikaze shots? Yeah, that sounds right. The point is that Bjork was in the band before she became famous for covering a Madonna song in a dress made of bird meat. It was the early 2000s, everything was nuts.
The real point is the sound at the Hangar on the Hudson was really terrific last Friday. All the bands sounded incredible, as though it was on record, every instrument was perfect, the production was A+. With the exception of Turf n Turf who we’ll get into later. The sound system was perfect for the space and just loud enough that you could hear everything anywhere in the building but not so loud that you had to wear earplugs. And the mix, handled and gone over in detail in every aspect with a fine tooth comb, was expertly handled by the man behind the board, Mr. Troy Pohl.
Yes, I love the Schenectavoidz and was pissed I missed them. But if you know me or have read my other reviews, you know I also LOVE Battleaxx, and as soon as they started playing all my disappointment was gone and I was rocking out with a bunch of people I didn’t know (I’m an old guy, and as an old guy I find that every show I go to has people that look like my old hipster friends, they talk like them, they rock like them, but they’re totally different people). All decked out in full Angel regalia for Halloween, the lovely rawkin angels of the Axxx took to the stage to cheers and howls of excitement. Lead singer/guitarist Martha Moscowitz leans into the mic and asks ‘Do you believe in rock and roll? Music can save your very soul’ (could be a quote or reference but I don’t recognize it), and then they RIP right in!
Halfway through the first song, Moscowitz wails into one of her signature mock classic rock soloes and the crowd goes, well pretty much as wild as I’ve ever seen a group of thirty somethings most of whom are in serious relationships and probably are trying not to drink too much because of what happened in college go… Her palm muted riffs and climbing crescendos that define most of the songs go from post hardcore to surf rock and back again, her vocals half Kat Bjelland, half David Yow and half Kathleen Hanna (I suck at fractions).
And, seriously, holy shit are they tight! The last time I saw them they were rockin, but they have really been rehearsing and refining their sounds since then. Drummer Brooke Degener in particular is sounding full on METALL!!! (devil horns symbol not available in my emojis), owning those toms, holding multiple beats on the snare and high hat and starting and stopping on. a. dime. Bass player Megan Prokorym further makes the rhythm totally together yet intriguing, following the beats at times than holding it all together while the guitar and drums go wild and bring it all back home every song. Next thing you know Moscowitz is screaming, Prokorym is wailing background vocals, and Degener is like a master lion tamer over all of those skins…
After a few all-out riff rockers, the set winds down into some complex, introspective tunes that mesmerize the already hypnotized crowd. And I wonder to myself, is Battleaxxx THE hippest Capital band right now? I don’t have to think about it long before screaming ‘YES!!!!’ And then the set ends all too soon (I don’t know how much time has passed but I still want more!) and Degener pounds out what’s left of the drums in a paroxysm of old fashioned punk rock doom…
There’s a long pause before the next band, which is good because I’m gonna need some serious time to recover. Turf n Turf, a one man band from Greenwich (outside Shushan? No? Outside, um, Hoosick Falls? It’s somewhere in Upstate NY but not in a city) sets up his own complete stage right in front of the real stage. By the time he’s finished, he’s in a sort of cubicle that looks like a tiny shop front surrounded by bizarre percussion equipment hanging from chains.
And like the band before him, he rocks right in… giving a new definition to the one man band term. Kicking some drums with his feet to keep a beat, Kevin Vaill (who goes by ‘Snail) plays a mean ole dirty slide blues guitar. As a one man band that seemed to be working pretty much off the ‘sound grid’, technical glitches and sound drops ensued creating a crusty lo-fi aesthetic that went with the whole image. The slide guitar was heavily fuzzed, the lo-fi minimalist drums reminded me of Bob Bert’s work with Pussy Galore, and Snail’s use of fists and elbows to violently punch the percussive elements hanging from the chains certainly gave you the impression of the ‘nuclear blues noise machine’ Turf n Turf’s Bandcamp site describes them as. His raucous blues noise rock and over the top histrionics remind me of Plattsburgh’s Irradiated Beef and NYC’s Pale Horse; Snail may very well have a completely different list of influences but these are groups that have entertained and defined local Capital District blues noise shows for decades (and so at least deserve a mention from me, an old dude that just loves to name drop his pals and obscure folks he feels have gotten far less mention then they should).
But Snail’s histrionics reach even higher levels as he takes off his shirt… With his muscular frame and beautiful long straight blond hair, watching him punching metal and steel one can’t help but be reminded of the Nordic god Thor and his powerful Hammer. But the thunder and lightning that result here are made up of a world of NOISE! AS he pounds the kick drums and the degrading fuzz guitar sounds almost like it’s melting, I got the impression of a man doing primal screaming in an orgone box. An experience that was probably as sublime and therapeutic for him as it is for the audience, all of whom seemed to love and cheer with every note and metal clank.
Finally, the evening was rounded out by the undeniably popular, charismatic, super fun punk/ska mainstays Girth Control. This punk/ska trio has been rocking pretty much everywhere there is to play in the Capital District for the past 5+ years. A few years ago they won a prestigious, well-deserved award for being the funniest band EVER and they’ve only gotten funnier and better since.
They begin by Wiley admitting that they’ve ‘grown up’, but from the looks of it, they’re not letting it get to them. Dressed as ZZ Top with the giant fake beards and fuzzy accouterments on their guitars, they play with the confidence and tautness of a band that’s been successfully putting out records and playing shows for years. This show is a homecoming and ‘coming out’ of the pandemic of sorts for them, and the well oiled machine that never misses a beat or backup vocal they’ve become is on full display. By this point, it’s late at night and all the old lameos (which I’m usually one of when all the bands aren’t this good!) or parents, recovering alcoholics (ok I’ve made my point now… starting to get a little offensive) have gone home, leaving only the hardcore party-harders and absolute lovers of GIRTH! The crowd’s dancing like it don’t give a fuck, half the people know all the words to the songs, Girth Control knows them by name (and lightheartedly calls them out to laughs at and with them individually — I am disappointed they don’t know my name but then again it’s probably difficult to see the old cripple in the back that can’t stand up for more than a couple minutes at a time but I’m used to it and I’ll have my REVENGE when I write about how friggin amazing they are later for Nippertown)…
They tear into their hit song and album title track ‘What got you stoked in the first place’ and the good times break loose. This is what it’s all about right here. Singing along with your favorite local punk band and drinking and smoking and dancing too much. Hanging out with your friends, and cheering as Girth Control breaks into a 15 second song/commercial for ICE! Yeah, it’s funny, but at the same time, it’s somehow super intense. Like the pop-punk version of Napalm Death’s ‘You Suffer’, somehow Mark, Bob and Jay (the 3/4ths of more ‘serious’ punk Americana band The Slaughterhouse Chorus that admittedly ‘can’t’ sing) make you believe that you shouldn’t ‘be like Girth Control. Control your ice consumption!’ And then they blast into a hardcore song about fire that seamlessly segues into a ska song for 30 seconds, then back, then back again! They end with a guest appearance by Snail of Turf n Turf and then the house falls down because there’s simply no more fun in the world to be had.
If you missed out on this one, don’t miss the next one. Even if you’re a crippled old fat bald dude like me that doesn’t know anyone there, this show was just super fun and overwhelmingly entertaining!”