LIVE: Gary Franky, Fine Grain, & Battleaxxx @ Madison Theatre, 01/29/2022
Being the end of January now, we’re officially in the middle of winter. Anyone from the area knows what comes along with that: the cold. To tell you that this past Saturday evening was frigid would be an understatement. Single-digit temperature with an arctic wind chill bringing it into the negatives, it was indubitably, as the kids say, “brick” outside. The soundtrack I listened to in my car that evening was the chattering of my own teeth. However, despite the weather, I, alongside some other die-hard local music fans, stuck it out and made our way to Madison Theatre for an evening of punk and hard rock.
The iconic Albany establishment is of course known for its screening of films, but this was my first time seeing a concert there. Sadly, I think the cold kept away a full crowd, but those who came were excited and enthusiastic for some local music. After defrosting, getting a beverage, and taking our seats, the show was kicked off with quite a bang.
The opening band was Battleaxxx. Composed of Martha Moscowitz (guitar & vocals), Brook Degener (drums), and Megan Prokorym (bass), the all-female group of hard-rockers had the crowd captivated right from the get-go. Their songs could have had anyone headbanging along, with their chugging riffs, heavy buildups, and grooves. They had solid, tight rhythms, accompanied by punky vocals, with the occasional classic rock-style guitar solo. Their sound was a beautiful and awesome mix of Twisted Sister, Jimi Hendrix, and Fleetwood Mac. It only took a couple of songs to notice the depth behind their compositions. They were raw and raunchy, but also full of surprises.
Their songs featured hilarious stories of sexual promiscuity but would contain an unexpected chord change, break down, or lyric that you couldn’t help but appreciate. There were times when all three of the musicians would be screaming vocals that made it feel like the room was being assailed by the wailing chants of the three witches from Macbeth. They wrapped up their performance in an immaculate way, by gathering the band in a line and using their arms to throw up Xs, Dez Bryant style, which was just plain badass and displayed a style of showmanship that absolutely needs to be preserved. Battleaxxx was a force, and they need to be a household name in the Capital Region pronto.
Next up to the stage was Albany punk heavy hitters, Fine Grain. Made up of Jake Dietrich (bass & vocals), Zach Karpinski, (guitar & vocals), Kevin Bohen (lead guitar & vocals), and Matt Hardin (drums), this group really knows how to put on a show. Their music immediately took on a more aggressive, dark nature. Harmonized heavy vocals with thumping, fuzzy guitars, and smashing drums made for a total sonic explosion in the venue. At a different venue, this band would absolutely have a mob of people swirling around in a mosh pit, which was one of the only drawbacks I noticed about having a heavier show in a seated venue. However, the crowd was still eating every single thing the group was doing and playing. They came off as well-rehearsed with some really well-written songs.
Their backdrop was an impressive series of visuals that changed with each song. Some of them were trippy and surreal, pairing well with some of their pedalboard special effects wizardry and whirring guitar solos. The visuals also featured a really well-made stop-motion video that some of the band members made, which included a beautiful mountain scene, as well as a joint getting, blasted into space. While a lot of their songs were fast and brutal, they had some songs that were melodious and soulful, providing a unique sound that fluctuated somewhere between Black Flag’s “My War” and Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. They had a fantastic and humble stage presence that made it really easy to just sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever Fine Grain threw your way.
Ending the evening was Gary Franky (the artist formerly known as Comrade Nixon). The man behind the art is Andrew Wilson, a performer who sings and plays guitar. Gary Franky provided an interesting conclusion to the show, going from two full bands to a solo acoustic act, which honestly was a little jarring. He showcased a significant and substantial songwriting ability, with exceptional lyricism and impressive guitar playing.
His delivery and on-stage demeanor were a bit of a mystery to me, however. While the songs were some good folk-punk, he seemed to totally speed through his set. One time a really solid song ended, and he immediately started talking over the crowd’s applause to talk about the next song. One song, I clapped a single time, and someone’s half of a “Woo!” came out before the next tune started. At one point, he stopped even having breaks altogether, just chain playing songs back to back. All the while, his chosen background visuals were clips of a foreign action film, with people getting blown to pieces left and right with guns, which I found incredibly distracting during an intimate solo performance.
That aside, the audience and the other bands were incredibly responsive and supportive of his set. His songs, and particularly his vocals had almost a David Bowie meets The Beatles vibe, with also some bluesy guitar runs, but with very punk-inspired words and rhythms. At the end of the show, he had some fun back and forth banter with the crowd that ended the night with some laughter.
All in all, it was a great and entertaining night of local music. In addition to concerts, Madison Theatre hosts a wide variety of events and shows, including karaoke, comedy shows, trivia nights, screening sporting events, and of course movies. They have a nice bar when you first walk in, and an excellent kitchen with lots of options to enjoy during these events. There’s certainly something for everyone there.
You can explore all of the artists and follow them on social media with the following links:
Fine Grain: https://linktr.ee/finegrain
Gary Franky: https://www.facebook.com/comradenixon
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