LIVE: Songwriters in the Round @ Great Flats Brewing, Schenectady, 05/05/2022

Singer/songwriters performed at Great Flats Brewing in Schenectady on Thursday, May 5th, for an unexpected celebration of original music. Organized by a relative newcomer to the Nippertown scene, Alice Sorensen, the series featured Reese Fulmer, Justin Friello, and Marty Wendell. Called “Songwriters in a Round,” the concert rotated through all four musicians who played one song at a time until each had performed four times. 

Jim (Gilbert) and I rarely go out together on weeknights, primarily because I’m scheduled elsewhere. When you get a personal inbox invite from Marty Wendell, an award-winning songwriter and local legend in his own right, it’s motivating to set aside the time and make the effort. Add in Reese Fulmer, whose lyrics sit deep in my heart long after performances, and I knew it was right where I wanted to be on Thursday for Cinco de Mayo.

Alice Sorensen (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

Great Flats is a local brewery and community hub in Schenectady. Serving beer, non-alcoholic beverages (including home-brewed root beer!), popcorn, and they welcome dogs. Great Flats is emerging as a great place for young and old to celebrate music, trivia nights, and lessons on bicycle repair. Situated below a hot yoga studio, it is a likely place for many to rest and recover after a long day of work in downtown Schenectady.

Alice opened the evening by explaining her vision for Songwriters in the Round, an idea she pitched to the other musicians via email. All responded with excitement, and hence she had her lineup. The four musicians, while all songwriters, had such different vibes that it was hard not to wonder how they’d work out together.

Spoiler alert: it was pure synergy. 

Justin Friello (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

Sorensen’s honey-sweet voice sang of longing, and “Yesterday’s Wine” captured her talent both in lyric development and performance. I found myself melting a bit as I listened to her sing. Sorensen is a classically trained singer but shifts well to playing her guitar to the intimate group.

Friello was somehow new to me, which Jim couldn’t believe. The anguish of love that goes nowhere came through in the lyrics and rhythms of “Cecelia,” but by far my favorite song of his was “Mr. Frog” for its bluesy vibe and honest language.

Reese Fulmer (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

Fulmer’s songs challenge me to think and command my heart every time I hear them. His portrayal of love and friendship speaks to wisdom beyond his years. “City of Roses” was a new take on the opioid crisis, paralleling the experiences of addiction with the macro view of the threat of nuclear war. “What a beautiful dream it is / we leave behind” brought the two issues together and instantly revealed how the world is struggling on individual and larger levels. And he made me laugh with his yarn about the corporate structure of the afterlife. His quirky and unique perspective on the world never fails to delight.

Wendell was of course the artist who I came to review, and he stood out among the other songwriters as the most seasoned artist there. Telling dad jokes between serious songs about his grandfather’s hatred and bluesy songs like “Fleabag Hotel,” Wendell told stories that conveyed wisdom about kindness, love, and humor. His songs were “true stories” per his own words that kept Great Flats focused like we were in class, curious about what would come next.

Marty Wendell (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

Songwriters in the Round is a unique series that combines artists with varying levels of performance experience to showcase their lyrics and music. Go have a listen. Bring your dog. And eat the popcorn. It’s perfect with a fresh brewed (root) beer.

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