>> Last Friday night, we hosted a mix-genre showcase concert at the Bug Jar that featured five solid acts on the bill, including one from Albany. Typically Bug Jar shows are filled with such chaos triggered by the lively local punk scene with the slamming doors, spilled beers, sloppy mosh pits and fizzled crowd surfing. However, this past Friday night wasn’t the case for such antics. The Bug Jar is one of those venues constantly pulling in an audience that’s diverse, which was well-paired with the eclectic music heard that night.
The indie-rock trio Fowls was first up, with their half-hour of diverse abstract melodies, which sometimes sounded like a trade-off of Talking Heads and Vampire Weekend. With eyes glued to their alluring math-rock driven riffs and complex chord progressions, you can tell the band challenges itself, especially with the heavy dueling guitars from frontmen Reuben Vazquez and Vadim Ovcharov. Even though Fowls hasn’t released a full-length album since 2013’s “Into the Wild,” they released a new track last April called “A Phase in the Life.” And during the show, it seemed like they played some tracks that haven’t been released yet.
After members of Fowls went to the bar, local rapper KZA K’ Lee took the stage, but was first fondly introduced by his mother. KZA brought an abundance of beats and plenty of references to Dragon Ball Z. KZA also has a tremendous balance of sounds reminiscent to the underground hip hop scene eighties and nineties with the mumble rap of the current rap SoundCloud generation. KZA is definitely one of the more woke rappers in the area, whose music sounds reflective of the world.
Great Red brought more of an ’90s alt-rock style to the stage with a bit of contemporary psychedelia thrown in the mix. Frontman Zach Kochan delivered his always hypnotically warm and pure vocals, especially on the title track of their latest EP, released last month. Like Fowls, they’re another band that clearly challenges themselves not only in the studio but on the stage. However, it felt there was some self-restraint amongst the guitarists, who would fool you thinking they would lead into an entirely new direction. But that might’ve been just part of the journey the audience encountered with Great Red’s music.
The night ended with local rapper MF SKUM a.k.a. S.K.U.M. (Sacred Knowledge Uniting the Masses) who’s set was the most engaging. Due to technical difficulties, SKUM ditched the stage to perform in the crowd and work his lo-fi beats behind the production booth. Some concert-goers even took the concert to social media by going live. Even though SKUM carried more energy during his set than KZA's, both rappers carried a lot of personality and most importantly showed their inventiveness to their home.
Unconventionality seems to be a common theme at Bug Jar shows—I mean, you are playing under furniture. But it was the venue for an Albany-based psychedelic hip-hop and sometimes dance-punk duo like Major Niño, consisting of Runey Ghosh and Major Capers, who brought their unique free-spirited stage presence on Friday night. Their set was like a party—full of energy, a couple undirected and at times comical conversations with the crowd (adding to their aesthetic) and of course the crowd shaking their rumps to the funk. MF SKUM even jumped on stage to freestyle, which just shows how unique and creative these acts are. “Fitness” was the main highlight from their set, which sounded like if Inspectah Deck and Prince were featured on a b-side from Beck’s Midnite Vultures. This band certainly gave it their all on Friday night and was the main highlight of the night. <<