Live music is a wonderful thing. It really does not matter what style is being played, there is always something about seeing musicians ply their trade without a net that is exciting. Even when the band is not terribly good, there is still something to be said about watching them put themselves out there. Live musicians are brave souls and should be supported and while it is always desirable that the band be good, if you enter in with a positive attitude, you will always find something to like.
This particular evening is not a show I would usually go to. Yes, live music is always a good thing, but UFO has never been a band on my radar. My main reason for going was to see a new up-and-coming act named Freakswitch. I have known their bass player from prior projects and have been meaning to check out his new start up. This seemed to be as good an opportunity as any to see what they have to offer, plus check out some bands that I normally wouldn't see.
When I arrived at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY, the opening band on the bill (I didn't catch the name) was nearing the end of their set. What I heard didn't make much of an impression on me anyway; I just seem to recall them playing some decent hard rock.
The first act I saw from start to finish was Adam's Echo. This four-piece was perfectly mediocre — the sort of band that is somewhat enjoyable live, but not one that I feel the need to revisit all that often. Of course, they're not a metal act, so what do I know? Right? Now, do not get me wrong, these guys are not all that bad, the music is decent and they do inject some humor into their tunes. How often do you come across a band that will write a song about Snugglies? Not very often. The highlight of their set was called "Snugglies Taking Over the World." I could not help but chuckle.
While I may have been a little nonplussed by them overall, there was one thing that stood out with Adam's Echo. Their classic rock styled sound is highlighted by lead guitarist/vocalist Garth Cullum. His voice was all right (actually, he was the better of the two lead vocalists), but that is not what made him stand out. He is a phenomenal guitarist. The man has chops; he ran though numerous leads that were smooth and displayed a good deal of skill. His contributions alone are worth listening to.
Next up was a band called Starburst. I think that is what they called themselves; I cannot say they were all that clear whenever they said it. They were a fun band that didn't offer much new. The sound was straight up rock and roll and I could see myself enjoying them more in a bar after a few beers. There was nothing particularly special about their music, but they certainly brought lot of energy to the table. In particular, their guitar player was a wild man, shaking his head, slapping and clawing at his six-stringed instrument — he was a madman. Still, they are not a band I am likely to seek out.
Next up was the final opening act, Freakswitch. These guys have only been together for about eight months or so and are just now beginning to gain some momentum on the local scene. The band features veteran musicians who have come together for a love of the music and a desire to share their love with other music lovers. They play a brand of solid hard rock that is not the most distinctive, but it is definitely catchy and displays the ability of the members to come together and write good songs. I am sure that given more time, their voices will continue to blend and allow for even better tunes.
Freakswitch came to the stage with plenty of energy, an energy that the slow-but-growing crowd recognized, fed off, and gave right back. I had spoken to the band prior to the show and they were a little disappointed over the low number of tickets they were able to sell (it's kind of hard to sell tickets for a weekday show). Fortunately, that did not seem to matter as the people that were there really got into them, more than any of the prior bands.
This was my first time seeing them, and I admit that I had been looking forward to the opportunity. I was not disappointed. They are not the best local act I have seen, but they have a lot of upside. I was a little worried going in as I had sampled the tracks on their MySpace page and found the music to be good, but the vocals worried me. The voice seemed off. Live, they are a different story, everything blended together much better, with the vocals definitely stepped up.
Was their performance perfect? No. At times the mix was off a bit, sometimes the guitar got lost in the sound and I could not make out its detail. On the other side of the stage, the bass playing from Mike Polito was solid, just as I have come to know from him, but there were odd slapping noises coming from the strings that didn't sound normal. Overall, the performance was good, with plenty of energy, catchy songs, and a lot of fun. They are well worth keeping an eye on in the coming months.
With all of the opening acts out of the way, the headliner was one I know nothing about and cannot claim to have had a lot of interest in seeing. Still, I was curious since I was there, so I stayed to check them out. As UFO came to the stage, I became acutely aware that I was on the very low end of the age scale among the audience, which is not something I can claim all that often anymore. The band came to the stage featuring two original members from their original 1970 line up, singer Phil Mogg and drummer Andy Parker. What followed was 80-minutes of rock and roll.
I didn't know any of the songs and it didn't matter.
UFO took the stage, the crowd cheered and they proceeded to tear it up. It was not like watching any of the young bands; in some ways it was better. This is not a band that is out there for the glory or the money, but rather because they love to perform. Tthey do it for themselves as well as for the fans, but they mainly do it for the music. All of the band members put on solid performances, but there is one that grabbed me more than the others. Guitarist Vinnie Moore (who was all of 6 years old when the first UFO album came out) was phenomenal. The guy can shred. Towards the end of the set, I swear he went on a 10-minute instrumental that was mind-blowing. I would see UFO again just to see him play again.
All things considered, this was a night of music that was not my usual cup of tea, but there was still a lot to like. I am interested in seeing where Freakswitch goes and UFO is now on my radar as well.