A perfect night at the Harbor: great weather, a sizable crowd and an interesting mix of bands that highlighted national power-pop and indie rock -- while giving a Buffalo band an opportunity to shine on a big stage.
That Buffalo band, the Albrights, opened the evening's festivities with a killer set that surely seemed to be earning the four-piece some new fans. The group -- vocalist/guitarist Brandon Barry, keyboardist/vocalist Joe Donahue, bassist Matt Crane and drummer Dustin Herzberg -- has crafted an interesting blend of indie-rock and power-pop, one that is marked by some seriously soulful vocals and killer harmonies.
It's a tough gig, handling that opening slot, as people slowly trickle in, most of them unfamiliar with the material being presented to them. But the Albrights -- fresh back from a well-received showing at this year's South by Southwest Festival, where the band played a showcase and an impromptu sidewalk acoustic show -- rose to the occasion. Working the crowd like seasoned pros despite their tender age median, the group floored the assembled with "Wasting My Time," an ebullient slab of gritty pop, and tugged at heart strings with the caffeinated ballad "You Don't Love Me."
The big finish came via "Drown," a showcase for Donahue, who has one of the finest, most versatile male voices in all of Western New York. This one played like an epic, and the crowd sent the Albrights on their way with much warmth and love. Expect to be hearing much more from this band in the future.
Next up was Binghampton's Summer People, an indie rock/post-punk collective with more than a hint of Nick Cave circa the Birthday Party, the New York Dolls, the Stooges and a dash of Jim Morrison. This band offered an abrasive blend, but the crowd was with it from the outset. There could be no doubting the band's commitment to the moment, as the singer bashed his hands bloody and raw while playing bongos. Soon, the blood from his fingers was all over his face, and the crowd, having sniffed blood, started going nuts. This was super cool, in a Stooges sort of way. The band was incredibly charming, in its own ragged way.
Fountains arrived on stage promptly at 8 p.m. and dug into a set of gorgeously sunny, harmony-laden power-pop. Opening with a ragged but righteous "I've Got a Flair," the band was warmly received from the outset, the Harbor by this point having filled to what appeared to be near capacity. "Little Red Light" featured some seriously snarky wah-wah guitar work, and vocalist/guitarist Adam Schlesinger dug down for a nice ratty and nasty vocal. "Someone to Love" was a garagey celebration of Cheap Trick and Big Star, and "Denise" reminded us all that power chords, a la the Kinks, will always rule, for eternity.
The interplay between the band's primary songwriter, Schlesinger, and uber-cool rock dude Chris Collingwood is at the heart of the Fountains' magic. The guitar playing during "No Better Place" was a vivid blend of old school rock 'n' roll and the exuberance of punk, and this was the tune that afforded the band an opportunity to really take off. The crowd of bobbing heads went along with them.
Chalk up another great night at the Harbor. This is becoming habit-forming, isn't it?
WHAT: Thursday at the Harbor with the Fountains of Wayne
WHEN: Thursday evening
WHERE: Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf