My wife and I had a lot of reasons for moving here last January; the quality of Albany’s music scene, however, did not much factor into our decision. I realized that I might be relocating to a city without strong networks for the type of music that I’m typically interested in, that is, creative music. Since coming here, I have been surprised by the quality of the local music, the opportunities for new musicians, the overall energy of the people in the independent music community, and by the unexpected connections between myself and people in this scene.
It didn’t take me long to understand why people refer to the city as ‘smAlbany.’ When we first agreed to relocate here, I was beginning to work on ‘Badstar,’ an interdisciplinary collaboration involving myself, three Virginia Tech faculty members, and one faculty member from the University of Alabama—Holland Hopson, a banjo player and composer. At the start of the project, I barely knew Holland and had not met him in person. Upon hearing of my relocation plans, Holland informed me that he recently left a position at RPI so that he and his wife could assume faculty roles in Tuscaloosa. This connection seemed very coincidental and I interpreted it as a very positive sign that my wife and I were making the right decision to move.
Holland introduced me to some local artists that he thought might resonate with me. Coincidentally, two of these people were already in my network: Raymond Hare and Eric Hardiman. In 2010, my group, Locrian, released a split LP with their group, Century Plants on Eric’s Delmar-based label. When I met Eric face-to-face for the first time, he seemed warm, welcoming, and probably a bit surprised that I was now an Albany resident. Upon hearing which part of town I lived in, he directed me to my new neighbor, Jackson Wingate, Flipped Out Records owner and Burnt Hills bandleader.
Jackson wrote to welcome me to the area and invited me to collaborate with Burnt Hills during their weekly Hawkwind-worshipping jam session. When I showed up to the session, I met Jeff Case, drummer and electronic musician, who coincidently used to live in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, the same Chicago neighborhood that I resided in for more than ten years. After the rehearsal, Albany felt even smaller.
At a weekend experimental music matinee at Paulys Hotel, I arrived just as local multi-instrumentalist and percussionist Matt Weston was packing up his very eclectic and expansive drum kit. Although I missed his set, I found out that he recently released an EP with his project Arc Pair, a collaboration between himself and percussionist Amanda Kraus. Surprisingly, Amanda is one of my Chicago-area friends. Their EP probably would have slipped past my ears had I not made the connection between smAlbany and my current network. Missing out on this EP would have been too bad since it’s tactfully layered, unpredictable, thoughtfully composed, and overall really good.
Connections to my youth growing up in the north country have also come to my attention. For instance, I was surprised when I recognized my mail carrier, Jarred Krak, from the time he spent drumming in punk bands in the North Country in the late 1990s. When I last heard him play, he was a sloppy and developing drummer. Today, he’s the solid and powerful percussionist for Maggot Brain, among other projects.
So, while the independent music scene here may be relatively small, I have found it to be very manageable and welcoming. It might not have been much of a factor in the decision that my wife and I made to move to the region, but the energy and openness of the community feel like one compelling reason for us to stay.
Andre Foisy plays guitar in Locrian (Relapse Records), works to improve teaching and learning in higher education, teaches courses in the social sciences, and practices and teaches yoga.