Yo, how you doin’ ladies and gentlemen? Once again, it’s Andrew Agliata, AKA Cassady, AKA The Golden Guinea, coming to you on behalf of Upstate Music and Food, where we are dedicated to bringing you the latest in good music and good food in Western and Central New York. I have a lot to cover, but before I do, I want to extend my warmest holiday greetings to our audience. I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving this year. I don’t know about you, but I’m still digesting. This past week, a day before the holiday, I had the rare treat of celebrating my 32nd birthday while watching Dark Hollow play for the 10th anniversary party of the Westcott Theater in Syracuse, so let’s get into it…
First off, congratulations to the staff and ownership of the Westcott Theater for a decade of bringing you some of the best live music Central New York has to offer. From veteran jam-bands, to intense EDM, and everything in between, the Westcott Theater is dedicated to providing the type of intimate setting at their events that any concert-goer can appreciate, and it shows. After some major improvements back in 2014, which included upgrades to the live sound equipment, the Westcott Theater is the place to party in Syracuse. And what a party last Wednesday, November 21st, was. Despite the cold, the Westcott was humming early on as the Bad Mama’s Blues Band hit the stage a little after eight o’clock.
A young, hard-working group of talented musicians out of Syracuse, the Bad Mama’s Blues Band has seen a lot of recent success, as they were named Best Blues Band of 2018 at the Syracuse Area Music Awards. After getting the crowd warmed up with a few quality originals, including “The Lord’s Dirty Work”, the band got into a serious groove with a cover of DeadHead favorite “Easy Wind”. Fronted by the wild and soulful vocals of “Bad Mama” Emily Pastuf, the band poured their heart out on stage, and gained numerous new fans in the process. Flanked by “Lightning” Jeff Swidowski on guitar, and Zak Masoud on bass, Pastuf sang, and growled her way through a rockin’ cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”. On the keys, Will Fuegel led the charge during “What’d I Say”, a Ray Charles cover, and raised the eyebrows of several locals. Along with showman Rob Zaccaria on drums, this band is white hot. With a planned release of early 2019, the Bad Mama’s Blues Band is looking forward putting out their first album, with at least nine original tracks. Swidowski and Masoud have both been working the local music circuit since their early teens, with Masoud already looking at a decade of being a working musician. Masoud added that opening for Jaimoe, of Allman Brothers fame, and Melvin Seals, of Jerry Garcia Band, have been some highlights. Pastuf added that opening for Melvin Seals, and the friendship she developed with Seals and Kara Cavanaugh, as her own personal highlight. When asked what other young, hungry, and determined musicians just starting out can do to get themselves out there, Masoud credits “an active social media presence”, and “being confident in yourself” as two very important keys to modern success. As cliché as the idea of “being confident” can be, not everyone has the guts to leave it all out there on the stage. But Masoud and company, especially the electric Emily Pastuf, do just that. Make sure you check out the Bad Mama’s Blues Band on December 7th at Muddy Waters in Baldwinsville, and on December 14th at Funk n’ Waffles in downtown Syracuse.
And while Bad Mama’s certainly captivated the early crowd at the Westcott Theater, the party took on another energy altogether when Dark Hollow hit the stage. Dark Hollow, out of Syracuse, is one of those special bands that are able to make you feel like you’re at home, hanging out with friends, partying, listening to several of them play some great music for everyone. They have that unique ability to sincerely connect with their audience, making everyone feel a sense of “togetherness”. They make you want to reach out and interact with your fellow concert-goer, and share in the moments together. Speaking with the members of the band before the show, vocalist Mike O’Hara mentioned that the band has “always been very homegrown”, and it’s obvious that the “local” mentality has paid the band dividends in loyal followers. Rhythm guitarist Mike Hamilton added that one of the things that makes people feel so connected is “that little touch of magic that we’re trying to inject into every show, to go for it in certain moments” and to “not being afraid in the moment to go over the top”. Lead guitarist Michael Vincitore called it “unscripted”. I call it honest, and authentic. From first and second set openers “Hell in a Bucket” and “Shakedown Street”, respectively, to fan-favorites “Estimated Prophet” and “Bertha”, and an epic “Casey Jones” to end the night, Dark Hollow communicates with their audience sonically, on a cosmic level. If you haven’t had the pleasure to see them perform yet, you’re robbing yourself on an experience you won’t soon forget. It’s an experience that the band prides itself on. Mike Hamilton stated, “We put a lot of time, and thought, and forethought… to give the fans a better experience”, and concluded by saying that the fans “are the lifeblood of everything we do”. Ask anyone who braved the cold weather the night of the show, and they’ll tell you that the loyalty and appreciation felt between audience and the band is potent, mutual, and honest. When asked what was next for a band at the top of their game, O’Hara mentioned “regional tours, festivals” and even teased a group- minded idea of “the Bus”. With plenty of fun in store for their fans, and for themselves, Dark Hollow is a group of life-long friends, whose sincere talent and love for their craft cannot be overstated, or missed, so mark your 2019 calendars in advanced for March 9th, when they play at The Haunt in Ithaca.
I’d like to conclude with a thought or two about the community. One of the things I love about shows at the Westcott Theater, Funk n’ Waffles, and other stalwart local venues, is the sense of community that each of these establishments help propagate. Not only are they hosting great music, but the venues open their arms to the idea of other artists “sharing the stage”, if you will. Local artists Fletch Crangle and Jason Vincent spent the evening expressing themselves via paint and canvas, with happy audience members enjoying their progress while stomping their feet to Grateful Dead music. Laughter and smoke were in the air in abundance. The audience hugged, danced, and spilled beer all over each other, with nothing but love and mutual admiration. It was exactly the type of scene I like being in, and I’m honored to be part of it. It is my sincere wish that all of you come out and join the family. Until then, stay gold.
Author: Cassady Agliata
Photography: Jerrie DiFabio