Review: PearlPalooza offers up favorite acts for dancing in the street (with photo gallery)
ALBANY The third annual PearlPalooza street festival ended on a soggy note Saturday evening, but nevertheless a triumphant one for all the bands and attendees.
After a full day of clear skies and temperate weather on North Pearl Street, the first few drops began falling during Phantogram’s set on the main stage. It really began to pour as local favorites Conehead Buddha braved the elements, only making it through two songs before they had to pull the plug.
But the show went on, with headliners Matt & Kim pulling out all the stops for an energetic set that got the diehards dancing and crowd surfing through the rain. The crowd started small at noon but quickly grew — by 3:30 there was already a sizable crowd camped out in front of the main stage, in addition to a migrating crowd that switched between the main stage and the local stage. By 5 p.m. it was difficult to move around close to the stages (although when the rain started, many left, leaving about a third of the assembled throng to witness Matt & Kim). With bands alternating between the two stages, there were no overlaps in performances, so one could feasibly see everything.
Amber Miller, program director and afternoon DJ for WEQX-FM, which co-sponsored the event, estimated that the crowd would top 20,000 before the day was out.
“The turnout is really impressive, especially for early on,” Miller said. “We knew the headliners would draw people down later, which is what we were anticipating, but it’s nice to see it in real life.”
Many came for headliners Matt & Kim, although there was plenty of love for Saratoga Springs heroes Phantogram, next to last on the main stage. Many came for both, such as Alicia Mares, 21, of Pittsfield, Mass., and formerly of Saratoga Springs, who was at the event early with her brother Seth, 17.
“We listen to EQX, although I actually barely get it in Massachusetts,” Alicia said. “We’re here for Matt & Kim. Yeah, [Phantogram] too. But I have a special place in my heart for Matt & Kim.”
There were no complaints about the eclectic music offerings on both stages. “I like the music; I like that they have the different music on the two ends, which is good,” said Nancy Audi, 53, of Latham.
According to Kristi R., 27, of Schaghticoke, who attended the previous two PearlPaloozas, this year’s festival was smaller than previous years.
“They had a bouncy-bounce last year, a Velcro sticky wall too,” Kristi said. “I think maybe because Jillian’s closed, a lot of places closed, but there’s less places to eat, less food.”
Matt & Kim — Brooklyn electronic-pop duo Matt Johnson on keys and Kim Schifino on drums — lived up to their top-billed status, even with the less-than-ideal weather during their set. From the moment the two took the stage, they were all upbeat energy and grins, powering through a few snippets of songs (including a riff on House of Pain’s “Jump Around”) before tearing up “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare.”
The duo never let up from here. Highlights included the sunny pop of “Silver Tides,” which the group dedicated to WEQX (the first station to ever play the band, as Schifino revealed); and the anthemic “Lessons Learned.” A new song from the group’s upcoming album “Lightning” due in October, “Let’s Go,” got the crowd moving, as did the punchy “Yea Yeah.” At one point toward the end of the set, Johnson could be seen somehow standing on his hands, on his keyboard, while playing the keyboard — quite a feat.
Phantogram had the benefit of the last good weather of the day, but it still seemed as though the crowd was a bit more excited about its hometown heroes. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter were joined by touring drummer Tim Oakley (another local, from Mathematicians) for a punishing set that touched on both their 2009 debut “Eyelid Movies” and last year’s stunning “Nightlife” EP.
Though the sound mix left something to be desired when it came to both Barthel and Carter’s vocals, the two still shined brightly on cuts such as the dark “Turning Into Stone” and “Mouthful of Diamonds.” Perhaps best of all was “Don’t Move,” the group’s single from “Nightlife,” as Barthel’s ethereal croon soared above the looped beats and Carter’s snarling guitar lines.
The Royal Concept, from Stockholm, Sweden, kicked music off on the main stage shortly before 1 p.m., bringing a blend of energetic rock and ’80s-sounding synths on songs such as “Goldrushed” and epic set highlight “Damn, Damn, Damn.”
Brooklyn’s Oberhofer, next up on the main stage, took things in a punkier direction. Frontman and band namesake Brad Oberhofer provided a good focal point as he bashed his way through such energetic numbers as the schizophrenic “Haus,” which began in a heavy vein but devolved into something close to ’60s pop. Then, Seattle one-man-band Robert DeLong provided some of the most dance-worthy grooves all day, pounding away at drums, synthesizers and loops and creating a sound much bigger than one person, all while singing.
The local stage tended to favor rootsier artists. B3nson favorites Barons in the Attic kicked things off right at noon on a high note, pumping up the slowly growing crowd with their mix of hard rock and country swagger. Eastbound Jesus, on after The Royal Concept, moved further in a roots direction, highlighting banjo and slide guitar in the mix.
Mirk’s soulful hip-hop and pop attack shook things up mid-afternoon, giving the crowd another opportunity to dance (as if anyone needed prompting) with catchy tunes such as “Forbidden Love” and “Sunshine.” And Wild Adriatic, up right before Phantogram, managed to tie everything together by bringing all the previous local bands up for a roaring cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Joe Cocker style.