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Recap: Rest Fest ’11

Although in theory, the 2nd-annual Restoration Festival took some hits from Irene — such as two of the national acts, A Hawk and a Hacksaw and The Music Tapes both canceling and the consecutive choice to allow free entry on Sunday — in practice, the festival and its attendees became a textbook example for making the best of a potentially grim situation.

Deer Tick at Rest Fest © Andrew Franciosa

The b3nson family affair brought together a tediously crafted line-up and schedule of the Capital Region’s best in indie folk/rock/etc. mixed in with nationally touring bands Deer Tick and Titus Andronicus and a late(r) night DJ set from Looney of Deep Children and Party With Tina on Saturday. Sunday’s schedule was delayed and slimmed down due to the storm, but arguably one of the best parts of the entire weekend was seeing the tireless efforts and actions of volunteers and friends alike come together to ensure that Irene didn’t eff up a good time. People wanted this event go to happen and that energy was just as contagious as was freaking out about the storm.

Seeing St. Joseph’s Church act as a venue is something that, simply put, needs to happen more often. The atmosphere under the cathedral’s high ceilings gave the festival a mystical quality, where you couldn’t help but feel out of place in the absolute best way possible. From admiring the restored paintings behind the alter to the ornate details bordering the building’s walls, Restoration Festival reminded us that the 150-year-old building of St. Joseph’s church is a gem in Albany. Also, if you didn’t already know, the underlying theme of RestFest is in helping the effort to continue furthering the restoration process and a quarter of the proceeds will go to the Historic Albany Foundation’s efforts.

If I’ve learned anything from attending and reviewing music festivals this summer it’s that the flexibility of any festival or all-day event also seems to go hand-in-hand with commitment. Supporting all of the local bands playing at RestFest wasn’t made burdonsome by any means, with no musical overlap or anything of that nature, but I still didn’t make all of the bands that I wanted to see.

That being said, definite highlights included the Stompin Jug Ramblers (playing a typewriter for one song!), We Are Jeneric, Matthew Carefully’s Undone Ensemble (I want an encore..none of that one-time-performing-only talk!), Swamp Baby and Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned. Other awesome local acts were the Red Lions, Rawhead, Railbird, Barons in the Attic, Alta Mira, Slender Shoulders and Scientific Maps. Aaron, of Scientific Maps, did a terrific job emceeing Sunday and should consider this new role at more shows in the future.

The festival, as marketed as a “funstival”, really did live up to that merry tagline and it was apparent that all of the bands were there to have a good time playing their music. The support from one band to the next really gave the festival its energetic strength and the community effort behind all of the bands really is a metaphor for the work they collectively do the other 363 days in the year. Even Deer Tick stripped any existing egos and performed as if they were part of the extended family. Deer Tick was awesome, btw. Prior to RestFest, I’ve never heard them perform live, and only sporadically have listened over the years, but the rock quartet definitely delivered, and capped their set off appropriately with “Goodnight Irene.”

Although they modestly admitted that they didn’t neccessarily want to headline their own festival, Sgt. Dunbar capped off the weekend’s performances quite wonderfully. Despite it being bittersweet that two of the larger bands slotted for Sunday had to cancel, it felt appropriate that Sgt. Dunbar wrapped the weekend up. During the tail end of their set, RestFest attendees in the crowd joined together in a swaying group hug that truly brought the weekend back home.

Big thanks out to the b3nson crew for being awesome hosts and to all of the people that made this event happen and we’re already looking forward to next year’s.

Check out more pictures from Andrew on his flickr.

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