Friday was my first time at Frog Alley Brewing in Schenectady and upon first arriving, I was impressed with the size of the outdoor space. The brewery had a great outdoor space and even with the several hundred people that congregated for the show, the staff seemed to easily keep up with the beverage needs of the crowd. There were a couple of food trucks parked within the space as well, giving it the feel of a much larger outdoor music festival.

The lack of shade was poised to become an issue with me, as the direct sun was brutal. But, within 30 minutes of arriving, the sun was down enough behind the horizon of buildings that it was no longer an issue. In fact, I would say that the weather and temperature were near perfect.

Photo by Amy Klemme

The Nixons took the stage and blasted right into their song “Head” which is the second track off of their major-label debut, Foma. Their enthusiasm was very noticeable and became quickly contagious. Many people that were barely paying attention when the song started, had begun to migrate as close to the stage as they could.

The Nixons’ bass player impressed the crowd with his proper pronunciation of Schenectady and you could see the pride in his face for getting the famously mispronounced name right. Frontman Zac Maloy noted how the band had taken a “17-year break” and reformed with their Foma-era lineup in 2017, before going into the band’s newest single “Kaleidoscope”, which was just released in June.

They also played their version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, which has been in the band’s live performance repertoire since their 1998 album “Scrapbook” before Zac Maloy grabbed the acoustic guitar to play The Nixons’ most recognizable hit, “Sister”. 

Photo by Amy Klemme

The crowd was all-in at this point, so when Maloy asked them if they were happy, with a genuine smile on his face, there was a resounding “yes. Then they played “Happy Song” and for the last song, “One by One”, he jumped into the crowd and sang amongst them in what felt like a pure Rock and Roll moment. 

Also in true rock and roll fashion, as noted by friend David Tyo, Zac Maloy was already on The Nixons tour bus before the last guitar note had even stopped ringing.

Fastball came out and went right into their song “Fire Escape” which was a minor hit for the band in 1998. They immediately won over the crowd with their energy and grooves. During the solo, Miles Zuniga did a few bars of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and the older folks in the crowd came to life with cheers. 

Photo by Amy Klemme

Tony Scalzo broke a bass guitar string on the first song and as he declared “that has literally never happened before” he simply picked up an acoustic guitar and the band started playing “I Will Never Let You Down” off of their 2017 album, “Step Into The Light”. Upon looking at the setlist later, it appears that even playing this song was a split-second decision in response to the broken string, as the song does not appear anywhere on their setlist. Kudos to Fastball for being able to pivot so quickly, so as to not disrupt the show.

By the time the song was over, the bass guitar’s string had been changed and Scalzo was ready to roll into their new song “Andrea”. But before that, they got the crowd chanting and were the second band to pronounce Schenectady correctly. 

Photo by Amy Klemme

They played through a string of songs and got a huge response from the crowd when they started playing Steve Miller’s “Joker” during their song “Love Comes In Waves”. Tony Scalzo again picked up this acoustic guitar, although this time it was clearly planned. 

They then played what is arguably their second most well-known song, “Out Of My Head”. After bringing attention to the half dozen or so folks watching the show from the roof of the building that Frog Alley is in, they played their chart-topper “The Way” before closing with two more rousing numbers.

Everclear came out sometime after 9 pm and by that time, the crowd had swelled to a more than impressive size and the energy was clearly electric. The stage was darkened, but as soon as a few silhouettes appeared, the cheers erupted. They came right out of the gate with the title track off of 1997’s “So Much For The Afterglow” and had the energy of a band half their age. 

Photo by Amy Klemme

Art Alexakis remarked how it was the band’s thirtieth anniversary and that he “was 30 when our first record came out, so do the math” on how old he is. He also made it an impressive 3-for-3 for the evening by pronouncing Schenectady right. 

After playing “Father of Mine” and “Heroin Girl” Alexakis mentioned how “happy he was to be in New York State” and that it is much better here than Alabama” which got a huge response from the crowd. 

They jokingly played a couple of bars of “Sweet Home Alabama” before Art Alexakis stopped them and protested by stating that they aren’t “playing that racist shit” and instead would play a song about Art’s “black girlfriend” who was the “first love” of his life, which is the song Heartspark Dollarsign off 1995’s “Sparkle and Fade”.

Photo by Amy Klemme

Less than a minute into the song, Art stopped and half-laughing said that they had to start over as he had “sung the wrong words”. When they started over, the song had noticeably more punch behind it, as if the false start had fully energized the entire band.

They went through all of their hits, including “Strawberry”, “I Will Buy You A New Life”, “Wonderful” and of course the song that put them on the map, “Santa Monica”.

Art also took a moment to comment on his 33 years of sobriety and the folks at the concert gave an enormous round of applause in support of that. His lyrics make it clear that Art Alexakis came from a place where personal demons not only existed but thrived. With that said, it was a pleasure and honor to be able to see him perform these songs thirty years later in what is now one of my new favorite places to see a show.

Photo Gallery by Amy Klemme

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