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Sonic Renovations

National acts headline the Restoration Festival’s second annual effort to rebuild St. Joseph’s Church

by The Staff on August 24, 2011 · 1 comment

What started in 2010 as an exhibition of Capital Region bands and a fundraiser to preserve one of Albany’s coolest historic buildings has grown into a national music festival in only one year.  This weekend (Aug. 27-28), the B3nson Recording Company will celebrate its second Restoration Festival. This year’s event will feature both nationally touring and local bands, performers and DJs over the course of two days at St. Joseph’s Church (38 Ten Broeck St., Albany) in Arbor Hill. Headlining Saturday night will be Deer Tick and Titus Andronicus. The Music Tapes and A Hawk and a Hacksaw (each featuring members of Neutral Milk Hotel) will headline Sunday night. Local acts include Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, Railbird, the Matthew Carefully Undone Ensemble, We Are Jeneric, Scientific Maps, Barons in the Attic, Swamp Baby, the Red Lions, Alta Mira, Stompin Jug Ramblers and Slender Shoulders. Twenty-five percent of net proceeds will go toward the Historic Albany Foundation’s effort to restore the 150-year-old building.

Deer Tick

“We quickly realized that this was going to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” says Alex Muro, B3nson figurehead and Sgt. Dunbar co-frontman. After being asked to curate a stage at LarkFest in 2009, he says, B3nson quickly realized its potential as “a culture of friends, musicians—most of all a confederacy of bands.” An event of their own was the next natural step. Named for the apartment at 3 Benson St., where many of the collective’s early members lived while attending UAlbany, the B3nson Recording Company now holds biweekly meetings, operating at a level of detail they never thought possible, forming security, merchandise, sound and stage teams for the event.

Following an excruciatingly long voting process last year, B3nson founded the Restoration Festival with the ambition to brand it: “Albany music scene comes together,” inviting bands from all over the scene to take part. B3nson cofounder and Sgt. Dunbar member Louis Apicello says the idea was “to restore interest, faith, and excitement into the music and art community,” as well as to “return the space to the community” by invigorating awareness of the St. Joseph’s Church restoration project.

Planning this year’s Restoration Festival was much easier after having gone through the process once before. Obtaining the various licenses, permits, insurance and, most important, permission from the Historic Albany Foundation to use the space, which executive director Susan Holland says has become a “seasonal performance and art space,” B3nson was able to go public months earlier than the previous year, securing four national acts (appropriately enough, the Music Tapes and A Hawk and a Hacksaw both hail from the Elephant 6 Recording Co., a model for B3nson), and selling enough presale tickets to triple the budget and double the projected attendance from last year.

True to its mission to engage the community, much of the festival will depend on volunteer labor and band members themselves taking shifts working the event. Utilizing the entirety of St. Joseph’s cavernous space, a whole second bill of between-set performers is scheduled, and Keep Albany Boring will host DJ sets by Deep Children and Party with Tina. In advance of the event, B3nson held a community event last Sunday for residents of the Arbor Hill and Ten Broeck neighborhood to learn about St. Joseph’s history and create visual art for display at Rest Fest.

The Historic Albany Foundation is actively working to preserve and adapt the building for ongoing use, repairing one of the four colossal support pillars holding up the roof, patching the roof, and restoring the beautiful German-style stained-glass windows. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recently awarded a $300,000 challenge grant to Historic Albany to continue the critical stabilization work. Currently, the organization has raised $273,000, and Holland remains optomistic about their goal. She says the Restoration Festival will aid in “exposing a younger generation to the historic treasures of Albany.”

The Restoration Festival comes to St. Joseph’s Church (38 Ten Broeck St., Albany) on Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 27-28) starting at 1 PM each day. Tickets are $40 for the weekend and $30 for a single day, and can be purchased at the Palace Theatre and Last Vestige. For more info on Historic Albany Foundation’s St. Joseph’s project, visit historic-albany.org.

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