is our game: Blackjack Blades rock out at rehearsal.
By Bill Ketzer
Baestlein and Blackjack Blades return to their roots—musically
and geographically—and find that their brand of metal has
life beyond L.A.
just around midnight, and the air at Humpy’s in Colonie
is hot and thick with the sour fuel of cheap drafts and
well drinks. About the size of a large living room, the
place is jammed with straw-haired mutants in cut-off denim,
the crescents of their fingernails thick with grease, clasping
Bud bottles and bobbing their heads, hands raised in splendor
or clasping the waists of their babes. The girls are a little
older now, but still swank and swinging it out there on
the plank, a hardwood salted lightly with shards of brown
glass as they all point into the corner where the heat is,
where the noise has landed like a UFO in the glare of two
solitary white pots. Where Blackjack Blades are getting
down at an impressive volume.
Guitarist Eric “Ike” Baestlein, the band’s tough-as-nails
vocalist and figurehead, wields his SG like a flamethrower
as his henchmen—bassman Chris Adamson and drummer “Cousin”
Vinny Rienzo—nail the backbeat down tight. Rienzo, a burly,
hard-fisted Italian with a checkered history that involves
New York City law enforcement and motorcycle gangs, effortlessly
pummels the kit as Adamson’s thunderous rig spanks the skin
like a hot rain. No longer strangers to the local scene,
Blackjack Blades have stalked the region with their wares
since last summer, to the delight of classic-metal crowds.
Tonight, grown men remove their shirts and climb up on tables.
The billiards are covered with plywood and stacked with
a city of empty bottles. The bartender pours another boilermaker.
best shows are still in Colonie. . . . People are just crazy,”
the guitarist says later, with a laugh. “They still love
their metal, they just, you know, go nuts. I got into music
when I went to junior high in South Colonie back in ’79
and we were just apeshit over metal. . . . Everybody in
the school was obsessed with it. They had ‘Sabbath Bloody
Sabbath’ and ‘Ozzy is God’ painted on the back of the school.
The kids I looked up to all were in bands, just good metal
bands, so we just ran with it. I formed my own band and
we took it from there.”
That outfit, Blind Legion, enjoyed a reputation for staying
true to their salty roots at a time when other regional
acts took a sudden interest in spandex and Aqua Net. But
Baestlein left the Albany area for the West Coast in 1987,
where he carved his niche in the metal underground with
Lost Breed, which originally featured Scott “Wino” Weinrich
of Probot/Obsessed/Spirit Caravan fame. In no time, the
band produced two well-received CDs for the popular German
doom-stoner label Hellhound Records, which released albums
for a number of trailblazing acts like the Obsessed, St.
Vitus and Pigmy Love Circus. After almost 15 years in Los
Angeles, however, Baestlein had enough.
had a great time in L.A.,” he explains. “I was only 21 when
I left Albany, so I grew up there in a sense. It was a rock
& roll wonderland. We would drink beers with Metallica,
Axl Rose would be hanging out. You couldn’t beat it, man.
Lost Breed was a good band that drew big crowds, but the
whole scene was dead after about 1990. My drummer was done
with music and I was ready to go. Location used to be important,
but nowadays you can become popular from Bumfuck, it doesn’t
matter, you can make it as long as you have a good band
and you get yourself out there.”
a short stint in Memphis (“A very short stint,” he
says), Baestlein came back to the Capital Region, where
he began calling around for new members. He auditioned Adamson
in Amsterdam, where Rienzo also expressed an interest, and
Blackjack Blades were born. Theirs is an impetuous, seasoned
sound with tactical leanings toward monoliths like Black
Sabbath and AC/DC and metal underpinnings from influences
like Motorhead and Riot. This gives the music a gruff, ballsy
urgency that the guitarist attributes to his working-class
don’t think it could have been any other way,” Baestlein
maintains. “I’m still proud of those roots, still influenced
by bands like Thin Lizzy, Budgie, Saxon, Frank Marino, [but
there are] more obscure bands like Raven and Venom and all
the bands from the new wave of metal from Britain as well.
I think we are carving our own niche, but we wear our influences
on our sleeve. It’s pretty obvious.”
clear to Baestlein is the Blades’ ability to hold true to
such roots in an era in rock where younger audiences have
never even heard of the aforementioned groups. Whether they’re
sharing a bill with the eclectic Small Axe, stoner gurus
Great Day for Up, nu-metal upstarts BiPolar or glam punks
the Erotics, crowds generally love the Blades and their
riff-laden tales from the gut.
think we just have a sound that goes over good, with just
about any crowd,” he says. “It’s been a lot of fun to do
shows with those bands. Most of them are really cool and
open to good music, no matter what it is. I mean, most of
our songs are about kickin’ ass, drinking beer, and picking
up girls. Who can’t identify?”
Indeed, with songs like “Banana Christening,” “Lock Up Your
Daughters” and “Lumberjack,” there is little left to the
imagination, and that’s the way they like it. The band will
begin laying such tales to disc in the spring, so for now
the straw-haired mutants just have to bang their heads to
the trio’s live show. And for only three guys, it’s quite
a show. Judging from the crowd at Humpy’s, still chucking
them down and sweating it out at closing time, that’s just
fine with them.
Blackjack Blades will appear at Tony’s Tavern in Amsterdam
(34 Lyon St., 842-9845) on Saturday, Feb. 12. Look for the
band’s first full-length release this summer. For a free
preview, visit www.blackjack blades.com.
the rescue: (l-r) organizer George Kansas,
Mayor Jerry Jennings, organizer Don Dworkin
and Palace Theatre general manager Jeff
Last Thursday (Jan. 20), Mayor Jerry Jennings
and bands Sirsy, Hair of the Dog,
the Burners UK, Doc Scanlon’s All-Star
Revue and the Brian Kaplan Band got
together at the Palace Theatre for a press conference
to announce an upcoming benefit concert, called
Rock 2 Rebuild, to raise money to help
victims of the unfathomable tsunami that hit
Southeast Asia last month. All above-named bands,
plus a plethora of others, will be on hand to
perform. Organizers promise that in addition
to the extensive musical bill, the event will
also feature surprise celebrity presenters and
entertainers to keep the audience engrossed
between sets. Also, additional live music will
take place in the Palace lobby by the Delmar
Caffeine Crew and others yet to be announced.
A correlating art exhibit, the Art of
Relief, works by local artists and children
on the theme of the tsunami tragedy, will be
on display. One hundred percent of ticket-sale
proceeds and donations will go to tsunami-relief
funds established and administered by Save
the Children and Habitat for Humanity.
Rock 2 Rebuild will take place on Friday, Feb.
11, at the Palace Theatre (19 Clinton Ave.,
Albany), from 7:30 PM to 12:30 AM. Tickets for
the concert are $10. For more information or
to donate to the cause, call 456-6363 or visit
www.rock2rebuild.com. To order tickets, call
465-4663 or visit www.palace albany.org.
A BAND BY ANY OTHER NAME First there was
Sean Rowe, a terrific singer-songwriter
with great catchy songs like “A Snake in the
Grass” that made his numerous live shows extremely
popular. Then Sean Rowe met Marco Haber,
a percussionist whose instruments of choice
are the djembe and the doumbek—you gotta see
this guy in action—and the two like performing
together so much that they combined forces to
become the Sean Rowe Project. Well, that
name stuck for a while, but now the duo have
decided to change their name once again. The
new name—drumroll, please—is Mudfunk.
In addition to their active gig schedule, Rowe
and Haber will heed the numerous requests from
their fans and hole themselves up in the studio
through next month to record a new full-length
album. They have yet to come up with a title,
but speculation on their Web site is that the
CD will be self-titled. They hope to have it
ready for public consumption by early summer.
In the meantime, you can listen to some live
tracks recently recorded for a 104.9 radio show
by visiting www.mudfunk.com. Catch Mudfunk at
one of their gigs this week: They play tonight
(Thursday, Jan. 27) at the Bayou (507 Saratoga
Road, Glenville) at 8 PM; tomorrow (Friday,
Jan. 28) at the other Bayou (79 N. Pearl St.,
Albany) at 5 PM; and Saturday (Jan. 29) at O’Callahan’s
(14 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) at 8:30 PM.
MMM, ERFY Our local piano-tuning, bass-playing
darling Jonathan Cohen has announced
the completion of the Erftones’ third
album, Dispatch. The new CD is
chock-full of local talent: Besides Cohen on
bass, you’ll hear Chad Ploss (of the
Refrigerators) on drums, Keith Yaun on
guitar, Brian Patneaude on tenor sax,
Tim Williams (of the Refrigerators and
Sensemaya) on alto sax, and Ben Acrish
(also of the Refrigerators and Sensemaya) on
trumpet. The album was recorded in the summer
of 2004 by Seamus McNulty (check his
business out at www.mumblesound.com) and mixed
by John Delahanty (www.scarleteast.com)
at Scarlet East studios in Albany. It was mastered
by Larry Devivo (www.silvertone mastering.com).
It’s available for sale in Albany at Border’s,
Barnes & Noble, the Music Shack, Last Vestige
and BlueSky Studios, and online at CDBaby.com.
For more information on the new CD, visit www.erftones.com/dispatch.
WE ARE NOT DEMONIC ANDROIDS Local
funk-rock group Honeycreeper’s debut
full-length CD, Freakqualizer,
was released on Jan. 4 on Planet A Records.
Honeycreeper, made up of frontwoman Mandy Beck,
Dan Beck, Sean Fortune and Seth Fisher, describe
themselves as a “dirty, nasty, sexy, sweaty
high-energy rock band that’s funky as hell.”
Nasty is right—Mandy Lu says in her bio on the
Honeycreeper Web site that she’s a Taurus, and
therefore has violent mood swings and paranoia.
Freakqualizer can be purchased at the
band’s Web site, www.honeycreeper.net, and amazon.com,
cdbaby.com, and, of course, at Honeycreeper
ALMOST FAMOUS Speaking of new CDs, the Velmas
released what they are calling a double EP (half
of the songs are previously unreleased tracks
and half are tracks recorded from live shows)
on Dec. 28. The new CD, called Recess,
includes the song “Restless, Restless,” which
was selected out of thousands of entries as
one of the top 20 finalists on Howard Stern’s
much-publicized “Restless, Restless” contest—they
even had a clip of their song played on Stern’s
radio show last summer. For more information,
PARTY AT THE SKATE PARK Albany’s Shelter
Skate Park (30 Commerce Ave.) will host
an eclectic art show tomorrow (Friday, Jan.
28) at 7 PM. The free event features the works
of local artists Greg Dunn, Stain
and Tommy McGuire. Also, organizers are
encouraging any interested people to bring in
their art and display it. The event will also
include a record swap, break dancers and local
DJs. Contact the Shelter for more information
at 438-2234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.