a period of personal upheaval, Erin Harkes looks to enjoy
her freedom and focus on her band.
Harkes squirms in her chair at the Lark Tavern on a recent
evening about an hour before her gig. She chats amicably,
but it’s obvious that she’s preoccupied.
forgot my setlist at home,” she explains.
This is an important night for her; it’s understandable
that she wants everything to go as smoothly as possible.
Tonight is the first night in three months that she will
play a gig with her band, the Rebound.
She tucks her blond hair behind her ears and wonders aloud
if she should go home to get her setlist. Restlessly, she
watches her guitarist, Blaze, as he sets up speakers and
microphones, unwinds cords and strums his guitar.
Harkes bounces in her seat a bit, looking like she wants
to jump up and take the stage at any second. “I’m just really
excited to be playing with my band again.” After some personal
turmoil and months of work with another band, Harkes is
really eager to refocus on her own group.
Harkes, 27, debuted the Rebound in August 2002 at Valentine’s.
The lineup has been through quite a few incarnations since
then, but Harkes says that she feels really good about the
way it is right now: Blaze on guitar, Scott Dorrance on
bass (Dorrance, who has been with the band from the beginning,
is unable to play this gig due to a recent surgery; filling
in for him this evening is Tom Dolan of Folding Sky), and
Harkes’ 19-year-old brother Matt McQuilkin on drums.
As Harkes’ fans fill the backroom of the bar, she greets
them warmly, thanking them for coming and bantering with
Finally, after figuring out the setlist and huddling with
her band for about 10 minutes (a pep talk, perhaps?), Harkes
takes the stage and steps up to the mic, her back virtually
arched, as if to soak up the energy of the lively crowd
before her. Her arms bent over her guitar with her elbows
high, she grins at her audience, and starts strumming.
put a lot of things on hold for the Memphis thing,” Harkes
told me at a recent lunchtime meeting. The “Memphis thing”
is Memphis’ International Blues Challenge in which she,
as part of area blues outfit Mark Emanatian and Folding
Sky, competed at the beginning of February.
Harkes had met Emanatian and the rest of Folding Sky as
a result of singing at Tuesday night jams over the years
at downtown Albany bar Savannah’s, with Mike Iwanos and
the Bottomfeeders (Garry Piambino happened to be in both
had been a professional stage crasher forever,” Harkes grins.
“I’ve always loved singing the blues. I remember going to
an open jam and just staring up at these women and saying,
‘I know I can do that.’ And the first three times I went
it was awful. [People] were so good to me, [and] I was so
awful. But I wanted it bad.”
Emanation asked Harkes if she would be interested in joining
the band to battle against other area bands in the Northeast
Blues’ Society’s Colossal Contender competition. Harkes
agreed, and after winning the initial competition at Troy’s
Revolution Hall in May 2004, they competed in the second
round on July 9 at the Empire State Plaza. When they won,
Harkes and Folding Sky were given an opening slot at Albany’s
Fleet BluesFest the following day. In addition, winning
the finals gave them the opportunity to compete in Memphis.
At the Memphis competition, there were more than 90 acts
competing for $25,000 and titles like Best Unsigned Blues
Band and Best Unsigned Acoustic Act. There were three nights
of contests; Harkes and Folding Sky made it through to the
second night before being eliminated. “We still don’t know
how we placed,” Harkes says. “I definitely had high hopes
for it, and I’m surprised that I’m not really devastated
Harkes says that there were many reasons why the band did
not place for the third night in the contest, emphasizing
that she considers these reasons as factors, not excuses.
“These are facts. One, I got sick and lost my voice. We
played the same place both nights, and it was a theater.
It was an awful venue.” She shakes her head. “We’re a bar
fucking band! We would’ve killed even with my voice gone.
That was rough because we were a little out of our element.
And honestly, based on what I heard from the other bands,
I don’t think our songs were bluesy enough.”
As she left Memphis, there was a shift in Harkes’ priorities.
Though she gained valuable experience and appreciated the
opportunity to play in the competition, she knew she was
missing something—she needed to get back to her band.
day after I got back, I got on the horn and I said, ‘Let’s
get back to the Rebound,’ ” she says. “I knew [my band]
felt neglected.” Harkes adores her band, too. She talks
about them with reverence, and prides herself on being a
nurturing bandleader, always making sure to get quality
time in with the guys after a gig. It’s a necessary part
of an intimate process, she says. “Hanging out with the
band after a gig is like cuddling after sex.”
Harkes says that playing gigs, especially with the Rebound,
is “honestly the best drug.” And you can see she really
does feel at home on the stage. She revels in the spotlight
as young women in the audience watch her intently, swaying
and shaking their heads slightly as if to say, “How did
you know that?” when Harkes delivers lines like,
“I didn’t want to be that girl that you talked about and/I
didn’t want to be the one who was complicated.”
As she employs her husky voice (which has garnered her numerous
comparisons to Janis Joplin) on “Stay,” a cover from one
of her favorite singers, Jennifer Nettles, Harkes takes
a deep breath, scrunches up her nose a little and belts
out, “I fall in love much too easily/But I can fall out
just as fast.”
Harkes recently moved to her own Albany apartment after
living with her mother for a couple months. She had moved
in with her mom following a breakup with her boyfriend,
with whom she had been living in Troy. She ended that long-term
relationship a few months ago, but the break was not as
smooth or as quick as she would’ve preferred. However, she
now gives the impression of a bird that has finally found
its wings. You can sense her relief at her newfound freedom.
Of course, there were many issues contributing to the end
of the relationship; one was that the simple complication
of living with another person put a tremendous strain on
her songwriting process. “I couldn’t get up at four in the
morning and just strum my guitar,” she explains, “and I
needed to be able to do that.”
Harkes calls some of her songs “stone soup cocktails.” She
says that because she’s always thinking up lines and stowing
them away, she’s able to go back and pick out out ones she
likes and throw them together to come up with actual verses.
When she’s done, voilá—there’s a new song. “They’re like
little structures that I built that I want to show off,”
Her frustration of feeling creatively stifled lifted with
her moving in to her new apartment. “Now I can play my guitar
whenever I want.”
Now that the adventure of the Memphis competition and the
sadness of her ended relationship are behind her, Harkes
is excited about what lies ahead. Her goals seem modest:
“My biggest aspirations for the next year are to smile,
to enjoy myself, and just to be comfortable. I feel like
I’ve made some not-so-good decisions.”
want to be able to say that I’m happy,” she shrugs. “I’ve
been very sad for a very long time for a number of reasons.”
As she eagerly pounds out her songs to the pack of approving
fans, Harkes smiles to herself and casts her gaze skyward,
looking entirely content. Don’t bother to wonder what she’s
thinking about, because she says it all in her lyrics: “If
everything we want we got right here before us/Why do the
slightest distractions give us whiplash?”
Harkes and the Rebound are preparing to release a new live
disc (recorded at Artie’s River Street Stage in Troy) in
late spring. Erin Harkes will perform a solo acoustic show
at Lynn’s Uptown Sports Bar (15 Colvin Ave., Albany) tonight
(Thursday, March 10) at 8 PM. Keep tabs on Harkes by visiting
her Web site at erinharkes.com.
Those quirky Albany Underground Artists
are at it again. In collaboration with Barter
One, Community Arts United and 200
Proof Magazine, they will bring a one-night-only
arts-and-music show to the beautiful building
at 1 Engelwood Place (at the corner of State
Street and Englewood, where State meets Western
Avenue) in Albany. Lark Tavern regulars Nouveau
Chill (including DJ Michael Campion,
saxophonist Brian Patneaude, keyboardist
Nick Lue and percussionist Danny Whelchel)
will perform at this event. If you have trouble
finding the place, we are told that a giant
necktie installation will point you in the right
SHOUT-OUT Pitch Control Music—the hiphop
collective who advocate “breaking [away] from
the same no-meaning-no-soul-no-direction-no-need-to-say-anything-at-allness”—are
proud to announce two new debut records, by
two of their lesser-heard artists: The Exception
by Shyste and Glory Days by AWar.
The Pitch Control posse will be at the Lark
Tavern in Albany tomorrow (Friday) night to
celebrate the release of these albums; in addition
to Shyste and AWar, performers will include
Nacerima Records artist El Gant and Diabolic
form the Stronghold Crew in New York City. There
will be a live visual performance by Maxwell
Dunbar (we hear he’s painting a mural; don’t
worry—we were told that there will be no aerosols).
Pitch Control founders Sev Static and
Dezmatic will host. The show, which is
$5, starts at 10 PM. For more information, call
the Lark Tavern at 463-9779.
LOCAL. . . . Area rockers Super 400
have decided to record their next two shows
in order to produce a live album. According
to bassist Lori Friday, “the older songs have
taken on new forms over the years, and the newer
ones keep sounding better show to show, so we
wanted to get a proper re cord of it for release.”
Avid fans, take note: If you scream loud enough,
you might actually be heard on the album—the
recordings will take place locally, at the band’s
March 12 gig at the Lark Tavern and their
April 23 show at the Ale House in Troy.
The new live album is expected to be out in
the late spring. For more information or to
contact the band, visit super400.com.
WITH THE BIG FISH Local beloved electronica
artist Sara Ayers, who was voted Best
Electronica by Metroland a couple years
back, is featured on the new Chemical Brothers
album, Push the Button, which
was released at the end of January on Virgin
Records. The Brothers’ “Come Inside” prominently
samples Ayers’ “Everyday We Die a Little,” which
originally appeared on her CD Voices
on Dark Woods Recordings. For more information
on Ayers, visit her Web site at saraayers.com.
KEEP MAKING NEWS, WE’LL KEEP WRITING ABOUT YOU
Soul-rock duo Mudfunk (formerly the Sean
Rowe Project) were selected to perform at the
first Motor City Music Conference in Detroit.
This event—modeled after other successful conferences
like SXSW, CMJ and MC2—will showcase more than
400 bands in genres spanning gospel and country
to hiphop, rock and techno. In related news,
the band also have been invited to be one of
60 bands who will perform at this year’s Dewey
Beach Popfest in Dewey Beach, Del. For more
information, visit the band’s new Web site at
mudfunk.com. For more information on the Motor
City Conference, visit motorcitymusic.com.
BIGGER, BETTER, AND NOW WE’RE GONNA MAKE NOISE
Since the Troy branch of the Daily Grind
was kicked out of the tiny little corner where
it resided in the Keenan Building in Troy, it
found a much larger niche at 462 Third St. The
owners of the Grind decided to put their huge
new space to good use: They now have a weekly
open mic hosted by Steve Candlen, and
starting this weekend, they will have free Friday
night shows from 8 to 11 PM. It all starts tomorrow
(Friday) night when Sensemaya take the
stage. For more information, call the Daily
Grind at 272-8658.
NOT TECHNICALLY MUSIC-RELATED, BUT . . . We
feel like we’ve done a poor job of reporting
on last week’s hacking of Paris Hilton’s T-Mobile
Sidekick II, so we went snooping through her
notes and found the following tucked between
listings for “eggplant dike ass” and Fred Durst:
“Mike sandwich met at esquire looking for bands
917 [number withheld].” For those who aren’t
familiar with Mike Sandwich, his self-named
“electric boogaloo” band are based in New York
and play our neck of the woods regularly. Although
we were unable to reach him directly, Web site
Defamer.com was (via Instant Messenger), and
Sandwich revealed to them that he received close
to 100 calls in the days following the hack,
mostly wannabe scenesters and “random calls
from hopeless garage band guys.” He joked that
the hack was a publicity stunt, and that publicity-whore
Hilton was “getting kind of courtney loveish.”
His missed-call log took a more serious stance:
“100 frickin’ calls in an hour and a half? Bollocks!”
Sandwich has since changed his number (don’t
even try it), and resumed work on his new album,
which is due later this year.