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photo:Joe Putrock

On the Rebound
By Kathryn Lurie

After a period of personal upheaval, Erin Harkes looks to enjoy her freedom and focus on her band.

 

Erin 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.

“I 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 them.

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.

‘I 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 bands).

“I 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 [about losing].”

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.

“The 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,” she says.

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.”

“I 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?”

klurie@metroland.net

Erin 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.


ROUGH MIX

Super 400

ONE TIME ONLY 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 direction.

DOUBLE 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.

LIVE, 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.

SWIMMING 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.

YOU 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.

WE’RE 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.

—Kathryn Lurie

IT’S 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.

—John Brodeur



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