the faith: Rev. Joyce Hartwell says teens should rock
New Age Cabaret at Trinity Church: a positive experience for
teens, or just loud concerts masquerading as religion?
a September Friday at around 8 PM, the bars on Albany’s Lark
Street already were bustling; homeless men sauntered down
the street, angry then happy, ranting at passersby; two young
men stood outside of a bar screaming at each other in garbled
drunken bursts. Meanwhile, down the street, a group of high-school
kids gathered in the chapel of Trinity Church. They fussed
with guitar cords, disassembled then reassembled drum kits;
others stood giddy, bouncing up and down, waiting for their
friends’ bands to play. “Can you keep it down a minute? This
ain’t a nightclub!” demanded an older man who was trying to
For the first time in months, Trinity Church hosted bands.
Instead of charging $10 at the door as at previous shows,
there was a worship service, and all were free to enter. To
some, the idea that a high-school punk-rock show is taking
place in the hall of a church on one of Albany’s busiest late-night
bar scenes is a perfect fit. To others, however, the shows
at Trinity Church represent a sore thumb in the middle of
a neighborhood that they say should no longer be the party
district it once was.
Rev. Joyce Hartwell has been helping teens in the area hold,
book and play shows in Albany since coming to the area in
2000. When she lost her investment in her original venue,
the New Age Cabaret, Hartwell arranged to bring her shows
into Trinity. Hartwell says her ministry is designed to help
kids express themselves in a nonthreatening environment while
helping them understand how to get into the music industry.
“My whole purpose is to empower the kids,” said Hartwell.
She did not charge the kids a flat fee to play at the church,
but instead took the first $150 received at the door to pay
for expenses; the next $150 went to the kids.
was up to them who to invite and who should play,” she said.
According to Hartwell, things were going well. She said she
took into account the few complaints she had from neighbors.
Hartwell said she badgered teens not to park on any side streets
and had them to enter the church exclusively from the Lark
In July, the shows came to an end when the Albany police shut
them down and fined the church for operating an illegal nightclub.
The charges were later amended to reflect the fact that alcohol
was not served at events. The church protested, saying the
city could not tell them what was part of a worship service
and what wasn’t.
Colleen Ryan, one of the residents who complained, said she
thinks the church’s portrayal of the shows is misleading.
just continue to think by cloaking this in terms of it being
part of our youth ministry it is hard to swallow. To say these
bands—local high-school kids—just need a place to play and
hang out is a stretch when U-Hauls were pulling up to the
church with New Jersey license plates and national and international
touring bands with professional sound systems.”
Ryan insisted that the shows are being “wrapped in a cloak
of spirituality” and that it is not fair to other musical
venues the teens could be playing at because those clubs have
to meet certain standards.
The kids who attend shows at Trinity Church say Trinity provides
them with a safe environment, free of alcohol and older crowds
that attend shows at more-established venues.
is no drinking here. People are just having fun,” said Seth
5000, guitarist from Punch the Clock and Class Action. “At
Trinity we can play for other people who won’t be able to
go to Valentine’s.”
Teens also note that while they may not be praying during
their shows, they are religious and feel at home in the church.
Rev. Maurice Drown of Trinity says the kids were provided
with “sacred ground,” and the church with “a connection to
the kids and their spirit.”
Seth and the rest of his bandmates take umbrage to the fact
that the neighbors who are against the shows are trying to
paint them as hooligans. “They told the [Times Union]
they are afraid of kids with spikes and prison tattoos. They
made it out like you know we are totally something to be afraid
Ryan and other Lancaster Street residents have been focusing
on lyrics of bands who played at Trinity that they say fly
in the face of the program’s religious themes. They cite bands
such as Drown Retarded Children and Clitorture. In a Sept.
18 letter to Bishop Susan Hassinger, they included songs and
lyrics by those bands, including songs called “Why Won’t Jesus
Fucking Die” and “Eulogy of a Shit Talker.”
According to the kids, those bands were booked at the club
only once, not by Hartwell, but by kids in charge of booking.
After learning of the group’s content, Hartwell asked that
those bands not be booked again.
Seth thinks the city and “concerned residents” are being critical
of the wrong things. “I think it’s odd that the shows were
selected to be causing trouble in the neighborhood, when there
were a lot of other problems in Albany that need to be addressed—like
Hartwell pointed out that kids at her shows are generally
middle-class teenagers with nothing to do. She insisted that
kids need a place to express themselves and they simply don’t
have many safe places to do so in Albany. “They have voices
that should be heard, not covered up and rejected. Where else
is that going to go?”
Ryan said it’s not as simple as kids being persecuted for
what they look like or the music they play. “I know I might
sound like a cranky old lady from suburbs—‘Get your kid get
off my lawn!’—but its the farthest thing from reality. The
church is simply not being a good neighbor. I’m a firm believer
in religious freedom. Religious freedom and freedom of speech
are wonderful things, but the church is trying to pull a fast
one by essentially having concerts.”
Governor Is Kinky
unlikely candidate with a peculiar name is holding
his own against political heavyweights with less
than a month to go in the Texas governor’s race.
Independent candidate Kinky Friedman, an irreverent
country singer, satirist and self-described “equal
opportunity offender,” was pulling even at 23
percent with Democrat Chris Bell and gaining ground
on Republican incumbent Rick Perry, who received
35 percent in one poll. To call Friedman an atypical
politician might be an understatement. He is pleased
to declare that he has no political experience,
and he operates his campaign under the slogan,
“Why the hell not!” Among those lending Friedman
their support is fellow singer and Friedman friend
Willie Nelson, as well as former professional
wrestler and onetime governor of Minnesota Jesse
Capsulation Goes Digital
announced its plans for launching the world’s
first digital time capsule Tuesday. The project
is expected to become the largest time capsule
in world history. Internet users from around the
globe will be able to submit personal photographs,
videos, music, art, poems, prayers ideas and thoughts
to document the year 2006 at timecapsule.yahoo.com
until Nov. 8. Once the capsule is sealed, it will
be donated to the Smithsonian Institution and
the National Institute of Anthropology and History
in Mexico for preservation.
Takes Foley to the PROM
It’s been exceptionally hard lately to escape
Mark Foley’s taint. Republicans all over the country
are reeling from the revelations of Foley’s indecent
internet conversations with underage pages. John
Sweeney, U.S. representative from New York’s 20th
congressional district, has been distancing himself
from Foley, but Democrats are trying to connect
them through the fund-raising group Physicians
to Retain Our Majority, or PROM, which has ties
to both Sweeney and Foley. In Buffalo, the NRCC
chairman, Rep. Tom Reynolds, who has been accused
of knowing about Foley’s advances and not taking
action, has suffered a blow in the polls. According
to a recent Zogby poll, Reynolds is down by 15
percent against Democratic challenger Jack Davis.
Tools to Advance
Center to host fund-raiser in support of “soft skills” training
for people hoping to learn a trade
Kaseem Moultrie gets excited about organizing.
have been doing community organizing, working with the labor
union for about five years,” he said, “since I started working
at the College of Saint Rose.”
He is the chair of the Saint Rose chapter of SEIU Local 200
United, where he heads up negotiations with the college on
behalf of the building-service workers. In the past five years
that he has been at Saint Rose, the wages for the workers
he now represents have increased by as much as $3 an hour.
That, he said, is the power of organizing.
like helping people,” he added.
Moultrie has turned this eagerness for helping people to his
latest endeavor, Unity Thru Music, a fund-raiser held to benefit
the Building Skills Project.
The Building Skills Project, offered by the Capital District
Workers Center, is a 12-week course that focuses on the “soft
skills” necessary to secure apprenticeship jobs in trade unions.
Soft skills means everything from how to get a driver’s license
to interviewing techniques to the remedial math skills needed
for carpentry and electrical work.
skills will lead people into union jobs, which have benefits
and good pay,” Moultrie said. “This will basically help them
move out of poverty level into a middle-class lifestyle.”
The course was offered for the first time last year. And it
was a success, Moultrie said, with 19 of the 24 people who
took the course graduating.
have one guy now who got into the painters union,” he said.
“He had everything that he needed—his driver’s license, his
GED—they enrolled him into the program. They put him to work,
and he is learning the trade.”
Moultrie came up with the concept of Unity Thru Music fund-raiser
to bring people together through music in a social way, he
said. “And also to make it interesting to young folks to come,
to see what is out there for them. They can come and enjoy
themselves. Trade guys will be there to speak. And they get
the information they need to basically make a choice, whether
they want to go into the trade field.”
Along with Moultrie and other union representatives, the Rev.
Victor Collier sits on the advisory board that oversees the
needs encouragement,” Moultrie said. “That’s why we got Rev.
Collier, to give encouraging words during the program.”
Collier, who preaches at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church,
agreed that words of encouragement are what he offers the
project. But also, he said, he helps people break down cultural
barries, describing this as “separating the facts from the
the Workers Center, I tend to be the linguistics man,” Collier
said. “These people have dropped out of school, haven’t been
reading, haven’t been staying up on the skills they need.
And sometimes there is just a language barrier.”
And when communication breaks down, he said, old stereotypes
can get in the way of success. “There are people who want
to change things, but they have been so dismayed in the lies
they have been told, that everybody’s racist,” he said. “That
everybody’s trying to keep you from going forward. The myth
has been propagated on both sides. They have made it a black-and-white
issue, when it really isn’t. We are all the same people.”
What is so impressive about the Building Skills Project, Collier
continued, is the fullness of the help it can offer.
might take a kid who might need to go work at McDonald’s for
a while,” he said, “so that he can get the money he needs
to buy a car, to now become able to go this union, to now
go to a job site. Or you may get a kid who is 18 who didn’t
realize he should have had his high school graduation, so
you give him the people to meet and the places to go so that
he is able to get his GED. These are things that are there,
that they didn’t know were there, but are free and available.”
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, he said, because all
these things are in place, they just aren’t being used appropriately.
Moultrie’s father is an executive board member of IBW, an
electricians union in Queens. “He has been in trades all his
life, and he tried to encourage me. But I didn’t take the
road of an electrician or a trade guy.”
It is an option he hasn’t ruled out, however. “As I got involved
with this program, my eyes were opened to the opportunity.
I am out there trying to help others, but in reality, I am
saying to myself, ‘I should probably try this course, too.’
I could improve my situation economically.”
Thru Music will be held from 4 to 9 PM Saturday (Oct. 14)
at the Albany Labor Temple at 890 3rd St. in Albany. For more
information, call 482-5595.
loose ends this week-