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Alta Mira

PUTTING THE FUN BACK IN FESTIVAL Albany’s St. Joseph’s Church has been undergoing renovations for some years now, and fund-raising efforts by the Historic Albany Foundation are closing in on $300,000. That would be enough to trigger a matching grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which would more or less see the restoration through to completion. It’s a big job, but $57,000 isn’t a long way to go.

Here’s where the music comes in.

This Saturday and Sunday, the Restoration Funstival takes over St. Joseph’s for a weekend-long celebration of local music and culture. Alex Muro of festival organizers Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned and B3nson Records says the seeds were planted back in 2007, when his band performed at an afterparty for the St. Joseph’s-hosted multimedia art event Obsequi. Perhaps it was the festival vibe of that event that had Muro thinking forward to staging his own. “If I had to choose any space this is the space I would choose,” he remembers thinking. When it came time to begin planning the event, he says, simply, “I got in touch with Historic Albany and went from there.”

Speaking from inside the church on Tuesday, Muro says that the final pieces of last month’s Heavy show had just been removed and that he and his cohorts had begun the process of cleaning and mopping and otherwise preparing the church for its big weekend. Besides the music, he says RestFest will feature “a couple art installations in a little art gallery in a separate room” (which will be created using two large doors leftover from Heavy), as well as a “museum piece about history of the church.”

To that end, 25 percent of the proceeds from RestFest will be donated to the St. Joseph’s Restoration Fund. “For the most part we’re letting the building itself be the centerpiece,” says Muro. “We’re just getting it as clean as we can.”

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the biggest local music event of 2010 sprung forth from the minds of the Hobo Banned. After all, this is the band Metroland named Best Community Organizers in our recent Best of the Capital Region issue, and RestFest, as its colloquially called, is simply a large-scale celebration of that community. RestFest features 16 of the Capital Region’s best original bands, plus DJ sets from Goodship and LMNOPF. But, surprisingly, the locals-only focus wasn’t always the plan.

“When we started talking about it at the beginning of this year,” he says, “we were aiming bigger.” But his band’s March tour pushed back the planning. After pricing “30 or 40 national bands” the band realized they wouldn’t have the backing to nail down big-ticket acts. “It was about us overshooting, then figuring out what we could actually pull off.”

Consequently, the mission shifted from importing national acts, to showing off the national-quality exports we have here at home. Not only is RestFest the biggest local music event of the year but also, some might say, the best: No less than seven of this weekend’s performing acts received nods in this year’s Metroland Best Of issue, with others having scored in previous years. Aside from Sgt. Dunbar’s Sunday-evening headline set, there’s Railbird, Alta Mira, the Red Lions, Matthew Carefully, the Mathematicians, Grainbelt, Aficionado, as well as several B3nson acts.

“It’s about putting on a good event and . . . raising the awareness of the local music scene here in Allbany.” He says people tend to ignore what’s happening locally in favor of the touring acts playing larger clubs and concert venues. “In the long run we hope to make Albany a place to be on the national circuit.”

Muro and Sgt. Dunbar are careful not to take all of the credit for RestFest. “A lot of [B3nson] bands have helped. And Matthew Loiacono [aka Matthew Carefully] . . . is the one who’s been there the whole time. He gave us a lot of insight we wouldn’t have had on our own.” Muro also mentions Grainbelt leader Howard Glassman: “He’s given us some great hookups.”

RestFest takes place this Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 28-29) at St. Joseph’s Church (38 Ten Broeck St., Albany). Full lineup and ticket information is available at

—John Brodeur

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