Man, the end of the year is a crazy time. It’s dark like two hours after you wake up and from Thanksgiving through New Year’s nobody knows what day of the week it is. It’s a free-for-all and there’s always bells ringing everywhere.
(Exhibit A: I didn’t realize I’m a week late with posting this. So that’s something.)
That being said, a bit of craziness can be a good thing, and when a hometown band comes back and tears the roof off of their local venue for a weekend, what better way to end a month, a year, and a decade.
To start things off both nights was another Albany native, Young Culture. For all of the bands that I’ve seen at all of the concerts that I’ve gone to, I can’t think of an instance of a local opener having the crowd response that they did these two nights. And from a photographer’s standpoint, their lighting was just *chef’s kiss* and I really don’t think I had ever seen anything like it. Before the lights went off, the crowd was chanting and waiting. So even before the performance itself began, we were drawn in.
In direct support for both nights was Pennsylvania’s Grayscale, another crowd favorite, while Sunday night brought additional support from Bearings, who were added on to Night Two soon after the Fest was extended into a weekend-long event.
I said a lot about State Champs earlier in the year when I covered their Living Proof Tour show in Boston, and anything I mentioned there still holds true – they’re still one of the most fun acts around and they’re just going to keep getting better. Where Saturday’s performance was a standard setlist (which is to be taken the least-disparagingly as possible), Sunday was a mixed bag of treats and a look at how State Champs are beginning to pull away from others in the same circle, not just in terms of where they are but in how they keep things fresh and creative.
Both Saturday and Sunday began with various group activities throughout the venue – a photobooth, a bake sale, corn hole, ladder ball, meet & greet photos, local food vendors, and some others here and there, all free of any additional charge for those with tickets. And sure, it might sound kind of silly to praise a band for not charging their fans for photos or a chance to hang out and chat, but you have to admit that that is something you could 100% see fans being charged for. So, good on them. Even better, the price for early admission was food or toy donations to be given to local organizations, resulting in boxes upon boxes of donated goods.
Later, during the show, the sense of community throughout the fanbase took center stage. In the weeks leading up to the Festival, the band asked their fans to record their own renditions of a handful of their songs, tag them on social media, and winners would be announced to take part in a State Champs karaoke. At first, I figured they’d choose some winners, maybe give out a few signed t-shirts and retweet their videos. What actually happened was three lucky fans, one from Clifton Park, one from Philadelphia, and one from … Syracuse, if I remember correctly, each got to join the band on stage to perform their selected track with the band, in full, in front of a sold out crowd. Again, just going above and beyond what is expected and doing things I’ve never seen done.
Extracurriculars aside, Sunday was the best of the now seven or eight performances I’ve seen the band put on. The setlist was a mix of current favorites, old cuts, and cover songs, some played for the first time, and the energy was off the charts. Factor in it being the last show of the year, along with a mention of their encore being their last song of the decade, and cap it off with 2019 marking ten years since the band’s conception and it all adds up to something special.
No matter how much you like a band, or I guess the same could go for a movie, tv show, album, etc., the more you experience it, the greater chance it has to lose its initial impact. So for me to be nearing double-digit State Champs shows (and I met plenty of people this weekend who had already reached that mark) it feels great to leave not only impressed but with new experiences.
So, here’s to the end of 2019, I don’t know that there could have been a better way to cap it off. It was great to have you home, guys. Let’s hit that double-digit mark in 2020.