New Paltz is a crazy college town, operating vibrantly most nights until 4am or later, and Snug’s Harbor is an institution in that scene, especially as a live music venue. This past Saturday, the venue saw a returning performance from Brooklyn dance funk band Escaper, and a debut from Connecticut-based jam quintet No Mind. The night was also a birthday celebration for Escaper lead guitarist Will Hanza, celebrated well into the night by an uproarious crowd at Snug’s. Some were, for sure, newcomers from the area, either college kids or local people stumbling onto a musical treat (along with some champion dancing drag queens).
But many were surely specifically present for the acclaimed Escaper frontman. Name a notable band rising out of the Brooklyn or Manhattan jam scenes, and Will Hanza has probably collaborated on stage with them. Most recently, he’s performed as one part of two different supergroups that include members of The Disco Biscuits, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer’s Band, and more. The Poke Around entered into Snugs right around the time to hear him belt out some epic lead vocals on Escaper’s cover of the Chris Issac love song, “Wicked Game.” If you know that song (and who doesn’t), it might sound like a sleeper. But Escaper is a sonic experience, and the cover was rocketed into a near spiritual, electronic pop performance.
Escaper’s collective flair for atmospheric space rock is at times meditative and ethereal, and other times pulsating with intensity, but it pretty much causes every song they play to reach outer space. Against tightly played, light-footed rhythms from Jay Giacomazzo on bass and Wayan Zoey on drums, Hanza and keyboardist Phil Kadet work in dual fashion to layer in sound and color like musical maple syrup. As per their words here at Snugs Harbor, the band are in the process of recording in the studio, and they offered the debut of a song called “No Strings Attached.” For a first time performance, this one impressively, and satisfyingly, was cranked out with a similar degree of improvisation and energy as the band’s other material of the night.
For their debut at the place, No Mind sure as hell did it up right. For starters, the band started around 2:30 AM and raged until around 3:45 AM, and a nod of respect to any out of state band that can rock that set time. But from the very start of their set, which hit with originals “Funky Man” and “Southbound,” the band played like they had something to prove, and every song from those two seemed to kick up the gearshift just a little bit more. Southbound is one the band recently released a fresh studio video for, and while that’s a sweet video to check out, live at Snugs Harbor it hit with a crazy level of power in it’s second half.
No Mind ride a classic rock sound but round themselves out with bits of funk and soul and jazz, and the mixture comes to fruition through approachable songwriting often steered by Trevor Giles on rhythm guitar. The mixture also brings more fly-by-the-handle solos than a listener’s face is probably prepared to endure. Some of these were wielded by guitarist Cody Urban, who’s approach in it’s wildest moments veers towards a metal sound, rings nicely against the band’s groovy backdrop.
A few breakdown sections, though, were split between Rob Madore on drums and Issac Young on keyboards. Madore’s last solo of the night went so hard it snapped one of his drumstick’s in half. Young has a really sophisticated approach to the keyboards that peppers really neat stuff into improv-laden sections of songs, and that also gets a little weird sometimes. In a cool way. Max Schiavone, meanwhile, never settles for last place in the running race that is a No Mind jam, instead throwing down heavy bass lines that are as unpredictable as anyone else’s playing. No Mind, honestly, seems like a powder keg of a band that is made up of five equally confident and aggressive players, and on paper that sounds like something whose energy would implode on itself. Yet No Mind, who somehow channels all of the energy forward and outward into the crowd, makes it absolutely work, at least as this bombastic Snugs Harbor debut showed.