New Year’s Eve may be several weeks behind us, but the Niskayuna band Millington plans to officially kick off 2023 with a headlining show at Empire Live in Albany on Friday.
The homecoming gig represents a fresh start for the six-piece band, which combines ska-punk and pop-punk for a sound that band members have dubbed “brass emo” in honor of the group’s freewheeling horn section and emotionally charged, upbeat music.
“The show is basically going to be a party and a celebration. We want to make that excitement as contagious as possible,” says Cody Okonski, Millington’s lead vocalist and bassist, who founded the band in 2018 after playing for six years in Uncle Joel’s Comb, a group that started while he was a student at Niskayuna High School.
The Empire Live show represents the band’s first hometown performance since the group refreshed as “Millington 2.0” with a new lineup that includes Okonski, guitarist Alex Maloy, drummer Nick Cavin, saxophonist Pat Faxton, trombonist Chris Paul and trumpet player Nathaniel McKeever.
The first version of Millington — named after a street in Niskayuna — was formed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic by Okonski and trombonist Jonathon Bintz. At the start, the band was primarily an online presence, posting tracks on Spotify that garnered a lot of attention.
“Beatdown Generation,” for instance, from Millington’s second EP release in 2020, has generated a whopping two million streams on Spotify — no small feat. Part of the band’s success can be attributed to the producing ability of Okonski, who studied music recording at the College of Saint Rose (where Faxton and Cavin studied as well).
Okonski then honed his music production skills during a high-profile internship in Los Angeles. Speaking like a music industry insider, Okonski credits some of Millington’s success to the band’s “blend of crisp modern recording with its niche in the ska-punk genre” — a subgenre of music that tends to have a devoted, built-in fanbase.
But like many bands, Millington’s momentum stalled when the pandemic hit.
“We did maybe three shows before everything was locked down,” Okonski says. And tragically, Bintz, the group’s trombonist, died suddenly in 2021. The members of Millington played at his memorial service, but then not much after until an appearance at the Governors Ball music festival in New York City in June of 2022, which got the band an audience in front of thousands of people.
But now with a refreshed lineup, Millington is ready to launch 2023 with its first hometown show in ages, followed by upcoming gigs later this year in other parts of the country. The band is working on new material and hopes to release a new EP in coming months. “[The show on Friday] is the kickoff of a big year to come,” says saxophone player Faxton.
At Empire Live, the group will play its six-song “Beatdown Generation” EP in its entirety, since the pandemic release from April 2020 never got its proper due. “We wanted to play the show that the album has always deserved,” Okonski says.
What can fans expect in Albany on Friday? In part, a highly charged atmosphere, where Millington’s horn section members act like “hype men” who stir up the crowd and get people clapping and moving along.
“Every single one of us puts on a unique performance,” says Faxton. “Since joining the band, it’s been a wild ride. The atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve seen before. People love this band so much. I really appreciate the opportunity to do this. I play every show like it might be my last.”
Millington headlines its homecoming show at Empire Live (93 N. Pearl St., Albany) on Friday with Midfield, Maloy and Yeah Universe. 7 p.m.
Farewell to Blues Powerhouse
The local music scene was saddened this week by the loss of blues vocalist and guitarist and music educator Thomasina Winslow, who died at the age of 57 from a stroke.
Winslow, who was slated to perform at Caffe Lena on Feb. 4 with her blues band Nite Train, was connected to the venue because her father, folk-singer Tom Winslow — a bandmate of folk legend Pete Seeger — played there. Winslow, who studied music at the University at Albany, worked with at-risk youth, using music to reach them.
In Schenectady, Winslow played venues like Frog Alley Brewing Co. and Proctors, where she and Nite Train rocked the Eddies Awards most recently in 2022.
A statement from her brothers, Carlton and Gary Winslow, issued on Facebook said, “It’s a sad day for humanity as a tremendous human being, teacher, musician, and friend to all has passed. Thomasina was and still is a force to all she has met, talked to, and otherwise influenced during her time on this earth. Everyone will miss her physically, but she will always be present cosmically and in spirit.”
Reach Kirsten Ferguson at [email protected]