The Restoration Festival closed out its fourth year Saturday night on a high note at a new location, the Contemporary Arts Center at Woodside.
Once again put on by local musicians collective the B3nson Recording Company, Rest Fest began Friday night and picked up again Saturday just before 2 p.m., with Philadelphia band Man Man headlining a bill featuring 11 other local acts spread across two stages.
The new digs allowed the music to spread out into two buildings, the church and the chapel, and the smaller setting at CAC Woodside created a more intimate environment from past Rest Fests at St. Joseph’s Church in Albany.
Attendance was somewhat down from the previous two years, according to festival co-director Louis Apicello. Although there were only 75 pre-sold tickets for the entire weekend, the festival got close to 100 walk-ups each day.
“I think [the move] affected some things, just because it’s in a new spot, and we’re all figuring out how to put on a festival again,” Apicello said. “So we’re adjusting to the new spot, but our team of volunteers has been on point.”
Kia Marra, 34, of Troy, has been to every Rest Fest so far and was pleased the event was held in her hometown this year. She attended both days of the festival.
“I’m really excited to be here,” Marra said. “I’ve always wanted to come up here. ... I don’t know who I want to see the most, probably Man Man. I’ve never seen them live, but I’ve heard they’re amazing.”
Saratoga Springs musician Matthew Loiacono, known for his solo work under the name Matthew Carefully, attended Rest Fest for the first time as an audience member.
“This is a perfect venue. It’s the right size for this amount of people, and having the two separate stages and venues is perfect,” he said. “It gives people something to do in between, and there’s enough stuff going on to completely immerse yourself in the whole experience.”
Hezzie and John Johanson, executive director and project manager for CAC Woodside, respectively, were pleased with the turnout throughout the weekend and would like to see the festival return in future years. This was the first event CAC Woodside was open for — the space is officially opening sometime in 2014 and will continue to host art events. All proceeds from ticket sales for Rest Fest, minus expenses, will go to ongoing renovations in the church space.
“This event signals the building’s change of use from a church, a place of congregation, to a place of gathering for the arts,” John Johanson said.
Even with all the changes, Rest Fest still managed to retain its local, homegrown charm, thanks to the historic church setting of CAC Woodside, but, more importantly, thanks to the acts themselves. Festival organizers wisely put most of the acoustic-oriented acts earlier on in the lineup, with the noisier stuff hitting in the evening. Each set was roughly 30 minutes, which kept things moving at a nice pace.
Singer-songwriter Tor Loney, of Tor & the Fjords, opened on the chapel stage, sans his bandmates, kicking things off with a fine set of hooky pop-rock. Accents were up next on the church stage (none of the bands overlapped, which meant back-to-back music all day on alternating stages, with the exception of a half-hour intermission at 5:30). The normally five-piece group stripped down to a three-piece, the better to highlight TJ Foster and Lauren Alexander and their strong harmonies.
Eclectic guitarist Matt Durfee and his band, the Rattling Baddlies (featuring the rhythm section of Albany rockers Alta Mira) took over in the chapel, with highlights including the instrumental “The Devil in Your Hands” and the hard-driving “Bad and Blue.” Next up, the first electric group of the day, Party Boat, brought surf-inflected ’60s pop to the church stage. After a brief reprieve with the more mellow Beaked Whale, Wild Adriatic closed out the first half of the day with a rocking set that drew almost entirely from the band’s upcoming album. The group’s Motown-meets-Led-Zeppelin sound was best on audience scream-along “Woe” towards the end of the set.
Bear Grass hit the church stage shortly after 6, kicking off the second half of the day with a mellow set of leader Katie Hammon’s spacey indie rock. From here, The Lucky Jukebox Brigade took the chapel back to the 1920s with a set of modern swing, with seven musicians crammed onto the tiny stage — during one song, the three horn players disappeared, only to reappear on the second floor of the building later in the song.
Country punkers The Slaughterhouse Chorus, up next in the church, were perhaps the loudest band at the festival — although Barons in the Attic, which played just before Man Man, also on the church stage, could have easily taken that title, as well. Between the two, experimental Hudson artist C. Ryder Cooley led her trio, the Dustbowl Faeries, through an eerie set of esoteric indie pop over in the chapel.
Man Man finally took the stage at 10:30, more than a half-hour late after an excruciating soundcheck. The group more than made up for it with an energetic performance drawing from all three of its albums, but with particular focus on the new “On Oni Pond,” due out next week. The group’s eclectic sound, combining elements of electronica with full-throttle rock and plenty of theatricality, got the now-packed house dancing right from the get-go. Pianist, lead vocalist and all-around mastermind Honus Honus was the main focus throughout, jumping up and down at his keyboard during early number “Top Drawer” and pumping the crowd up throughout the band’s hour-plus performance.