When guitarist and vocalist Paul Tangarone formed Schenectady-based punk band Society High with drummer Rocky Dicocco in 2003, he was determined to make the band last.
Tangarone, 22 at the time, had already been in and out of four other punk bands, including MSE with Dicocco — the two broke that band up to start Society High. “I was just kind of getting tired of starting from scratch,” Tangarone said.
At first, the band was a three-piece, and eventually expanded to a four-piece. Tangarone kept the group going through various lineup changes —in the past 10 years, the band has gone through three guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. When Dicocco left about five years ago, it looked like the end — but Tangarone was booking shows even before his replacement, Nick Walter, came on board.
Society High, with Horror Business, Mordwolf and Teenage Shred
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Valentine’s downstairs, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
HOW MUCH: $7
MORE INFO: 432-6572, www.valentinesalbany.com
“If we were ever gonna break up it was probably around that time, and I really, really just didn’t want to,” Tangarone said.
“It was close; if Nick didn’t come along it probably would have been the end of the band, but we just didn’t want to call it a day yet. We were starting to play bigger shows with — we opened up for H2O, Catch 22; we played Edgefest actually, with Sebastian Bach from Skid Row.”
About two years ago, Society High became a two-piece band, with only Tangarone and Walter remaining. Even that didn’t stop them — the band continues to perform as a two-piece to this day, although Dicocco will still occasionally sit in on drums while Walter moves to bass.
“It just kind of happened by accident, becoming a two-piece band,” Tangarone said. “It was definitely weird at first, getting used to it, but it ended up sounding all right, so we just stuck with it.”
On Saturday, the band will celebrate its 10th anniversary at one of its favorite venues, Valentine’s. Due to Albany Medical Center’s planned Park South revitalization project, which will see Valentine’s and other businesses on New Scotland Avenue torn down to make way for new retail, apartment and parking buildings, this will be one of Society High’s final shows in the club (although Tangarone is working on getting the band on a lineup in October).
“That’s been my favorite place to go see shows since I was 17,” he said. “Society High started playing there right about a year or two after we were a band. That’s been our favorite place to play for over eight years.”
The band’s show schedule has slowed in the last 10 years, as members have taken on careers, families and other adult responsibilities. Early on, the band toured throughout the Northeast — at one point even performing at seminal New York City punk club CBGB’s, before it closed in 2006.
It’s also been some time since the band has performed on a bill with a nationally touring act. In the past, the band has opened for The Queers, The Pie Tasters and Murphy’s Law, among others.
“There’s really not too many huge punk acts coming around that I’ve noticed, and a lot of times I’ll notice that if a big band does come around, like Bad Religion or something, they’re already on tour with a set group of opening bands,” Tangarone said.
These days Tangarone usually sets up all the band’s shows himself through Whiskey Shot Records, the label he set up to release Society High’s four-song demo and 2006 full-length, “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli,” as well as two compilations of local punk music. The band now plays about once a month, time permitting, and still occasionally makes it out of town.
While the shows may be smaller now, and fewer and farther in between, Tangarone is still happy with the Albany music scene, and his band’s place in it.
“I know a lot of people say negative stuff about Albany turnouts, like that there should be more people,” he said. “I just look at it as, we’re playing kind of unpopular music in a small city, so it’s really amazing that the amount of people that show up do show up. There’s just so many bands, musicians, artists — I always thought we had a good scene here.”
Planning to record
And after 10 years, Tangarone still isn’t ready to throw in the towel. He and Walter are currently writing material for the long-awaited follow-up to “Leave the Gun,” which will either be another demo or a full-length album. In the past, Tangarone has been the band’s main songwriter, but Walter has been contributing more to the writing process.
“I guess that’s the flaw in not wanting to stop playing shows,” Tangarone said of the layover between recordings. “We probably should, but I guess it’s just time, time constrictions. It’s like, we probably could take the time off from playing shows and get to writing and recording some new stuff, but I just keep booking us shows to play.”