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What you need to know for 01/23/2018

Aztec Two-Step has one foot in past but keeps concerts fresh

Aztec Two-Step has one foot in past but keeps concerts fresh

Music veterans Aztec Two-Step will perform Saturday night at Eighth Step at Proctors.
Aztec Two-Step has one foot in past but keeps concerts fresh
Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman of Aztec Two-Step

The college shows are over for Aztec Two-Step.

Rex Fowler remembers when he and musical partner Neal Shulman took their acoustic act to places such as Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, the University at Albany, Cornell, Colgate and bunches of other places of higher learning.

“Every generation has its favorites,” Fowler said. “The last thing they want to do is bring back Mom and Dad’s music. They’d go screaming into the night.”

Fowler and Shulman know that others are more interested in Aztec attitude. The Two-Steppers will perform on Saturday at Eighth Step at Proctors. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. in the Proctors’ “Underground” section.

The guys have been around. They hit the music scene in 1972 with a self-titled debut album — the name came from a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem — for Elektra Records. The first album and three subsequent albums for RCA Records became favorites for college audiences and disc jockeys at progressive FM radio stations.

Aztec Two-Step

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: 8th Step at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

HOW MUCH: $50-$28

MORE INFO: 346-6204,

Two-Step released their 10th studio CD, “Cause and Effect” in 2012.

Sensibilities of ’60s

“We were bringing the sensibilities of the ’60s’ music with us into the new decade of the ’70s,” Fowler said of those early days, in a telephone interview from his home in Bridgeport, Conn. “What we were doing was still considered a viable, mainstream-type music. You could call it folk rock, you could call it pop rock, easy-listening.

“That’s what the radio formats were back then,” he added. “We got played on all those formats, FM and college radio were our main staples. But we had enough airplay and popularity that we’d get played on some of the more commercial and easy-listening stations. The only thing we didn’t have was the breakthrough single, but we had what they called turntable hits, which was a concentrated amount of FM airplay and really enabled us to get the recognition we had.”

People who attend Saturday’s show can expect to hear selections from early Aztec albums, such as “The Persecution and Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road),” “Dancers All,” “Baking” and “Highway Song.” Fowler and Shulman will also dip into songbooks from the Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel.

Focus on nostalgia

Fowler knows people who come to Aztec Two-Step shows are banking on nostalgia. He expects they’re looking back to their college days, when they were sampling first tastes of independence and choosing their new favorites in music.

“When they come and see us, they’re reliving and reminiscing about those very exciting and passionate days,” Fowler said.

“It really is very gratifying and I think it’s a two-way thing. They’re very grateful we’re still performing, and I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we continue at a high level.

“We’re not up there going through the motions, we go out and try to slay dragons every time we step on stage. I think people do appreciate that effort. We haven’t lost our voices, Neal is still one of the great acoustic guitar players in America. It’s a nice combination.”

The challenge is to keep the show fresh. Fowler knows longtime fans don’t want to keep hearing the same songs in concert. Making selections can be easy, especially when there are hundreds of songs to choose from.

“We try to introduce a song or two that might have fallen through the cracks or hasn’t been played for a number of years,” he said. “We dust one off and keep it fresh for ourselves.”

Trying harder

It’s OK that the play list won’t include that elusive major hit.

“It might have made life a little easier, in terms of job security,” Fowler said. “But it may have been the magic ingredient that’s kind of kept Neal and I on track, trying harder, maybe a little bit of a ‘we’ll show-you-kind-of-edge’ we’ve had that’s kind of kept us up against the world, so to speak. It’s probably helped fuel our determination to keep at it.”

Fowler and Shulman are both in their 60s now. Retirement is not a consideration.

“Neither Neal or I have any plans to stop as long as we have an audience and they’re appreciative,” Fowler said. “It’s something that’s in our DNA. We love to perform, we still have that creative spark. It’s kind of what we were put on this earth to do, I think.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at

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