COHOES — Sawyer Fredericks is an old soul. His voice, his tone, his lyrics sound like a man who has been around the block a few times — and each lap didn’t always go well. Thursday night he headlined opening night at Cohoes Music Hall for the MOVE Music Festival, a three-day festival of local music and workshops that will continue all weekend. The night also featured two other local acts.
Fredericks opened with “What I’ve Done,” an intense, emotionally personal tune that takes courage to start a show with. He opened his eyes and stared at the audience during some of the more intimate lines. He is not afraid to bare it all. In contrast, he seemed oddly nervous speaking between songs to the small audience, which may be why he said so little.
In “Not My Girl,” which he said he wrote at age 12, he sings, “I know you’re not my girl, but it still hurts to see you with someone else.” Emotionally profound, and isolating, for a tween to feel.
Soon came “Silent World,” another slow, poetic song, with the verse, “It’s a silent world for those who don’t listen.”
He has a deep-throated semi-roar that he used at the right moments, and occasionally too often. After a few songs his band left – guitar, bass, drums – and he played a few solo tunes. During “Still Here,” as his voice grew increasingly stronger and more intense, his guitar picking grew more delicate. When the band returned, you realized they were good company, but Fredericks was fine on his own.
He has an enormous voice and ability to dive into a song and bring you with him. It was a surprise that the hall — a small theater — was not near full for such a large local name.
Jocelyn and Chris Arndt preceded him and came out like gangbusters, bashing around the stage with their loud, loose jammy rock and roll. Jocelyn, who fronts the bands with her singing, is a shouter. She can move from whisper to yell in one phrase without missing a note. The band is aggressive, tight, and very strong. Her brother Chris is on guitar, playing quick, over-the-top solos and leading the rest of the band with his rhythm.
The band never stays still, nor does Jocelyn, but they also never lose the audience. She’s physical, waving and jumping through the verses, Chris and the band played off her energy. You feel them present, compared to Fredericks who felt distant during his performance.
Before the brother and sister came on, we got a great organ solo that filled every inch of the hall.
They played a few from their upcoming record “Go,” coming out May 5, like “Home.” They covered Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason to Stay,” but it wasn’t the calm and controlled Chapman version. This was a mad woman not looking for much discussion. The tune was not always recognizable, but it was solidly underneath the mayhem.
The few times the group settled down during a tune, it was never for long before exploding to full throttle. They closed with a driving Ten Years After powerhouse kind of tune. They had already been at full capacity before this song, so this sounded like a band trying to turn the dial to “11.” It was too much.
The group plays dance-able music, but this was not a dance crowd. The theater was filled with a mix of families and friends — including young kids — who didn’t move. Oddly, this was another band with national attention – from media and festivals – but could not fill the Cohoes hall.
Regardless, they are a great act, and if the stars align, they might find themselves in much bigger venues.
CK Flach opened the show, alone with acoustic guitar and harmonica with a 45-minute set that didn’t really rise or fall, but moved forward on a flat line. He’s not a throwback folk singer drawing on the traditional oldies. Instead, you get blends of influence that come together as its own formation: steely, sometimes stern, kind of intimate without revealing the personal, but genuine. And he is very serious on stage.
He could have talked a little about himself, let the audience in a bit with such a small crowd, but he preferred for his songs do that. Two stuck out, including “a simple song,” a sad one about the river town he grew up in south of Albany. But the one that worked best Thursday night — that seemed to connect with the room directly — was “Empty Mansions,” the title track from his LP released in February.
Those who attended were treated to a great range of local bands who have found success. The MOVE festival has several more events through the weekend, and hopefully more people make the effort to support the movement. Learn more at movemusicfest.com.