The Figgs have been a fixture on the area music scene for more than 30 years, since the rock group’s earliest days playing backyard parties, school auditoriums and clubs in Saratoga Springs when band members were still teenagers.
Longtime Albany bartender Mike McGrath has also been a fixture on the local scene for years, tending bar at Albany bars like the Lionheart, Valentine’s, the Low Beat, and most recently, Excelsior Pub.
On Friday night, the Figgs, whose three members are spread across the Northeast now, returned to the area to play a benefit for McGrath, who was hospitalized with necrotizing pancreatitis in late January and faces a long road to recovery.
It was the second “Thrash for McGrath” benefit at the Low Beat. A night in March featured nine indie and punk bands at the Low Beat and neighboring Central Avenue club Pauly’s Hotel.
“The Figgs have always come through for us whenever we needed them to, whether it was playing one of the last shows at Valentine’s or playing the grand opening here,” said Low Beat (and former Valentine’s) owner Howard Glassman on Friday night. “They wanted to give back to Mike, who was a longtime fixture at Valentine’s and here. A special band helping out a special guy.”
The Figgs, who played two well-received and boisterous sets over three hours, also had another reason to be in the area on Friday. The band is recording a yet-to-be-named album – their 16th full-length – at Soundcheck Republic recording studio in East Greenbush.
A handful of propulsive, catchy tunes from the unreleased new album kicked off the night, including guitarist Mike Gent’s “Grab Your Pack” and “A Little Sip,” and bassist Pete Donnelly’s “Waves Make Patterns” and “Paolo the Alto.” Set opener “Dr. Richard,” a slice of power-pop perfection, was the new single from Donnelly’s recently released solo album, “Phases of the Moon.”
From there, they offered up slices of the past for the crowd of fans well-versed in their back catalog, including “Bad Luck Sammie,” “Red Bank Queen” and “Hey! Mr. Moonman” from 1996’s Capitol Records release “Banda Macho.”
A cover of “Brave Captain” from post-punk band fIREHOSE ramped up the energy, and the Figgs rode a wave of high spirits and taut dynamism for the rest of the night, which included a second set that found the band playing their entire 2002 “Slow Charm” album.
“That’s for you, Mike McGrath,” said Donnelly after heady “Slow Charm” track “Lose the Pain.”
Before finishing after midnight, the second set also included the by-request “Camden Love-In” and two tracks sung by drummer Pete Hayes, including “Let’s Go Back to Chelsea” and “Je T’Adore,” a toe-tapper that sound-tracked a Lexus television commercial in 2013.
In addition to money raised at the door to benefit McGrath, Chatham street artist Scout/Pines donated prints and a painting for sale behind the bar. And Jeff Smith, graphic designer and co-owner of Albany’s Cacophone Records, created a t-shirt with design student Dominick Testo to benefit McGrath’s road to recovery. (Shirts can be purchased by sending an email to [email protected])
“The Figgs rock. McGrath is a rock climber,” said Smith of the concept for the t-shirt, which features jagged mountains symbolizing McGrath’s climb back to health.