Welcome to Albany, home of the bipolar bar scene. Downtown is the creepy van with an airbrushed wizard on the sliding door. Lark Street is one tight flannel and Koi fish sleeve from being featured on Portlandia, and that depressing midtown stretch on Madison only works if you have the urge to lose a tooth…or get a slice of mediocre pizza. Yet, there is a light at end of the tunnel…even if it’s the train itself.
The Bayou Cafe always tiptoed between unbearable and a blast. The summer time crowd breathed local life through the doors, but the rest of the year was dominated by fickle college kids with fleeting tastes. The Bayou gave up juggling themed nights and went the route of the cover band and occasional radio station promo show before quietly changing ownership and undergoing a pretty little facelift. The Hollow is open for business.
The Hollow’s exposed brick and mason jar light fixtures are a gorgeous touch in the redesigned dining space, and the gold paint on the ceiling is flat out Kanye classy. The front bar is due for a cosmetic touch up, while the back bar/venue space will be left as is. The vibe is fresh, which downtown desperately needs, and buzz was contagious Thursday when WEQX welcomed Henry’s Rifle, Skeletons In The Piano, The End Men, and Linear North for a night of cheap, spastic rock and roll.
Henry’s Rifle is a dude with a banjo and kick drum. His set was all growl and stomp, with more frantic strumming than the Mumfords on a coke bender. Skeletons In The Piano rolled up their ironic thrift shop sleeves to deliver some voodoo-gypsy mystique complete with a belly dancer. Nice touch.
New York City’s The End Men balanced the freak-rock of Skeletons In The Piano by conjuring the spirit of Tom Waits and exhaling over a raucous bare bones blast of sound not far from the influence of the Black Keys, if they weren’t busy penning the next hit for a VW commercial, or the White Stripes if Meg could actually drum. The End Men spared no seconds, as if time was as precious as the attention span of the tepid Albany music scene. They were loud, they were on point, and they conquered our tiny Sheridan Hollow hood. Linear North’s sludgy, garage fuzz closed out the night in grand fashion playing cuts from their recently released Built 4 BBQ demo.
New menu. New look. New blood. The Hollow couldn’t have come at a better time for downtown Albany. Cheers.