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12.14.23: Spark Benefit @ Funk 'n' Waffles

feat: Boxie Rob, Undergang, Flashing Astonishers, and Dracula Jones

Did you know Syracuse has a music radio station that is truly indpendent, non profit, and plays all sorts of music? Had you asked me this time last week, I would have said "No!" Lucky for me I found my way to Funk 'n' Waffles Thursday night, in time for the concert to benefit Syracuse's own WSPJ Spark! which broadcasts a low power signal on 103.3 and 93.7 in the Syracuse area as well as offering a live stream from their website. The DJ's get to play what they want (within the bounds of FCC rules) and that includes support for local acts!

Three of the DJ's (L to R): Mike Adams, Steven Kratz, and Jason Klaiber

The show at Funk 'n' Waffles featured four local acts. It was a bit surreal to me as there were many familiar faces from other shows I'd covered, yet the only act I recognized was Flashing Astonishers. Turns out, I'd seen other projects of many the same artists, from members of Undergang performing as Zombie Kitten, to members of Dracula Jones performing as Pale Green Stars. In all honesty, overall this evening's performances were far stronger than when I'd seen these artists before. The only newcomer to my ears was Boxie Rob, an accoustic duo that has escaped my powers of Google-fu to learn more about.

The elusive Boxie Rob

Each band played around 10 songs in half hourish sets. Little to no time was wasted as none of the acts indulged in much stage banter. They all set up, did their thing, and cleared out for the next. Boxie Rob got things off to a slow and emotional start, with accoustic songs of love and loss. I found the performance to be a bit uneven. This singer's voice was lovely, but I found it and her stage presense lacking energy and emotion. I can't help but wonder (especially given the lack of internet presence) if it was stage fright holding her back as it really sounds like her voice could really bring the roof down in different circumstances. Most of her time on stage her feet stayed planted and her arms simply hung by her side. Her partner on the other hand, seemed much more comfortable under the stage lights. That said, the guitar sections ran long and to some extent dminished the impact of the vocals in doing so. Especially near the close of their set, it almost felt like a reverssal of the normal proportions between verse/chorus and guitar solos.

Al Smead of Undergang

While Boxie Rob got things off to a slow start, they launched into gear with Undergang. Fronted by Al Smead, they got the crowd on their feet and moving. Smead's delivery is like an angsty Frederick William Schneider III from The B-52's. Dressed in shirt and vest, he had energy to spare, with a stage presence that ranged from pantomime, to gesturing and posturing like David Byrne in Stop Making Sense, to banging out pushups like a college football player during an instrumental breakdown. Their set was a hoot.

Dan Musclow, trying out for the Rockettes

Up next were the Flashing Astonishers. SPARK! is especially near and dear to FA's guitarist Gregg Yeti: he's one of the DJ's! The Flashing Astonishers put out a solid set. Their sounds somewhat reminds me of bright math rock like Spoon, and Minus the Bear. They had to struggle through some guitar issues which led to some breaks in the energy, but the crowd didn't thin at all and showed no signs of losing interest. The top of the bill and climax of the night was a set by Dracula Jones.

Edmönd Ordez channelling his inner Zepplin

I can only describe Dracula Jones' set with one word: bombastic. They came to rock. Lead guitarist Edmond Ordez even channeled Jimmy page by bowing his Gibson SG. The crowd was moving and groving the whole set, cheers were yelled, rock horns were thrown, and the area by the stage was full of people dancing.

The urge to dance was strong...

All in all it was a great night for a great night for a great cause. If you've made it this far and want to contribute to Spark! continuing and growing in our community, donate here!

More pictures from the night:

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