ALBANY — It’s a sunny, unseasonably warm weekday afternoon in West Capitol Park, where Raurri Jennings and Peter Lavery usually stop for lunch to see what condition their condition is in.
The two comprise the songwriting team for the soulful rock band Front Business, which may just be the quietest popular band in the Capital District.
Somehow, someway, this local four-piece band is scheduled to kick-off music at Tulip Fest’s main stage on Saturday, May 12, in Albany. With just 200 likes on Facebook, the band comes in as a relative unknown. Not that Facebook should be the best benchmark to gauge one’s impact on the music scene — just ask your grandmother — but Sorrow Estate, which opens the Local 518 Stage on the other side of Washington Park, has twice as many likes.
Maybe it’s the merch?
“People think we’re in the music-making business, but we’re actually in the t-shirt-making business,” said Jennings, as he sits down to eat a sandwich he bought from the horde of food trucks lined up and down Washington Avenue.
The band name alludes to some nefarious racket, a facade hiding the true intent of their work. But, really, it’s a name Jennings and Lavery adopted off of a cover band the two previously played with years ago. That band never made it out of the rehearsal room. This band, however, has already earned its chops by running through the gauntlet of competition at WEQX’s Battle of the Bands last summer, where the crew earned first place honors. The first place finish, which the band shared with Hasty Page, earned it the opportunity to open last summer’s Pearlpalooza.
“It feels weird,” said Lavery, as he considers the band’s growth over the past year. “[W}EQX has been super supportive since the Battle of the Bands. … Their support has been awesome.”
Front Business is bookending a typically quiet winter season by performing on two of the largest stages in the Capital District’s music scene: Pearlpalooza and this weekend’s Tulip Festival. It’s a steep trajectory for a band, Lavery said, that doesn’t have physical music to show for it.
“That’s a peculiar thing,” he said. “We have t-shirts available for sale before we have any music out there.”
Jennings cuts in with a joke, “Nobody makes money making music, man.” They both chuckle.
Jennings is the band’s frontman and lead guitarist. Lavery calls him a ball of energy. In a crowd full of corporate suits loosely gathered around the park fountain, Jennings can be picked out, as at least a music lover, with a pair of large headphones wrapped around his neck. His role with the band is less of a front than that of his day job.
“The people I work with get a little pissed off after awhile,” said Jennings. “I’m always slamming [stuff] around and hurting myself, screaming and cursing. Yelling.” Things frowned upon at the New York state Library. Or, any library, for that matter. “Well, I work in the back of the library, which affords me a little bit of leeway in how much noise I get to make.”
On stage, the noise Jennings makes is more controlled. Self-described as “soulful rock,” Front Business possesses a sound with growing popularity. Though jam bands have long been popular in the Capital District, those akin to Phish, the Ominous Seapods, .moe and the such, Front Business adds funky guitar licks, jazzy chords from Lavery at guitar and Josh Potter at bass, and Erik Pravel on drums. The band is now accompanied by two, soulful back-up singers. They are your self-anointed “neo-funk lords.”
“We thought of ourselves as the unknowns,” said Lavery, recalling last summer’s Battle of the Band’s competition. Though the core group of the band have been long-term friends, and have played together in some capacity over the years, there wasn’t an earnest effort behind Front Business until last January. Lavery said the band played a few shows, and caught someone’s attention.“I don’t think anybody had any idea who we were or what we sounded like,” going into the Battle of the Bands competition. “So, we kind of came out of nowhere, which is cool.”
The band is working on releasing an album later this year. In the meantime, Jennings said, he’s enjoying this time as the band continues to surprise people. Those opportunities, however, are growing thin.
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