I’d like to tell you why I remember the band, Skeletons In The Piano, from last UMAF and I’ll tell you through the egg on my face. I was exiting Griffin’s Pub on Genesee Street after a fantastic set by The End Men, running to catch The Moho Collective at The Green Onion Pub, if memory serves. The sad truth is, I can’t be everywhere and sometimes I just don’t pick right and miss something amazing. Last year in the deluge of artists, this band did not make my list to see, but the name was sticking in my head just the same. And now, there I was outside the bar and one of these fine gentlemen (I think it was Jeff Ayers) was also outside. He recognized me somehow and struck up a conversation on the street, introducing himself. He handed me a sticker. He mentioned, very politely, that I hadn’t gotten to them in the profiles that year. I admitted this and made a solemn promise to profile them this year, partly because I knew I’d dropped the ball on them, and partly because this whole exchange was so friendly and nice! Some people you feel like you’ve known for a while already, and wine fueled or not, I had that kind of vibe that evening. I also worried I might sound a little like a promoter blowing sunshine in the street that I had no intention to follow up on. I made a little vow to myself to keep an eye out for them.
That sticker has survived an entire year with me, including a couple hour move across the state. I know exactly where it is, in spite of my predilection for junk folders and drawers stuffed with ticket stubs and random memorabilia. Maybe this was fate. So this year when I saw Eric’s message in my email, I was most excited to give this band my full attention and pique your interest about them. How floored was I was when I FINALLY sat down and listened to the music??!!! Ground floor’ed and gut sucker punched. What a unique and talented bunch of musicians have come together to create Skeletons In The Piano!
Skeletons sounds like Lyle Lovett thrown down an abandoned well. It’s like Nick Cave if you lured him into the sunshine. It’s a little bit Jeff Buckley, and I’d never say that lightly. Elijah Hargrave’s vocal delivery and acute, keening, totally controlled waver toward the ends of his phrases calls the legend to mind, and so does the the guitars’ presentation. It’s a little bit The Killers. Ok, maybe imagine Jeff’s there, wailing on voice and guitar, in an almost rag-time acid jazz saloon band with half The Killers and some of The Violent Femmes after they sat around listening to Orgy for a couple of days. I’m still not doing this justice. Press play on this band immediately and please share the joy with your friends!
Hargrave’s voice and guitar is joined by bandmates Dustin Alexander on the bass and vocals, Jeff Ayers on the violin and keyboards, Eric Donovan on the drums and Brad Thibodeau also on guitar. The group is trekking over to see us again from Saratoga Springs after having a great time last year and making some solid contacts and friends. Eric stepped out from behind the kit for a bit to tell me about it, and some of his highlights include meeting a band they’ve forged a lasting, working connection with, and “watching A Ton of Blues later in the night and partying with the crowd into the night.” This year, you could be in that crowd, and I certainly hope you will be!
This band’s instrumentation is particularly interesting to me because it melds together into a cohesive sound so well it’s really like one body moving in time, occasionally throwing out a limb in wide arching emotion. Occasionally, you notice the stunning vocal or appreciate the tricky rhythms or hear strains from the violin or keys, but for the most part this is more like an orchestra than a band in the way each piece plays its part. This is the sound of a musical soul connection. Nothing is doing what you expect it to and nothing falls short through any of the tracks that I’ve been devouring.
I am always curious how the bands find their way to us and why they stick around. Eric was kind enough to elaborate. “A local promoter mentioned to check out the fest, and this will be our second year. The feedback from last year turned into other shows, and we met an amazing band from Brooklyn with which we have done show trades with since!” Who is this mystery band, you ask? “The End Men!! We have been down to Brooklyn and played a weekend worth of shows there, and they have came up to Saratoga to play a weekend, and are doing it again in July.” I think SITP might have crashed on the famous End Men couch that won them Most Rockin at Couch By Couch West! That’s sick cred.
Sometimes striking a balance between work and play is difficult and one can get sidelined by the other. We hope the UMAF experience is not mutually exclusive in this area. So, was it fun? “As a performer, it was so nice to play, because it was laid back enough that it wasn’t stressful, but professional enough to make the experience awesome. As a fan, there is SO much to do and see all day, that the price to go is totally worth it, and the fun you will have is exponential.”
Exponential is a ten dollar word and I like it! Listen to this man, he knows his stuff.
No, really, listen to him!
Once you’ve heard that, you’re going to want to take it home. Luckily, you can, even if the band has booked a room already. They have a full length cd as well as a recent 4 song EP. You can nab yourself a famous unlosable sticker, or a pin, T-shirts, magnet, and “maybe some other surprises.”