'The audience listened, picnicked and played Frisbee as Hellvar entertained at the Hudson waterfront Saturday for Hudson Harbor Fest'
By John Mason Hudson’s summer waterfront concerts are coming into their own. Dogged by often-skimpy attendance in past years, the first two concerts of Hudson Harbor Fest 2010 have attracted better crowds.
The lineup of Bella’s Bartok, Yukari Roja, Wreck of the Steamboat Swallow and the Bleeding Hearts Dancers drew about 150 people July 31. And Saturday, the Icelandic rock quintet Hellvar and the drum-bass guitar duo Tween brought in around 200, sitting on blankets or lawn chairs, dancing in front of the stage or picnicking on Hazel’s fried chicken.
The series is being cosponsored by Time & Space, Ltd., Musica and the city. TSL’s Claudia Bruce said that when Geeta Cheddie became chairwoman of the Common Council Arts, Entertainment and Tourism Committee, “she went around to everyone she could think of: Will you do something [about the summer concerts]? She came to TSL, we said ‘We’ll be happy to do it again.’ Linda [Mussmann] went to Rob, he was very excited, said he could help by looking for bands.
“We got support from Lili and Lou, gotohudson.net, Herrington’s, Columbia County Tourism, Columbia County Economic Development Council and Ginsberg’s,” she said.
Cheddie attributed this summer’s turnaround to Caldwell’s leadership.
“Rob’s fabulous,” Cheddie said. “He’s been nothing but good for this community. He brings in teens from around the county in a positive way. Rob’s presence has added people who don’t usually come down to the park. We hope he will continue his participation next year, as he has promised he would.”
It was apparent Saturday that Caldwell was doing more than contacting bands — the bands were using his equipment and he was on the ground from 3:30 p.m. on, helping them set up, doing sound checks and organizing.
“We have popular local acts with social networks,” he said, when asked to explain the increased attendance. “ ‘The Wreck of the Steamboat Swallow has quite a lot of outreach — they’re all people who live or work in the ‘grid,’” he said, referring to the area of Hudson between Front and Eighth streets and between Washington and Allen streets.
He said the hardest part of doing the series is giving up Saturdays at Musica, “my biggest retail day.” He said Sundays would be better for him.
The other hard thing, he said, was that the access to the river is not good.
“I get 20 calls a concert,” he said. “No one knows how to get here.”
Cheddie said she’s been meeting with Mayor Rick Scalera and Public Works Commissioner Robert Perry “and we’re working on coming up with a sign.”
The bands, of course, are not all local.
“We have really great people coming into town,” he said. “Hellvar [whose members all come from Iceland] owns this town.” The band also played at Daba, the Spotty Dog and on WKZE-FM.
“They’re seeing Hudson through rose-colored glasses,” Caldwell said. “Everybody they meet is a poet, musician, artist, writer. People are moving in.”
Asked how he found Hellvar, Caldwell said it was on a layover in Reykjavik. The lead singer, Heida, was working at a CD store in the airport.
“She picked out a couple CDs for me to buy,” he said. “I left my glasses; she had the airport page me. Then she said, ‘I got a band,’ and gave me her MySpace. I really liked their CDs; she said they had friends in Albany, in a band called Zahnarzt. She said, ‘Maybe we’ll do a northeast tour, ha-ha.’”
Caldwell was able to arrange appearances for them at Musica when it was in Chatham, as well as at the Peint’0’Grwr, and they also played in Troy and Albany with Zahnarzt.
Hellvar presented a varied set of electronic music, ballads, hard rock.
One song was called “Women and Cream” and was about facial cream.
“You don’t need cream to be beautiful,” Heida counseled the crowd before the song. “It’s the big cream conspiration — oh, conspiracy!” she amended, following a bandmate’s correction.
Matthew O’Koren and Anthony Kingsley formed the duo Tween, which took its name after finding that its original moniker, Cosmopolitan, was already taken.
They described their sound as “loud, distorted, frantic music.” They took their name to suggest their concern with satirizing American popular culture and the way things are marketed to youth.
Supervisor John Musall, who did the lighting, said, “Everything is perfect. I’m so glad to see people are coming to this. I think it’s finally catching on.”
Coming up are the Black Arts Festival next weekend, then Paprika and Azuki & Bongo Roots Aug. 21, and Girl Howdy! and Liv Carrow Aug. 28.
To reach reporter John Mason, call 518-828-1616, ext. 2266, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.