Astoria Band Fest 2012
On a hot and hazy day in Astoria a stage was erected adjacent to the Hell Gate Bridge and overlooking Astoria Park’s great lawn. This would be the site of the inaugural Astoria Band Fest. The event was the brainchild of Erick Benitez of Toast Productions and the fulfillment of a lifetime idea. The concert was quite a success as the crowd on the great lawn increased as the bands performed. Many people had set up blankets and chairs on the grass and other folks were lured in by the grand stage and the music. The July 14 event consisted of five local bands that represented many musical genres.
The initial group Separate Ends, a pop-punk trio started the day off. They performed originals and covers that included the Killers’ “When You Were Young”. The group includes a drummer who uses an open-handed technique. The second group, East River Ratz, is a six-piece ensemble that includes two female backup singers. Their set consisted mostly of blues-based rock that included the work of artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Waters. The highlight of their set was Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man”. An atmospheric indie band called CC followed. Their set consisted of an ambient mixture of covers and originals and ended with a harder tinged Led Zeppelin/Yes medley. The fourth group, Hot Tub Gin, is a three-piece bar band that includes Benitez as drummer, and a guest keyboardist on two songs. The group’s set was chiefly rock covers with a few country rock originals thrown in. A highlight of the set was a punk rock version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. The final group of the event was Snakebite, a six-piece soul group that flipped the switch from the rock genre. Led by a female lead vocalist they played renditions of disco and soul hits from artists such as Sade and included Gloria Gaynor’s anthemic “I Will Survive”. They played as the sun set.