Big Ups is one of the very best live bands in New York right now. At the core of that has to be the kinetic-but-controlled performance of vocalist Joe Galarraga, who reminds at times of a skinny Henry Rollins with a sense of humor. Mugging for the crowd, twisting his body into unusual positions, he never loses sight of the music or the message being delivered, which he propels at you in spoken word that rises at the right moments to scream. Brendan Finn (drums), Amar Lal (guitar) and Carlos Salguero (bass) make that performance possible, with controlled dynamics that pay as much attention to the softer interludes as to their songs’ frequent climaxes. Having seen these guys twice in 2014, promoting their first album Eighteen Hours of Static, and been blown away each time, we were eager to see where they’d gone from there.
The band’s 2016 record, Before A Million Universes, advances the conversation both lyrically and musically. At this performance at the Out In the Streets Festival, the band’s growth was evident in the current-album numbers “Contain Myself,” “Hope for Someone,” and “National Parks,” as well as a new piece that explores the soft/loud dynamic even further. On this sweltering, thunderstorm-pocked afternoon, the band commanded a friendly crowd who clearly knew them well, and made the most of the thirty minutes’ time allotted. The band’s music may be darker in tone, but Galarraga doesn’t let that get in the way of having a laugh with the crowd, or pulling faces that fall on the lighter side of serious. Even with the sun shining, by the time the set reached the band’s most straightforward hardcore number, “Goes Black,” we were all living in his world, and there was nothing else around.
In a crowded festival season, Out In the Streets is a perfect, smaller-scale local standout, with a tent to shield the bands and the music part of the crowd in the middle of Ridgewood’s historic Onderdonk House’s ample backyard, ringed with vendors, lounge chairs and picnic tables, and (not to be underestimated) plenty of bathrooms. The lineup, of course, reflected that ethos, with many of the best local acts (including Big Ups and, coming soon, Guerilla Toss) that Brooklyn fans see year-round at clubs like Shea Stadium and Baby’s All Right. It was one of those days that brought together like-minded people in a comfortable, manageable way — and gave us yet another serious jones for more Big Ups.
nyctaper and I recorded this set with his Neumann TLM-102 large-diaphragm microphones and an excellent house mix by Cliff Ribeiro. The sound quality is excellent. Enjoy!
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Stream the full set:
Out In the Streets Festival
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Recorded by nyctaper and acidjack
Produced by acidjack
Neumann TLM-102 (FOB, DFC, PAS) + Soundboard (engineer: Cliff Ribeiro)>Sound Devices 744T>2x24bit/48kHz WAV>Adobe Audition CS 5.5 (align, mix
down, compression)>Izotope Ozone 5 (light EQ, exciter, image)>Audacity 2.0.5 (track, amplify, balance, downsample)>FLAC ( level 8 )
01 Contain Myself
02 Hope for Someone
03 Not Today
05 [new song]
07 Goes Black
08 National Parks