On a hot and hazy day in Astoria a stage was erected adjacent to the Hells Gate Bridge overlooking Astoria Park’s great lawn. This would be the site of the inaugural Astoria Band Fest.
The event, hosted on July 14, was a brainchild of Erick Benitez of Toast Productions and the fulfillment of a lifetime idea. The event consisted of five local bands, representing an array of musical genres.
The crowd set up blankets and chairs on the grass and others were lured in by the grand stage and the music.
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’s talented drummer used an impressive open-handed technique.
The second group, East River Ratz, a six- piece band that included two female backup singers both with fiery red hair, played mostly blues-based rock from artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Waters. The highlight of their set was the Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man.”
TheBandCC, an atmospheric indie band, performed a mixture of covers and originals creating a mellifluous ambience and ended with a harder-tinged Zep/Yes medley.
“The festival went wonderfully — no problems whatsoever and everyone had fun — my band had so much fun and if asked we would love to be included next year,” said Christine Casalta of TheBandCC.
Hot Tub Gin played chiefly rock covers with a few country-rock-based originals thrown in. A highlight of the set was a punk rock version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”
The final band of the event was Snakebite, a six-piece soul group that flipped the switch from the rock genre. Led by the vocalist, they played great renditions of disco and soul hits from artists such as Sade and included the “I Will Survive” Gaynor anthem. They played as the sun set on the band fest and the stage lights were flipped.
Preparations are already being made for a 2013 performance at the same location to help showcase more local musical talent.