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More than these: Ten Year Vamp at Bayou Café.

PHOTO: Bill Ketzer

By Bill Ketzer

Ten Year Vamp

Bayou Café, April 29

Ralph Spillenger’s Bayou Café is by far the finest nightclub on Pearl Street, besting Jillian’s, the Skyline, and all others in Albany’s little Bermuda Triangle with killer grub, a smashing sound system, gobs of live music and sexy-ass regulars who liquor up and boogie down nightly.

Normally, I avoid these things like minefields, but I was intrigued by Ten Year Vamp, who regularly pack such hothouses from here to the Big Apple with their raucous, high-protein attack. So, deep into those badlands I slunk to see for myself whether it was live or Memorex, and two songs into the night the answer was clear.

Tight, white-hot and endlessly attacking the downbeat from the gun, the band delivered, and I pressed my head to a nearby wedge as to feel their murderous telltale heartbeat. Drinks were spilled. Souls were lost. I stood at stage left, gleefully getting my ears fried into chips by guitarist Pete Vroman’s dual 4-by-12s as the band caught more air than Blink 182 backing David Lee Roth on a McDonaldland trampoline. Vamp cofounder Mark Rose hoisted his six-stringer high as Tim Keenan (one of the finest working bassists around) nailed them all to the wall behind drummer Scott Card’s unflappable meter. And, of course, you have leading lady Debbie Gabrione. Sure, Gabrione is a looker, a prime selling point for the band, but she doesn’t flaunt her sexuality in a manner that diminishes the primacy of her dream-soaked voice. Thank God. Like the pagan Queen Mab, she plats the manes of her horses in the night with toasts and promises and a sort of reassuring elemental satisfaction.

The throng swooned on the hardwood, cursing their ancestors for not bestowing such talents upon them as the band hand-delivered both a slew of covers (from vintage Tom Petty to the Black-Eyed Peas) and promising original goods like “Rockstar” and the iridescent “Fall,” the latter both endearing yet perhaps unintentionally capturing the human blindness to culpability, of promises made that can never be guaranteed. “If you give me the chance, I can give you the world,” Gabrione wailed to the heavens, as if despite her sincerity she quietly suspects it can’t possibly be so. Her lexis is refreshing because it sounds so goddamn there, so pragmatic, and yet the LCD can still derive whatever commercially appealing message is needed to justify the next round of shooters.

During the second set, I noticed I was being cased by a redhead with a Ten Year Vamp bumper sticker on her ass. She alternated between eyeballing me and fixating on Gabrione’s rump as she shook it to Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar I’m Going Down,” arms akimbo, ripping open the salty oxygen of the Bayou in her combat fatigues. “I love you Debbie!” the girl would scream. Then she would look back at me, but not with bedroom eyes. “Are you going to stand here for the whole night?” she finally asked, the implication being that she deserved my front-row spot, because she was in fact sexy, and I, decidedly not sexy, had no real business being at the front of this sexy game farm, blinded by the blessed sheen of Vroman’s Les Paul. What else can you do? You look her right in the eyes, and you hit her with mordant, one-word questions, offered like statements: “Why.”

“Oh, I was just, you know, wondering, you know . . .” she stammered. I held her gaze until she shrunk away. People are such assholes. Later she returned and asked if I was with the local newspaper because she was a photographer and would love to send me some pictures. Christ almighty.

Of course, TYV’s bread and butter is (and must be) cut from the reliable cloth of such harmless party-hards, of people with stickers on their asses, who actually show up to a downtown bar in formal wear, mouthing the lyrics to “Kryptonite” it its entirety. Thankfully, there is a tough circuitry beneath the Vamp, a talent, a rockets’ red glare that should ebb past the cover circuit given time and (someone else’s) money, because their original material is maturing and their radiance is infectious. Why, I was even inspired to help an alcohol-poisoned student drag his unconscious lady friend up Columbia Street on my way home. She bled on my AC/DC hoodie and barfed in my car, but that’s hardly the point.


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