Christian Hince | March 27, 2023
Performance by Algonquin singers/drummers The Medicine Singers at No Fun in September. Photo credit: Rudy Lu
When discussing the capital region’s vibrant post-COVID underground music scene, it’s impossible to ignore Troy’s No Fun. Founded in Dec. 2021 by August Rosa, originator of the Albany/Saratoga Springs craft beer business Pint Sized, the venue has quickly become a hotbed for DIY music in the capital area and greater northeast region.
More than just a place, Rosa views it as a project and a springboard for creativity in the area. “I built it here so we could have new and different artists come through,” he said. “I'm trying to involve the folks that I think have their head in the same place that want to bring new, challenging different artists to the capital region.” While Rosa initially intended for No Fun to be an extension of his first enterprise, he’s enjoyed seeing the space take a life of its own.
Rosa fits the appearance of your prototypical mid-30s punk. He sports thick frame glasses and a brown beard, wearing a gray beanie, blue-yellow flannel, and gray jeans. Even though he scoffs a bit at his fashion sense, Rosa had an active eye for aesthetic when setting up the venue itself.
Made for 200 people, No Fun is an artsy yet minimalistic space, with a checkerboard floor, walls of white sheet rock, and a modest yet decently sized stage area in the back, complete with a disco ball. The single bathroom specifically emits a punk aesthetic, featuring a crude black paint jump and walls covered by graffiti and posters for future No Fun shows. Aspiring for a genuine atmosphere, Rosa modeled the space with DIY venues of NYC in mind. “I want it to feel like you're more at an art space or your friend's apartment than a business,” he said. “I think that's resonated, for sure.”
While No Fun’s physical layout was very much intentional, Rosa feels its importance pales in comparison to the people actually occupying it. We've had packed houses on the regular here,” he said. “I think we've sold out about a dozen shows this year so far which is awesome.”
In terms of promotion and planning of shows, Rosa describes No Fun as a team effort. Describing his noteworthy act booking efforts, he mentions hauls such as NYC noise rock band A Place To Bury Strangers and global acts such as Algeria’s Imarhan and an upcoming show featuring Australia’s Surprise Chef. There’s Shane Sanchez, the frontrunner of Super Dark Collective, a capital region promotion which hosts shows on the grittier and experimental side. Rosa also credits Sanchez as having “amplified the hip-hop angle” at No Fun.
He additionally mentions bartender Shane Secor, the man behind promotion arm Hey Greasy!, shouting out his booking of Gibby Haynes from Butthole Surfers and his rock-and-roll and Rochester connections. Rosa also namedrops a couple peripheral figures such as Rachel Freeman, ex-runner of the Byrdhouse venue in Albany and current regional promoter through Byrdhouse Records. “I want to give massive credit to the team that I initially put in place here, and I'm so grateful that they've stuck around,” he said. “Between the people that were initially hired here, and the folks that evolved with it as it continued, the place wouldn't be the same without them.”
Despite the hindrances of an Omicron-delayed beginning for No Fun, Rosa has found nothing but joy in the project so far, delighting in memorable and unique performances at the venue. He reminisces on hosting prolific New Jersey indie pop group Pinegrove and organizing for an interesting collaboration between Algonquin singers/drummers the Medicine Singers and members of legendary noise rock band Swans. “I'm seeing more of people just coming out to stuff where they're like, ‘I saw some weird band that No Fun booked, it's probably gonna be cool, I don't know much about the band,’” said Rosa.
This same approach went into his program on Friday, March 3, a four-band showcase featuring some new and some native to the capital district scene.
Tonight isn’t a sellout, but the crowd is still significant and full of enthusiasm. Up first is Aaron Wilson, co-owner of Herbie’s Burgers on Lark Avenue and tonight, frontman of a folk rock four-piece. The guitarist has long auburn hair and dons a light beard and glasses, singing about beer and romance. The five-song set starts upbeat before becoming wistful for a couple tracks, closing out with an energetic and quick number backed by thwacking drums.
Next is Binghamton dream pop act Pleasure Dome. They’re a six-piece with two keyboardists and one guitar, fronted by vocalist Cydney Edwards who softly sings over waves of reverb. Their six-track set ranges between slow, moody shoegaze and uptempo surf rock, featuring plaintive melodies. Their stage presence is expressive but not overzealous, inspiring dancing near the front of the crowd. “Tonight was really fun, but the venue is mislabeled because we had a good time,” said guitarist Brandon Musa after the performance.
Third is Precious Metals, a local alt-rock band. Lead vocalist J. Lee White reminisces of glam with frizzy brown locks and a jean jacket over a tank top, singing in a shrieky falsetto that harkens of Journey’s Steve Perry and Geddy Lee of Rush. The four-piece mixes groovy, urgent originals with covers such as Jimmy Eat World’s “Sweetness,” building the excitement and motion from the show’s earlier half.
Closing the night is singer-songwriter The Age, who steals the show. Age oscillates between blue-eyed soul and funk rock across his six song set, crooning Billboard-worthy melodies, dueling with his backing guitarist John Drabnik, interpolating Arctic Monkeys and the Outkast, and effortlessly engaging his audience. His four-man group’s musicianship is commendable and their enthusiasm is infectious, with the checkered tiles of No Fun becoming a dance floor by the second song. To finish, Age shreds the closing track in Purple Rain-esque fashion, capping off a magnetic performance.
The Age on March 3
Photo credit: Kiki Vassilakis
The scene at No Fun as the night ended is exactly what the venue is about: an excited swarm of people having enjoyed a wide-ranged and impassioned show of regional music over the course of three hours. Nights like these prove just how much the No Fun mission can pay off.
Rosa’s been patient, understanding that “just like anything, it takes time to develop your crowd, to have people feel comfortable to have them feel like the space is theirs.” If the space wasn’t theirs before, now it is.