Bess Greenberg has been a basketball player in Europe, a gallery curator in New York City and has toured with bands as a photojournalist. Now she’s on the other side of the camera lens — as a musicmaker.
Greenberg and her musical partner JimmyJohn McCabe perform as The Falconers, a harmonious Binghamton duo backed by upright bass and guitar. The pair will be part of the Old Boy Records Showcase on Saturday, Nov. 21, 9 p.m., at Funk ‘n Waffles Downtown, 307 S. Clinton St.
Greenberg and McCabe work together on singing and songwriting, a dynamic they’ve been honing for only three years, when she first decided to pursue a musical career. “I had never played bass before,” she says. “But I knew Claire Byrne and Jackie Columbo in the band Milkweed and they were like, ‘Buy a bass and be in Milkweed.’” So she did.
Greenberg had been on the road to document the travels of Byrne’s other band, Driftwood. When Byrne asked her to get going on the upright bass, it simply marked the start of her next adventure.
“Everyone was so supportive,” Greenberg says. “I put as much as I possibly could into it. I feel really lucky. I met JimmyJohn, we clicked right away and The Falconers were born.”
That was back in 2012 when Greenberg was splitting her time between Binghamton and New York City. She was managing an art gallery on Central Park West, a space with 3,000 square feet upstairs and a 2,000-square-foot basement. She had convinced the broker to let her use the space, which had been vacant for more than two years. The result: more than 230 exhibits that Greenberg curated herself. She called the upstairs 25 CPW (named after the address) and the downstairs Red Roots, which became the name of The Falconers’ first full-length album.
“That’s where we (Greenberg and McCabe) started writing,” she explains. “It’s passionate for us. We carried that forward.”
Greenberg fell in love with music as she played with Milkweed and The Falconers. “I’ve always been someone who gravitates wherever my heart is leaning without trying to think too much about it,” she says. “I just trust that it’s gonna make me feel most fulfilled. Now, learning this new language of communicating with people … it’s overwhelming in some ways. Music makes me feel so full inside. The more I play, the better I feel. I’ve done a lot of different things in life, but music … it’s just endless.”
Both musicians knew Chris Merkley, a Binghamton musician who enlisted them for his Old Boy Records label. The band currently has a six-song EP titled The Frame Maker, and the 16-song full-length album Red Roots.
“JimmyJohn has had a relationship with Chris long before I met Chris,” Greenberg said about the connection. “So, he’s (Chris) been one to embrace The Falconers. He’s done so much for the area and he just welcomed us into everything.”
The band has only played a few Central New York shows, but the Old Boy Showcase is the biggest yet. “It’s a great opportunity to break into Syracuse more,” she says. “I get excited about things and go toward them. If I feel that excitement inside, I tend to run.”
The Old Boy Records Showcase, featuring Los Blancos, Merkley & Morgan, The Falconers and Quona Hudson, takes place Saturday, Nov. 21, 9 p.m., at Funk n’ Waffles Downtown, 307 S. Clinton St. Tickets are $10. Visit funknwaffles.com or oldboyrecords.com.
Meet Chris Merkley
Why did you start Old Boy Records?
As a means to release albums from my different projects under one umbrella. When I really started getting into recording and touring, I realized there were more and more musicians in my extended network who seemed to share a similar brand of American roots music with the motivation to make it a way of life. It was right around the time when the digital age of music was starting to cause upheaval in the industry. So I thought it made a lot of sense to work together with those other like-minded artists to create a community of musicians built on the spirit of collaboration and the sharing of resources.
Old Boy is part record label and part artist collective. It has slowly been growing to adopt a hybrid model that mixes the services of a traditional label while maintaining a lot of the freedom artists have as independent musicians. Since the artists on the roster are at different points in their careers, with different directions and ambitions, it remains flexible to adjust to those individual needs accordingly. More recently, it has started expanding to help in every aspect of releasing an album through artist development, album financing, production, booking and promotion support.
What bands do you work with?
Some of the groups include Driftwood, Los Blancos, Digger Jones, Merkley & Morgan, JimmyJohn McCabe, The Falconers, Greg Podoliak, Stiv Morgan and Nate & Kate. Our New York City-based musicians include The Crooners, Gabe Cummins and Jenn Grauer and we have our southern brother Aaron Raitiere down in Nashville. Our newest addition is Quona Hudson.
What do you have planned for Syracuse?
On the last Sunday of each month, Funk ‘n Waffles will be hosting three new Old Boy songwriters to rotate short solo sets and sit in as instrumentalists on each other’s songs. You can expect many more showcases.