Three-card Monte with a beat

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Saint Free has been a five-piece band for five years. (Images: Saint Free)

I just love the onstage snarl of a good ’n’ loud live rock act as they wallow in the smoke and shag. For instance, Rochester’s Saint Free, a five-man, 50-fingered band that skates the razor broadly between thinking man’s punk rock to, yup, you heard me, Motown. 

But whereas the punk rock tag gets nailed to the foreheads of bands that simply come out with a heaping helping of ragged energy, Saint Free deserves it, has earned it, it suits them. They love The Damned, they love The Clash. The entire outfit is wired tight, transitionally cool. It just straight up rocks out with virtually everything out. It’ll satisfy any rock jones standing in its way.

Saint Free is Bradley Freedman, vocals and guitar; Devonte Oliver, drums; Eric Foit, bass; Evan Hickernell, sax; and Danny Murphy, keys. It has been a five-piece band for about five years now, including quarantine.

It started out as a one-man endeavor to rock ’n’roll. 

“Saint Free was a solo project at first,’ Freedman says. “I was recording all the instruments and writing all the songs.” 

Having played together before, Oliver and Freedman ran into each other at a Ghost Note show during the Jazz Festival. Freedman was looking for some permanence.

“I was tired of teaching the same old songs, over and over,” he says. 

With Oliver on board, the duo soon blossomed into a quintet. The songs that were written previously became the material that would be the first two EPs: Self-titled and “Tussio.”

Drinking and drugs killed his previous band. Freedman wasn’t going to let that happen again. So, when he got five guys in the room that wanted to stay in the room, he knew he had found his band.

With hearts on sleeves, the band bandies about irreverently on “Tussio.” With its own take on punk rock, it takes laps around jazz in the distance. In its wake from there, it reconstructs. It’s pretty cool, if’n you ask me.

“After we started,” Freedman says, “we just naturally ventured into different genres, punk, reggae, ska. Those are the roots of the band.”

But what keeps the band’s effect effective amid the genre shifting is the lyrics. Songs about bondage and pizza delivery men are mostly hysterical when juxtaposed with the outfit’s grade A snotty music … three-card Monte with a beat.

“We have the attitude,” Freedman says. “But there is also a story line. Everything we’ve set out to do, we’ve already done it.”

Except hitting the road, which Saint Free is gearing up for. They want the ultimate and unforgiving test of the endless black rhythm and the creativity it spawns.

“We’re gonna just keep playing,” Freedman says.

Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.

Here’s a comprehensive list of live shows in and around Rochester: Get Your Gig On

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