ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Since the Spectrum
wins every year, we’re always glad to have something different
to add: This year, it’s the new entranceway that allows for indoor
lines (although we do still head into the old doors out of habit).
We also like the improved utilization of the lobby art gallery.
And as always, the concession stand with its real popcorn and yummy
baked goods is just as much a reason to patronize this locally owned
theater as its well-chosen mix of independent, foreign, documentary,
and major-studio films.
Vintage Movie Theater
In the age
of the multiscreen corporate megaplex, the Crandell Theatre is a
gem, with a real “olde tyme cinema” atmosphere: one movie, one screen,
in a vaudeville theater built in 1926. They’re the most reasonably
priced cinema around—despite a recent increase in admission to four
whole dollars. Plus, the Crandell Theatre is host to the Chatham
Film Club, a not-for-profit organization that shows art, independent,
and foreign films once a month, and runs the annual Film Columbia
about this beloved neighborhood theater is that it’s still here.
Formerly the troubled Norma Jean, the Madison reopened after a close
brush with conversion to a drugstore drive-through. It’s in need
of some refurbishment, but most of the screening rooms are now playing,
everything is in working order, and it’s cheaper and easier than
Best Film Society
We wrote that
Saratoga Film Forum came into their own last year, but we were wrong.
They came into their own this year, with even more filmmaker
events and regional film exclusives. They also cosponsored, with
Skidmore College, the Saratoga Film Festival. Held last September,
the SFF had as its theme, Haiti: Moving Images. We look forward
to see what surprises they have in store for their upcoming fall
Avant-Garde Multimedia Collective
folks at Time & Space Limited have continued to promote an active,
living culture in Hudson. And by “culture,” we mean both artistic
culture and civic culture. On the arts side, they stage innovative
theater productions, multimedia art exhibits and screen numerous
indie film exclusives. (Between TSL and Saratoga Film Forum, we
have a bounty of indie-flick offerings.) On the civic side, TSL
is in the vanguard of small-scale, community-based political dialogue
and activism. It’s home-grown activism at its best.
Avant-Garde Multimedia Juggernaut
1040 MASS MoCA
Way, North Adams, Mass.
A giant “knitting
machine” creates a huge flag over the July Fourth holiday. A downtown
(as in New York City) musical ensemble re-creates an ambient-music
classic in concert—for the first time. Classic films are screened
with live, original scores. Oh, and internationally renowned artists
present cutting-edge work in an industrial complex that’s impressive
in itself. That’s what they do at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary
Art, where there’s something for everyone—from art lovers to film
buffs to all those 9-year-olds out there who can appreciate “process.”
favorites Capitol Chamber Artists give an audience their money’s
worth. In their season at the First Congregational Church in Albany
and the Community Hall in Benson, Vt., they begin each show with
an hourlong “preconcert recital,” followed by the first half of
the performance proper. Then, following a refreshing cake break,
the four- to five-piece ensemble tear into an epic work, usually
a symphony arranged for a chamber group. A feast for music lovers;
a triumph of endurance for the players.
Who loves ya,
baby? The Albany Symphony Orchestra, that’s who. Their programming
is a smart mix of new American works and favorites from the classical
repertoire. Their conductor has won an armful of awards, and is
a popular member of the local arts community. Best of all, the ASO
meets the people halfway by performing in venues all over the area,
including Albany (multiple locations), Troy, and Pittsfield, Mass.
Give it up for them.
man’s vision: the Tang’s Ian Berry.
Best Art Museum
Museum and Art Gallery
Ian Berry has
demonstrated over and over just how passionate he is for the quirky
way he views art, and his years at the Tang have given him the opportunity
to communicate that vision in myriad ways. From the lovingly assembled
and documented “Opener” series on emerging artists to a coast-to-coast
collaboration on a Richard Pettibone retrospective that just opened
at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art
(before coming to the Tang and then going to the Laguna Museum of
Art), Berry is making his mark.
Best Art Museum
(Scope of Vision)
disagreement that MASS MoCA challenges all viewers . . . and it
does this by taking risks as huge as the space itself. While size
alone rarely matters, MASS MoCA takes advantage of its excess of
space by filling it with a range of international contemporary art
that you’ll never see together anywhere else, and commissioning
site-specific pieces by the edgiest artists around. They may push
a few people’s buttons, but they sure do push the envelope, too.
our word for it—take the word of the curators at the two hottest
museums in the region, where Oatman currently has impressive displays
of his genre-bending collages and installations on view. The Tang
and MASS MoCA don’t normally showcase local artists, but Oatman
is an international-class artist who just happens to be local. And
that’s lucky for all of us.
sure that when you’re painting your self-portraits, you’re taking
very serious risks. Opening yourself emotionally to the moment,
and whatnot. We support that. But, dude, this Melee hung himself
from ropes 11 stories above the night-time streets of North Albany
to paint his tag in letters 10 feet high on an abandoned warehouse
for the pleasure and astonishment of I-787 commuters. Now, while
we don’t encourage anyone at all to do this themselves—it’s illegal
and wicked dangerous—we tip our hats to the guy’s loopy commitment
to making a big name for himself.
to North Adams, Mass.
OK, it’s actually
more like five miles, but with the Sterling and Francine Clark Art
Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and MASS MoCA along
the route, we think this strip provides a pretty tough challenge
to Fifth Avenue’s Guggenheim, Metropolitan and Frick.
In a notoriously
tough market that generally chews up and spits out small galleries
in a matter of months, here’s a scene that has managed longevity
and diversity as well as quantity and quality. Stalwarts Carrie
Haddad, Deborah Davis, Richard Sena and A.D.D. have been joined
by newcomers Trink and the Museum of the Imagination (among many
others) to offer a big-city cultural feel without the stress. Nice!
one sparkly moose: Razzle Dazzle.
Route 7A, Bennington,
the eye he does, especially when the sun hits his blue mosaic hide
with its swirling patterns in acrylic and glass gems. Created by
local artists Dana Rudolph and Rhonda Jeffer for the Bennington
Moosefest, this life-size and delightfully reflective moose sculpture
literally stops traffic from his stomping ground in front of the
Harwood Hill Motel.
than meets the eye: Maude Baum.
and Hudson Avenue, Albany
to business more than 30 years, for letting her dancers be who they
are onstage, and for this year’s bold partnering with the Palace
Theatre in new artistic and educational adventures.
Step onto the
grounds and, instantly, you feel refreshed: by the pastoral setting,
the welcoming staff led by the sunshine-faced artistic director
Ella Baff, the enlightening photo exhibits and archives, the free
talks on dance history and choreographers and free open-air performances
on a platform stage. All this, before you enter the historic Ted
Shawn Theater or the Doris Duke Studio Theater to see an array of
companies over a 10-week season, invited from Sweden to New Zealand.
Hey, Mark Morris comes every year. So do we.
of Dance Events
more expansive and more risk-taking every year. Coming in 2005-06,
a new series of Sunday afternoon Dance Up Close shows with chamber-size
groups performing family-friendly programs in the smaller Swyer
to See Dance
The only school
in the region with a theater devoted to dance. Less than 400 seats,
all good, even on the sides. Kid-friendly, with a carpeted area
in front of the stage that encourages the wigglers to sit on the
floor and to turn their own cartwheels and jetes during intermission.
Adirondack Theatre Festival; Barrington Stage Company
Falls; Sheffield, Mass.
Adirondack Theatre Festival, and Barrington Stage Company create
new works and real premieres, and, in the case of BSC this year,
plays that head to New York City and succeed. What differentiates
the three theaters from the others is their working-class roots,
which is reflected in the best of their new works: these are plays
about people who live and work. North, south, and east of Albany,
these are your destinations for adventurous, eclectic, and electric
New York State
Theatre Institute’s Concert Series
New York State
Theatre Institute’s Concert Series continues to create new productions
of classic Broadway musicals focused on the singing and the acting,
not the stagecraft bells and whistles. Man of La Mancha was
revelatory this year. NYSTI’s Concert Series shows that you have
your musical and hear it, too.
New York State
forever and always for kids, often by kids, entertaining kids, inspiring
Boyd has shown
a particular devotion to producing full-scale musicals since she
founded BSC. Her production of the little-seen Jerry Herman show,
Mack and Mabel, was a rare treat; her production of Cabaret
transferred to Boston and won awards; and BSC’s The Spelling
Bee famously transferred to Broadway. But it is her stunning
work with Sondheim’s difficult masterpiece, Follies, that
shows her to be a consummate artist in this genre.
Theatre at Berkshire Theatre Festival
With the sad
demise of the Adams Memorial Theatre (home of the Williamstown Theatre
Festival) and its smaller Nikos stage, the best place in the area
to see exciting theater is the Unicorn. The intimate theater boasts
comfortable stadium seating, excellent (unobstructed) sightlines,
unobtrusively efficient climate control and flexible staging.
Music Hall, Pittsfield, Mass.
Stage Company will have a home of its own in downtown Pittsfield,
in an old theater house that the creative Julianne Boyd can renovate
into a showplace for professional theater. Finally, underappreciated
Pittsfield with its ideal central location in the Berkshires can
have a true cultural arts attraction equal to its neighboring towns.
Honorable mention: The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Free Theatre
to the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. One of new artistic
director Roger Rees’ best changes is to move the free theater from
its various outdoor locations into an air-conditioned theater free
of bugs, heat, rain, poor acoustics, picnic baskets, etc. No longer
will the plebeians be treated as groundlings and the actors as second-class
journeymen in need of deet.
New York State
Lange has just
written and had produced (by NYSTI) his second play about Sherlock
Holmes, and it is a dandy. His first was a swift mystery thriller
that went on to be published by Samuel French (the largest publisher
of plays in America and England). His newest, Sherlock’s Legacy,
is a mature, thoughtful and ultimately touching work that stays
true to its beloved subject while examining the question of a purposeful
New York State
game in town, to be sure, but this long-running series didn’t become
an institution for nothin’. This year’s schedule has been particularly
notable for its inclusion of younger and local writers of promise:
Thai Jones, author of Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to
the Weather Underground, One Family’s Century of Conscience;
Edward Schwarzchild, author of the novel Responsible Men;
and Tobias Seamon, author of The Magician’s Study: A Guided Tour
of the Life, Times and Memorabilia of Robert “the Great”Rouncival,
all are once or current residents of the Capital Region—and fresh
and welcome additions to a schedule that also included such important
names and disparate voices as Eric Bogosian, William Vollman, Angie
Cruz, Pablo Medina and Shelley Jackson.
Author (Here and Now)
To point out
that Responsible Men is Edward Schwarzchild’s first novel
is intended only to call attention to the promise of more—this is
no apprentice work. The novel is remarkable in its restraint and
subtlety. This story about a family of small-time conmen has drawn
comparisons to both Arthur Miller and Phillip Russo, but is neither
bleak nor quaintly comic. Instead, Schwarzchild presents a richly
imagined and deeply humane study of immediately recognizable, engagingly
Author (Once Upon a Time)
As you might
guess from its sprawling, boisterous title, The Magician’s Study:
A Guided Tour of the Life, Times and Memorabilia of Robert “the
Great” Rouncival, Tobias Seamon’s novel is an ambitious and
idiosyncratic one: The slew of oddball and fanciful characters are
imbued with a detailed and rude health; historical ambience is shot
through with beguiling arcane—and, throughout, the author’s obvious
joy of his work is evident and contagious.
Best Not Emerging
a private garret in the Basque region, Trevanian, the pseudonymous
and press-shy author of a number of best-selling thrillers and the
recent memoir of Albany slum life, The Crazyladies of Pearl Street,
is laughing his ass off at William Kennedy’s expense. He’s a fine
stylist and a facile parodist and an absolute genius of negative-space
features for the Times Union consistently bring to light
interesting aspects of the capital city, past and present. And now
he brings Albany history into the national arena with his second
biography, I Rose Like a Rocket: The Political Education
of Theodore Roosevelt. Expertly covering the future president’s
pivotal years in the rough-and- tumble proving ground of Albany
politics, the book is being described as vivid, insightful, compellingly
readable, and “a sparkling portrait.”
’em softly: The Kamikaze Hearts.
could call this category the local music equivalent of “most likely
to succeed.” Or not, as some might consider that a curse. The Kamikaze
Hearts have the potential to be big, and we mean that in a nine-point-review-on-Pitchfork,
top-ranking-on-the-College Music Journal-charts sort of way.
Locally, the Kamikaze Hearts have a devoted fan base: They sold
out shows at Caffé Lena (admittedly a small place) and at the much
larger Linda Norris Auditorium in the past year. But the Hearts
also seem to easily attract new fans, including those who aren’t
typically drawn to porch-sitting, mandolin-inflected indie rock.
At a recent performance, the Hearts mesmerized everyone from punk
rockers to metalheads with their addictive melodies, quirky four-part
harmonies and the amazing way that they maintain such a loose, shambling
vibe while somehow keeping it all perfectly together.
Best Rock Band
To Hell and
to have a conversation over drinks while these guys are playing.
Here is pure rock fury at a pernicious pace that leaves you limping
toward the finish line with wuthering jowls, empty bowels and a
thirst for Olde Frothingslosh. Impossible to ignore. We got an advance
taste of the new CD and it’s a jaw- dropper.
Best Pop Band
Hector on Stilts
Mass.-based cousins Clayton and Jeb Colwell, better known as pop
team Hector on Stilts, have charisma, talent, and smoldering good
looks, all of which are well-known prerequisites for a fabulous
pop band. They possess lovely buttery voices and rock tight harmonies,
and their quirky onstage banter adds to the appeal of an already
great live show. The duo’s brand-spanking-new disc, Same Height
Relation, is highly recommended.
Best New Band
local rock collective Parwana embody the youthful spirit of rock
& roll, not caring about being broke as long as they can scrape
together enough money to produce their own records and travel around
the country in a van, sleeping on floors, playing basement gigs
and dumpster diving for their dinner. The band’s youthful idealism,
flailing energy and DIY ethic is much appreciated by the kids, who
come out to revel in Parwana’s shouted exuberance and crazy, kinetic
This is always
a toughie with so many bruisers coming out of Troy and surrounding
environs, but Last Call’s latest split record with Boston’s Cheech
is a powerful example of how far this band have come in the past
few years. Workingmen’s hardcore with respectfully incorporated
metal riffage does the Collar City justice.
Best Punk Band
necessarily “punk” in the empirical sense, but the ’Shirt are snotty,
abrasive, cocksure, at times apoplectic and dirty—good enough for
us. Great songs, indelible, remorseless lyrics and the thick vein
in Drew Benton’s neck as he spits them out make for one nasty live
experience. If we had an award category for Best Band T-Shirt, well,
they would win that too.
Great Day for
Call it stoner
rock if you want, but Small Stone’s GDFU are as ironclad and ready
to fight as any neck-snapping practitioner of the blackest art.
Their soaring drop-tuned hooks come screaming up at you from the
cavernous haze like some fire-fed phoenix, but with a yen and Zen
that makes Buddha look like Uncle Bud.
through the Best Of archives and realized that these guys have been
winners numerous times in several different categories over the
years, and for good reason: No other local bands we can think of
have done the same thing so well for so long. We easily could have
picked these guys for Best Band or some variation thereof; instead
we pay tribute to their consistency. Here’s to the next 10 years!
Best Band You
Thought Had Broken Up
charmed local crowds when they first emerged in the ’90s with their
towering pompadours, youthful enthusiasm and dead- serious chops.
But even early on they were something special, far from just another
tattooed/greaser, image-oriented band flocking to the genre for
its sense of style. This group of guys grew up together in our area,
but recently it seemed like they were a scant presence on the scene,
and sterling guitarist Graham Tichy was off doing national high-profile
gigs with other artists. But a recent dynamic opening slot at Alive
at Five (opening for Eddie Angel) was testament to the fact that
they were still a vital unit. Leading up to that, they could also
be seen burning it up for a capacity crowds at Savannah’s. Some
of the pompadours may have thinned, but these are still young guys
(in their late 20s) and lately they’re sounding the best they ever
Best Live Experience
we could complain that Brevator play too loudly. But that would
be missing the point. Brevator just want to make you part of their
dark world. With swirling guitars, incantory vocals, thundering
percussion and, yes, skull-cracking volume, Brevator create a communal
live experience that’s somewhere between a mosh pit and a tribal
ritual, and erases the distance between audience and band. There’s
no sitting on your ass impassively at a Brevator show: Get into
it or get out.
Best Live Experience
criticize the band’s devotion to its nerd-rock shtick, but onstage,
the Mathematicians live their nerd-rock personas. The conviction
is infectious (to the extent that some fans have even been seen
dressed in nerdwear out of allegiance to the band). Constant touring
has honed the Mathematicians’ live performance, and at any given
show, you’ll see a circle of fans gathered in front of the stage,
bouncing along to the catchy tunes, completely won over by the band’s
dedication to its songs about life vis-à-vis algebraic functions.
On paper it may sound trite, but live, the Mathematicians experience
is nothing short of a fun time.
Best Live Experience
(Never the Same Twice)
eyes, and you’re transported to a Parisian café, where you sit,
enjoying a late-night espresso and biscotti. . . . Now open your
eyes again, and you realize you’re actually in the back room at
the Lark Tavern, sipping a brew and listening to the sounds of Nouveau
Chill, an event led by musician and DJ Michael Campion and saxophonist
Brian Patneaude, who play a mix of jazz, trip-hop, funk, bossa nova
and reggae to the late-night Tavern crowd every Thursday. The pair
regularly bring in guest percussionists and other instrumentalists
to give the jazz-fusion event a fresh vibe; when you go to check
them out, be sure to bring your dancing shoes!
Talk to anyone
who was into local music in the ’80s, and—whether they were rockabilly
nuts or not—most remember the jaw-dropping rock & roll shows
that Johnny Rabb and guitar slinger Eddie Angel used to put on in
their various incarnations (most prominently as the Rockin’ Dakotas).
Angel has subsequently made a name for himself as a worldwide recognized
guitar phenom with “America’s instrumentalists,” the Mexican-wrestling-mask-wearing
Los Straitjackets. When Eddie came back to town for his “Guitar
Party” show at Alive at Five recently, his blistering fretwork reminded
us why he is one our greatest musical exports. More than that, his
set with the caveman- outfitted Neanderthals reminded us of the
chemistry between him and his pompadoured pal (and local legend)
Rabb. The Neanderthals’ ’60s garage-frat-rock blend has lit up stages
all over the country and in Europe. But here, on their native soil,
it’s a meeting of old friends: a guy from Waterford with a golden
set of pipes and grown-up kid from Rensselaer with a guitar on fire.
Bluegrass Band With Guerrilla Inclinations
A quintet of
Greenwich and Cambridge 17- and 18-year-olds, the Upchuck Ramblers
have the giddy enthusiasm of recent converts to acoustic music (a
few of them had previously been in rock bands), and the emerging
skills to pull it off. Their repertoire mixes obscure numbers from
the hills with adaptations of songs by everyone from the Rolling
Stones to moe. And they get bonus points for having been in Greenwich’s
Whipple City Days parade last month. Not invited or prearranged,
the band were hanging out on a front porch as the parade passed
by and, spying a half-block long gap, they got on board, pleasing
the townsfolk along the rest of the route with their merry singing
Best Solo Performer
pop-rock tunes? Check. Clearly defined voice and playing style?
Check. Strong, rehearsed performance? Check. Those things are about
all we could ask of a candidate for Best Solo Performer, and Bassett
has all three in spades. We haven’t seen him settle in with the
right backing band just yet, but no matter: He’s doing just fine
all by himself.
Best Solo Performer
has developed an enviable stage presence over her past few years
of performing. Armed with a commanding voice and catchy, soulful
tunes, Harkes captures her audience’s attention and doesn’t let
go until she decides to. We’ve watched as she’s built up and fleshed
out a notable catalog of songs, and we love to see her perform them
Imagine a dark
hollow in the woods. Detritus suggests that other people might have
been there recently, and that their intentions might have been less
than wholesome. You suspect they may be returning soon. The air
is thick and humid, and large, unseen insects buzz in the canopy.
You look to the ancient trees, and are struck by their grandeur
and beauty. Then, in the corner of your eye, you see something rushing
at you from the bushes. God will choose to soundtrack this moment
in your life with a Sara Ayers CD.
He’s won this
category several times in the past, and we’re glad to see him back
on top. Thanks in part to his leading role in the seven-member,
quasi-political monstrosity Evolution/Revolution, and his participation
in the long-running performance-rock group Bunny Brains, Jason Martin
has been very active—and very odd—again this year. He truly is one
of a kind, and we’re glad to see he’s still doing what he does best,
whatever that may be.
who performs solo as Gay Tastee and most frequently with his band
the Wasted, is one of our area’s most creative songwriters, and
we don’t just mean creative in his impressive use of alliterative
curse words. Whether penning songs like “Myth of Creation,” rife
with unexpected historical allusions, or songs like “Jihad vs McWorld”
that brim with righteous, the-Man-ain’t-gonna-get-me-down anger,
Gaylord’s got the most original lyrics in town and the gnarled melodies
to go with them. Check out, for instance, this brilliant turn of
phrase on “Son of Sam,” one of his best tracks: “I’ll be your only
hope/I’ll be your perfect crime/I’ll be your rope-a-dope/Your favorite
album side/I’ll be your Zeppelin IV/I’ll be your Grateful Dead/I’ll
be the first time that you ever smoked a Marlboro Red.”
no denying that Maria Zemantauski is the region’s preeminent flamenco
guitarist, and is arguably one of the world’s finest practitioners
of Spain’s most passionate music to boot, the thing that continues
to blow our minds is how that doesn’t seem to be enough for her.
In solo and a variety of ensemble performances over the past year,
Zemantauski has continually pushed the boundaries of the possible
with her trusty 6-string, blending genres that have little or no
business appearing on the same bill, much less in the same song.
It’s rarely less than electrifying to watch her do it.
Best Jazz Sceneleaders
and Brian Patneaude
There is a
growing phalanx of jazz cats, from the youngest guns to the everlasting
elder statesmen. In the middle of that generation gap are pianist
Adrian Cohen and saxophonist Brian Patneaude, keeping the scene
clicking and qualified to deliver with their instruments. Wherever
you look, one of them has got their name on the bandstand—the big
gig, the fundraiser, the weekly club show. They can both certainly
play with anyone—guitarist George Muscatello, bassists Ryan Lukas
and Michael DelPrete, and drummers Danny Whelchel and Pete Sweeney
for instance—but they also can spread the word and their names better
than anyone, keeping the scene alive and the community unified in
growth and discovery.
and Mundo Nuevo
Who knew we
even had a vibrant Latin jazz scene? Anyone who goes to Justin’s
on weekday nights, that’s who. Sensemaya are a group of young upstarts
led by Dave Gleason, whose interest in Latin rhythms and arrangements
grew out of his master’s studies in ethnomusicology at Tufts University.
The area ringer is veteran, real-deal player Walter Ramos, whose
vocal and percussion work with both Mundo Nuevo and Sensemaya
is the bedrock of our little scene.
much we can say about local legend Ernie Williams that hasn’t already
been said—though we look forward, several years down the line, to
that 100th Birthday Bash concert. In the Capital Region, as the
saying goes on his Web site, “Ernie Williams is the blues.” He played
Harlem clubs in the ’50s, making a name for himself, until the demands
of work and family brought him north to Albany in the ’60s. Supposedly
this was where his dream would be put on hold, but come the ’70s,
Williams was building his own little scene in the grittiest bars
in our area. By ’92, he had formed the Wildcats. Looking into his
eighth decade, with national TV spots behind him and after having
shared the stage with some of the biggest blues artists in the world,
Williams still gets it done, and that dream is no longer just a
that Ladanye shares the blues category with Ernie Williams, as Ladanye’s
first big gig as a teen was with Williams’ Wildcats. Ladanye, still
only in his early 20s, has traveled the world as a blues keyboardist
since then, backing Shemekia Copeland and recording with Dr. John.
Recently, he also released his solo debut, as Lil’ Jay and the Card
Sharks—but surprisingly, he turned primarily to the guitar for this
effort, and it turns out he has chops there too. Ladanye, as his
band name would suggest, also happens to be an ace card handler.
We look forward to seeing whatever he has up his sleeve for the
Best Club DJ
Of course Ryan
Kick deserves props for his contributions to local music, as he
has played a key role in revitalizing and raising awareness of the
Capital Region’s electronic-music scene. But the local electronic-music
impresario is also a kickass (sorry) DJ, spinning a high-energy
blend of progressive house that keeps the crowds shaking it on the
Club (Pitchfork Readers)
241 Union Ave.,
Now that this
Saratoga Springs lodge—equal parts Twin Peaks and Jockey
Club—has a steady schedule of shows on weekends, we have to applaud
the joint for the breadth of acts that have stopped off here to
play the intimate stage and pet the club owner’s wandering dog.
Kings has become one of the best places to go for eclectic bills
of local bands, as well as to see the offbeat touring artists that
are brought here by booker Bob Carlton (who fronts local band the
Sixfifteens). So far this year, King’s has played host to everything
from the piss-drinking, sword-standing antics of Portland’s the
Big Bang Cirkus to the unexpectedly good dance-rock hybrid proffered
by Philadelphia’s Run Away From the Humans.
Club (Rolling Stone Readers)
146, Clifton Park
about to book some underground Danish noise-rock outfit or anything
like that, but for established, mid-level touring acts (Ryan Adams,
Cake, Rob Zombie) or the occasional rising star—the club recently
had the Dresden Dolls on a night off from the band’s opening stint
with nine inch nails—this strip-mall rock club is the place to be.
Best Club (Worth
10 Pearl Street,
drive to Northampton can sometimes seem like a chore, Pearl Street’s
steady schedule of A-list indie rock and underground hiphop acts
can be hard to resist. And once there, this club nearly always offers
a pleasant experience: The sound is good, the club’s workers are
professional, crowds are polite, the multiple bars don’t get too
backed up, and the ballroom stage can easily be seen from nearly
any spot in the house. And, given the city’s noise curfew, you’re
guaranteed to get home before the early-morning hours.
Best Club to
See a Show
425 River St.,
of a live-music venue has it all over other clubs of its size. The
sound is never too loud, and always crystal clear. There’s nary
a bad sightline in the joint (unless you’re standing in the lobby).
The bar is close enough that you can still watch the band while
ordering a drink, but not so convenient that it’s a distraction.
Our only complaint: The scheduling here is spottier than cell-phone
reception in an elevator.
Best Club to
Weed Out the Weak
40 Third Street,
diverse and well-booked Duster imparts an unwritten mandate on its
bands, and you had better be on point. The stage is essentially
a mezzanine, girdled in iron, that hovers a good 15 feet above the
bar, so the stage sound is blasted up into the considerable depth
of the club, completely separated from the PA horns on the ground.
Tight, aggressive acts have little problem with this aural anomaly,
but sloppy, inexperienced bands fall like a house of cards. This
setup also makes for absolutely devastating mosh pits, so do those
burpees on your lunch break, fella.
Best Club to
Get Your Jazz On
301 Lark St.,
come and bandstands go, but for years, Justin’s has been a staple
for quality, intimate jazz. With the tastefully upgraded, inviting
space (thanks to new owner John DeJohn), settling in for a jazz
performance has rarely been more appealing. Choice decorative and
sonic changes to the room (including the recent addition of a piano)
are benefits for the listener and the band. With two rooms, the
social riff-raff and the jazz inhalers are generally isolated from
one another, so Justin’s gets to groove well for both the talkative
hipsters at the bar and the music-headed listeners in the Savoy
movie theater is a gem—a triumphant example of 20th-century showmanship—and
we can’t wait until they start showing movies again. Primarily,
however, the Palace is a terrific place to see rock, pop, jazz,
country, blues or the symphony. The sightlines are good, the seats
are comfy and the acoustics for amplified music are great.
The Egg has
undertaken an ambitious music series with American Roots & Branches.
Stalwart Americana acts, from aged national treasures (Ralph Stanley,
Doc Watson) to top songsters of the Nashville baby-boom (Lyle Lovett,
Rodney Crowell, Patty Loveless) to relative upstarts (the Jayhawks’
Gary Louris and Marl Olson, Aimee Mann) have graced the Egg’s stages
recently. And this is without even mentioning the host of other
types of events that Peter Lesser brings to the our city. American
Roots & Branches is just one reason that the Egg gets the nod.
The venue consistently rolls out quality, critically acclaimed acts,
steering clear of all of those package tours and ’70s-bands reunions.
Ends Up Next
go writing us nasty letters, we’re not picking on Artie Fredette
here. We just find it a little amusing that he’s had such a hand
in changing—and changing again, and again—the face of the live-music
scene on the other side of the river. Having run three different
venues in Troy and Lansingburgh within the last decade, Artie will
bring his quest full circle with the opening of a new Positively
4th Street later this summer. Here’s hoping we need not resurrect
this category in the near future.
Best Band Name
making an anatomical gift? These awesome death-metal upstarts put
the fun and profit back in postmortem. Well, maybe not the profit.
Crushing drummer too: blast beats that could drop a stud bull at
Best Musician Web Site
is one interactive artist. It’s quite the pleasant surprise when
a musician has a readable, searchable, organized Web site. But Bryan
Thomas’ Web site? Well, it’s just nuts! We’ve always been impressed
by Bryan’s technological prowess, but watching his site evolve has
been jaw-dropping. Just a few of the features that can be found
at bryanthomas.com: a blog, in which he makes social and political
commentary; the music video (and the making-of) for his song “Babylon”;
poetry and short stories (what a writer!); tons of pictures (did
we mention he’s quite the talented photographer?); links to local
arts and music sites. . . . Oh, and you can buy his CDs and read
his lyrics here, too. In short, ain’t nothin’ this cat can’t do.
17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
OK, so it’s
not only the best variety show in town, it’s the only variety
show in town. But since its inception less than a year ago, the
musically retro Bing Bamboo Room has become more polished—and more
daring—by the month, featuring original skits that run the gamut
from vaudevillian slapstick to performance art to an erotic fire-
eating act, along with burlesque, magic, song, and poesy. And that’s
not to mention the inimitably cheesy jocularity of Mark the MC.
Cat Trax Studios,
249 Green St., Schenectady
In a recording
studio, the most important piece of gear is the microphone. Neumanns
have always been top-shelf mics, but back in 1960, the German company
used better materials: for example, 18K gold components instead
of today’s 14K parts. As far as we know, no other recording studio
in the Capital Region has a Neumann of this vintage, which gives
Cat Trax a competitive edge.