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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

 

Best Cinema

Spectrum 8 Theatres

290 Delaware Ave., Albany

The best thing about the Spectrum isn’t the convivial atmosphere, though that’s worth mentioning. Nor is it the upscale snack bar. It’s the film programming, quality presentation and the ability, after all these years, to surprise audiences. Example: By the end of this summer, they will have screened L’Enfant, The Devil Wears Prada and Snakes on a Plane.

Best Grand Cinema Experience

Proctor’s Theatre

432 State St., Schenectady

Most years we pick Proctor’s as best second-run cinema, and we’re sort of doing it again. But we especially want to underline the spectacular experience of seeing a movie there. Why? We watched Peter Jackson’s King Kong from the balcony a few months ago. Wow.

Best Eclectic Film Series

Saratoga Film Forum

320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

The programmers at Saratoga Film Forum likely reflect the tastes of this particular film society’s membership, and it must be a diverse membership. Sure, there are the usual lesser-known documentaries and familiar art-house hits, but SFF screens terrific films—we’re thinking, this year, of Carroll Ballard’s Duma and Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang—that no local theatrical distributor would touch. Bravo.

Best New Film Series

Mahaiwe Theatre

14 Castle St., Great Barrington, Mass.

This one we’re going on faith, because the intentions are honorable and the program set for the next year is very good. Newly restored, the Mahaiwe recently offered its first film in decades—the Lloyd Bacon/Busby Berkeley masterpiece 42nd Street. Not a bad beginning.

Best Political Film Series

Time & Space Limited

434 Columbia St., Hudson

One more way TSL shows its commitment to grassroots democracy is in its film presentations. The selections are a mix of international, national and local cinema; vibrant discussion is an essential part of the post-screening experience.

Best Cult Film Series

The Underground Film Series

Spectrum 8 Theatres, 290 Delaware Ave., Albany

Watching people squirm in their seats during Eraserhead was an evil treat, but taking in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in a room full of fellow creeps and freaks was a life-affirming (if not familiar) blast. Mr. Keegan, could we please trouble you for a few modest requests? Pardon our taste, but how ’bout some American Psycho, perhaps a dabble of Kurosawa, a pinch of Memento? No matter, we await each new schedule with bated breath.

Best Local Actor Gone National

Ashton Holmes

We knew the Albany Academy could get you far. Past attendees of the Academy include some guy called Herman Melville, President Theodore Roosevelt, and a totally awesome, current Metroland staff writer. But Mr. Holmes has done the coolest thing of any Academy graduate ever. (We might be a little biased here.) Holmes landed a (very prominent) supporting role in a David Cronenberg flick, A History of Violence, and an excellent Cronenberg flick at that. Let’s just say Holmes’ acting made us glad we never pissed him off in high school. Here’s to Holmes’ one day getting a nod from that other Academy.

Best Classical Music Orchestra/Ensemble

Albany Symphony Orchestra

Let’s not take our excellent orchestra for granted. Under the baton of David Alan Miller, it is good enough to put across a Mahler symphony with the best of them, and his outreach programs to kids and small-ensemble concerts (with the Dogs of Desire) continue to promote new music in unusual venues. And don’t forget the orchestra’s many world premieres.

Best Classical Music Venue

Memorial Chapel

Union College, Schenectady

We know: It’s supposed to be the Troy Music Hall. And that’s a fantastic hall. But Memorial Chapel adds a degree of intimacy, and its underrated acoustics are similarly superb. From solo instrumentalist to chamber orchestra, every note is crisp and clear.

Best Classical Music Series

Union College Concert Series

Union College, Schenectady

Year after year, Dan Berkenblit puts together a series of artists and ensembles ranging from the renowned to the unknown—and you can bet that those unknown ensembles will hit the big time soon. Subscribe to the series. They’re all winners.

Best Theater Venue

The Nikos Stage

Williamstown TheatrE Festival,, Williamstown, Mass.

Although it is but a shadow of the former Adams Memorial Theatre, which was sliced and diced to create this more intimate space, the space is intimate and affords excellent sightlines, comfort and a stage that can still accommodate the most challenging and audacious of designs.

Best Theater Director

Julianne Boyd

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, Mass.

Her direction of Follies resulted in the best musical production in ages. Her production values are top-flight. Her creation of a musical-theater lab is inspired. Boyd also knows how to transform varied spaces into theater, but it is the opening of her new theater in downtown Pittsfield that shows true vision and reason for optimism.

Best Theater Company

Berkshire Theatre Festival

Stockbridge, Mass.

Under the guidance of Kate Maguire, this venerable institution has attracted an exceptionally strong family of directors, designers, technicians and actors who annually produce challenging work that matters and speaks to our needs while it engages our minds.

Best Regional Theater Company

StageWorks/Hudson

Hudson

Why travel to Manhattan for off-Broadway theater? StageWorks/ Hudson continues to challenge audiences with the edgiest regional theater. Its Play by Play series is like a rollercoaster car without the locking bar: thrills, chills—you’d better hold on tight.

Best Theater Education

Shakespeare & Co.

Lenox, Mass.

From acting intensive for theatre pros (alumni are like a Who’s Who for Tony and Oscar nights) to the largest program for high-school students in the Northeast, Shakespeare and Company makes the grade. Others have programs for the grant money; S&Co has it for the heart.

Best Local Actor

David Girard

From NYSTI’s musicals to its kids’ plays, from Hubbard Hall’s old-fashioned classics to Capital Rep’s off-Broadway hits, no matter the role, no matter the play, no matter the venue, nobody plays Narcissus with more energy, focus, and conviction.

Best Choreographer

Debra Fernandez

A woman of antic imagination. In winter, she teaches Anglo kids at Skidmore College how to move their bodies in polyrhythms. In summer, she trains actors at the Williamstown Theater Festival to move like dancers. She’s made dances like “Mak III” and “Balls” that traverse the Tang Museum in haz-mat suits or in gumball-colored unitards, adding another dimension to the visual art shows.

Best Dance Venue

The Egg

Empire State Plaza, Albany

For its ever-expanding program of U.S. and international dance groups and a steeply-raked space, the better to see them perform.

Best Dance Recovery

SPAC’s new board and management

For bringing back free lawn admission for kids, pre-curtain greetings by Marcia White, and a spiffed-up booth full of dry goods, like SPAC lawn blankets and NYCB facebooks of the beautiful dancers.

Dancing, naturally, at Jacob’s Pillow.

Best Outdoor Dance Venue

Jacob’s Pillow

358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.

For almost 75 years of dancing feet in jazz shoes, tap shoes, pointe shoes, flamenco heels, and God’s own naked feet on the Inside-Out platform stage under a Berkshire sunset.

 

Best Museum

Clark Art Institute

225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.

The excellence of their collection and the quality of the traveling exhibitions they host can’t be denied. Lately, the Clark has upped the ante with programs that engage the community in uncommon ways for a traditional museum. Curator quiz shows? A Tokyo-themed party that sounded like a night out with Gwen Stefani and the Harajuku girls? Proof that trying something new can be fun.

Best Multimedia/Avant Garde Museum

MASS MoCA

1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams., Mass.

Still the leader in offering exhibits no other museum would even imagine, MASS MoCA continues to inspire, engage, challenge and amuse with its film and performance programs, and exhibits of thrill rides and—believe it or not—paintings. Something for all.

Best Art Gallery

Fulton Street Gallery

408 Fulton St., Troy

Odds are we have seen you, if you are into the arts world at all, at this happenin’ hub of the local arts community. Since ’97, Colleen Skiff has guided the all-volunteer, nonprofit bulwark through the highs and lows that come with a dedication to the independent scene. Consistently showing some of the region’s more fascinating artists (including some pretty sick tattoo artists), this gallery lives up to its stated mission of promoting the “knowledge and appreciation of contemporary art in the Capital Region.”

Best New Art Gallery

Exposed Gallery of Art Photography

318 Delaware Ave., Delmar

Exposed Gallery opened its doors exactly a year ago, and in that time has mounted very professional and attractive exhibitions by the region’s heavy concentration of photographic artists. It also has branched out by adding a film-production component and by moving downstairs to a bigger and better space, while keeping the original upstairs space for film production, photography classes, and other creative ventures. Owner Mark J. Kelly and his assistant Julia Bracaglia has pulled it off with elegance, professionalism and inclusion.

Best New Arts Collective

Upstate Artists Guild

The UAG have been active members of the local arts scene for about a year now, helping to organize events and shows, and waving the flag for Albany as a vital creative community. Since settling into their gallery space across from Ben & Jerry’s on Lark Street, the Guild has presented a handful of their own shows (including the bizarre Pretty Girls & Robots) in addition to supporting others’; they’ve also begun teaching art classes. A valuable resource, indeed.

Best Local Author (Optimist)

Joseph Cardillo

The poet and educator offers a way to incorporate the philosophy behind the martial arts into one’s daily life in his new book Bow to Life: 365 Secrets From the Martial Arts for Daily Life. People dig it. That’s that.

He’s got some bad news for you: James Howard Kunstler.

Best Local Author (Pessimist)

James Howard Kunstler

If Al Gore hasn’t drilled it into your head yet just how screwed we Earthlings are, Kunstler has got four words for you: peak oil theory, mutha. The Saratoga Springs-based writer gained national acclaim in the ’90s for his staggering look at suburban sprawl in The Geography of Nowhere. With his latest book, The Long Emergency, he has trained that same skillful prose and insightful analysis on the devastating consequences of the end of cheap oil. Think $3 a gallon is bad? Try darning your socks. Don’t read this book unless you want to be a real downer for a couple of months afterward.

Best Poetry Open Mic Host

Dan Wilcox

Hosting an open mic is an underappreciated art. Dan Wilcox has honed this skill right along with his poetry at venues such as his Third Thursday series at the late Lark Street Bookshop. Wilcox is friendly and enthusiastic, runs a tight ship graciously, and manages to be a presence without making himself the center of the show—one of many reasons he is beloved in the region’s poetry scene.

Best Club (Suburban)

Northern Lights

Route 146, Clifton Park

You would be hard pressed to find a club as eclectically booked anywhere else in the Capital Region. She Wants Revenge one night, Yngwie Malmsteen the next. Throw in a little Ashlee Simpson and multiply that by Hatebreed and you have the only reason some of us Metrolanders ever venture into the ’burbs. Being able to price motor homes before shows is an added bonus.

Best Club (Urban)

Red Square

388 Broadway, Albany

A year in, the spacious, pretty downtown venue has established itself to be just as quirky as its Burlington, Vt. sister venue. Jam, pop, funk, alternative rock, house music—they’re all here. Also: the best sound system (for its size) within city limits.

Best-Booked Club

Saratoga Winners

1375 New Loudon Road, Latham

Over the past year, the old potato factory has packed in some brutal shows and drawn metal and emo teens from all over the state and beyond. There really is nothing like seeing a Swedish death-metal band shredding and head banging in a rough-and-tumble road house. This year, Winners has seen some of the most brutal, current, relevant and interesting acts from the now burgeoning, hardcore/metal scene—acts like In Flames, Mastodon, Strapping Young Lad, Between the Buried and Me, Converge, As I Lay Dying, Opeth, Into Eternity, Gwar, Unearth and Bleeding Through. Yeah, the likelihood of seeing Ashlee Simpson or Deerhoof play Winners are pretty low, but what they do, they do well.

Best Concert Venue (19th Century)

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

State and 2nd streets, Troy

The pin-drop acoustics are so crystal clear your posture will automatically improve: You just can’t slouch in the presence of such regal appointments.

Best Concert Venue (20th Century)

The Egg

Empire State Plaza, Albany

Stellar sound, innovative booking, and a floor plan that has you wondering how and where you are within the elongated orb. (That goes for both the Hart and Swyer Theatres.) Plus, the friendliest elevator operators in the tri-state area.

Best Concert Venue (21st Century)

EMPAC

RPI Campus, Troy

. . . When it’s built.

Best Large Concert Venue

SPAC

Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs

This year the award goes to the old guard, to the perennial outdoor venue. We’ve all got our memories of SPAC, and love everything from the teeming lawn to the canopy of greenery under the bandshell to the faded, aqua-colored paint on the footbridge. But this year more than ever SPAC seems to have something for everyone, whether you’re a chardonnay-sipping jazz fan or a brooding goth-rocker—or somewhere in the numerous points in between. SPAC is a Capital Region classic that has really upped the ante with a great roster of events and performers.

Best Midsized Concert Venue

Washington Avenue Armory

Washington Avenue and Lark Street, Albany

We simply haven’t had a mid-sized venue in the area for a while now, at least not one that could support general-admission concert events. It still looks (and sounds) a lot like a basketball court, but nobody else was about to bring Slayer to Center Square, so for that, we say welcome!

The Luxury Flats are a tasty treat.

Best Band

The Luxury Flats

They came out of nowhere (Hudson, actually) and wowed just about everyone that got in front of them over the last year. We could have easily named them Best New Band or Best Rock Band—they’d have a strong claim to either—but we’ll just go ahead and say what everyone is already thinking. And if you don’t know, now you know.

 

Best Live Band

No Outlet

We sure wish they’d play more often, but when you’ve got world-class musicians in your ranks—including steel-playing gun for hire Kevin Maul—you know that one of them is occasionally going to get the call to play or record out of town. So for now we’ve got to share a bit. But this trio plays some of the hottest Americana we’ve seen in a while, with all three able to handle lead vocals. From blues to rock & roll, Maul, Dale Haskell, and Tony Markellis are a tight, fierce little unit.

Best Rock Band

The Wasted

They ain’t faking crazy. If you can’t take it, you better stay home. The Wasted may be just a “rock band from upstate New York,” as their Web site says, but no band is better at capturing, in brilliantly twisted lyrics and memorable riffs, the cheap beer- and nitrous-fueled world of upstate miscreants. Call it the soundtrack to our upstate New York lives: profane and pathetic, desperate and destitute. But it’s always worth hearing. That cross-eyed dwarf plays a mean guitar.

Best Pop Band

Scientific Maps

Aaron Smith writes some of the quirkiest, catchiest geek-pop tunes we’ve heard since . . . well, since Smith’s old band (the Stars of Rock). And his recently revamped Scientific Maps have a full-time theremin player, which is pretty freakin’ sweet.

Best Political Hip-Hop Band

Broadcast Live

They may be a well-kept secret in the Capital Region for now, but Broadcast Live has their sights set on the larger national scene. The band’s catchy debut album, Underground, which paired mellow, groove- oriented hip-hop songs with the occasional rock-thrash polemic, charted high on the College Music Journal radio charts in the spring. Now that they have a monthly residency at Red Square, Broadcast Live’s pro-justice message and music of broad appeal just might take off among local music fans as well.

Best Metal Band

Great Day For Up

There are several up-and-coming metal bands in the area, but Great Day For Up remain on top, poised to wreck the cosmos with their payload. Your beard will grow several inches with one listen (same goes for you ladies). The stuff is munificent, car-crushing and concentrated toward the task at hand, that task being to conquer nations, salt their fields and mock the lamentations of their weak. Doom is in the room, baby.

Best Country Band

Back 40 Band

The readers picked ’em, and we did too. We may talk lots about Americana and alt-country and all of those precious hipster things, but the Back 40 Band is just country, pure and simple: NASCAR-worthy, cowboy-hat-wearing, cheap-beer-drinking, little-sticker-guy-peeing-on-Ford-worthy country music. Two- stepping, line-dancing country music. Got it? They’ve racked up numerous local awards as perennial favorites, so here’s another one to put on the mantle (beneath the deer head).

Best Hair Band (Without the Hair)

The Lone Peaches

Only from Amsterdam (New York) could a band so true, so right, so untouched by the hands of time, emerge. As if hatched from a prematurely unearthed time capsule, labeled (in cherry-red lipstick, perhaps) 1989, the Lone Peaches bring to the table hooks, chops, looks, and RAHH-AHHH-AHHH-AHWK-UHH! Check out the demos on their MySpace page (myspace.com/ thelonepeachesrock) and say it with us: There’s no place like New Jersey, there’s no place like New Jersey . . .

Best Furry Band

Tie: Kamikaze Hearts, Evolution/Revolution

OK, we know, enough with the beard jokes. But seriously, the Hearts do have some knockout tufts of chin fur going on, not to mention some killer songs. And Jason Martin’s costume-wearing, animal-anarchist group Evolution/Revolution has been consistently impressive, even if their fixation on actually becoming animals is a bit weird.

Best Downsized Band

Sirsy

After a revolving-door string of lead guitarists over the last several years, founding duo Melanie Krahmer and Rich Lubitti finally decided to do away with the damn thing—as well as their drummer—and go it alone, together. We can only imagine what this does for their gas mileage. And their new logo—a washed out black-and-white-on-red rendering of the duo “in action”—is pretty snazzy, too.

Best Band You Thought Had Broken Up

The Clay People

It is a time-tested formula: The undead simply can not die. They are, however, susceptible to lineup changes and stylistic deviations. While reincarnating his Frankenstein’s monster, Dan Neet may have stitched together just the right body parts, because the CP are writing dark, hook-laden pop-rock songs that outshine their past work, and they’re playing shows that are converting those formerly averse to clay.

Best Timeless Musician

Johnny Rabb

He gets this award because. . . . he’s Johnny Rabb and you’re not. But seriously, Johnny has been a factor in the yearly Best Ofs probably since this publication has been around. A golden set of pipes, the best rock & roll hair, and the undying respect of local-music fans. Whether it’s singing with his Jailhouse Rockers or traveling to Europe and headlining festivals with the Neanderthals, Rabb is a local rock & roll legend. Consider this a lifetime-achievement award.

Best Jazz Musician

Adrian Cohen

The supple trio led by this pianist is only the tip of the iceberg. Coming up through the traditions (everything from bop and swing to Latin and assorted modern hybrids), he’s developed into a formidable composer as well. Based in the Capital Region, the area is elevated by his presence.

Best Jazz Standards Duo

Sonny and Perley

We’re being specific, because Sonny and Perley know their way around what is usually called “the great American songbook.” Sometimes they play straight jazz; sometimes they play Latin-inflected jazz. Either way, when they perform the works of Porter, Ellington or Berlin, they create something lovely to listen to.

Best Singer-Songwriter (Male)

Matt Durfee

He won the Lark Tavern songwriting contest this spring, and we have to agree with the judges—Matt Durfee’s enchanting, reflective songs are drawn around complex, finger-picked acoustic-guitar lines, like a cross between American Beauty (Grateful Dead) and Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left. Too interesting to be lumped into the pop category, too smart for the freak-folk boom, Durfee is in a category all his own.

Best Singer-Songwriter(Female)

Laura Boggs

The lovely Laura Boggs has been a bright spot in the local folk scene for a few years now as a regular at open mics and performing solo shows. Boggs’ upbeat, gentle demeanor endears her to audiences young and old. Her writing style is clever and accessible, and her croon is reminiscent of Natalie Merchant. Boggs’ enchanting-but-not-cutsie songs have a sensibility that make them all her own, with the added charm of a random French ballad, or Shel Silverstein poem that she’d set to music. Bonus: We hear she plans on running in the next mayoral election.

Best Vocalist (Male)

Steve Candlen

Singer-songwriter Steve Candlen has a great sound. His honey-coated, slightly gritty voice serves his catchy tunes very well. We’re telling you—if you haven’t seen him live lately, you should. We’re looking forward to an album from him at some point, but until then, you can catch Candlen Thursdays when he hosts the open mic at the Daily Grind in Troy.

Best Vocalist (Female)

Alison Jacobs

Jacobs is a recent addition to the scene, but she’s creating quite a stir as a blues singer and songwriter with her guitar-playing partner Matt Mirabile. They took the top slot in the Northeast Blues Society’s challenge last year and represented our corner of the country well at the International Blues Challenge. Jacobs is the real deal; she knows her blues history and sings it like someone from a different era. She’s also been known to purr some fine rockabilly as well—but the blues is her main game.

Best Local Drum God Gone Gold

Jason Bittner

Not only has Jason Bittner found international success with irrepressible metalheads Shadows Fall, he is also now widely regarded as one of the world’s best metal drummers. Bittner wowed ’em with his double-bass acrobatics at the 2005 Modern Drummer Festival, and today you can find his face on every single internationally-distributed drumming publication on earth. And even though he traverses said globe performing, teaching master classes and sitting in with the likes of titans like Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy and Anthrax’s Charlie Benante, the guy always takes time to call old friends, sign autographs or show kids a lick or two.

Best Workhorse

The A-Man

The A-Man does gay karaoke—and so much more. From gay cruises to raising money for good causes, the A-Man is one of the most tireless local promoters around. If you’re on his e-mail list, expect numerous regular updates. The man is a whirlwind of activity and a bright, positive spirit in the Capital Region scene.

Best Multitasking Impresario

Howard Glassman

When he’s not fretting about the fate of the New York Mets or playing in his new band, Grainbelt, Howard Glassman is booking worthy musical acts into the newish WAMC Performing Arts Studio and Valentine’s, the stalwart Albany club. And doing it quite well, thanks.

Best Musician Web Presence

Kev Brock

The Greenwich-based singer-songwriter, who has been making himself a regular presence at area venues from Caffe Lena to Valentine’s, puts it all out there on the Internet. He has a Web site and a live journal, where he makes it possible to experience “brocknroll” as music, blog, audioblog and images. He’s upfront about not being in it for the money, but we wish him lucrative gigs anyway. All we know is, watch out for “Evil Fred” when you visit kevbrockmusic.com.

Best Band Name

K. Sonin’s Che Guevara T-Shirt

Did this Sonin guy design a T-shirt with Che on it, or did the dooder really score the bloody shirt of a dead revolutionary? Only K. Sonin knows.

Best Revolting Band Name

Drown Retarded Children

Balls Deep had this, they totally had this, but a MySpace search revealed a band in Ohio with the same name, and anything Ohio can do, upstate New York can do better. Of course we aren’t so sure Drown Retarded Children could really be described as “better.” (Is revoltinger a word?) DRC really do have some stiff competition (pardon the pun) when it comes to vomit-inducing monikers. Some of the field includes Mucopus, pOOp, Organ Harvest, Clitorture and, of course, the totally endearing runner-up, Balls Deep.

Best Long-Awaited Local Album

Brent Gorton

Indie-pop maestro Brent Gorton has been tinkering with this thing in his home studio for a couple of years now. And we’ve been waiting. And waiting. Turns out it was worth it, as Gorton’s tricked-out, weirdo soundscapes and keen pop sensibilities come together perfectly on this album. Word is a few record-label snafus held up the process as well. Kamikaze Heart Troy Pohl gave the thing a once-over as co- producer. It also contains one of the greatest (and strangest) laments about our town: “Albany is the End of the Line.”

Best Recurring Musical Rumor

Section 8 Reunion

The rumors started barely minutes after their last gig and seem to recur at least once every year: Section 8 are getting back together. What would motivate such rumors? Perhaps their undying fan base, their reliability as Music Shack’s highest selling local act years after they broke up, the fact that almost any tough-guy kid in Troy from age 15- to 30-something can quote singer Kasey Dorr’s lyrics at the drop of a hat. Alas, as far as we can tell, the members have moved on to different bands and different states. However, Mr. Dorr has kept himself busy with a number of satisfyingly sludgy projects, including pOOp, El Chubachabra and Gunther Weazel. So stop whining about it get out to some shows, but while you’re at it, keep your fingers crossed—and we will, too.

Best Late-Night Jamming

GottaGetGon Folk Festival

Saratoga County Fairgrounds

Every once in a while at this annual Memorial Day festival, you’ll see a performer wandering around the campsites in late evening, taking in the virtuoso finger picking, the swing, the contra tunes, the singing, and looking a little dazed to realize that while they are appreciated, they are not the main attraction. Of course more often you’ll see them happily joining in.

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