ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
South St., Williamstown, Mass.
on 140 acres of sprawling Berkshire countryside, the internationally
renowned Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is just about
as good as it gets. The constantly growing collection includes a
truly impressive selection of 19th-century American and European
masterpieces: Homer, Sargent, Inness, Cassat, Degas, Remington,
Renoir, Monet, Gauguin, the list goes on. Comprehensive and engaging
programming—particularly their top-notch lecture series—enrich the
museum experience, and frequent traveling exhibitions keep things
fresh for the frequent visitor. A major center for arts scholarship,
the Clark boasts one of the largest art libraries in the country.
Both the library and the new state-of-the-art Stone Hill Center
designed by architect Tado Ando, which serves as an intimate gallery
space and headquarters for the Williamstown Art Conservation Center,
are open for public exploration. As always, we count ourselves lucky
to have the Clark right in our own backyard.
International Airport Gallery
10 years, the Albany International Airport Gallery has been committed
to showcasing the artistic and cultural resources of the Capital
Region. The exhibitions are consistently good and expertly installed.
Not only is there a designated gallery space for changing exhibitions
that can be accessed without having to pass through security, there
also are continuously changing displays and site-specific installations
throughout the building. There is so much to look at that you might
not even mind that your flight is delayed.
Museum of Art and CCS Galleries
there are other great college museums in the area, the Hessel Museum
and CCS Galleries “aim to encourage and explore experimental approaches
to the presentation of contemporary visual arts.” With the addition
two years ago of the 17,000-square-foot building dedicated to the
1,700 works in the Marieluise Hessel collection, there is that much
more cutting-edge contemporary art on display in the region. And
that is a good thing.
Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
terms of scale and scope, there’s nothing else like it. The vast
exhibition spaces make it possible for world-renowned avant-garde
artists to create cutting-edge works. How’s that for an old industrial
town like North Adams?
Warren St., Glens Falls
Hyde is a classy museum and gallery with a world-class permanent
collection, fascinating history, and also some jazzy current exhibits.
And the terrific De Blasiis chamber-music series calls the Hyde
Museum (Manor House)
Route 9G, Hudson
resident of the Capital Region should tour the home of Hudson River
School painter Frederic Church. Looming high on a hill over the
Hudson, Olana and its Middle Eastern-style architecture on one hand
seem out of place in Upstate New York, but on another are perfect
for whisking any visitor away to another era and a different state
York State Museum
State Plaza, Albany
at the top, with the 4th floor atrium gallery: There is collection
of fascinating artifacts, architecture and ephemera from all over
New York state; there is a temporary exhibit of spectacular, large-scale
modern art in honor of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller; and there’s a merry-go-round
for the kids. You can then extrapolate this out to the entire New
York State Museum, which is an eclectic, rewarding mix of art, history,
education and fun.
Museum Expansion (East)
South St., Pittsfield, Mass.
of our region’s best small museums just got better with an extensive
renovation and the addition of the 3,000-square-foot Feigenbaum
Hall of Innovation, which educates visitors on Berkshire County’s
rich history of innovation in science, technology, business, politics,
culture, and the arts, and invites them to explore the process of
turning ideas into progress. Add that to the museum’s already fine
exhibits ranging from natural history to American art to the aquarium
in the basement, and the excellent programming of traveling exhibits,
and you have what is easily one of the best family-oriented museums
in the region.
Museum Expansion (West)
small canal town of Canajoharie might not be the most obvious home
for a significant collection of great American paintings, but Beech-Nut
founder Bartlett Arkell compiled just such a collection (including
works by Homer, Wyeth, Sargent, Remington, O’Keeffe, Hopper, and
others) for public display in his hometown. After a $10 million
expansion, smartly executed by Boston-based designLAB architects,
the impressive collection has a deserving home. And the new space
allows for expanded programming, including workshops, lecture and
film series, and community events.
Museum Save (So Far)
Plunkett St., Lenox, Mass.
all the controversy surrounding the Edith Wharton Estate and Gardens,
it’s still a National Historic Landmark that shouldn’t be missed.
Anyone who has read Wharton can appreciate her desire to reside
in the Berkshires and to design her own home. It’s open through
October, but it still faces threat of foreclosure: So go before
it’s too late.
artist: Mark Greenwold.
To quote Roberta Smith, his “small-scale painterliness . . . keeps
Mr. Greenwold’s art fresh, as does his sharpening of the tensions
always at large in figurative painting.” Could we really argue with
Over the past year Millspaugh has been showing all over the place.
Not only has he had one-night shows in vacant spaces, but he’s shown
at Kismet, Albany Center Galleries, and at the Saratoga County Arts
Center. His work is whimsical, personal, satirical, and timely.
And best of all, it’s still affordable.
New-media art is a growing trend in contemporary art. In 2005, Orellana
joined the faculty of Union College, where he is developing a cross-disciplinary
digital arts program between visual arts and computer science. Over
the past few years we have been able to see his work locally at
the Mandeville Gallery, at St. Anthony’s Church, at the Tang Teaching
Museum, and in Hudson. The work is both funny and sobering, and
it’s encouraging to see that this area continues to support experimental
artists (despite the odd controversy).
movie theater: spectrum 8 theatres.
Photo: Alicia Solsman
Delaware Ave., Albany
know what’s funny? No one has ever even tried to imitate what they
do at the Spectrum 8 Theatres. Balancing mainstream hits with independent
films—and offering the best snack bar in town—has made the Spectrum
the cinematic king.
Street , Schenectady
key part of the new downtown arts scene, Schenectady’s Bowtie Cinemas
Movieland is a terrific multiplex. And you can have a beer, too.
Clinton Ave., Albany
programming at the Palace has been fantastic, as they’ve been booking
films that were made to be seen on a giant screen. In fact, 2001:
A Space Odyssey at the Palace was the cinematic event of the
year. (Right, Dave?)
Theatre @ Proctors
State St., Schenectady
the Eighth Step Coffeehouse. It’s an iwerks 70mm-format film theater.
It’s a comedy club. It’s a high-definition video theater for independent
cinema and opera from La Scala. It’s a venue for small theatrical
productions. As the sun never set on the British Empire, the lights
are (almost) always on at the GE Theatre @ Proctors.
Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
delightful venue is home to the Lake George Opera, Home Made Theater,
the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival and many worthwhile performances.
talks about the Shed, but it’s the acoustically (and architecturally)
wonderful Ozawa Hall that’s the real jewel of Tanglewood.
Alan Miller, Director
not only the best local orchestra, they’re the best-programmed orchestra:
Balancing the modern with the traditional, the Albany Symphony has
something for everyone.
This elastic collection of superb musicians is equally at home with
Purcell and Schoenberg. And that’s something.
George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
multiple performance stages in a setting of almost ridiculous beauty,
Jacob’s Pillow is arguably the most attractive of any regional summer
It’s more like a tsunami when the Dance Flurry comes to Saratoga
Springs every year. Live music and a dizzying array of dance styles
and genres make this an event that’s nationally renowned.
Street, Stockbridge, Mass.
theater is in full swing and the Berkshire Theatre Festival is shining
particularly brightly among theater’s regional gems. Helmed by artistic
director and CEO Kate Maguire, BTF has amassed a remarkably talented
crew of actors and technicians. And to celebrate their 80th anniversary,
this year they’ve scheduled one of the most challenging, engaging,
balanced and important seasons of theatre we’ve seen in years. Next
up on their two stages: A Man for All Seasons and Waiting
Theater Company Artistic Director
Stage, Pittsfield, Mass.
Boyd wears two hats in the regional theater community—we’re talking
those bright, big- brimmed Saratoga numbers—and she balances them
with talent and grace. As the artistic director of Barrington Stage,
Boyd continues to assemble exceptional talent, producing top-notch
theater season-round. And as a gifted director in her own right,
in January, Boyd’s interpretation of West Side Story was
unanimously dubbed the best play of the year by Metroland
critics (who aren’t unanimous about much). Keep an eye out for her
upcoming production of Private Lives.
Mustering the energy, charisma and psychological complexity to perform
a one-man show is a true theatrical challenge. But tackling two
one-man shows in a single season, creating two wildly diverse characters
with honesty, and force? That is a spectacular feat. Kudos to Gatton
for taking on the challenge, and further kudos still for doing so
masterfully. His solo performances in Barrington Stage’s I Am
My Own Wife and Fully Committed blew us away. He is a
talent to be reckoned with. Expect to see him back soon.
New Venue to See a New Show
II Theatre at Barrington Stage Company
Linden St., Pittsfield, Mass.
the most unexpected of buildings, a VFW (the vets still meet in
the basement), Julie Boyd has made Linden Street (of all places!)
Pittsfield’s own off-Broadway in the Berkshires. Intimate stadium
seating and a highly efficient stage make it a pleasure to visit.
Part of the time it presents new cutting-edge plays like I Am
My Own Wife. The rest of the time it is home to BSC’s Musical
Theatre Lab, where new shows are seriously being workshopped, developed
into full productions, and sent on their way to places like that
other off-Broadway and Broadway (hint: The 25th Annual Putnam
County Spelling Bee).
Carlisle Hart Theatre, The Egg
State Plaza, Albany
not that we don’t appreciate the programming that goes on at the
Egg. They offer a quality array of music, dance and family events.
But with virtually endless fly space, on-site scene and costume
shops, a sprawling backstage area, 400-unit lighting plot, superb
sightlines, one of the best sound systems in the country, and even
an elaborate trapdoor system, the Egg’s 982-seat Hart Theatre is,
unequivocally, the most technically comprehensive theater facility
in the area. While regional theater companies struggle to find suitable
venues, the Egg’s full potential remains untapped.
Looking at the Half Moon, a full-scale replica of the Dutch ship
on which Henry Hudson sailed across the Atlantic and up the Hudson,
you can’t help but wonder how the tiny ship and its crew made it
so far. Stepping aboard, visitors accurately see the navigational
tools, sleeping quarters, and colorful flags of the 1609 expedition.
Today the ship sails mostly from New York City to Albany, teaching
kids about ecology, and re-enactors how to properly sail without
modern day technology.
York State Writers Institute
at Albany, Skidmore College
after year—and, more importantly, all year round—the New York State
Writers Institute attracts the among best authors of fiction, nonfiction
and poetry in the world.
Even for Russell Banks, this has been a great year. His Adirondack
novel The Reserve earned widespread acclaim, and his new
collection of essays on America has entered the national conversation.
Professor of writing and literature at Siena College and prize-winning
author Naton Leslie has penned, to date, six volumes of poetry,
a book of narrative nonfiction and a collection of short fiction.
His latest book of poetry, Emma Saves Her Life, offers a
tender, nostalgic, honest, plucky, personal and insightful window
into the unchanging truths of human nature within a rapidly transforming
world—all woven together by the letters, scrapbooks and mementos
his grandmother left behind.
As local festivalgoers can attest, magician Jeffrey Jene is on a
par with the biggest names in the magic biz, and he’s a Houdini
Award winner for both close-up magic and stage magic. His repertoire
ranges from mesmerizing sleight-of-hand with coins, cards and ropes
to stage extravaganzas featuring large-scale illusions. His superlative
cups-and-balls routine is a major draw at Larkfest and Troy’s River
Street festival, among other street festivals, and his spellbinding
dove and fire tricks have entertained audiences on theater stages
and company parties around the region.
We love 1st Friday in Albany. We love Art Night in Schenectady.
We love all the arts nights, in Ballston Spa and Pittsfield, Mass.,
and Saratoga Springs. (We’ll have to check out that one in Glens
Falls, too.) But Troy Night Out, partially thanks to the geography
of Troy, is the best.
Main St., Great Barrington, Mass.
tiny (capacity: 85), ultra-funky club in the middle of Great Barrington
constantly brings in acts that play venues 10 times larger in other
place, like Albany. Nellie McKay, Greg Brown, Colin Hay, Omar Sosa,
Rhett Miller—all just in the last year. Throw in great food and
people-watching (hello there, young shiny Berkshirites and touristas!),
the short drive over the border can be a great adventure.
River St., Troy
Ale House adheres to a rugged set of principles. First, don’t expect
the tables to be moved, so squeeze in where you can (against a window,
in the doorway to the barroom). Second, sup some of the myriad brands
of beers and finest pub grub this side of the Hudson River. Third,
expect to have your world rocked or honky-tonked by some of the
finest, most critically acclaimed rock & roll and Americana
out there. Wayne “the Train” Hancock? Check. Rosie Flores? Check.
Eddie Angel? Check. Bill Kirchen? Yeah, we got your Bill Kirchen.
Now, go squeeze into the other room and try to find a sightline
around the center beam.
Venue (Big Room)
Linda—WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio
Central Ave., Albany
being re-branded with a most unwieldy moniker, the Linda has continued
to impress from the inside out, with ever-improving sound, and some
wholly unexpected, and entirely welcome, talent-booking. Robyn Hitchcock,
Nick Lowe, Graham Parker, Jimmy Webb— this place has got the legendary
pop songwriters on lockdown.
South St., Pittsfield, Mass.
walking in to this impeccably restored and gilded-up-the-wazoo little
theater is an event in itself. In a region blessed with a bunch
of nicely restored theaters, nothing else really comes close to
the Colonial in terms of a visceral jolt. Now if they could only
hip up the bookings . . .
Venue (Whole Lotta Room)
Performing Arts Center
Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
about to give the place a big, modern makeover, so who knows what’s
gonna happen next season. All we know is, right now, SPAC is as
good as its ever been—the old shed still looks and sounds great,
and this summer’s special-events schedule is one of the best they’ve
put together in years. Brava!
Venue (Coulda Been A Contender)
former Noche nightspot seemed to have everything going for it when
its doors opened early this year. The sound system was great; the
stage was high and wide; the booking was a smart mix of old and
new; and the long Noche bar stayed put, meaning you could order
a drink from practically anywhere in the place. Not six months later,
the place was kaput. What happened?
Free Music Series
Nights in the Park
longstanding area tradition returned last year after a half-decade
hiatus. This year, the organizers exceeded all expectations by nabbing
legendary indie-folk-pop chanteuse Aimee Mann for one of the Lakehouse
shows—the only free show on Mann’s entire tour. Dear Albany: Send
a thank-you note to the BID for this one.
Best band: the red lions.
Eric Margan’s songs and aesthetic are from another time: His musical
influences seem drawn entirely from before he was born. Which isn’t
hard; the kid’s, well, a kid. But his jazz-leaning, ornate, orchestral
pop is unlike anything that’s come out of the Capital Region in
as long as we can remember, and the band’s busy gig schedule has
amassed them a devoted, even defensive, fan base. Trust us: This
band will be going places.
Balancing the synthesized textures of hip-hop and house music with
distinctly human elements (soft, co-ed harmonies; electric guitars),
this Saratoga duo don’t just make excellent electronic music—their
music is just plain excellent. Think Portishead, but less gloomy.
(By a lot.) Watch for their debut disc later this year.
Employing electronics in a whole different way—to fill in for the
lack of a full-time bassist—Nate Stengrevics and Lowell Stringer
sound like twice the band they actually are. Judging by the radio-friendly
alt-rock sound of their latest CD, Where Tenses Meet, 28N
are about one crossover hit away from the Top 40.
They put out a kick-ass release this year, Upstate Again,
a too-short album produced by Jason Loewenstein that leaps out of
the speakers with a pounding rhythm and reckless abandon. Lovers
of the Empire State and all its natural resources, and inspired
by ’70s hard rock and obscure British metal, EST are the best stoner-metal-punk-rock-underground
band from here to Ballston Lake and back again.
Wong and the Honkeys
punks might not call them punk, but I would,” quoth a local fan.
Wherever their music falls in the old-school-versus-new-school punk
rock rating game, we like it. It’s snarling and saucy, with tons
of energy and scream-o female vocals in the vein of Poly Styrene
from X-Ray Spex.
Non-Goth Goth Band
With a sound based in dark atmospherics—high-register bass-guitar
strumming, delay-laden electric-guitar melodies, brash synthesizers,
and tom-heavy drum patterns—it would be easy to lump Severe Severe
in with the clove-cigarette-smoking, fishnet-glove-wearing crowd.
But last year’s pick for Best Transplanted Band sound like nothing
from the last 20 years on their new disc, Beyond the Pink;
indeed they show shades of the Cure and Joy Division (by their own
confession), but theirs is music for dancing, not brooding. Severe
Severe’s songs would fit right in at the Fuze Box’s ’80s night,
and if you know us, you know we consider that to be a very good
. . . well, what-would-you-call-it music?
For more than 20 years, Castleton’s Ayers has quietly been producing
a steady stream of brilliant electronic and vocal music, and has
steadily built an international following of fans and collaborators.
She’s just released an album collaboration with Japanese ambient
artist Ryuta.K; her stuff is showing up in movies; people are remixing
her tracks and grabbing samples left and right; and she’s been giging
around town with psychedelic experimentalists Axe Iron Suns.
songwriter (female): katie haverly.
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Katie Haverly, but
she’s back in a big way with her recent album Around the Bend.
Haverly has always been a singer in the purest sense, with sparkling,
clear tones, and limber and rangy dynamics. But in the intervening
years her songcraft has deepened beyond mere folkiness. “Fire in
the Kitchen” is a brooding emotional maelstrom with a touch of psychedelia,
while “Real Good” is a spare emotional exploration at the other
end of the spectrum. She is our songwriter of the year because of
her keen poetical sensibilities, deft musical touch, and convincing
emotional delivery. Hers is a “mature” brand of alt-folk, in the
best sense of that word.
Chief cartographer for hometown heroes the Scientific Maps, Smith
packs volumes into his three- to four-minute garage-pop gems—midnight
cemetery raids, love requited and otherwise, and a touch of the
mysterious behind the mundane. His bittersweet, sometimes inscrutable
lyrics are underscored by arcing trumpets, buzzing guitar solos,
and a rare gift for the devastating chord change. Smith’s tweaking
of conventions belies a near mastery of the form—meaning total galactic
domination by Smith and the Maps is at this point inevitable. Just
remember who told you so when it finally happens.
Because he engineers excellent recordings by a wide variety of bands.
Because, when he does it, he’s one of the better front-of-house
guys you’ll find in the area. Because he’s part of the engagingly
off-kilter folk-rock act Princess Mabel. And because he’s a top-notch
instrumentalist. Moscowitz makes any band he works or sits-in with
(on guitar, keyboard, what have you) that much better.
Psychedelic Jam Collective
One band can take up a whole basement. One song can fill an entire
album. One noise can shift the cosmos. Best improvisational, freaked-out,
primordial noise collective around, hands down.
Back when Karis-Nix’s band the Orange ruled the local club and concert
scene, they were known to pack quite the heavy rock wallop behind
their fun-loving songs about amphibians. Hence the pleasant surprise
of Ben’s current venture (with wife Olivia at his side) as a sort
of electronic music maven. Of course, the pop savant hasn’t gone
all Moby on us, but live and on his newest CD We Are Giants Now,
Karis-Nix fortifies his celebrations of life, love and the natural
world with subtle synth patches and sampled beats that coexist with
his acoustic guitar and pliant, sometimes plaintive vocals. His
skilled mix of the organic and the digital makes his underlying
“respect the Earth” aesthetic all the more convincing, as well as
Who knows how long they’ll be around here, but this pair of Skidmore
students have made an impression during their time in Saratoga Springs,
packing their college gigs with loads of youngsters grooving to
their clever and snarky electro-glam pop. We’re sure they’ve got
places to go in the future, and we’ll keep an eye out for where
that takes ’em (MTV, the cover of Spin, jail?).
We always get the feeling that Super 400 are on the verge of being
a 10-year overnight success, and that seems more likely than ever
now—the power trio are touring more than ever before, with word
of mouth (on the Internet, natch) reaching a fever pitch this year.
Word has it they just signed to a big management deal, in addition
to partnering with a bunch of promotions companies, so if this doesn’t
end up being their year, watch out in 2009!
Did you know they were No. 5 in sales on the roots-rock music site
Miles of Music back in December? Of course you didn’t, because the
most rocking country band around these parts just doesn’t get enough
love. Their last release, Trouble Coming Down, was filled with a
host of great tunes, but this is a band you really ought to catch
live for the full effect: Check them out the next time they rock
the house at the Garden Grill.
Two Gun Man from Hudson, a four-piece with members who relocated
here from the Pacific Northwest, play the sort of melodic, heartfelt
twang you get a hankering for when tears are falling in your beer,
and the beer comes in a metallic-tasting can. As American as Schaefer.
Old-Time String Band
As a young man, Nassau native Mark Schimdt journeyed to rural North
Carolina to study traditional Appalachian fiddling with the legendary
Tommy Jarrell. That’s about like getting blues guitar lessons from
Robert Johnson. Today, his outfit the Stillhouse Rounders keep alive
the roughhewn, exuberant sound first recorded in the 1920s by groups
like Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers and Gid Tanner
and the Skillet Lickers. In these parts, nobody does it better.
and the Hedonists
What’s your pleasure, folkie? Country blues? Bluegrass ? Celtic
music? Current singer-songwriters? With Annie Rosen’s world-class
vocals topping off layers of fine instrumental work, this local
quartet offer one-stop listening in more tasty genres than you can
shake a pick at. That’s why they take the acoustic cake.
High-School Band (Head of the Class)
Number One Dad beat out a full slate of high school bands at a Colonie
battle of the bands contest judged by three Metroland music
writers last month. When a bunch of music critics judge a battle-of-the-bands
contest, chances are the band geeks will get the glory while the
popular-kid cover-band go home empty-handed. Number One Dad are
filled with the wise-ass, talented kids who hang out in the band
room every day after school, and their music is clever as a result.
Music critics love that.
High-School Band (Advanced Placement)
Venomentality’s 15-year-old singer-songwriter Valerie Webb is on
the fast track to making a career out of music before her senior
year. The band released their debut CD, Heart and Dagger,
last fall; they’re currently shopping demos in search of a label
contract. And wise-beyond-her-years Webb recently scored a publishing
deal with New York-based company Mamapublooza. Kids these days .
Band Who Never Play Out
Gorton and the Tender Breasts
A few years ago, Gorton began performing with a backing band that
started out as a subtle accent to his smartly quirky indie-pop tunes.
Somewhere along the way, the act developed into something altogether
different; as the trio experimented with new sounds, and grew into
a foursome, their sound became more strident, reminding us of the
Velvet Underground and the Stooges. And then, they just kinda stopped.
Word has it there’s a new record on the way. We say, hurry up!
This isn’t an award we usually present, but the Collar City gang
have gone above and in 2008—they released no less than four records
in the month of June, at least as many as most local indies released
all of last year. But it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality: Look
through this year’s list and you’ll see more than one act who have
released product via the Troy-based label. Keep up the good, hard