ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
and Francine Clark Art Institute
South St., Williamstown, Mass.
Clark has a tremendous collection. The exhibits they host are worth
the drive—and from a lot farther away than the Capital Region. Their
educational outreach, which extends from Williamstown to North Adams
to Albany and beyond, is effective and smart. Their lecture, film
and concert series are exemplary. The Clark is simply the best.
Best Museum (Kids)
York State Museum
State Plaza, Albany
State Museum may not have changed too much since you were a kid,
but it awed you when it opened its doors, and it continues to awe
the little ones today. With expansive halls of wonder that fuel
the mind and the imagination, great interactive children’s programming,
and even a carousel, the wow factor of the State Museum simply can’t
Best Contemporary Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art
Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
100,000 feet of gallery space in converted mill buildings, add world-class
artists and cutting-edge programming (not to mention Kidspace, a
collaboration with the Clark and WCMA), and you get one of the best
contemporary museums in the country, possibly the world. And a bonus:
This year’s opening of the massive Sol LeWitt retrospective was
like getting another museum in and of itself.
College Museum: Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery.
Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery
College, Saratoga Springs
Museums are often the best places to see cutting-edge and experimental
exhibitions. Given their educational mission and their unique access
to specialists in multiple disciplines, college museums are well
positioned to provide challenging and enlightening programs. The
Tang museum is exceptional at this. Their exhibitions and programs
are always strong and compelling and they use every space possible
including the hallways, the elevator, and even the roof. In addition,
they have a great museum shop and their publications are always
Best Photography Gallery
Center for Photography at Woodstock
Tinker St., Woodstock
wonderful nonprofit has been in operation since 1977 nurturing photographers,
and at different stages of their careers through exhibitions, regionals
(including a regional collegiate invitational), workshops, residencies,
lectures, and PHOTOGRAPHY Quarterly magazine. The work they
showcase is of the highest quality and defines photography broadly
to include everything from Clint Baclawski’s lightboxes (in the
2009 regional) to a film by Palestinian artist Annemarie Jacir and
ambrotypes by Myra Greene.
Best Cultural History Muesum
28N and 30, Blue Mountain Lake
most of us in the region, the Adirondack Museum is at least a two
hours’ drive—but well worth it for a full day trip, and even better
as an afternoon’s destination during a longer stay in the Adirondacks.
On a lovely campus overlooking Blue Mountain Lake, 22 exhibit spaces
chronicle the history of the region and the relationship between
the Adirondack wilderness and the people who have both lived and
visited there. The exhibits feature everything from the history
of the logging industry to boats and boatmaking to trains, hotels
and the evolution of the tourism industry to the craftsmanship of
Adirondack furniture and great camps. And it’s always fun to revisit
the story of how guides had to chase after Vice President Teddy
Roosevelt on Mount Marcy with the news that President McKinley,
in critical condition with a gunshot wound, had taken a turn for
Best Illustration Museum
183, Stockbridge, Mass.
museum has been the epicenter of all things Rockwell since 1969,
drawing visitors to the Berkshires with its in-depth exhibitions
and lectures. And they really have something for everybody, from,
yes, the nepotistic (a current show of Peter Rockwell’s sculptures)
to the historic (American Posters from World War I, Al Parker and
the American Women’s Magazine) and the contemporary (LitGraphic
and Steve Brodner). Best of all, exhibitions are expertly and thoroughly
Best Exhibit Series
Hudson Quadricentennial, Albany Institute of History & Art
Washington Ave., Albany
local museums and galleries are celebrating the Henry Hudson Quadricentennial,
but the center of this effort is at the Albany Institute of History
& Art. The AIHA, with its mixed focus on, well, history and
art, is uniquely suited—in its mission, by its curators—for the
task. In addition to the permanent collection of Hudson River School
paintings, there are three other exhibits related to the Quadricentennial
on view now. Check them out.
Best Museum Shop
with our economy in free-fall, it’s doubtful that poorly conceived
merch like Van Gogh mouse pads and Monet T-shirts will disappear.
Quality swag, on the other hand, can reinforce a good art experience,
and Hardware consistently offers great books, toys and groovy designs,
like collapsible stepping stools and bags made out of recycled materials,
at reasonable prices. Other museums: Take note. Everyone likes hip
Best Place to See Regional Art (Curated)
International Airport Gallery
Art & Culture Program at the Albany International Airport has
been dedicated to showing a wide range of thematic exhibitions that
highlight regional artists as well as regional museum collections.
For more than a decade, the program has continually presented the
rich culture of the region to travelers and visitors alike in endlessly
creative and compelling ways. The dedicated gallery space is located
before the security checkpoint, so even if you are not traveling
you can see the exhibition. As an added bonus, you get a bird’s
eye view of other people getting hassled by the TSA.
Best Place to See Regional Art (Community Supported)
Columbia St., Albany
32 years, Albany Center Gallery, a community-based and community-supported
nonprofit art space, has been dedicated to exhibiting contemporary
art of the Mohawk Hudson region. Its mission is to promote and exhibit
contemporary visual art produced by emerging and established artists
living primarily in the region and to build a diverse audience.
Its downtown space is a huge improvement from its previous location.
Any nonprofit space that is still in existence in these difficult
economic times deserves major kudos. This space is proof that despite
the fact that there is a dearth of contemporary art collectors in
the region, there is nonetheless a strong community of artists and
Best Emerging Regional Curator
Arts Center Gallery, Saratoga County Arts Council Art Center, 320
Broadway, Saratoga Springs
the past couple years, the exhibitions at the Arts Center Gallery
have been increasingly well organized and displayed. This nonprofit
space is nicely situated in the busy shopping district of Saratoga
Springs and it is well positioned to showcase regional artists.
The current exhibition, “The Space Between,” is an interesting paring
of work from the series Stone Days by Barbara Todd and photographs
of tree stumps by John Yost. It is this type of distinctive display
that has made this space a primary venue for regional art.
few years ago, the magazine Budget Travel highlighted Hudson
as one of the “coolest small towns in the U.S.A.” And there is much
to support that claim, which is not news to the many people you
can find there on a typical day, strolling, shopping, and dining
all along Warren Street. Commercial galleries thrive only when there
are collectors, and Hudson must have some. Unlike most upstate towns,
there are an impressive number of commercial galleries there, and
many of them actually show art worth looking at.
Best Unexpected Arts Mecca
love it when a small town makes it big in the arts world, and Glens
Falls has done just that. The Hyde houses a world-class collection
of Western art, and continually offers extensive programming in
conjunction with the exhibitions. The deBlasiis Chamber Music Series
has brought stars of classical music from around the globe to the
pint-sized city. The new Charles R. Wood Theater serves as home
to the top-notch Adirondack Theater Festival and other local theater
projects. The newly renovated Crandall Public Library offers some
of the most extensive literary and educational programming in the
area, and the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council holds a huge
annual festival and a monthly arts walk promoting the private galleries
that are blossoming throughout the city. As if that wasn’t enough,
they have a symphony orchestra, a dinner-and-a-movie theater, a
history museum, and a museum of children’s art from around the world.
Best Movie Theater
Delaware Ave., Albany
like that old Orleans song: The Spectrum 8 Theatres are “still the
one.” Their programming still mixes the sublime (Summer Hours)
with the ridiculous (Brüno); their popcorn and tasty treats
are still delicious and fresh. We wonder: Did the city undertake
the Delaware Avenue reconstruction just to accommodate the weekend
traffic to and from the Spectrum?
Traditional Multiplex: Bow Tie Cinemas Movieland.
Tie Cinemas Movieland
State St., Schenectady
going strong—and still looking as sharp as the day it opened—Schenectady’s
urban multiplex remains an integral part of the ever-growing downtown
Best Film Series
Clinton Ave., Albany
Palace Theatre film series has it all. The programming, which is
a mix of Hollywood classics from across the decades, and the setting,
a beautifully restored golden-era movie house, combine to create
a peerless moviegoing experience.
Best “Big” Film Experience
Theatre at Proctors
State St., Schenectady
70MM iWerks films shown on the giant GE Theatre screen are the best
“pure cinema” experience in the region.
Best International Summer Arts Festival
summer arts festivals were forced to scale back in this year of
economic misery. Not Bard College and their Summerscape. The Bard
Music Festival (Wagner and His World), the film series, the theater
festival, the dance performances, the Spiegeltent—they’re all back.
And from Paris to New York City to Albany, arts mavens will take
Best Dance Festival
George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
renowned artists performing in what is, arguably, the most beautiful
setting enjoyed by all the summer festivals. If that’s not a reason
to visit the Berkshires, we don’t have another.
Best Dance Company-in-Residence
Sinopoli Dance Company
Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
gem of a company in a perfect location. Sinopoli and her troupe,
who present innovative programs all over the region, give their
home base—the Egg—its extra dimension.
Best Theater Company
Union St., Pittsfield, Mass.
Stage Company turns out consistently powerful, entertaining and
original theater on two versatile stages. Their extensive seasons
offer a mix of significant classics, contemporary favorites, and
new works, all produced by a top-notch pool of local and national
talent. And the BSC Musical Theater Lab has earned its place on
the map as a successful incubator and launching pad for new musical
Best Theater Company Artistic Director
is just rounding out his second season at ATF, and continues to
prove himself a commanding force as an artist and administrator.
These are trying times for arts organizations everywhere, and while
many theaters are playing it safe, defaulting to familiar box-office
favorites, Fleischer is leading ATF in presenting innovative and
important contemporary works, discovering and nurturing new talent,
and finding fresh ways to connect with audiences new and old.
Best Educational Theater Programming
York State Theater Institute
Fine Arts Center, Troy
it comes to theater education, no one does it better than NYSTI.
Their internationally renowned program offers in-depth, interactive
programming for visiting classes, individual students and educators.
Teamed with their professional productions, NYSTI’s education programs
enrich the theater experience and bridge the gap between disciplines.
Staged Reading Series
No. 10 Theater, 500 Western Ave, Albany
20 years, the folks at Theater Voices have taken minimalism to the
max. Their simple approach to theater allows them to focus on what
makes great plays great—characters, language and storytelling. And
their careful selection of important works draws together some of
the area’s best actors. To top it off, the series is free, so no
excuses—check it out!
Best Literary Series
York State Writers Institute
at Albany (Fall-Winter-Spring), Skidmore College (Summer)
after year, Donald Faulkner, William Kennedy and the good people
at the Writers Institute bring authors and poets of great interest
and distinction to our region, all year ’round.
Best New Poetry Series
tried-and-true local poetry events continue to bring the good word,
it’s exciting to see something new come along. In addition to presenting
the work of local poets/authors, the Yes, Reading! series has culled
the energy of local universities and small presses to bring in talent
from outside the region, and to present unique events such as the
Poetry Game Show and the Dollar Store Show.
Best New Arts Complex
Center for the Arts
of Saint Rose, Madison Avenue, Albany
Rose set out to build something special, and they were more than
successful. Both the Esther Massry Gallery and the Picotte Concert
Hall exceeded expectations.
Best Museum/Movie Set
River at Broadway, Albany
Japanese filmmakers looked for a location to film a World War II
naval drama, they zeroed in on the Slater, the last still-floating
destroyer escort in the United States. The results seemed to satisfy
the filmmakers, veterans and friends of the Slater.
Best Local Music Trend
be happy to hear the old complaint that “there’s nowhere to play”
go the way of the do-do, thanks to a boom of venue openings (and
reopenings). In just the last year we’ve added more than a dozen
names to the club listings, among them: a pair of Emack and Bolio’s
locations hosting acoustic acts; Cohoes coffeehouse Bread and Jam
(which reminds us more than a little of the old Troy Caffe Dolce);
and Putnam Den, an honest-to-God concert club in downtown Saratoga
Springs. Add to that the reopening of the historic Van Dyck in Schenectady
and a new slate of live music at infamous Albany nightclub Bogie’s,
and you’ve got what we’d call a fan’s market.
Best Rockin’ Auditorium
Clinton Ave., Albany
auditorium is a strange word to pin on the old Arbor Hill movie
house, but it fits. A number of big-city tours have been using the
Palace stage as a warm-up lately, because it’s simply a great room
to pack ’em in for some rock & roll (or R&B, or what have
Best Outdoor Concert Venue
Performing Arts Center
Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
ongoing makeover means it keeps getting better. The lawn is in better
shape than it’s been in years, and the carry-in policy has relaxed
a bit—need we say more?
Best Split-Personality Concert Venue
State Plaza, Albany
are two very different, but equally excellent, venues within that
giant concrete ovum. The Hart is a treasure for its elegance, its
stately sense of theater-with-a-capital-“T”; you know when you’re
going to the Hart, you’re in for a real concert experience. And
the Swyer puts you in the lap of the performer—every seat in the
place is within 10 rows of the stage. This is the area concert venue
where the audience is most likely to become part of the show. Hugs
Best Classical Music Venue
Savings Bank Music Hall
and State streets, Troy
not saying that this isn’t a great place to see the likes of Lyle
Lovett, Maria Schneider or Herb Alpert; it is. What we are
saying is that the sublime acoustics (and old-school architecture)
of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall show the Albany Symphony and
the many performers in the Troy Chromatics Concerts series to their
absolute best advantage.
Best Acoustically-Perfect Performance Venue
Media and Performing Arts Center
hive, a boat, a spaceship, an airplane hangar: People have compared
RPI’s new performance center to many things, but, in reality, the
220,000 square-foot, acoustically-superb facility, complete with
two black-box theaters and the weirdest space-age technology you’ve
ever seen or heard defies comparison. We’re not authorized to offer
“Best on the Planet” awards, but we expect EMPAC ranks.
Best Venue Worth a Drive (East)
Pearl St., Northampton, Mass.
is exactly what a rock & roll club should be. Not too
filthy, not too clean. A touch of 19th-century architecture punched
in the mouth by 21st-century music. Not too big; not too small.
Like Baby Bear’s porridge, it’s “just right.”
Best Venue Worth a Drive (West)
Stone Casino and Resort
York State Thruway Exit 33, Verona
Stone has two nifty performance spaces: the Vegas-style showroom
and the mini-arena-style Event Center. There isn’t a bad seat in
Best Avant Music Series
Sonic Arts Collective
might not be working with EMPAC-caliber resources, but for a volunteer-run,
donation-based, DIY operation, they throw a damn good show. And,
as far as noise, free-jazz, drone, and electroacoustic music are
concerned, they’re the only show in town. Trust us, they bring the
Best Club (Booking)
Route 146, Clifton Park
to new owners Upstate Concerts, this suburban rock destination got
a much-needed shot in the arm in the booking department this year.
And the club’s M.O. is quality, not just quantity: indie-rock favorites
(Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dinosaur Jr.), stars of old-school hip-hop (Slick
Rick, Naughty by Nature), ’80s metal dinosaurs (Queensryche, Stryper),
and ’90s alt-pop dinosaurs (Sugar Ray, the Wallflowers) all intermingle
with the regular slate of hardcore, country, and regional acts.
Good thing they have a big parking lot.
Best Club (Recession-Friendly)
New Scotland Ave., Albany
lineup is eclectic, there are twice as many stages as the average
rock club, and you can check out live music almost any night of
the week, often for just a five-spot. That’s not to mention the
always well-stocked beer cabinet. Your unemployment check will go
a long way here.
Best Club (Recently Deceased)
Away Into the Mohawk, Mostly
time last year, there was still talk of Saratoga Winners rejoining
the ranks of active music venues. But that all changed April 30
when the new owner—a former gynecologist who lost his license for
misconduct, and who’s also under investigation by the Labor Department
for illegally deducting money from workers’ paychecks at the employment
agency he runs—allegedly set the old Route 9 roadhouse ablaze, adding
arson and insurance fraud to his illustrious resume. Most anyone
who saw a concert in the 1990s has a Winners memory or two; we’ll
fondly remember the club for its mid-’90s heyday, when bands like
Wilco and Radiohead routinely made pre-superstardom appearances
Pedinotti has officially hit her stride. The Saratoga chanteuse
has finally assembled the band we always knew she could, one that
amplifies her eccentric Americana and offers enough new ideas (and
chops!) to push the project into a class of its own. Every time
we see them they just get better. Please, somebody make these guys
Best Solo Artist
this guy once ate a chipmunk so as not to starve, but he also opened
for Boz Scaggs and the Doobie Brothers, so cut him some slack. Better
yet, give his recent album Magic a spin and then try to tell
us Rowe ain’t the bee’s knees. This survivalist has pretty much
the best baritone around and certainly knows his way around a six-string,
backing band be damned.
Japan, it’s called Aokigahara and is said to be a site of supernatural
curiosity, but around here, Sea of Trees are one of the most exciting
indie rock bands to come along in some time. Only a couple months
after the release of their debut Animal Sounds, the band
already have become rather well-acquainted with local clubs and
radio. Get used to the name; you’ll be seeing a lot of it.
Best Great White Hope
Dunbar and the Hobo Banned
few years a band comes along that gets the music community whispering
about that act’s potential to “make it.” And those bands very rarely
live up to expectations. So what’s different about Sgt. Dunbar and
the Hobo Banned? Mainly, they’ve made significant strides on the
national radar without any such murmur. They don’t seem to be after
the big record deal or magazine cover; they’ve simply, quietly become
a self-made success, having amassed their audience—and NPR hype,
and primo showcases, and out-of-town gigs—through sheer hard work.
So we’re not whispering this time. Because we want to be able to
say “we told you so” when these guys get their first 9.0 from Pitchfork.
Electronic Duo: Phantogram.
could have given Phantogram—née Charlie Everywhere—the Great White
Hope award, based on their out-of-nowhere march to success. But
it would be damning them with faint praise to do so. Truth is, the
industry has come a-calling because of the laptop-and- guitar duo’s
infectious mix of head- bobbing funk-hop and ethereal indie-pop.
They’ve been spreading the word far and wide this year, touring
with road warriors like Ra Ra Riot and the Slip; it’s only a matter
of time before Albany is just another date on the tour itinerary.
started with a box of Nerds and a shared love of Emerson and Thoreau
has turned into a gorgeous musical arrangement (not to mention marriage)
for Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans. The two craft lovely, lo-fi tales
of tea and turkey vultures in their haunted Altamont parlor when
they’re not off rambling with the Hobo Banned. Keep on the lookout
for Animals Are People Too, due out later this summer.
Best Pop Band
took this one in 2006, and Aaron Smith emerged from the scrum last
year as Best Male Songwriter, but with Hold On Whoever You Are,
Smith’s record for this year’s RPM Challenge, the Maps still craft
the smartest, catchiest crypto-zoological tunes in the land. With
song titles like “Wherein We Are Introduced to the Author as He
is Tortured and Transported via Ship from Portugal to an English
Prison,” it’s tough to be the competition.
Best Electropop Band
The Other Head of Science
even think about asking who the original head of science is or why
you shouldn’t exercise caution around him/her. Just dance. Beware!’s
spazzy synth-pop is like a can of root beer, filled with Pop Rocks,
poured down the pants of a hyperactive seventh grader. Yeah.
Best Rock Band
. . . well, because they are. In our minds, and those of many Capital
Region music fans, Super 400 = rock music. The trio’s forthcoming
Sweet Fist (due in September) is a doozy, and they remain
an unimpeachable live act. So, yeah? Hell yeah.
Best Hard Rock Band
new CD by these hard-rock titans is titled Turn Lights Out.
And they do, in a punishing, and appealingly sludgy, old-school
way. There’s nothing ragged about them, either, as their ensemble
approach is solid.
Best Songwriter (Band-Oriented)
been fond of Pond since she started playing around the area. And
we’ve grown even fonder (of Ponder?) since she debuted her trio,
with bassist Sarah Clark and drummer Scott Smith. But it’s called
the Ashley Pond Band for a reason: the songs. When coupled with
that oh-so-expressive voice, Pond’s folk-rock gems shine with a
Best Songwriter (Ensemble-Oriented)
area pop group are as likely to tote music stands along to the gig
as Eric Margan’s band, the Red Lions. Margan is an old-school composer
and arranger—that’s old-school, like Brill Building—and to hear
his orchestral-pop brainchildren come to life, as they do on the
recent Midnight Book, is to hear the first bold steps in
what is sure to be a long and fruitful career.
Best Songwriter (Project-Oriented)
has proven to be an ace songwriter (in addition to label honcho
and musician-about-town), particularly when he puts himself to task.
Last year’s excellent Kentucky, recorded for the RPM Challenge
in just 22 days, found the artist limiting himself to just mandolin
and voice. For this summer’s Penny Riddle he used different
constraints: Each of its eight songs is just a minute long. We can’t
wait to see what he puts his mind—and talent—to next.
Best Big Band
Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble
these guys only half-fit on the Lark Tavern stage for their monthly
gig, but if you can squeeze in the room you won’t be disappointed.
Pray’s crew is an all-star team of local players, and his unique
charts draw on everyone from Mingus to Mr. Bungle.
a stranger around these parts, sax-man Patneaude reminded us this
year why he’s a perennial contender in this category with the release
of his excellent Riverview. His Sunday-evening sessions at
Justin’s are always a solid jam, and he always stocks his combo
with seasoned pros.
Best Repertory Jazz Ensemble
makes the Empire Jazz Orchestra special—aside from the virtuoso
musicianship—is their ability to take, say, a 1929 piece by Benny
Carter, set it side-by-side (on disc or in concert) with a 1999
piece by Maria Schneider, and bring out the best in both works in
a timeless way. They’re not exactly a best-kept secret, but they
deserve whatever acclaim and fame comes their way.
Best One-Stop Hip-Hop Shop
self-titled debut put these guys on the map, but that dynamic duo
is just the beginning of what this label has to offer. Hip-hoppers,
electro- rockers, DJ’s and dub-heads can all agree that Sub Bombin’
is the who’s-who and what’s-what for local beat junkies.
Best Hip-Hop In-Person/Live
always maintained that the best boom-bap comes from a live kick
and snare. These guys go the distance, though, with a full band
that’ll make heads roll as soon as they’ll make them bob. This year’s
Boomerang Metropolis is a bold political statement that also
brings the party.
Best Hip-Hop Collaboration
Dick (Dezmatic and Mr. Dibbs)
mix tape, part pop-culture mashup, and all kinds of nasty,
Bigfoot’s Dick is a wicked slice of throw-your-hands-in-the-air
(and your panties on the stage) hip-hop fun. The ocassionally vicious
and often hysterical Dezmatic spits his best recorded verses here,
while Cincinnati DJ Mr. Dibbs pulls tracks from all over the place
(Arctic Monkeys, En Vogue, Elvis Costello) and dialogue from films
like Anchorman and Training Day. It’s funny, it’s
filthy, and most importantly it’s free. Get it at dezmatic.com.
Best Symphony Orchestra
excellent year for maestro David Alan Miller and the ASO’s fine
musicians (and administrators). They maintained the high standards
of programming and performance we’ve come to expect. But do not
take them for granted; get out to a concert when the fall season
Best Adventurous Chamber Ensemble
exciting year for Ann-Marie Barker Schwatz and company: Their re-creation
and staging of George Washington’s fave opera (The Poor Soldier)
last December drew the attention of opera insiders up-and-down the
East Coast—and capacity crowds to Schenectady County Community College.