Back to Metroland's Home Page!
Goods & Services
Food & Drink
Arts& Entertainment
People & Places
Media

BEST OF ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:

Best Movie Theater

Spectrum 8 Theatres
290 Delaware Ave., Albany

One might expect that the Spectrum would, one fine year, get some competition for this category, yet year after year it goes unchallenged. It has the best selection of movies, which usually consists of a smart balance of art films and mainstream favorites. It has the best snack bar, with gourmet goodies and fresh-brewed coffee to complement the usual popcorn and soda selections. It doesn’t rest on its laurels, either—this year it added its eighth screen.

Best Reason Not to Rent a Video Tonight

Movie Revivals at Performance Spaces

We’ve noticed a curious and exciting new trend: Performances spaces from MASS MoCA and the Egg to the Spencertown Academy have been presenting classic (and not-so-classic) films with live musical accompaniment. From Soviet-era silents and the comedies of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton through campy classics of horror cinema, audiences are being given a reason to experience movies in a new way. The music can be one imaginative piano player, an avant-garde combo or a jazz orchestra. Any way they play it, it’s the greatest thing since Sensurround.

Best Film Series (Yesterday)

New York State Writer’s Institute
Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., Albany

No matter how colossal a home entertainment system may be, it’s still nothing like seeing a classic film with an audience. The New York State Writer’s Institute deserves much credit for continuing its long-running fall and spring classic film presentations, making it possible to see rarities like The Man Who Laughs alongside beautiful prints of more recent classics like Bernardo Bertolucci’s Beseiged. It’s made some unhappy attempts at video projection; we hope its commitment to celluloid will remain strong.

Best Film Series (Today)

Time & Space Limited
434 Columbia St., Hudson

TSL continues to offer the most innovative (and award-winning) independent films, many of which would otherwise never travel north of Houston Street in New York City. Through its association with Film Movement, TSL presents regional premieres of challenging documentaries and foreign films every month. It’s demonstrated a willingness to showcase up-and- coming local filmmakers, and it’s sponsored some terrific events, like the recent Bollywood on the Hudson festival. Film culture? This is it.

Best Second-Run Movie Theater

Proctor’s Theatre
432 State St., Schenectady

Where else can you see a favorite movie such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Chicago or The Lord of the Rings over and over again for less than the price of a single viewing at the megaplex? Word has finally gotten out about this magnificent movie palace and its incredibly cheap admission ($2, $3 for the balcony): Proctor’s well-chosen replays of Academy Award-winners, art-house sleepers and crowd-pleasing hits now draw film buffs by the hundreds. Not to worry—this grand old vaudeville hall seats 2,700 with room to spare. And as of last month, the largest screen in the Northeast looks better than ever, thanks to a new projector. The price of popcorn has been raised to a pittance (75 cents), but what the heck: concession sales benefit the theater’s beautiful refurbishment.

That hometown feeling: Scotia Cinema.Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Neighborhood Movie Theater Stuck in Time

Scotia Cinema
117 Mohawk Ave., Scotia

From the un-split original screen to the very desirable front-row balcony seats, this popular second-run movie house puts you in Pleasantville no matter what’s showing. Nicely renovated, friendly and—yes, price matters—cheap, the Scotia gives you the ambience of the theater you used to walk to as a kid for the price of a Blockbuster video. And you can buy a 75-cent box of Milk Duds to help bring back the memories.

Best Museum to Rock Your World

MASS MoCA
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.

Yes, it’s ridiculously huge and industrial; true, the curating sometimes challenges even the most open-minded among us; and, well, it costs a lot to get in. But this bona fide destination-in-itself adds some of the most creative programming outside of visual art to be found at any regional venue. Whether it’s a puppet opera-in-progress, silent films accompanied by the Philip Glass Ensemble (live) or any of the many events associated with the wildly eclectic Bang on a Can festival, you’re sure to find seriously mind-expanding entertainment there. It also has some really freaky dance parties.

Best Museum Wearing Its Mission on Its Sleeve

Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs

As the name indicates, the Tang is not just an art museum: it has a specific mandate that all exhibits there must provide educational opportunities to Skidmore students from departments at the college other than art. So a show featuring artists’ collaborations with Trisha Brown involves the dance department, an exhibit drawn from a collection of Asian art gets the Asian studies folks juiced, and controversial African-American artist Kara Walker stimulates learning about American history. The Tang curators put these shows together in such a way that the creative process is plainly visible to the viewer, and it’s an easy space in which to let your own ideas flow freely. Mission accomplished!

A curator with an unsurpassed sense of style: Sharon Bates. Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Museum With Two Feet Firmly Planted in the 19th Century

Clark Art Institute
Williamstown, Mass.

With its fabulous collection of Impressionist paintings drawing visitors from all over the world, the Clark doesn’t need to do anything new to get noticed. And when it does pull in a blockbuster, it’s usually something from its strength, such as this summer’s special show of seascapes by the great English pre-impressionist painter J.M.W. Turner. Inspired by a newly restored painting from the Clark’s collection, the show brings together 35 of Turner’s late works, including nine borrowed from the Tate London; it will cross the Atlantic to Manchester and Glasgow next—but we can say we saw it here first.

Best Museum You’d Like to Have as Your House

The Hyde Collection
161 Warren St., Glens Falls

Like a lot of wonderful museums, this place actually was somebody’s house once—and, despite a massive recent renovation, resulting in bigger, more museumlike gallery spaces for shows, the Hyde still retains its coziness. Besides, who wouldn’t want an original Rembrandt in their house?

Best Museum to Take Children to

Berkshire Museum
39 South St., Pittsfield, Mass.

Though not a children’s museum exclusively—its mission is to culturally enrich and educate audiences of all ages—the Berkshire Museum offers a remarkable range of exhibits and activities that appeal to kids’ sense of wonder and play while surreptitiously educating them in art, history and the natural sciences. From the basement aquarium to permanent exhibits on animals, birds, geology and dinosaurs to traveling exhibits that offer child’s-eye (and often hands-on) glimpses into art, science, even classic detective lit—a recent show challenged little sleuths to solve a Sherlock Holmes mystery—a visit here with the tykes is always a treat. And the museum also offers first-rate kids’ theater, participatory art programs and summer camps. So what if they’re bored by the Hudson River School paintings? You probably are too.

Best Trend in Museum Architecture

Futuristic bathrooms

If you haven’t already cottoned to this subtle fixation, do yourself a favor and check the plumbing next time you’re in one of the many recently renovated or new museum buildings in the area. You may be astonished by what you find. “After all,” these savvy designers seem to be saying, “the art may be crap, but at least the crapper is a work of art.”

Best Curator Working From Regional Resources

Sharon Bates
Albany International Airport Gallery

Whether coordinating a showcase of collectors’ oddities, as in Private Eye and Show Off, or gathering the strong representation of painters on display in Unplugged, Bates’ sense of style is unsurpassed—yet she never loses sight of the substance behind it. As the gateway to a region boasting more than 60 museums, the airport gallery’s mandate is huge, but Bates and her staff make the job look easy. By communicating our riches so well to visitors from all over the world (just read the guest book sometime), this venue makes us feel proud to live here.

Best Female Gallery Director Working in the 100 block of Albany’s Washington Avenue to Resign Effective June 18

(Tie)

Pam Barrett-Fender
Albany Center Galleries, 161 Washington Ave., Albany

Janis Dorgan
Rice Gallery, Albany Institute of History and Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany

Both were great at what they did, both coincidentally departed on that same mystical Wednesday, and both will be very difficult to replace. Dorgan’s 20-year tenure at the Rice Gallery brought a freshness and diversity to the stuffy Institute long before its stylish modernization completed that process. Barrett-Fender accomplished a significant return of the moribund Center Galleries to its original mission during her year and a half there, only to be worn out by that grass-roots effort’s continuing financial woes. The potential loss of both programs would strike a serious blow to the regional gallery scene, but it’s too soon to tell where they’re headed—either way, it’s not likely we’ve seen the last of Dorgan and Barrett-Fender. We wish them luck in their pursuits.

Best Artist

(Tie)

Richard Callner
Harry Orlyk

With his dazzling 50-year retrospective at the Albany Institute of History and Art this spring, Callner not only proved he’s been making great paintings for nearly half a century but showed that he could transform himself into a brilliant abstract expressionist after losing his fine motor skills to Parkinson’s disease. About a third of the larger paintings on view were from just the last couple of years, and they revealed a master colorist still very much at the top of his game.

Speaking of color, Orlyk revels in it every day, and we are the happy beneficiaries. Following the example of his idol, Vincent van Gogh, Orlyk paints landscapes on site pretty much full-time, sometimes embellishing or re-creating the images in the studio later. A solo exhibition at the Saratoga Arts Council gallery last winter featured a large selection of Orlyk’s daily paintings as well as several much larger easel paintings. They all looked good enough to eat.

Best New Gallery

Firlefanz Gallery
292 Lark St., Albany

It’s a half-basement painted Provençal-yellow, and the space is so tiny that visitors to openings inevitably spill out onto Lark Street and into a little backyard garden. So what if nobody knows how to pronounce the name—this is a place that arrived with a splash (70 artists in the first show) and has already claimed a permanent place in our collective memory. Jewelry, ceramics, paintings, sculpture, photography—somehow owners Ed Atkeson and Cathy Frank manage to cram it all in there and still make the space feel open and welcoming. Here’s hoping area collectors respond in kind.

Best Gallery—Our Home Is Your Home

Changing Spaces
306 Hudson Ave., Albany

Sandra and Phil Willliams have worked tirelessly toward the vision they have for their wee gallery in Center Square, and they have delivered. Since its inception, Changing Spaces has offered a bountiful variety of art and performance—art exhibits, indie and experimental music shows, poetry readings, independent film screenings and theater productions—in an intimate setting where audience and artist can participate in a dialogue. We’re always curious to see what or whom the Williamses will invite into their cozy confines next.

Best Gallery—Can Your Home Be Our Home?

Miss Mary’s Art Space
Homeless

It won Best Apartment Serving as an Art Space last year, and this year Miss Mary’s ain’t even got the apartment. It lost its space because of a permit problem, and though they’ve been hovering in the ether ever since, the folks behind the little-art-space-that-could have continued to provide artistic enjoyment for the masses, albeit in a limited capacity. (The benefit DIY rock shows for Miss Mary’s around the Albany area were an added bonus.) With a mission to “provide a creative incubator for artists and small art groups by fostering an atmosphere—through shared learning and resources—that encourages creative thought and expression,” Miss Mary’s needs a space for that atmosphere to inhabit. But until then, it’ll continue to publish its arts mag, Screed, replete with poetry, fiction, art and even music, and hold shows at various spaces. In August, it’ll open an art installation at Troy’s Chapel + Cultural Center, and we’re sure there are more artistic endeavors planned. Go to missmarysartspace.tripod.com for information.

Best Gallery—Scuttled

Les Bohemes
Former Thomasville Furniture store, Troy

Lynn Allard may have bitten off more than she could chew with this giant co-op, but at least she had the nerve to try—and the 600 people who attended the opening this spring seemed to agree it was fabulous. Unfortunately, like its namesakes, it wasn’t easy for Les Bohemes to find the rent. But don’t be surprised if it makes a sudden comeback and finds its audience (and some money) on a second go ’round.

Best Multi-Arts Venue

Chapel + Cultural Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy

While the Chapel + Cultural Center on RPI’s campus provides a place of worship for many, it’s also providing an excellent roster, under the guidance of new director J. Eric Smith (whose contributions to this paper have nothing to do with our decision), of interesting and eclectic artists presenting everything from video installations to experimental music to literary readings. The offerings are fresh and exciting, and we look forward to the 2003-2004 season.

Best Equity Theater Company (Nationally Recognized)

Williamstown Theatre Festival
Williamstown, Mass.

Coming off its Tony Award for Best Regional Theatre, this season the WTF is bringing back many of the longtime members of the “family” who helped it win that award. This is a powerhouse company of who’s who in the legitimate theater.

Best Equity Theater Company (Adventurous)

Adirondack Theatre Festival
Glens Falls

In its ninth year, Adirondack Theatre Festival presents the newest, riskiest and most diverse theater in the region without corporate or political sponsorship. Original plays are a specialty, and if you want the feel of off-Broadway without the exhaust fumes, ATF is the place to go.

Best Equity Theater Company (All Year Long)

Capital Repertory Theatre
111 N. Pearl St., Albany

Capital Rep presented some bold theater amid the usual subscriber specials, and it’s here all year. Blue Room was one of the bravest and best productions in Capital Rep’s history, making 2002-2003 the strongest season in Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s tenure.

Best Children’s Theater Company

New York State Theatre Institute
Russell Sage College, Troy

Indefatigably, NYSTI holds true to its mission and continues to entertain and educate the young and the youthful with classy productions and new works-in-development.

Best Theater Venue

Adams Memorial Theater
Williamstown, Mass.

With major renovations on the horizon, this may be the last season for the venerable AMT as we know it. It has remained the prime venue in the area since it was built. Thanks for the memories (and the comfort and clean sight lines) of production values ever worthy of Broadway.

Best Community Theater Venue

Zuzu’s Wonderful Life
299 Hamilton St., Albany

No other community venue offers the variety found at Zuzu’s: belly dancing, three different comedy improv groups (see them here before their First Night performances in Albany or Saratoga), ballroom dancing, readings of original screenplays, folksingers, original one-act plays, political action teach-ins, photography and art exhibits, and some of the best coffee and original desserts in town.

Best Equity Director

Martha Bantu
Adirondack Theatre Festival

The Lake George native (and graduate of Lake George High School) is artistic director at ATF and creates some of its best productions; directed at Capital Rep this season (a show that had its origins at ATF) as well as at the Juilliard School in NYC, many regional theaters and international touring companies of Rent; and is now resident director of Mamma Mia on Broadway. Not only can she direct popular fare that makes money for its producers, she can direct capital-A Art that real people will want to see, too.

Best Evidence That the Theater Community Is Full of Patriots

The Lysistrata Project

Last March, five different productions of the classic Greek play were staged in the area—Caffe Lena, Russell Sage College, Skidmore College, Union College and Steamer No. 10—on a day when 1,029 productions were happening in 59 countries around the world in a protest against the impending war against Iraq. The Lysistrata Project was part of a worldwide movement that used theater for the reason theater was created by the Greeks: to teach and to entertain.

Best Dance Troupe

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
Empire Center at the Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany

For recruiting new members and blending them into a cohesive ensemble and for making common cause and uncommon dances with regional composers, musicians, and singers. Its recent anniversary celebration, including live music by David Knaack, Siobhan Quinn, Brian Melick and Maria Zemantauski, was a blast.

Best Dance Venue

Hart Theater at the Egg
Empire State Plaza, Albany

More than 900 seats, and not a bad one among them. Now, if somebody could work on the acoustics . . .

Best Poetry Open Mike

Changing Spaces Gallery
306 Hudson Ave., Albany

The open mike for poets run by Dan Wilcox at this small community arts space draws a diverse gathering of versifiers on the third Thursday of each month. As was the case with the legendary poetry gatherings at the old QE2, poets can drop by and easily connect into the Capital Region’s poetry scene. The addition of a monthly, featured poet to the program allows a number of local wordsmiths the opportunity to share their literary wares in a smoke-free environment.

Best Poet

Naton Leslie

Leslie is a poet who focuses on the lives of working people and post-industrial America. He has published two books of poetry, Moving to Find Work and Their Shadows Are Dark Daughters. He’s a professor at Siena College and runs the school’s reading series, which brings outside poets to the Capital Region.

Best Poet to Challenge Gay Stereotypes

Don Levy

Levy’s poetry often turns gay stereotypes on their head with a rich humor. He runs the open mike at the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Center, and has been reading his works in the community for more than 10 years.

Best Poet (Statuary Division)

Robert Burns

The Robert Burns statue in Albany’s Washington Park near the intersection of Henry Johnson Boulevard and Hudson Avenue is the park’s hidden gem. Created by the sculptor Charles Calverly, this tribute to the 18th-century poet of the Scottish people was formally installed in 1888. Through the efforts of the city of Albany, the St. Andrew’s Society and the poets who gather there each summer, the sculpture and the area around it have been cleaned up and brought back to the shine of earlier days.

Best Author

Lydia Davis

Pick up her novel The End of the Story or one of her short-story collections and marvel at the way Davis eases you into her bare-bones excursions into the nature of thought, the psychology of memory and the oddities of everyday life. Her deceptively simple prose pulls you effortlessly toward surprising insights into the human condition (and into the nature of storytelling, for that matter). A treasure we can claim as local, thanks to her teaching stints at Bard College and the University at Albany.

Best Indoor Concert Venue

Palace Theatre
19 Clinton Ave., Albany

Beautifully renovated last year to reclaim its status as the northernmost anchor of Albany’s downtown revitalization efforts, this 70-year old RKO movie house is a stunner all over again. The interior’s original Baroque detail has been brought back to life with all-new carpeting and stage curtains, fabric wall treatments, fresh paint on the ceiling and the refurbishment of over 2,700 seats. The Palace’s mid-size capacity makes it ideal for a diverse array of community events and local and national acts, from First Night to Béla Fleck. And the acoustics ain’t too shabby, either.

Best Brave New outdoor Concert Venue

Empire State Plaza
Albany

The surreal concrete/marble/glass wilderness of the plaza may not be the most natural of outdoor concert-going experiences, but it sure is a unique and often mesmerizing setting, like being transported to another world. In fact, given the right weather and the right act, it can be downright uplifting. And when the sinking sun lies heavy and golden against the monolithic towers and curvilinear Egg and the sweet echoes begin to rise up the amphitheater stairs, it’s hard not to get exactly what the designers and architects were after.

Best-Booked Rock Club

Valentine’s music hall and beer Joint
17 New Scotland Ave., Albany

What can we say? Howard Glassman and his henchmen find themselves at the top of our rock heap again this year (cue “The Ride of the Valkyries,” admit self to detox soon thereafter). Valentine’s remains the best booked, most consistent and most user-friendly rock digs in the Capital Region. Killer jukebox, always good stuff on tap (and where else can you still get a cold can of Schaffer’s?), and it’s two, two, two great venues in one! Besides, it’s about 500 feet away from Albany Medical Center. Hey, you never know.

Best Venue (Red Wine)

The Larkin Lounge
199 Lark St., Albany

The room upstairs at the Larkin is unique in that it is a true listening room. It’s not a bar-type atmosphere where a performer has to compete with noisy patrons who are cheering for pool games or yelling their ale orders to the busy bartender. You can relax, sit back at one of the many linen-covered tables and listen to the act you came to see. Dan Goodspeed, the guy responsible for the online local music resource BUMrock, is now booking the place, and it gets a pretty cool mix of local and national acts. With the piano bar on Wednesdays and the open mike on Thursdays, the Larkin always makes for a good music destination.

Best Music Venue (Red Bull)

Saratoga Winners
Route 9, Latham

From the inexplicable name to that giant wagon-wheel chandelier teetering from the ceiling, Saratoga Winners exhibits a blithe indifference to fashion—and anything else that’s superfluous to good, hard rocking out. Which is precisely what we love about it. If you like to drink hard, mingle hard and mosh even harder, this bare-boards roadhouse is just the place. We love it so very much—even if we still get nervous standing under that chandelier.

Best New Music Venue

Revolution Hall
421-425 River St., Troy

The visibility is excellent from every vantage. The customized, state-of-the-art sound system is pitch-perfect from all points. The large, velvet-draped stage allows for the most exuberant of antics. The main floor can accommodate an intimate crowd of 200 or a boogying throng of 900. Cocktail tables stand at the ready for relaxed imbibing, and balcony seating offers a bird’s-eye view from the mixing board to the bar. Speaking of the bar, those dozen or so taps include tasty hand-crafted ales piped in from the Troy Pub and Brewery next door. What else could a club-goer want? Clean and comfortable restrooms? You got it. Polite staff? That too. There’s even a lobby, so you don’t have to wait in line outside. Geesh, this music hall really is revolutionary.

Best Jazz Venue

9 Maple Avenue
9 MAPLE AVE., SARATOGA SPRINGS

Don't judge this tiny brick jazz club by its size. In addition to its beautiful mahogany Victorian bar, its mammoth collection of single-malt Scotches and its renowned blueberry martinis, 9 Maple Avenue plays host to some of the region's hottest jazz shows. True to the spirit of jazz, you never know who may show up to sit in at the club's weekend jazz blowouts, from once-local saxophonist Keith Pray to local keyboardist Carl Landa's horn-blowing, drum-thwacking jazz cronies from the Berkshires.

Best Underground Music Venue

51 Third Street
51 3rd St., Troy

There’s a new arts space in Troy, where, if you haven’t already had the pleasure of visiting, you should plan on hitting the next show. It’s easy to find—the name of the place is the address—and the shows feature music as varied as the place is comfy. Pop-rock stylists Kitty Little, avant-droners Iditarod, bubblegum-popster Paula Kelly, ambient soundshapers Evidence, computerized-beatmaster Jesse Stiles—these envelope-pushing artists and many others have graced the venue’s stage. Table lamps and leather armchairs scattered within the loft-style room create a comfy lounge atmosphere—and sometimes there’s even home-cooked food. In the back of the large space sit the offices of the Department of Experimental Services along with Jason Martin’s mostly analog recording studio. If nothing else, a field trip should be in store. Look for the odd window display, as there’s sure to be something twistedly socially conscious or just plain freaky in there.

Best Band

Skinless

Since penning a sweet deal with the indefatigable folks at Relapse Records, Skinless has enjoyed both international distribution and widespread acclaim, and they back it up with touring, touring, touring. Their business savvy and crushing work ethic ensures that their shows, whether at home or abroad, are packed to capacity with scary Hessians and irksome skinheads. The band’s new release, From Sacrifice to Survival, is a pointed step forward for both the band and the ever-changing face of American death metal.

Best Rock band

The Erotics

Beyond the shock-schlock lyrics about genocidal Barbie dolls and self-offing supermodels, Albany's premier (and only) glam-punk band, the Erotics, are no joke. Channeling Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls in more than just black eyeliner and vulgarity, the Erotics are a gutter-glam force to be reckoned with-bringing danger back to rock & roll with a hellfire of blazing guitar, an armful of tattoos and a set list of catchy tunes. Now sporting a meaner, leaner three-piece lineup and a brand new album, the Erotics are poised to break things wide open. All that glitters is not dead.


Best Rock & Roll Collective

The Capital Region rockabilly scene

Incest may be a dirty secret in some necks of the woods, but when it comes to the local rockabilly scene, incest is best. Some of our favorite Capital Region musicians-from "Rockin' Professor" John Tichy, of Commander Cody fame, to the king of the pompadour, Johnny Rabb-form a rockabilly collective that shares gigs, musicians and more '50s retro cool than four seasons of Happy Days. Local guitar prodigy Graham Tichy (son of John), for instance, plies surf licks in his own band Rocky Velvet while sitting in with Mark Gamsjager's fabulous Lustre Kings. Meanwhile, the Tichy family sits in with Rabb's swinging Jailhouse Rockers, and everybody comes together when legendary honky-tonk truck-drivin' man Bill Kirchen comes to town. Retro rockers from all over the country recognize the immense rockabilly talent that we have here in the Capital Region. We should too.

Best Pop Band

Kitty Little

Kitty Little’s songs range from sugary pop to driving post-punk, and we love them for it. The band, phenom guitarist-vocalist Matto Laque (of the sorely missed Matto and the Phlegmchuckers), able and stunning bassist Jesse Pellerin (also in pop favorites Jump Cannon) and drummer Robb Cole, who’s also in hard-rocking To Hell and Back with Matto, just keep getting better—in part because they’re playing all the freaking time (even if it’s not together). Drop into a Kitty Little show—they’re fun-loving orgies of sound, and the band members love candy so much there’s bound to be some nearby.

Best Post-Hardcore Band

To Hell and Back

We knew bassist/hollerer Jim “Chicken” MacNaughton was raised on rock when a member of our staff spotted a signed Motorhead 8-by-11-inch poster (Fast Eddie era!) on a wall in his older sister’s New Paltz abode. Formerly of hardcore heavies Devoid of Faith, the mouth that roared raided the cookie jars of bands from the genre’s salad days (the Disenchanted, John Brown’s Army) to commence pummeling us into compost with this wrecking ball of truth and justice. Vinyl only, please. Thank you.

Best Unknown Metal Band

Of Old

Unless you were at their one and only appearance, you don’t know how good this progressive-metal band are. Actually, you probably don’t know they exist at all. With influences as diverse as Scandinavian doom-mongers Opeth and ’80s British invaders Judas Priest, Of Old could be filling the region’s metal void with their awesome guitar riffs and inventive songwriting. But after opening for Anthrax last year, they disappeared, leaving only a highly promising demo CD in their wake. We suspect they’re still around, however, because someone is updating the Web site. Guys, do your local headbangers a favor: book a few gigs, put up some fliers and give it a go.

Best College Rock

The Kamikaze Hearts

It’s not just that we’re no longer comfortable pigeonholing the Kamikaze Hearts in any one of those vague and vaguely inaccurate Americana generic subsets—though that’s part of it. And it’s not just because the term “indie-rock” has really ceased to mean anything—though that is true. It’s more that the Kamikaze Hearts’ combination of a variety of rootsy styles, bright heartfelt irony (yes, there is such a thing) and self-conscious poetry possesses all the earnest, awkward charm we associate with our younger, better selves. The Kamikaze Hearts provide music to listen to by the light of candles jammed into the necks of wine bottles, as prelude or catalyst to grand, rambling, nightlong conversations about the nature of heartbreak and isolation in its myriad flavors—from the stony silence in the car after the ill-advised confession to the soul-sickness of the reluctant soldier. The Kamikaze Hearts are college rock in the sense that they present threshold songs, songs from the verge, the tense transitional moments between youthful idealism and adult recrimination.

Best Band’s Band

Complicated Shirt

Complicated Shirt may not yet be your favorite band, but there’s a good chance that they are your favorite band’s favorite band. These crabby noise rockers wring respect out of listeners, many of them musicians themselves, by pulling no punches. They’re like a politically incorrect Superchunk performing King Missile songs. They’re ambitiously confrontational sonically, artistically and lyrically—it’s up to you to decide whether it’s all tongue-in-cheek or not. In “White Trash Love Song,” Complicated Shirt ask the musical question, “Why does white trash always start fights with me?” and pose the musical answer, “It’s too bad your girlfriend thinks I’m cool/And you’re a piece of shit/I do kick-ass karaoke/You do Travis Tritt.” It’s tough not to chuckle at the singer’s plaintive speculation on that one. The musical question in “Unanimous Gang ‘Rape,’ ” however . . .

Best Live Band

Denim and Diamonds

If you’ve seen the film Athens, Ga.—Inside/Out, which documented the club scene in the South’s hippest town in the early ’80s, or if you hung around now-defunct Albany hot spots like the Halfmoon Café at the end of that decade, you’re familiar with the variety of art-damaged, gleefully—almost maniacally—inclusive pop acts that once roamed the community centers, hippie coffee shops and impromptu performance spaces back in the pre-Nirvana, pre-grunge-purity days. Denim and Diamonds’ live show is a throwback—in the greatest sense of that word—to an era when bands would try anything to entertain themselves (and the audience, if they could). Imagine your younger brother and his Xbox-wizard friends drunk for the first time on cheap beer, dressed in your old marching band uniforms, playing songs inspired by your Suicide and Plastic Bertrand records into their laptops, then remixing the shit out of them there on the spot and performing interpretive dance to the results. You’re about halfway there.

Best Crank Rock

The Wasted

In both the “grouchy old man” way and the “Oh, hell, it’s a bust, better set the basement on fire” way, the Wasted are crank-rock at its finest. Paranoia and misanthropy never sounded so good.

Best Multitasker

John Brodeur

Our buddy John has been one busy guy! Besides organizing and promoting big multi-band shows (like last summer’s Elvis Costello Tribute and last week’s Big Pop Barbeque) and filling in on whatever instrument he needs to for his friends’ and other bands’ shows, he’s had a hectic schedule playing gigs around the Northeast with his own band, the Suggestions, and working on his quirky side project, Five Alpha Beatdown. John’s also a featured player on some recent releases of bands that y’all may have heard of, like knotworking’s new LP, The Garden Below, and the Day Jobs’ long-awaited debut, How I Wanted to Be. All that aside, John’s an assiduous promoter and nurturer of the local music scene, which can use all the love it can get.

Best New Solo Musician

Brian Bassett

We always love a good new addition to the scene, and Brian is just that. Although he’s played around for a few years with a couple different bands, he’s gone through a cocoon-type transformation through which he’s come out a notable solo act, soon to release his debut album, Rock and Roll (a combination of sweet ballads and socially conscious assertions). Look at the music listings in the back of this paper, and you can usually count on finding him scheduled at one of the local clubs most weekends—the guy plays his little heart out as often as he can. With his many melodic, catchy original tunes and sparse, well-chosen covers, his is a show we don’t like to miss.

Baby, I’m back: Paddy Kilrain. Photo by John Whipple

Best Solo Acoustic (Female)

Paddy Kilrain

Kilrain’s biographical lyrics make her one of the most accessible musicians we know. We’re psyched that she’s finally decided to come out of her way-too-premature self-proclaimed retirement. (Now that she at last has that longed-for degree under her belt—congratulations, Paddy!—maybe she feels a little more lighthearted.) Give the woman a guitar (or a piano, for that matter), and she’ll either rock you with her folky anthems or move you with her heartrending, poetic storytelling songs. We can’t wait for her new album to be recorded, and we’re thrilled to have her back.

Best Solo Acoustic (Male)

Matt Loiacono

When not fulfilling his role as the Kamikaze Hearts’ multi-instrumentalist, Matt Loiacono turns out quietly lush melancholia of an updated Nick Drake type. But that’s just a rough approximation, a convenient point of reference. There’s nothing affectedly Anglophilic on either his first, Eye Dream, or his most recent stunner, A Book About the Rest. Loiacono provides an oblique and curiously soothing look through the twisted delicacy of the average American heart and shakes the mystery out of the trees and hedges lining the lawns of neighborhoods much like your own.

Best Acoustic Duo

Princess Mabel

Frank Moscowitz and Martha Kronholm until recently went simply by Mabel, but another outfit had laid a previous claim to that moniker, so now the duo go by Princess Mabel. Honestly, we prefer it: it succinctly evokes the combination of the stately and the homely, the grand and the common, found in their songs. They’re subtle without being overly clever, poetic without being hermetically self-referential. Kronholm’s voice is like Shawn Colvin’s at times (but smoother, without the creeping nasality) and Moscowitz’s guitar work adds edge enough to suggest the glory days of Boston chick rock à la Throwing Muses. This is a remarkably confident band—pretty, not precious; solid, not strident.

Best Blues Superstar in the Making

Albert Cummings

It’s one thing to say So-and-so Hotshot Guitar Player sounds just like Stevie Ray, but when Stevie Ray’s former backing band, Double Trouble, say So-and-so sounds just like Stevie Ray and asks So-and-so if maybe So-and-so wouldn’t mind taking some time to record and tour with ’em, you’ve got to sit up and take notice. Out of the Berkshires comes Albert Cummings, the old so-and-so, who plays a Strat like nobody since . . . well, you know.

Best Vocal Ensemble

The Kamikaze Hearts

We’re gonna have to look over our shoulders nervously on the way the car tonight, because glee clubs and youth choirs the region over are stuffing tube socks with bars of soap and cursing our names. But, kids, before you begin swinging those things in anger, take a listen to the Kamikaze Hearts’ “In My Way.” Seriously. Four-part male harmony so sweet your heart’s put-near to bust. When was the last time another vocal group made you want to use the phrase “put-near to bust,” heh? Answer me that, Pavarotti.

Best Homage to Pre-MTV Peter Gabriel

Wet Shoelaces

Wet Shoelaces (this is a Best Of issue, remember—otherwise this band name might have cropped up in a different category) now have a place on our shelves—right next to Foxtrot. On If Gods Were Stoned they’ve taken a page from the old Genesis playbook and written not songs but suites, complete with Roman numerals and everything. “When Jesus Met Santa” is broken down into “I. All the Halogen Lights in the World,” “II. Christmas Eve,” “III. Get Your Own Holiday,” “IV. Ho Ho Hosanna,” “V. A New Religion,” “VI. Time to Lick the Donkey,” “VII. A Fantastic Place to Hang Your Robe and Sandals,” “VIII. Christmas Lilith,” and “IX. It’s a PR Thing, You Know.” What does it sound like? Does it matter? We just keep reading the darn thing—and deriving far more pleasure from that activity than we have from anything Gabriel’s done recently.

Best Art Rock

Bible Study

Crafty. That’s the first adjective that comes to mind when contemplating Bible Study. This Saratoga- and Schoharie county-based trio are crafty about everything they do. Their songs are sly concoctions that balance a hard-rocking melodicism with dark (sometimes very dark) themes. They’re crafty about their image, too; this isn’t vanity but evidence of a theatrical sense that adds to (rather than distracts from) their music. Finally, Bible Study are crafty in their openness to musical experimentation, earning praise from many pros. A recent performance found them introducing new material, tweaking their image and continuing their adventurous musical explorations—and if that ain’t art rock, we don’t know what is.

Best Noise Rock

Struction

Frankly, calling Struction “noise rock” just might piss ‘em off. Struction do not want to be labeled, and if they were inclined to accept a label, “noise rock” wouldn’t be it. There’s some validity to this attitude: they’re not noisy enough for the noise music purists; they’re also not rock enough for punks or hardcore enough for the hardcore crowd. What they are, however, is a trio of extremely dedicated musicians who are very intense (and thoughtful) about what they do, making music that is loud, passionate and compelling. Their musical interests are wide-ranging, and it shows. The best recommendation for Struction—aside from their swell CD—is seeing them live, which you should do at your earliest opportunity.

Best New Band

The Amazing Plaid

A band with a fan club like the one the Amazing Plaid have created deserves a “Best Of” on general principle. To join, you have to fill out an application more treacherous that the Regents Math A exam. If you’re accepted, however, you’re a member for life and will receive randomly assembled bundles of crap, by post, forever. Of course, that’s not the only reason the Amazing Plaidsters have earned this designation—their crunchy, sliced-and-diced chunks of swirling rock & roll reverberate with anger and black humor. No one else sounds quite like them. Plus, you have to love a band in which the spokesman (Tom Wilk) doubles as chair of the Committee for the Elimination of the Amazing Plaid.

Best Victim of the Rockefeller Drug Laws

The Extras

The Extras also get the award for “Longest Time Between Recording a CD and Its Release Party,” which was about 20 years. Heck, Erastus Corning 2nd was still mayor of Albany when Mark DeForge went down after being set up by a drug snitch. DeForge, guitarist Eric VanSleet and drummer George Lipscomb hurriedly recorded Ugly American before his sentencing, so this year we got double our dollar—a time capsule from the early Albany punk scene and a formidable “new” talent.

Best Alt-Country Band

knotworking

“Alternative country” has become a hazy tag, pulling in all kinds of genres with its catholic reach—making it a fitting category for knotworking’s rootsy, hard-to-categorize music. No longer just the vision of Ed Gorch, this is a group in the fullest sense, abetted by guitarist Michael Hotter’s broad range and the rich string work of Cellist Karen Codd and Violinist Megan Prokorym. The group’s new album, The Garden Below, ranges from country-shuffling to brooding folk to indie rock and back again. It’s a strong statement of the breadth, scope and collaborative nature of this ensemble. And Ed Gorch is still writing those heart-piercing tunes.

Best Country Act

Hayseed

Hayseed’s relocation from the South last year upped the Capital Region’s Americana quotient considerably. Few sing like the Seed, with a rich voice seasoned in the church rafters of his native Kentucky. He’s duetted with Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams on his albums and has enjoyed some sterling praise from Williams in the press. His debut album, Melic, showed that—despite not being able to play an instrument—he is a strikingly unique songwriter, with tunes that smack of the burnished and archaic, even while wrestling with the anxiety of the computer age. His most recent album, In Other Words, also proved him to be a stirring interpreter of others’ tunes. Let’s hope that Hayseed puts together another album soon and plays more shows with those impromptu lineups of local musicians.

Best All-Purpose Band

The Lustre Kings

Whether livening up one lucky wedding or private party, rocking a cruise boat on the Hudson, scaring the livestock at the local fairgrounds or charming the cats in the lounge-cool gloom of Savannah’s with Eddie Angel, the Lustre Kings are pure rock-and-roll class—from the top of Mark Gamsjager’s gravity-defying ducktail haircut on down.

Best Guitarist

Graham Tichy

Graham Tichy has played in all kinds of rock & roll incarnations in our area, including his native group Rocky Velvet. A lot of players can flash, trash and shoot sparks off the fretboard, but so few play with Graham’s sense of feel, tone and nuance. The young man is already a mature and supple guitarist, with the vibe of lost legends like Cliff Gallup and well-knowns like Chet Atkins in his bones. He’s the kind of classic player for whom Telecasters and Gretsches were made. Oh, yeah, he rocks too.

Best Chinese Pop Poetry Band

Wuji Tableaux

Sure, Bethy Bacon’s Wuji Tableaux is the only band in the area offering baroque jazz with lyrics culled from classic Chinese poetry, but that’s not damning her with faint praise: it’s a rare ensemble that make us jaded critical types say, “Wow . . . now that’s something I’ve never seen before,” and mean it as a compliment.

Best Electronica

Sara Ayers

Live or in the studio, Sara Ayers continues to awe us with her haunting blend of the organic and the electronic, the pastoral and the powerful, the hypnotic and the exotic. It’s a rare artist who can evoke both pure Norwegian black metal and ambient Enya-tinged pop, sometimes in the same album. Or song. Or second.

Best Jazz

Brian Patneaude

The man is all but ubiquitous, sighting and appreciated in recent months with his own jazz quartet and jazz fusion quintet, with Adrian Cohen’s jazz quartet, with the Patneaude/Cohen Quartet, with the Empire Jazz Orchestra and with Alex Torres’ Reyes Latinos. While we might tire of a lesser artist under such frequent public encounters, sax man Brian Patneaude always leaves us hankering and hungry for more.

Best Bassist

Jimbo Burton

We always loved what he did in Small Axe, of course, but since striking out on his own last year with the Blackloud project, he’s dropped our jaws a notch or two further than usual—by putting the bass front and center as the lead melodic and rhythmic instrument in his new musical endeavors. It’s hard to imagine a solo bassist holding a room rapt for a two-hour show, but Burton manages to make it work, and the five full-length demo discs he’s floated around the community show that there’s vision aplenty there, waiting for the right moment to explode into the popular domain. We hope it happens soon.

Best Drummer

Dan Dinsmore

He made things go over the past year with Black Inc., Iron Lung Corp. and the freshly reconstituted Clay People—all of whom offered banner performances and/or recordings during the past 12 months. In a region with far more than its fair share of rhythm devils, Dan Dinsmore continues to push our “wow” buttons show after show and disc after disc.

Best Keyboardist

Ryan Barnum

He’s the utility infielder for the Wait, adding sparkle and punch in just the right mix as guitarist-keyboardist-background vocalist, but we like it best when he sits behind his keys and tickles the ivories with all the panache and effortless technique of a true master of his instrument—and we appreciate the fact that, like the best team players, he’s willing to share his formidable chops widely throughout the musical community.

Best Twang

Kevin Maul

If you’ve heard a song or a band or a record or a performance that features a string-driven thing involving a slide, a pedal, a metal resonator or all of the above, and it made that song, band, record or performance better than it would have been otherwise, then odds are it was Kevin Maul supplying the steel string twang that took it to its lofty new heights. We don’t know the names of all the things he plays, but we know that we like them.

Best Solo Rock Performer

Bryan Thomas

One voice, one guitar: It’s the cornerstone of most folk shows, and (admit it) it often gets pretty tedious pretty quickly. Never, though, when Bryan Thomas is the one supplying the singing and the stringing. A frighteningly charismatic stage presence, Thomas writes, sings, picks and strums with such aplomb, energy, vitality and heart that you can’t help but be entranced by the solo rock wonderment unfolding before you.

Best Vocalist (Male)

Bryan Thomas

It’s sweet, it’s sultry, it’s horny, it’s spiritual, it soars, it rumbles, it whispers, shouts, swoops, veers, emotes, evokes and devotes—all without ever missing a note. It’s Bryan Thomas’ voice, and it’s one of the natural wonders of the musical universe, wielded by a performer who’s able to use it in all the ways it needs to be used. Mmmm.

Best Vocalist (Female)

Katie Haverly

There are singers, and then there are singers—and Katie Haverly’s one of the latter, with one of those spectacularly effortless-sounding voices that reaches all over the scale and explores all manner of sound without ever coming across as forced or strident or technically perfect for technical perfection’s sake. You hear the human being when she sings, not the studio or room or microphone that makes her sound so good, as the warmth and intimacy of her voice sucks you into the place where melody is pure and singing is an expression of a soul unbound.

Best Songwriter

(Tie)

Edward Gorch
Stephen Gaylord

Knotworking’s Gorch is the impressionist poet, lightly sketching whole worlds and intimate moments alike with a sparse economy of words, while Stephen Gaylord of the Wasted offers stabbing slices of stark hyperrealism, disturbing in their intensity and focus. Both writers are storytellers, both mine the rural countryside for material, and both craft songs that will be played around campfires 100 years from now by people who believe their material to be traditional public-domain folk songs. Both are titans of their craft, which is why both are winners in this category.

Best Open Mike

BUMrock Open Mike With Paddy Kilrain
The Larkin Lounge, 199 Lark St., Albany

Where can you go to experience an environment wholly supportive of all sorts of musicians, new and old, good and in-need-of-a-little-practice, hiphop, country, instrumental, rock and all else? The Larkin on a Thursday night. On any given Thursday, you can hang out and watch people get up to belt out their tunes, strum their guitars, recite their poetry or just jam together. Don’t be surprised if you catch some newbies and the likes of Ed Gorch, John Brodeur and other well-known musical locals performing on the same night. The whole ordeal is facilitated by our pal Paddy Kilrain, who, as the hostess with the most-est, makes everyone feel just as comfy as can be. We love that she opens and closes each open mike with a set of her own. And we love that she has the unique ability to shut the noisemakers up with a couple of simple, stern looks.

Best Piano Bar

Nate Buccieri
The Larkin Lounge, 199 Lark St., Albany

Any piano-bar pianist worth his ivory can pound out a Billy Joel crowd-pleaser, and Nate Buccieri certainly can, too. But there’s more to Buccieri than a deep repertoire of Billy Joel (and Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Beatles, show tunes . . . you get the picture). A skilled sight-reader, not to mention a highly accomplished player and versatile, resonant singer, Buccieri wins over his Wednesday audiences/participants with a mixture of talent, wit and the sort of infectious good humor that makes you feel like you really can step up to the mike and turn that song. Part performance, part talent show, part late-night piano-vocal jam, Piano Bar at the Larkin has built up a core audience that will miss Buccieri dearly when he eventually, inevitably, finds his way to Broadway.

Best Karaoke

Lenny Thomas

You may remember Thomas from local Judas Priest tribute British Steel, but we’ll remember him for his incomprehensibly voluminous catalogue of karaoke classics. We’re talking anything from Slayer to Leo Sayer, which makes his Wednesday through Saturday run at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill (2209 Central Ave., Colonie, 382-1110) some of the finest sociological sightseeing around.


Readers Poll Results:

Best Local Band

1. Sirsy

2. Cryin' Out Loud

Best Local Solo Musician

1. Adam Foster

2. Mike Grosshandler

Best Live Music Venue

1. SPAC

2. Valentines

Best Dance Club/Dance Night

1. Sneaky Pete's

2. Jillians

Best Open Mike

1. Larkin

2. Savannahs

Best Karaoke

1. Ferry St. Pub

2. Fuller Roadhouse

Best Movie Theater

1. Spectrum

2. Crossgates 18

Best Art Gallery

1. Albany Institute of History & Art

2. Lulu

Best Local Performing Arts Organization

1. SPAC

2. Capital Repertory Theater

Best Local Visual Artist

1. Joe Mele

2. Shannon Homer

Best Local Filmmaker

1. Michael Swantek & Justin Maine

2. Mascucci Brothers

Best Local Author

1. William Kennedy

2. John Swantek

^top


 
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 4 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.