OF ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT:
Spectrum 8 Theatres
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
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
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
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
hometown feeling: Scotia Cinema.Photo
by Leif Zurmuhlen
Neighborhood Movie Theater Stuck in Time
Mohawk Ave., Scotia
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 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
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.
curator with an unsurpassed sense of style: Sharon Bates.
by Leif Zurmuhlen
Museum With Two Feet Firmly Planted in the 19th Century
Clark Art Institute
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
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
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
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
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
Center Galleries, 161 Washington Ave., Albany
Gallery, Albany Institute of History and Art, 125 Washington
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
Best Children’s Theater Company
New York State Theatre Institute
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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.
9 MAPLE AVE., SARATOGA SPRINGS
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
Best Underground Music Venue
51 Third Street
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.
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.
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
Capital Region rockabilly scene
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’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
Best Unknown Metal Band
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 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
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
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
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.
Im back: Paddy Kilrain.
Photo by John Whipple
Solo Acoustic (Female)
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)
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
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
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 (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
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
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 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
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
Best Country Act
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.
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
Best Chinese Pop Poetry Band
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Best Vocalist (Male)
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)
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.
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
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
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.
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.
2. Cryin' Out Loud
Local Solo Musician
2. Mike Grosshandler
Live Music Venue
Dance Club/Dance Night
Ferry St. Pub
2. Fuller Roadhouse
2. Crossgates 18
Albany Institute of History & Art
Local Performing Arts Organization
2. Capital Repertory Theater
Local Visual Artist
2. Shannon Homer
Michael Swantek & Justin Maine
2. Mascucci Brothers
2. John Swantek