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Eighth Step Set to Reopen in Proctor’s


The Eighth Step, Albany’s longtime acoustic music venue that in recent years had been operating without a permanent location, will reopen this autumn in Proctor’s GE Theatre in Schenectady, Proctor’s announced in an April 19 press release.

Margie Rosenkranz, the Eighth Step’s director, said in a phone interview, “I’m excited about this not only for the obvious opportunity for the Step, but I’m excited also because Proctor’s is so supportive of the independent arts.”

The fall schedule lists the Sheila Jordan Jazz Trio on Oct. 6; a 40th-anniversary concert on Oct. 20; Woodstock 1969 opener Richie Havens on Dec. 8; and many others.

Founded in 1967, the Eighth Step is the nation’s oldest nonprofit folk coffeehouse (Caffe Lena, the other old local bastion of acoustic music, opened in 1960 but did not become a nonprofit until 1990 following the passing of its founder, Lena Spencer). In its heyday at the First Presbyterian Church (at Willett and State streets in Albany), the Step presented folk music, country blues, old-time Appalachian, bluegrass, Celtic, singer-songwriters, women’s music, and more (disclosure: I was a regular Step performer and Webmaster of their site). Marquee performers included Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Ani DiFranco, and John Gorka.

But in 2000, the church asked the Step to vacate its home of more than 30 years, and the coffeehouse spent its next two seasons in the Cohoes Music Hall. Hard times dogged the establishment again in 2003 when they lost a turf battle with a theater group vying for the same space, and had to leave.

For the next few years, the Eighth Step was at low ebb, presenting infrequent shows at local colleges, Albany’s Steamer No. 10 Theatre, and also the state education building as it looked for a permanent location. Now the Step will give concerts under Proctor’s auspices in the 425-seat GE Theatre in the Proctor’s Arcade, and also offer smaller shows at Upstairs at 440, a 120-seat venue in a former Oddfellows Hall at nearby 440 State St. (both sites currently are under construction). The Step will have full autonomy in its choice of programming, and will continue to feature, among other acts, politically edgy performers other venues might shy away from.

Sarah Craig, manager of Caffe Lena, welcomed the Step’s reemergence, saying, “It takes a strong network of good presenters to keep a healthy folk scene alive.”

Tickets will be sold not only through the Proctor’s box office, but also the Step’s longstanding ticket outlets: the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza; the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, Market Block Books in Troy, the Open Door in Schenectady, the Green Grocer in Clifton Park, and Celtic Treasures in Saratoga Springs. The Eighth Step’s current Web address is, and the phone number is 434-1703.

—Glenn Weiser

Rachael Ray at Valentine’s? How Cool Is That?

Last Saturday night, TV personality, chef and magazine entrepreneur (and Capital Region native) Rachael Ray was spotted at Valentine’s in Albany (we assume she was there to support her husband, John Cusimano, when his band, the Cringe, took the downstairs stage). This photo of Ray, pictured with DJ Jezebel in Hell (from Valentine’s biweekly dance party, Original Sin) and a patron, was submitted by Original Sin co-promoter DJ Feral.

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