photo by Leif Zurmuhlen
choose a category:
to readers: The Best Of selections were
compiled by Metroland staff members;
Readers’ Poll results can be found at the end
of each section. In addition, the best answers
to our free-form Readers’ Poll questions appear
under the heading "You Said It."
Ongoing Insult to Local Artists
in the Streets
we say “best” here, we of course don’t mean “best.” What we
mean to say is “worst.” As in worst damn sculptures we’ve
ever seen littering the streets of downtown Albany, or worst
simulation of what life is like in American cities, or worst
attempt to breathe life and/or personality into downtown.
We are grateful that this is the last year the city of Albany
has contracted with the organization that distributes those
hideously “lifelike” statues by New Jersey sculptor J. Seward
Johnson. And we hope—no, make that pray—that perhaps next
year, if we’re really, really nice to Mayor Jerry Jennings
and his cronies, they will spend the 40 grand usually dished
out to Johnson to create a showcase for local visual artists
Museum of Contemporary Art
Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
the number of top-notch museums within easy driving distance
of the Capital Region, singling out one as the best is a difficult
task. However, MASS MoCA’s presentation of visual, performing
and media arts has been consistently engaging and thought-provoking.
The curatorial approach, which embraces risk (the current
exhibit, for example, Game Show, includes a collaboration
of artist Sophie Calle and novelist Paul Auster that the museum
itself terms “bizarre and convoluted”) will have even the
normally modern-art-averse discussing what they’ve seen—and
that’s what it’s all about.
Teaching Museum and Gallery
College, Broadway, Saratoga Springs
was controversy surrounding the Tang even before the doors
opened: Architect Antoine Predock’s building was attacked
by Saratoga writer James Kunstler as being completely inappropriate
to the conservative Skidmore campus (Kunstler referred to
it sarcastically in an e-mail newsletter as the “temple of
the cutting edge,” a reference to both the building’s sharp
angles and the art therein). Director Charles Stainback and
curator Ian Berry aren’t deterred by the criticism, though,
believing as they do that an important part of the function
of successful art is to generate discussion and community
involvement. So, in addition to an impressive permanent collection,
the Tang features works by such artists as Laurie Anderson
and Vik Muniz in well- conceived shows sure to do just that.
1/2 Warren St., Hudson
better way to view art? Stroll in off the street into a lovingly
renovated, clean and well-lit space in a storefront of a charming,
historic building in an equally charming (though in an admittedly
gritty way), historic downtown. Browse the ever-changing exhibitions
of photography, sculpture and digital imagery inside until
you reach the back of the gallery and . . . voila! A beautiful,
compact sculpture garden tucked between the main building
and the gallery’s carriage house. Expect to find works by
such locals as playwright-artist-mayoral candidate Linda Mussmann
and sci-fi, avant-garde digital-image-maker Vincent Bilotta,
in addition to those of a diverse selection of accomplished
sculptors and painters from across the country.
Old Art Gallery in a New Space
Center Galleries at the Albany Public Library
Washington Ave., Albany
fretted when we heard that the Albany Center Galleries was
going to have to find a new location because the city planned
to sell the Monroe Street building it called home for 14 years.
We worried that the Galleries wouldn’t find a suitable space
to do what it has done so well since it was founded by the
late Les Urbach nearly a quarter of a century ago. But fortunately,
our minds were set at ease this past March when we learned
that our favorite art gallery had found a new home at the
Albany Public Library. The 40-by-40 foot exhibition room is
nowhere near as large as the two massive floors of space the
Galleries had at the old location, but every time we visit,
we know the mission of the ACG (not to mention the spirit
of Urbach) is still alive. Space restrictions aside, the organization
still does a mighty fine job curating, hanging and displaying
the best and the brightest artists—both emerging and established—of
the Mohawk-Hudson region.
Use of Public Space as an Art Gallery
Albany International Airport Gallery
young but already a mainstay, despite psychological barriers
caused by typical airport conundrums. Not only is this light-flooded,
glass-divided arena a perfect exhibition space, it has fabulous
exhibitions showing regional, contemporary art (including
wonderful site-specific installations), area museum collections
and travelling national exhibits of regional interest. And
it reaches hordes of all types of people.
East Village Gallery in the North
Hudson Ave., Albany
the exhibitions are still in a nascent stage, this place has
got the vibe. Miles Davis pouring out and around, through
the narrow gallery, bouncing off the visual art along the
walls and out on to the street. And poetry readings, too.
Delaware Ave., Albany
megaplex may have Jurassic Park III showing on three
screens, but the Spectrum has taste, which translates into
the best first-run movie booking in the region. While the
theater does mix in some mainstream Hollywood fare to subsidize
its more adventurous offerings, the steady stream of indie,
foreign and otherwise non-mainstream films is what keeps loyal
cinephiles coming back week after week. The theaters are human-scale
and comfy, ticket prices are reasonable, and the concession—well,
let’s just say that you should save room for dessert.
Honorable mention: Triplex Cinema (Great Barrington,
Mass.) deserves props for opening little-known indies before
anyone else in the region.
Second-Run Movie Theater
State St., Schenectady
this era when movies hit video five minutes after they finish
their first run in theaters, the idea of second-run movies
seems positively archaic. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a pleasure
to see second-run flicks in an archaic space like Proctor’s—a
gorgeously restored archaic space, that is. We love the low
prices for tickets and concessions, we love the fact that
the abundant seating gives us room to stretch out, and we
love that the programmers mix art-house flicks in with studio
fare. So save us the aisle seat!
Color us happily surprised that we had ample reason to create
this category, what with festivals thriving in Lake Placid,
Woodstock and other areas. While some of these festivals are
expensive propositions catering to would-be filmmakers, FilmColumbia
is still designed for movie buffs, so it’s an affordable opportunity
to see cool new and/or out-there stuff. The festival locked
its win last year by bringing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
to the Capital Region months before it hit theaters, and by
continually finding ways to help the big-time filmmakers who
live out Columbia County way mix with local cinemaniacs. Keep
an eye out for details about this year’s event.
& Space Limited
Columbia St., Hudson
addition to its myriad other efforts to stimulate and celebrate
provocative art, TSL has consistently presented an eclectic
schedule of classic-film screenings, meet-the-filmmaker events,
and even tasty attractions like screenings of silent films
accompanied by live, original scores. We dig TSL’s commitment
to serious cinema, and to Hudson Valley artistes such as Rudy
Wurlitzer and Monte Hellman, both of whom have shown and discussed
their work at TSL.
Resource for Local Filmmakers
Now under the friendly leadership of Tom Mercer and Penny
Perkins, this inclusive organization provides great networking
opportunities through which would-be Spielbergs can hobnob
with industry professionals and semi-professionals. We’re
anxious for UI to unveil its new location (it has met at the
Albany Borders for years), and we’re anxious to see the organization’s
long-promised improvements to its Web site; both moves reflect
the growth and member loyalty that keep UI vital.
area theater can boast the record of top-flight actors (journeymen,
craftsmen and justly famous), new plays, writers-in-residence
and production values that the WTF can. In the past year alone,
four of its productions have transferred to Broadway and off-Broadway.
And it has just served as a workshop space for one of the
funniest comedies we’ve seen in a very long time, Diva.
Add to that the fact that Arthur Miller has been in residence
here, and well, does one really need to go on?
Educational Theater Company
York State Theater Institute
Other theaters have educational programs, but NYSTI is a company
that was founded with a mission to bring the best theater
possible to young audiences.
Honorable mention: Berkshire Theatre Festival for its
multitude of educational programs, including one that supplies
top-notch seats at no charge for students attending its shows.
(Main Stage and Nikos Stage)
The intimacy of the Nikos stage is a perfect trying ground
for new works, while the main stage simply has one of the
most comfortable and accessible auditoriums—and then there
are the stages and fly galleries, which seem to grant limitless
possibilities to top designers. Let’s hope that the Williams
College renovations and new buildings don’t ruin these essential
spaces. Hell, WTF’s stages even have the right theater fragrance—a
very subtle mix of greasepaint, spices and flowers.
Community Theater Venue
Hamilton St., Albany
downtown gem in Albany’s Robinson Square, Zu-Zu’s is home
to belly dancing, yoga, two very distinct improv groups, staged
readings, local films, and original stage plays and musicals.
“Intimate” and “cozy” define the space. Zu-Zu’s Wonderful
Warehouse has a little bit for everyone, and great desserts,
too. It’s off-off-Broadway ambiance without the need to wear
all black or the worry about the parking.
Local Off-Off-Broadway Venue
Funky, strange and challenging, its limited runs should always
be checked out. You don’t need to head out to LaMama or Ludlow
Street for cutting-edge performance art: Proctor’s Too, at
Union College’s Yuhlman’s Theatre, brings the best of performance
art and small-troupe conceptual work to the area. Unfortunately,
it doesn’t do it often or long enough for most people to fully
Bloom has been at the Williamstown Theatre Festival for the
past five seasons and has offered astute, emotionally accessible
and utterly truthful performances for as many years. Whether
in a lead or a supporting role, Bloom all but disappears into
the multitude of characters he has created with consummate
craft. Few, if any, actors in these parts can boast such a
record. An unsung hero, he is due his recognition. Anderson
does it all, from Steamer No. 10’s simple children’s fare
to Curtain Call Theatre’s Fallstock plays to StageWorks’ contemporary
plays to Capital Rep’s middlebrow comedies to short-form improv
to Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies. And he does it, to borrow
the words of another critic, “as only as he can.” Anderson
works everywhere, and you’ll always see him act the character,
not just perform the lines and blocking.
Warwick’s work at the Berkshire Theatre Festival is a fine
counterpart to that of last year’s winner, Eric Hill. Last
year he gave us the gritty, realistic prison drama Coyote
on a Fence; this year he has shown his versatility and
directed an airy, charming and very adroit version of H.M.S.
Pinafore. A very classy fellow.
Pillow Dance Festival
dance mecca of the Berskshires continues to be tops in our
estimation, not only for its summerlong seasons of dance performance
by internationally renowned troupes—on two stages, three if
you count the free performances and demos on the Inside/Out
space—but also because it fosters and commissions the creation
of new work, and brings arts-in-ed programs to area schools.
Not to mention the fact that it’s a willing collaborator with
other organizations to further the cause of dance.
New Dance Venue
International Dance Center
many years in the planning, the first phase of the dance center
that has been the dream of founders Gregory Cary, Bentley
Roton, Kevin McKenzie and Martine van Hamel is complete and
up and running at a former horse farm in the Catskill-region
town of Tivoli. The $1.9 million Studio Complex is a gorgeous
building with three studios, one that’s also equipped to be
used as a 160-seat theater. Immediate future plans include
the construction of a dancers’ lodge to house the dancers
and choreographers who come to the center to create new material
Sinopoli Dance Company
Admittedly, the competition in this category isn’t exactly
stiff, but Sinopoli’s modern troupe deserves our accolades
because for the past 10 years it has continued to grow and
improve artistically, consistently presenting high-quality
work. Dancers from far and wide now come to audition for the
troupe, and the company is constantly stretching its boundaries
by finding new collaborators, performance venues and opportunities,
including a residency this year at Kaatsbaan.
Since 1971, Greenfield Review Press has published a sparkling
list of diverse multicultural fiction, nonfiction and poetry,
as well as recordings. The authors are African, African-American,
Arab-American, Asian-American, Native American, Caribbean
and Chicano. This plucky, socially engaged press survives
in an economy dominated by giant corporate publishers and
megabookstores, and has earned a national reputation.
As D.T. Max of the Paris Review once said, reading
Stephen Millhauser is like “watching a 3-year-old playing
alone.” As Max implied, it seems Millhauser can forget himself
in his writing and weave intricate worlds of fancy and fantasy
out of the sticks and rocks and bits of mental clutter that
he finds strewn across the literary wasteland. Unlike lots
of authors writing contemporary fiction these days, Millhauser
doesn’t just churn this stuff out. He crafts it painstakingly
and carefully, and, much like a 3-year-old child, he loses
himself in the delicate business of constructing the alternate
realities into which he—not to mention we—can become lost.
We are honored to call him one of our own.
Ed Sanders has been writing poetry since he went swimming
in pursuit of a U.S. nuclear submarine 40 years ago. Though
he’s still infamous for his 1960s folk-rock band the Fugs,
Sanders’ recent work is a literary endeavor that involves
transforming history into verse. The Woodstock bard’s multivolume
epic, America: A History in Verse, and his long memorial
poem, The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg, are written
from a zone where history and poetry dynamically intersect.
is a guy who once filed an assault charge against himself
as an art project. His endless fascination with identity formation
seems a wellspring of inspiration resulting in conceptual
installation pieces and psychological spaces, such as The
Last Library (Kosovo Requiem), the chilling Sarajevo-inspired
library room in the 1999 Mohawk-Hudson Regional. Or, more
recently, Taken: 1[degree] the photograph, 2[degree] the
confession, conceived for the University Art Museum exhibition,
“Searching the Criminal Body.” Both of which, by the way,
were nothing short of brilliant.
A deeply talented band with an equally gifted support posse,
who collectively churned out an astonishing body of recordings,
video and instant-classic, old-school promotional posters
over the past year. Not to mention playing some amazing concerts:
Getting your ass kicked has never felt as good as it does
when the Axe’s D.J. Miller, Jimbo Burton and Tom Hall are
the ones giving you the boot. Add the trio’s inscrutable public
persona and hellacious Fourth of July parties to the mix,
and you’ve got as complete a package as you’re likely to find
in these parts—even if it does contain a letter bomb.
We love hearing the Wait on the radio all the time, and we
love listening to the CDs whenever we can, but the thing that
really gets us excited when we think about the band
formerly known as Sonorous is the way that we feel when we
see them in concert. The Wait’s shows are the kinds of events
that make you believe in rock & roll in all the
ways that your adult cynicism won’t normally allow. Props
to Brendan Pendergast, Ryan Barnum, Scott Livingston, Mark
Connor and Art Pierce for letting us watching them grow up
on stage—and for doing it so goddamned compellingly.
The whole concept of “one voice, one guitar” has seldom rocked
as hard as it does when Paddy Kilrain throws down in concert,
laying her soul out for all to inspect, then making damn sure
that you pay attention to it. But there’s more: Her last album
was a wonder, with Kamikaze Hearts and others stepping in
to create one of the most unique-sounding records ever produced
hereabouts. Or thereabouts, for that matter.
Boone Blues Band
Singer-guitarist Boone and his cohorts have snagged this prize
before, but what caught our attention this year was the group’s
scathing new album, Stranger in My Hometown, which
captures how Boone’s from-the-gut vocals and piercing leads
interact with the passionate musicianship of his four sidemen.
The George Boone Band play the real shit: angry, raw and tough
While we don’t like to think of ourselves as morbid, the continuity
between this year’s Best Band Name, Men Without Heads, and
last year’s, Lincoln Money Shot, is pretty obvious. We can’t
guarantee that next year’s winner will reference decapitation,
but we must admit curiosity about what other shout-outs to
the cranium-challenged will be conjured by local rockers.
Best Country Band
Back 40 Band
Last year, this tuneful quintet won the Sunrise Award, which
recognizes career advancement, from the Northeast Country
Music Association; this year, they got to open Countryfest,
a huge outdoor concert featuring such A-listers as Diamond
Rio and Jo Dee Messina. These accomplishments are well-deserved,
because when we caught the Back 40 Band at the recent Northeast
CMA show, they showed off chops to spare. Keep an eye out
for the full-length disc the band say is coming soon.
Best Guitarist (Making a Statement)
Tom Burre’s guitar has six strings, and, yes, he’s playing
chords and writing songs on it, just like all the other guitarists
in town, but somehow the noises that come out of his amp don’t
quite sound like anything we’re heard before, anywhere. Add
an intelligent, exploratory songwriting ethos and a bucket
of vocal techniques that would make a team of Tuvan throat
singers take note, and you’ve got a true trailblazer of sound
Guitarist (Making a Living)
He’s a player’s player, a multitalented musician, equally
adept on acoustic and electric guitar, a bandleader extraordinaire
and a sweet harmony vocalist, and he makes really good people
sound even better when he plays with them. And yet, we locals
often take him for granted because he doesn’t play club dates
hereabouts—choosing instead to play sold-out concert halls
across the country with the likes of Shania Twain, Commander
Cody and Kim Simmonds’ Savoy Brown. Can you spell “envy”?
We thought you could.
We said it last year, and we’ll say it again: Adrian Cohen
is probably the hardest-working, most undersung pianist in
our area. In addition to managing Albany’s newest music venue,
the Larkin, Cohen is keeping his fingers nimble with regular
appearances with his new jazz ensemble. We recommend keeping
an eye on this guy because he’s going places. Though, for
selfish reasons, we kind of hope he’s not.
“What’s a nice instrument like you doing in a place like this?”
It’s not just for David Alan Miller anymore. Or at least not
when Karen Codd is playing it. Her haunting, evocative cello
work has upped the class factor at any number of local dives
over the past year, while also making the already exceptional
songs of Kamikaze Hearts and knotworking sound even better
for her ministrations. More, please.
Best Front Man
got a lot of rock & rollers in town, but we’ve only got
one true rock star, in the person of Arc’s Jack Nemier. He
sings, he dances, he wears a feather boa with his cowboy hat,
he talks, he yells, he hoots, he plays a beast of a bass and
he strums a mean guitar, and he makes you stop what you’re
doing so that you can pay attention to what he’s doing, whenever
and wherever he does it. And, best of all, he knows that a
great front man needs a great band—and Dave DeMott and Andy
Hearn fit that ticket, and how.
hits ’em hard. Sometimes, he hits ’em with a mustache drawn
on his face. Sometimes, he turns his kit sideways, for effect.
Always, he hits the kit till it screams and yells—in synchronicity
with bandmate Stephen Gaylord. Always, he is great.
can’t tell you with any confidence whether Richard’s laconic
playing style and stripped-down kit are the result of a doctrinaire
less-is-more musical aesthetic, or a pragmatic less-is-a-whole-lot-easier-to-carry
philosophy. Either way, we’re more than impressed with what
the Kamikaze Hearts’ drummer-vocalist is able to pull out
of a single snare drum.
Whenever we see Melick in his signature pajama-like outfits,
we know that whatever band he’s playing with—his regular gig
is with the McKrells, but he pops up in all sorts of places—will
benefit from his melodic, restrained and innovative rhythms
and decorations, whether he’s banging out a beat on bongos,
shaping delicate flourishes on chimes, or, as we saw him do
once, slapping out a rhythm by using a chair as an instrument.
Cohen’s easy ability to transition through styles—jazz, rock,
funk, other—is evidenced by the variety of bands for whom
he’s played: tollbooth, Mitch Elrod’s Hick Engine Ears, the
Erftones and the Weasels (the Weasels would be the “other,”
by the way), just to name a few. He’s fluid without being
noodly, powerful without being over-obvious, and funky without
being, well, you know, funky.
To segregate Elrod’s skills into categories seems to miss
the point somewhat, as his approach to his craft seems unusually
holistic. It would be easy, therefore, to regard his vocal
cords as just another instrument employed in pursuit of expression.
But, fact is, Elrod’s vocals are unusually expressive. His
soulful singing incorporates all the wizened melancholy of
blues, the exploratory phrasing of jazz scat, and the ecstatic
melodicism of white gospel. And that’s a mouthful.
Well, like, duh! Nick, you keep playin’, we’ll keep putting
you in here.
The Kamikaze Hearts have morphed a bit since winning last
year’s Best New Band category, replacing the upright bass
with cello, and the fine-tuning is a great boon. The Hearts
may now be the area’s sole practitioners of alt-chamber-folk
(with a nod to both slowcore and bluegrass): With guitar,
brushed snare, cello, mandolin and great three-part harmonies,
the Hearts have found the perfect sonic palette to paint songs
that are literate and poetic, passionate and wry.
One of the most woefully under-recorded bands of the area
(so far there is no commercially available product) the Day
Jobs are nonetheless our favorite local example of the pop
idiom—as the word is understood by the Brits. We’re talking
about the post-punk, Beatles/Big Star-inflected, hook-rich
stuff referred to on this side of the pond as power pop. The
addition of ex-Lughead guitarist Nick Ferrandino has given
the outfit extra depth and power, and the rhythm section of
drummer Dan Bell and recently returned original bassist Mike
Delano provide chest-pounding counterpoint to the bright,
melodic inventiveness of singer- guitarist Rich Baldes’ compositions.
Covers, originals, you name it, they got it. Cropseyville’s
hardest-working quartet have tweaked their instrumental attack
of late, working in an upright bass and hollow-body rhythm
guitar that gives their sound more authenticity, and more
variety, than it’s ever had before. Graham Tichy continues
to astound on guitar, while Ian Carlton’s vocals get ever
smokier, ever cooler, as he pushes the ripe old age of twentysomething.
We’d have been dangerous if we’d been that good at
anything when we were these guys’ ages.
Band That Jams
Not jam band, mind you, but band that jams—in the most positive
sense of that word. Funk Squad do just that and then some,
but what they do has more to do with Funkadelic and Jimmy
Smith and James Brown than it does with the Dave Matthews
Band or Phish or the Grateful Dead. And that’s a good thing,
we hope we don’t have to remind you.
Best Metal Band
They keep going . . . and going . . . and going . . . and
we keep listening, except for when they’re touring Europe
Breakthrough Waiting to Happen
For God’s sake, you record industry fools, will you wake the
fuck up and make these guys the rock stars that they so obviously
deserve to be? All it’s gonna take is a decent contract and
some decent promotion—and then the Clay People will take it
from there, and run with it further than just about anyone
else is going to, here, there, or anywhere.
Best Punk Band
After taking “flat-out punk rock” as far as it could go, the
Albany quartet switched gears by going back to punk’s earliest
beginnings in pub rock—and replacing Loud Fast Rules with
raucous Irish singalongs. Dublin-worthy originals and zippy
interpretations of traditional tunes prove that for these
blitzkrieg boyos, the wearing of the green is a perfect fit.
Best Solo Artist
The ever-intriguing Ayers, who creates entire netherworlds
with only her sylvan voice and a computer, took a big step
forward with the bewitching Sylvatica. Ayers’ intuitive
explorations of mood, momentum and the mysteries of nature
make her the match of any electronic soloist anywhere. If
only we could catch one of her rare live appearances . . .
Best Glam-Rock band
Vinyl pants, feather boas, lipstick and lingerie—no, this
ain’t the contents of the duffel in Tom Cruise’s closet, it’s
just some of the reasons the Erotics are so entertaining.
Combining the fierce musical simplicity of the New York Dolls
with the theatrical excess of Hanoi Rocks, the Erotics are
gonna remind you why rock & roll is so much fun: because
it is really, really ridiculous. Of course, it doesn’t hurt
that the Erotics have got all the crunch and muscle to force
you to take them as seriously as you can take a guy in panties.
Best Jason Martin
For the second year running. Man, can no one stop this guy?
Best Large Band
Torres and the Latin Kings
We have a wealth of great big bands here, but in terms of
originality and productivity, there’s really no contest. This
year Alex and co. released a double CD, Elementos,
and are putting the finishing touches on the next CD, Punto
de Vista. They’re selling CDs all over the globe, and
it’s only a matter of time before they break out, big time.
Best Rock Band
it weren’t for her I’d be another smalltown hardcore burnout
I’d be living at the city mission eating soup and drinking
sterno I’d be leeching like a hippy, lying like a lawyer I’d
be losing like a family man I’d have drank so much by now
they’d have had to take my stomach out be the father of six
children by five women in four different towns got a good
friend travis couldn’t kick the habit till the insides of
his face caved in good friend John couldn’t carry on and he
drowned himself in the bathroom sink and I look to them and
look at you and thank Jesus Christ you’re here I could be
leeching like a hippy, lying like a lawyer I’d be losing like
a family man.”—Beef
Best Indie-Rock band
They make a damn ruckus, pounding out power chords with punk-rock
fury and rock & roll attitude. They just rock. With two
main songwriters—Bob Carlton and Rachael Sunday (and drummer
Joel Lilley has been know to pen a tune or two)—the songs
can vary greatly between Journey- influenced to Ramones-esque.
Throw all that in with the fact that the threesome have been
hard at work making records, playing gigs and touring the
country since their inception in 1994. Dryer are a band who
love being a band. How refreshing.
Knotworking came to our town in the form of Ed Gorch and Mike
Hotter, when the two serendipiditously decided to relocate
here from Kingston. They proceeded to win friends and influence
people, and soon they were the buzz of the town—and deservedly
so. They sing about love and yearning, heartbreak and loss,
and seem to cover all the Neil Young-Whiskeytown-Uncle Tupelo-genre
songs you long for. And recently, they’ve added a few more
instruments—cello, mandolin, bass and drums—to offer an all-out
rock segment for their adoring fans.
Best Alt-Country band
Coal Palace Kings are unstoppable these days—they just keep
getting better and better. Named in these pages as Best Band
to Get Drunk To a few years back—a moniker that still sticks,
by the way—these guys have found their sweet spot. Holding
Husker Dü, the Replacements, Neil Young and the Kings of Country
accountable for their sound and ambition, the fellas in the
band’s current incarnation have been playing together for
a while, and it shows as they pump out song after song about
love, life and death with a slow-burning fury.
Best Record Label
Better known nationally than they are in their own backyard,
Hudson’s Equal Vision Records have released a seemingly endless
stream of high-octane, high-quality material over the years,
introducing an entire generation of young people to the joys
of hardcore, straight-edge style and otherwise. Just be careful
about stage diving off your couch when you listen.
Clinton Ave., Albany
some are partial to the cavernous Pepsi Arena, and others
love the sprawling outdoorsiness of SPAC, for us there is
nothing sweeter than being able to see one of our favorite
artists at the Palace Theatre. We love the retro marquis,
and the classic architecture makes us feel more dignified
when the security guards are frisking us for contraband items.
The setting itself is regal enough for a symphony, yet laid-back
enough for a rock show. And best of all, there’s not a bad
seat in the house. And you know what that means: no TV monitors
necessary, because you’ve got a clear view to the stage no
matter where you sit.
Outdoor Concert Venue
McDonald Music Haven Stage
parking, a wonderful hill to rest on, nice ice cream vendors,
great sound, grass, sunshine, nature, music. What’s not to
love? Especially for those of us who endured too many years
of sitting on the asphalt in front of Central Park’s old stage.
Club Venue (ambience)
Country Commons, Clifton Park
it’s in a strip mall, and yeah, that mall is in Clifton Park,
but we don’t hold the location against this professionally
operated showcase. With an 850-person capacity and an open-minded
booking policy, it’s the closest thing yet to a replacement
for the late, great J.B. Scott’s. Sight lines are clear from
every angle, the sound is reliably good-to-excellent, and
the air- conditioning actually works. What else does a patron
need? Just one more thing, and NL has it: A side bar to alleviate
drink-order overflow at the club’s frequently jam-packed performances.
Club VENUE (Booking)
New Scotland Ave., Albany
has had some rough spots over the past few years, but owner
Howard Glassman has ridden out the storm, coming out the other
side smelling like a flower that resembles the smell of guy
who owns a bar—or something. And when it comes to booking,
Valentine’s still books the heavy hitters: Guided By Voices,
Frank Black, Alejandro Escovedo, Grant Hart and Young Fresh
Fellows, to name but a few. And the club has the added benefit
of offering a larger stage upstairs and a smaller one downstairs,
where local bands and acoustic shows fit right in to the homey
atmosphere. On any given week, you’d be hard pressed to not
like something happening at Valentine’s.
Best Club Venue (Twilight Zone)
on a rolling rural route in the Berkshires, perched atop a
little rise, sits the Dream-Away Lodge: tavern, restaurant,
live-music venue. This is a local watering hole as envisioned
by David Lynch. Catering to year-round locals as well as the
artsy-dancey, high-culture crowd that occupies the Berkshires
in the summer, the Dream-Away is as weird a little cross-community,
petri-dish experiment of a venue as you could wish for. The
Wednesday night open mikes have ’em gathered indoors by the
fireplace and outdoors around the firepit, strumming, singing
and chatting improbably about both the new 3.8 liter in Walt’s
Monte Carlo and the influence of Mark Morris’ Canonic 3/4
Madison Ave., Albany
Wednesday at the Lark Tavern, you can catch both nervous newcomers
and seasoned vets of the local music community testing their
mettle at open mike night: working out the kinks in new material,
stretching their creative legs by performing left-field cover
songs, and yukking it up in ad-hoc alliances. MotherJudge,
Mike Eck, Bryan Thomas, the guys from knotworking and Kamikaze
Hearts, Kevin Maul—even a harp-blowing assemblyman—have all
been seen winging it in the Lark’s back room. So grab your
own noisemaker, head on over and scrawl your name on the legal
Lark St., Albany
labor of love for booking manager Adrian Cohen, the Larkin
has added a fresh blast of jazz, acoustic and alternative
music to the downtown scene. In a nearly forgotten space that
once housed a restaurant frequented by legislators and your
parents, the downstairs has been transformed into a comfy,
more contemporary restaurant and bar, while the upstairs has
been reinvented as an intimate music room where patrons crowd
the tables and actually pay attention to what’s happening
onstage. Thanks to Cohen and the Larkin, the “other” end of
Lark Street is definitely happening again.
Hair of the Dog
The Lawn Sausages
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Spectrum 7 Theatres
Hoyts Crossgates Cinemas
Albany Institute of History
Albany Center Galleries, Fulton Street Gallery (tie)
Performing Arts Organization
Capital Repertory Theatre
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
The Mascucci Brothers