ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
and Francine Clark Art Institute
South St., Williamstown, Mass.
could chronicle the impressive shows they’ve hosted earlier in the
year, but we need only mention their current blockbuster: Picasso
Looks at Degas. Add this to their permanent collection, the
concerts, lectures, film screenings, and family programs, and the
Clark is unbeatable.
Museum (Cultural History)
York State Museum
State Plaza, Albany
museum is justly celebrated for its superb children’s programming,
but the NYSM has always, through timely exhibits and engaging lectures,
been tuned into the cultural history of New York. Recent programming,
including shows about the suffragette movement and the Soap Box
Derby, has enriched this rewarding mission.
Young Tang Teaching Museum & Gallery
College, Saratoga Springs
are tough all over, but the Tang has continued to offer dazzling
shows like the recent Fred Tomaselli retrospective, while offering
lectures, family programs and concerts that serve to connect with
the larger community outside the campus walls.
183, Stockbridge, Mass.
might think that a museum that was built around one artist’s body
of work might have a limited scope. With the Norman Rockwell Museum,
this is simply not the case. The ever-changing exhibits of Rockwell’s
art—like the current Rockwell and the Movies—reflect a curatorial
scrutiny that other, similar museums could learn from.
Emerging Curator: Emily Zimmerman.
Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media & Performing Arts Center,
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy
Curatorial Assistant at RPI’s EMPAC, Emily Zimmerman demonstrated
her potential with her first show, Slow Wave: Seeing Sleep.
A graduate of Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies, she showed her
training by deftly presenting a multimedia exhibition in an unconventional
space. Her next exhibition is currently in the planning stages and
we look forward to it with great anticipation.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Marshall St., North Adams, Mass.
hard to compete with MASS MoCA in this category. Since it opened
in 1999 it has consistently offered world-class exhibitions and
programming. The space alone is worth a visit, as it shows just
how industrial places can be converted into cultural centers that
can transform the economy of the community as well as encourage
development and tourism throughout the region.
Haddad Gallery and Carrie Haddad Photographs
Warren St. and 318 Warren St., Hudson
opposite ends of Warren Street, Carrie Haddad’s galleries are venues
for the many talented artists that live and work in the Hudson Valley.
Her gallery spaces are unpretentious and inviting and her exhibitions
have been increasingly engaging, particularly at her photography
gallery. Her own enthusiasm for art is palpable, making her galleries
seem more welcoming than at most commercial spaces. If you are an
art lover, take note that her prices are quite reasonable.
Academy Arts Center
in a tiny rural village in Columbia County, the Academy presents
concerts, readings, workshops, classes, and exhibitions. This out
of the way location is worth the drive. Their monthly exhibitions
of primarily regional artists are well displayed in their building,
a Greek Revival schoolhouse built in 1847 that is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
Community Arts Center
& Space Limited
Columbia St., Hudson
to its website, TSL has been “expanding minds since 1973.” Located
off the main drag of Warren Street where the Time & Space Theatre
Company moved in 1991 from New York City, TSL is celebrating its
20th year at this location as a community arts organization with
a mission to educate, enliven, and expand the artistic quality of
life in the community it serves. TSL presents original theater and
multi-media productions, movies, music, dance, community forums,
youth programs, and art exhibitions. In addition it has begun broadcasting
live simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and the National Theatre
of London and has for three years been producing free outdoor movies
at the Pocket Park, and the Hudson Harbor Fest.
Gallery at the Nott Memorial
College, 807 Union St., Schenectady
Mandeville gallery is located on the second floor of the Nott Memorial,
a spectacular 16-sided and domed Victorian building that is a national
historic landmark. The gallery is a circular space that displays
changing exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as exhibitions
that address history and that demonstrate links between the arts
and sciences. Like all good college and university galleries, it
uses the many resources available on campus to highlight various
disciplines and timely ideas. The exhibitions are creatively designed
to make the best use of the unusual space in order to enhance the
pieces on display.
Delaware Ave., Albany
perennial winner. Astute, varied programming combined with a first-class
cinemagoing experience equals “best.” And, yes, their snack bar
is still tops, too. It’s a destination cinema for the entire region.
Neighborhood Movie Theater
Madison Ave., Albany
than any of the other urban multiplexes, the Madison is primarily
a neighborhood cinema. Sit outside at the coffee shop next door
and people-watch: On weekend afternoons, you’ll see parents dropping
off kids to see the latest animated 3-D comedy; on any evening,
you’ll see college-age patrons lining up.
Movie Theater Resurrection
the longtime owner of the Crandell passed away, many feared that
the classic small-town cinema, which opened in the silent film era,
would never reopen. Serendipity, however, led to the folks from
the Chatham Film Club taking over—and the Crandell’s back open for
Drive-in Movie Theater
Rt. 9W Coxsackie
may seem antique, quaint or novel to those who have the misfortune
of residing outside of the Capital Region but here we have an embarrassment
of riches when it comes to places to watch movies outside on the
big screen while sitting in our automobiles. But our favorite is
the Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre in Coxsackie. It is worth the drive
to check out the joint’s four screens, and choose between the plethora
of double features. Inception and Predators, Salt
and Grown Ups, Toy Story 3 and Sorcerer’s Apprentice—there
is something for everyone. Sometimes the interesting pairings alone
make it worth the trip and the $8 admission.
Clinton Ave., Albany
Palace does it right: classic films in 35MM prints, with trailers,
the odd cartoon, and admission (and concession stand) prices that
are recession friendly. The best bargain in town.
Real Big Film Experience
Theatre at Proctors
State St., Schenectady
let those faux, digital, extra-price large-screen pretenders fool
you. The iWerks presentation at the GE Theatre at Proctors is the
real deal, in the glorious 70MM format. There’s no better way to
visit the moon or see dinosaurs come alive.
might say the Albany Symphony doesn’t have much competition and,
no slight intended to the many fine community symphonies, you’d
be right. But that’s not the point. The high quality of what David
Alan Miller and the ASO accomplish is worthy of recognition.
Chamber Music Series (Fall-Winter)
Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy
Chromatics Concerts will begin their 114th season in two months,
but we’re not giving them this award for longevity. They may have
scaled back the number of concerts they present thanks to the Great
Recession, but they’ve kept up the quality of the performers they
Chamber Music Series (Summer)
Chamber Music Festival
Little Theater, SPAC, Saratoga Springs
SCMF has always benefitted by drawing from the best musicians of
the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as the ace soloists who come
to perform with them. But they also bring in high-quality chamber
ensembles, too. And the Spa Little Theater is a lovely house.
George Carter Road, Becket, Mass,
the best. The best setting, the best programming, the most beautiful
grounds and a wonderful sense of history. If you’re going to a performance,
plan a day-long visit around it.
Sinopoli Dance Company
perennial winner, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, stays on top
with quality performances at their home base, the Egg, and around
the Capital Region. We also take note of their collaborations with
musicians and storytellers, and site-specific works presented in
International Arts Festival
bigger than anything else around, this year’s festival celebrating
the life and times of composer Alban Berg may be the best edition
Community Performing Arts Center
E. Main St., Cambridge
Hall represents community arts at their very best. Their recent
expansion into the old Cambridge freight yard was an impressive
community-driven improvement project. They excel at networking with
other organizations, from the farmers market to the Music From Salem
chamber music series. And they respond to community interest with
their programming, which now includes an array of workshops, a quality
theater company, dance education and programming, and music events
in multiple historic and state-of-the-art performance spaces.
Activist Community Arts Center: Sanctuary for Independent
Activist Community Arts Center
Sanctuary for Independent Media
6th Ave., Troy
folks at the Sanctuary for Independent Media are constantly bucking
the system with their revolutionary community media arts programming.
They draw world-class artists and activists to their humble Troy
location and persistently and passionately challenge us local folks
to question the staus quo.
King Art Center
Pleasant Hill Road, Mountainville
King Art Center is renowned not just as one of the best sculpture
parks of the Hudson Valley, but one of the best in the world. Their
500 acres of rolling fields and woodland are home to monumental
works in steel, stone and earth by the likes of Richard Serra, Andy
Goldsworthy, David Smith and Maya Lin.
Underground Artists’ Hub
Tape and Label Building
any moment, down by the port, in the Greenbush Tape and Label Building,
creativity is happening. The historic industrial building is studio
space and sometimes home for a crew of emerging artists and musicians,
with the resurrected Marketplace Gallery at its core. And art, often
unexpected, radiates from here through the area’s buildings, streets
and abandoned spaces.
Improv Troupe: The Mop & Bucket Company.
Mop & Bucket Company
They can ad lib a full-length musical from audience suggestions
one night, go head-to-head with competitive Theatresports another,
and shape a story out of audience-created Play-Doh characters during
intermission. Whatever they’re up to, their audiences are in for
a dose of spontaneous hilarity.
Theatre Company (Classics)
E. Main St., Stockbridge, Mass.
82 years, the Berkshire Theater Festival continues to eschew box-office-friendly
light entertainment for significant and challenging works—their
current season tackles everything from Beckett to Macbeth.
And they do so with able artisty that imbues the classics with fresh
Theatre Company (Developmental)
Union St., Pittsfield, Mass.
Stage has produced a dozen world-premiers in less than a decade,
and workshopped even more new works, many of which have moved on
to stages on and off Broadway to great acclaim (including two Tony
Awards and a Top 10 pick by the Boston Globe). Their dedication
and success with new works has evolved in the last few years with
the creation of their Musical Theater Lab and Stage 2, and we look
forward to what’s to come.
Staged Reading Series
No. 10 Theatre, 500 Western Ave., Albany
many theater companies present staged readings as a side dish (including
star-studded offerings from the major summer festivals), for the
folks at Theater Voices, staged readings are their main fair. They
consistently deliver powerful performances of important works, full
of talent and free of charge.
York State Writers Institute
University at Albany
fall, the New York State Writers Institute celebrated its 25th year
of supporting the literary arts and a couple of friends decided
to drop by—Mario Cuomo and Doris Kearns Goodwin. By now, the organization
founded on author William Kennedy’s MacArthur grant has grown used
to hosting this kind of celebrity. The past couple seasons of the
Visiting Writers Series have seen readings from Richard Russo, Lorrie
Moore, Paul Krugman and Don DeLillo, appearances the Institute continues
to offer free-of-cost.
Music Club (North)
Putnam St., Saratoga Springs
were skeptical when we heard about a venue going into the old Backstreet
Billiards space, but boy did Putnam Den blew away our expectations.
The sound system is crystal clear and the stage is spacious and
high (but not too high), such that you can enjoy a show from anywhere
in the space. A most welcome addition to the downtown Saratoga music
Concert Venue (Rock)
It ain’t rock & roll unless the balcony bounces when the audience
Concert Venue (Grab Bag)
State Plaza, Albany
love, love, love the Egg. The Lewis A. Swyer Theatre is an intimate
room; we have fond memories of seeing numerous jazz and folk shows
there. (And Ralph Nader, but that’s another story.) The Kitty Carlisle
Hart Theatre is much larger than the Swyer, but also retains a surprising
level of intimacy—with lovely acoustics. And both venues are wrapped
in a concrete egg. Amazing.
Venue Worth A Drive (Massachusetts)
Pearl St., Northampton, Mass.
this one time we went to Pearl Street for one show (Mogwai) and
like there was this other show downstairs (Electric Six) that we
would have been equally happy seeing and we were like, “F-you Northampton
for rocking so many awesome shows at once. Why doesn’t Albany rock
the shows like you do?” But then we realized we were seeing Mogwai
upstairs in the gorgeous ballroom and everything was OK again. No
need to take our meds. And the drive to gorgeous Northampton always
makes things sweeter.
Venue Worth A Drive (Connecticut)
miles away, just beyond the Berkshires in the snug little town of
Norfolk, lies this meticulously refurbished 1883 vaudeville hall,
with 300 seats, tables on the balcony, a bar and bistro downstairs.
The booking is getting increasingly diverse and aggressive.
Venue, Past Tense
River St., Troy
that awesome club in Troy with the handsome wood floors the spectacular
balcony, the acoustics to die for? Whatever happened to that club?
Can we have it back please? We want to go to there.
Venue, With Hope for a Brighter Tomorrow
Madison Ave., Albany
Lark has been shuttered since a fire gutted the building in early
May, but the outpouring of community support for Tess and her staff
that followed was inspiring, an inevitable return of karmic spirit.
Whether the Tavern reopens at its original location or elsewhere,
we look forward to its return.
The debate, or lack thereof, over whether or not Railbird were deserving
of a second consecutive Best Band designation went a little like
this: “Have you seen them play recently? Fuck.” The Saratoga
Springs outfit show marked improvement every time we catch them
and, judging by previews we’ve heard of the out-there material from
their upcoming LP, their writing has caught up, or at least fallen
in sync, with their considerable instrumental and ensemble prowess.
Railbird is intimidatingly good.
After a decade in which hipsters with synthesizers dominated the
musical landscape and imminent collapse appeared on the political
horizon, we’re gunning for a cleansing by fire in 2010. Someone
needs to lead the revolution, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be
Coldplay. So we’re putting our ducats in punk-rock: Featuring veterans
of bands like Trauma School Dropouts and the Erotics, the Dirty
Stayouts are a tough but smart trio, playing hungry, 1981-style
punk. Joe Queer of the Queers (who produced the band’s debut CD)
reportedly called it “Black Flag meets Motorhead.” We call it music
to start a riot to.
This time last year, we projected that it would be “only a matter
of time before Albany [was] just another date on the tour itinerary”
for Saratoga’s Phantogram. We’re happy to say we were correct: The
last 12 months have brought a Barsuk Records debut, plenty of blog
love, and international, high-visibility tours with the likes of
the xx and the Antlers. This all means less frequent trips home
for the duo, but we’re more than happy to see them out there representing
the Capital Region on the national and, yes, world stage.
Tee-hee, tee-hee . . .
Singer Tommy Love has a 35-year history of fronting local acts,
including Blue Machine, his recent classic-rock tribute band featuring
members of Super 400. But despite the history, it still seems like
Love beamed down to Troy from outer space, a time traveler from
the hip-shaking, hazy rock & roll scene of the early ’70s. With
a swagger to rival Mick Jagger, and a set of pipes that can pull
off a perfect Robert Plant wail, Love entertains like no other frontman
around (or maybe even from Planet Earth).
Schenectady’s the Viking are prodigious shredders who bash together
prog-core like some of the best national acts around today. From
jazz to sludge, to grind and back again, the Viking play like they
just can’t help themselves. Their shows are crazy like old-school
metal shows used to be, and they’re also well-read. What more can
you ask for in your local metal band?
There are lots of great punk and hardcore bands from around the
Capital Region these days, but our favorite has to be Albany’s Nuclear
Family. A staple on Albany’s killer Loud Punk record label, Nuclear
Family has a frenetic mosh-able energy, cool female-fronted vocals
and relentlessly catchy tunes—all of which make them a great band
to catch live or pick up on wax.
We’ve stuck these guys with the term “prog” before, but we believe,
deep down, that Alta Mira are trying to write anthems. In fact,
upon hearing their debut LP, our first instinct was to compare them
to Albany pop-rockers the Wait, but “with a math problem.” So we’ll
drop the modifier and just call them what they are: a kick-ass rock
Pop Band (Guitars)
Charlie Watts Riots
A long line of great power-pop bands runs through the history of
the Albany music scene, and the Charlie Watts Riots are keeping
the torch bright. The Riots are everything we look for in a guitar-pop
band: Big choruses with melody to spare, guitars that sound like
jet engines, a whip-tight rhythm section, and suits fresh from the
cleaners. Their Long Story Short album is, like many works
of this style, equal parts homage and mission statement—practiced,
polished, and with a lot of punch. Just the way we like it.
Pop Band (Synthesizers)
The Other Head of Science
Last year, we described Beware!’s sound as like a can of root beer
filled with Pop Rocks, poured down the pants of a 7th grader, but
with this year’s debut Big American Godzilla Party it’s clear
they’re really more like said 7th grader let loose on Tokyo.
Mark Gamsjager and his crew are nationally renowned and in-demand
for a reason: They’re simply a top-flight rock & roll band in
the “classic” style. And they’re keeping good company: Rockabilly
legend Wanda Jackson, who the Kings have been backing for the last
five years, has a Jack White-produced “comeback” record on the way.
Dunbar and the Hobo Banned
The nucleus of the B3nson Recording Company, Sgt. Dunbar and the
Hobo Banned have not only shown considerable promise for becoming
a major local export, but a conviction toward making the local music
scene the best it can be. They’ve played, hosted, booked, and organized
more shows with more local and national bands than anyone else we
can think of, but their biggest feat is yet to come. In August,
they’ll be working with WEXT and the Albany Historic Foundation
for the Restoration Festival at St. Joseph’s Church, an event that
seems to sum up everything that they’re about.
World Music (for the Sake of Brevity)
Asili y la Banda Rebelde
A band of Puerto Rican, Greek, Brazilian, Sicilian and Ghanaian
descent who play rock, reggae, Afrocaribbean, Malian and Flamenco
music. If you’ve got to call them anything, just call them good.
Their debut War Cry launched them on a national tour of rock
and hip-hop clubs, international festivals, and political gatherings,
but we get to call them neighbors.
R&B: Mirk and the New Familiars.
R&B (New School)
and the New Familiars
There was a rule at Motown that a hit had to be recognizable in
the first five seconds. Mirk and the New Familiars certainly strive
to be that catchy, but with a decidedly contemporary flavor, full
of hip-hop, horns, and Mirk’s sharp-dressed vocal work.
R&B (Old School)
Solid Smoke abide by the rule that if it ain’t broke, keep playing
those tunes for the rest of your days. Don’t hold the fact that
they’re a cover band against them. These guys have mastered the
funky classics, from Earth, Wind and Fire, to James Brown and Funkadelic.
There might not be such thing as an “Albany sound,” but the name
Brian Patneaude is virtually synonymous with Albany jazz.
Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble
It’s been a weird year for these guys. Just months after releasing
their excellent, much-labored debut Live at the Lark Tavern,
the venue that was their monthly home burned down. Homelessness
hasn’t slowed the 18-piece though, and these guys remain one of
the coolest jazz acts around.
In their short time together as a band so far, the folksy-indie
outfit the Landlines have been making a name for themselves quickly,
in part due to their frequent opening gigs for the stellar Rhode
Island roots-rock band Brown Bird. Featuring former members of 81
Tranzam and the Whiskey Council, and current members of Slick Fitty,
the Landlines are just getting revved up—and we look forward to
seeing where they’re headed.
Tolstrup and Dale Haskell
Although drums aren’t heard in the country blues recordings of the
1920s and early 1930s, that hasn’t stopped skinman Dale Haskell
and acoustic slide-guitarist Mark Tolstrup from forging a formidable
duo serving up Delta classics and Tolstrup’s vintage sounding originals.
Haskell sings lustily in a style informed by Southern rock; Tolstrup
sounds like a modern day Son House. The combination works like a
and the Hedonists
Before Bob Dylan shook things up in the folk world with his celebrated
originals, coffeehouse crooners sang previously owned ballads, blues,
and labor songs. Led by chanteuse extraordinaire Annie Rosen, Annie
and the Hedonists go back to those roots with skillfully arranged
covers of timeless songs from many genres. No folk outfit around
can match them.
With All Fours, Swamp Baby made good on the promise of a
knotworking-Orange spin-off collaboration that has existed strictly
on the stage these past couple years. Recorded in an old church,
the disc injects droning electric guitars, hovering fiddle and spooky
electronics into Nick Matulis’ ambient acoustic material. Haunting
in the best sort of way.
With last year’s Animals Are People Too and the full-time
addition of horns and a rhythm section to their ranks, Jen O’Connor
and Eric Krans have outgrown last year’s designation as Best Folk
Duo for something befitting both the new scope of their project
and their back-to-the-land ambitions.
Throwback to 1992
in the Piano
For a few years in the early-’00s, as Nevermind was breaking grunge
to mainstream audiences, it seemed like every type of music that
had been popular up until that point crashed into each other. Bands
like Alice in Chains and Faith No More brought ’70s doom and ’80s
thrash together with pop and psychedelic sensibilities to help birth
the term “alternative rock.” Saratoga’s Skeletons in the Piano sound
like a product of that time, recalling those bands but also the
Melvins and the Doors. Heavy, weird, and way cool.
Throwback to 1962
Your dad might have been in high school when bands that sounded
like the Red Lions were on the radio. And that’s what makes their
peerless chamber pop such a treasure. Eric Margan’s deft ensemble
arrangements make even his most grandiose statements feel intimate;
his songs seem to be written with no mind to any of the popular
music this century, which makes it all the more hip in our book.
Composer and instrumentalist Holland Hopson has been a contributor
to the region’s avant-garde music scene for the better part of 20
year—whether it’s vocal excursions that meld Gregorian chant and
Dada, or soprano sax forays that come pretty close to “straight-up”
jazz, the breadth and range of this iconoclast’s musical journey
has always been intriguing, albeit way outside of the box. Hopson’s
recent blending of traditional tunes (performed with vocals and
banjo) and subtle electronics has turned him into one of the area’s
most mesmerizing and memorable live performers. Catch him if you
can, as his local shows tend to be few and far between.
The guy’s studied with the best and has been playing jazz gigs in
town forever, but don’t try to pin his style down. His long-awaited
debut Angel Dust proved that George can shred metal, classical
and funk as well as jazz.
Be ye warned: Jason Cosco’s noise experiments, either solo as 1983
or with Grab Ass, are not for the faint of heart. This is the skull-crushing,
spine-tingling hard shit, but it’s incredibly rewarding if you let
it fully infect you.
Granted, father-son musical combos are fairly rare, but Troy’s Tichy
Boys would get top honors in the category even if father-son acts
were a dime a dozen. Featuring professor-of-rock-and-roll Dr. John
Tichy—founding member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen—and
his son Graham, a guitar virtuoso in his own right, the duo combine
a lifetime of musical knowledge with all the vim and vigor of a
couple of young rockabilly cats.
For those bands that like recording music somewhere other than their
bedrooms, the Capital Region is home to a number of great production
studios. And this year it got one more when New York legend Don
Fury opened his new facility in Troy. Fury’s resume, which includes
legions of hardcore classics, makes him an appealing co-conspirator
for national acts as well as locals. Everybody wins!
We’ve seen a few area bands secure record deals in recent months,
perhaps none more deserved than the one Sirsy inked with Tucson,
Ariz., label Funzalo Records. Not only does the band’s hard work
pay off in increased national exposure, but they’re now just one
degree of separation from Radiohead—as part of the Funzalo deal,
their latest album was remixed by Paul Kolderie, the guy who produced
Pablo Honey. Upgrade!
Bands in the Garage
This is the work of some very cool and somewhat sneaky librarians,
hosting rock shows on the loading dock at the Albany Public Library’s
main branch. First get the kids to rock and then maybe they’ll read.
From symphony orchestras to Japanese noise rock bands, world-class
hip-hop DJs to guys playing pianos with teddy bears, the EMPAC music
programming is borderline schizophrenic—which makes the venue one
of the coolest places to see a show. No matter your expectations,
every performance is a surprise.