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Best of Arts & Entertainment

by The Staff on July 24, 2014 · 3 comments


Best Museum

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.

They always were the best. With the major expansion/renovation of the Clark grounds and campus, there’s just a lot more to love.

Best Art Gallery

The Foundry for Art Design + Culture

119 Remsen St., Cohoes

The Foundry’s art and events gallery is a classic white space, with stone floors (and the building’s original bank vault) but the exhibits it hosts tend toward the cutting-edge of innovation, with a notable inclusion of illustration, print, and conceptual graphics. In addition to artist talks and showings, the Foundry also throws the most interesting cocktail parties in town.

Best Exhibit

G.E. Presents: the Mystery of the Albany Mummies

Albany institute of History and Art

Years in the making, this epic five-part exhibit revealed the life and times, and the afterlives, of AIHA’s iconic mummies, from their mummification in Ancient Egypt to their 1909 acquisition by the museum, augmented by several galleries’ worth of fascinating artifacts. In addition to the exhibit’s impressive scholarship was the creepy thrill of discovering the identity of sculptor Ankhefenmut–and then seeing him in the 1,000-year-old flesh.

Best Exhibit (Large)

Xu Bing’s Phoenix


Bigger is not always better when it comes to contemporary installation art. But, goddam, Phoenix was pretty friggin huge and pretty friggin amazing. Assembled from recycled materials, the two mythic birds literally rose from the ashes to dominate MASS MoCA’s biggest gallery space this past year. Turns out the whole thing might ultimately be dwarfed by the venue’s planned expansion.

Best Outdoor Public Art: Play Me I'm Yours, photo by Ann Morrow

Best Outdoor Public Art

Play Me I’m Yours

Various locations, Downtown Albany

They are works of art, crafted by a roster of local artists, and they are real pianos. People play them. Concert pianists play them. Kids play at playing them. This year’s Sculpture in Streets series is not only beautifying and edifying, it’s also really fun.

Best Family Museum


15 Nott Terrace Heights, Schenectady

The reinvention of the Schenectady Museum as miSci worked. Their fun and educational programs are a delight to kids of all ages.

Best Sailing Museum

The Onrust

Authentically crafted in Schenectady County, the Onrust is a replica of the first trading ship built in America, a 17th-century single-mast vessel commissioned by Capt. Adriaen Block, who was responsible for the founding of Albany. The historically accurate Onrust sails the region’s rivers as an ambassador for the Dutch heritage of New York, while carrying a message of environmental awareness. Visitors are welcome aboard at the many riverfront events it attends, or by special tour.

Best Broadway Experience


432 State St., Schenectady

Everything Proctors did to get to this point—mainly, updating their physical plant and innovating how they market and present their shows—has paid off. They’re the top.

Best Theater Company


41 Cross St., Hudson

The Stageworks production Stockholm earned raves in The New York Times (and Metroland, of course), and broke new ground for the region.

Best Outdoor Theater

Park Playhouse

Washington Park Lakehouse, Albany

As our critic James Yeara like to point out, Park Playhouse has evolved into something truly adventurous and special.

Best Dance Company

Maude Baum & Company Dance Theatre

eba Theater, Hudson Avenue and Lark Street, Albany

Sure, Maude Baum and eba are a community mainstay in the heart of Lark Street, but they’re still vital—and popular—as a dance company.

Best Local Author

Shane Jones

He got us with Light Boxes and then recently killed it with Crystal Eaters. We heart Mr. Jones.

Best Cinema

Spectrum 8 Theatres

290 Delaware Ave., Albany

Great programming, first-class exhibition, HD theater presentations, one-night special events and that killer snack bar: the Spectrum is still the one.

Best Mall Cinema

Rotterdam Square Cinema 7

93 W. Campbell Road, Schenectady

This stadium-seating multiplex has Sony 4K Digital Projectors and provides a fine moviegoing experience. We dare you to sit in the D-Box chair.

Best Film Series

Palace Theatre

19 Clinton Ave., Albany

The best presentation of any classic film series, hands down. Why? Showmanship!

Best Indie Film Programming

Time and Space Limited

434 Columbia St., Hudson

Month after month, TSL programs the kind of compelling documentaries, foreign films and American indie cinema that just don’t get widely exhibited any more.

Best Local Film

Little Bi Peep

Starring and written by 21-year-old Anna Shields, directed by Jon Cring, and featuring a cast of Capital Region actors and locations, this micro-budget comedic drama achieved a trifecta of screenings, with showings at the Palace, Proctors, and the Madison. It was also accepted into a dozen film festivals, from Atlantic City (where it won Best Comedy Feature, Best Director, and Best Actress) to Brussels. What judges and audiences have most praised the film for is its sincere and youthful take on sexual identity, and its offbeat humor.

Best Multi-Use Venue

Basilica Hudson

110 S. Front St., Hudson

Add white-box gallery space to the list of ongoing additions to the repurposed multi-use space. Basilica Hudson is making it up as they go and they’re making it work, throwing boundary-pushing concert events—and their annual Basilica Soundscape festival—dance performances, literary readings, film screenings, etc. We love watching this place grow.

Best Club Scene

The Low Beat and Pauly’s Hotel

335-337 Central Ave., Albany

Howard Glassman didn’t dwell on the loss of perennial “Best Rock Club” Valentine’s. He set up shop at the Low Beat, right next door to Pauly’s Hotel, and the two venues have jump-started a rock renaissance on Central Avenue. The venues have been joining forces for special events but any given night of the weekend, you’re likely to find the two scenes mingling, growing, collaborating.

Best New Club

The Hollow Bar + Kitchen

79 N. Pearl St., Albany

The Hollow has done more than rebrand and reboot since its days as the Bayou Café. They’ve upped their game considerably in the last year, bringing top-notch local and national bands to the kind of downtown nightspot Albany deserves.

Best Rock Club (Small)

The Half Moon

48 South Front St., Hudson

The Half Moon is what a small rock club ought to be (and feels a bit reminiscent of the old Valentine’s, come to think of it). The stage is on the floor. There’s a pool table and a patio. The walls of the bathrooms are chalkboards. And, most importantly, the booking is adventurous. Here’s hoping their calendar fills in a bit and northern audiences start taking notice.

Best Rock Club (Large)

Upstate Concert Hall

1208 Route 146, Clifton Park

This is the kind of room rock & roll was made for. It’s the only regional stop for national-touring bands that haven’t yet been LiveNationed-to-death by SPAC and the Times Union Center. The sound is great, the lights are bright and you still get that big-show vibe, even when you’re close enough to the stage to get sweat on.

Best Concert Venue (Intimate with Great Pub Food)

The Ale House

680 River St., Troy

Push back the tables and chairs, slide in the band and let rock and roll live. The type of venue that we can only hope will endure forever. National and local bookings from rockabilly to Celtic to jam band to rock The Ale House is a Troy institution that only grows more endearing with time. Great pub food to. Try their world renowned wings!

Best New Performance Venue

The Barn Stage

56 Second st., Albany

On the ground floor of the former St. Joseph’s Academy, which the Albany Barn converted to loft apartments and work space for artists, is the Barn Stage, its performance venue. A traditional black-box theater, just small enough to retain intimacy yet big enough for a variety of performing arts, it’s made even more audience-friendly by its upper-level balcony gallery and buffet space.

Best Concert Series

Alive @ Five

Jennings Landing, Corning Preserve, Albany

We used to cringe when we typed in the summer Alive at Five schedule, riddled with nearly dead classic rock icons and ’90s one-hit wonders. But this year, the city seriously upped their game, booking interesting and diverse acts to Albany’s underappreciated waterfront.

Best Band


What the Capital Region music scene may lack in its cultural clout, it makes up for in diversity. With so many micro-scenes filling area clubs on a given weekend, it’s rare when one act transcends their niche status to become both representative of the region and attuned to sounds from beyond. Having risen in a year’s time from laptop experimentalists to east coast tour veterans, electro-pop duo Titanics fit the bill—all the bills. In not quite fitting anywhere locally, they’ve crafted a set that works in the company of rock, psych and electronica, while remaining uncompromised in their unique vision. If that isn’t superlative, we don’t know what is.

Best Rock Band

Wild Adriatic

Repeat winners in this category, Wild Adriatic have grown into a force of nature. They’re the best big-stage rock band this region has seen in quite a while, headlining most of the local street fests and outdoor concert series. For shorthand, we’ll just call them Best Rock Band. If band battles were still the way these things were decided, we’d put our money on these guys up against just about anyone.

Best Post-Rock Band


Theirs is the kind of stuff that’s most often associated with Iceland and/or high-school football teams from Texas. Triangulate between Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky and you’ll find lastdayshining, whose slow-build post-rock is as patient as it is crushing.

Best Indie-Rock Band

Hand Habits

In the age of Ableton, Fender should be paying Meg Duffy handsomely for what she does with a good old fashioned electric guitar. With a touch of tremolo and a healthy scoop of reverb, Duffy’s work on the six-string will seduce you and break your heart all before she even starts to sing.

Best Folk-Rock Band

The Lucky Jukebox Brigade

There aren’t enough available hyphens to adequately describe what the Lucky Jukebox Brigade actually do, so folk-folk will have to suffice. They’re a band who rehearse like a theater troupe and perform like a sideshow act, and their new record Familiar Fevers reads like a novel.

Best Americana Band

Eastbound Jesus

Americana as a genre encapsulates elements of country, folk, bluegrass and rock, but it’s ultimately just good-time music that makes you want to have a beer. And there ain’t no better beer-drinking band in these parts than Eastbound Jesus, who have graduated to ever-larger stages this past year.

Best New Act

Bell’s Roar

Synthesizing bedroom pop, guitar rock, hip-hop and upbeat R&B, Sean Desiree debuted her Bell’s Roar project earlier this summer. The record and her evolving stage show have helped carve out a vibrant queer scene within local independent music while delivering some banging dance parties.

Best Party Band

Rival Galaxies

Strobe lights and confetti cannons make the world a better place. Just ask Matt Ferguson, whose latest synth-rock band picks up where his last left off. Ever wonder what astronauts listen to late-night on the international space station? These guys.

Best Jam Band

Mister F

One part prog-rock, one part live-electronica, Mister F are a cross-pollination of Timbre Coup and Capital Zen, whose recent debut The F Stands Four represents the best of what the local jam band scene has become. These guys have alien-intelligence-level chops and will make you dance in time signatures you can’t even count.

Best Blues Band

Sly Fox and the Hustlers

These local favorites feature some of the areas best players. Funky, blues soaked and powerful this horn driven outfit is sure to get the party rockin. A throwback to another era, the Capital Region is blessed to have such great talent.

Best Progressive Post-Hardcore Band

Restless Streets

Local fan favorites for a few years now these road warriors are teaching the younger bands how this should be done. Do it because you love it. Get on the road and tour to the masses. Always helping younger bands along the way. Their legacy will be one that will be tough to match in this genre.

Best Cover Band (Classic Rock)

Emerald City

The cream of the crop in the 70’s and 80’s when they first ruled the Capital Region these local rock veterans careers have spanned 5 decades. Covering the classics (Allman Brothers,.Beatles, Clapton) is not an easy task without the greatest players this market has ever seen

Best Metal Band

The Final Sleep

Members of this progressive metal juggernaut featuring some of the greats from the 90’s hardcore scene (Dying Breed, Withstand, Burning Human, Held Under) sound like they immigrated from the Nordics. They don’t perform much so when they do don’t miss them. Music this good is a blessing not to be missed.

Best Hardcore Band

Brick By Brick

These scene veterans led by Bogies Impressario Mike Valente (a 20 year veteran of the Albany/Troy hardcore scene). Capturing the brutal sound of the old NYC hardcore movement these road warriors never seem to slow down. Whether they are recently on tour with Biohazard through Canada, playing huge hardcore fest in NYC or manning the stages here locally Brick By Brick keeps the faith and crushing vibe alive.

Best Ernie Williams Award for the Hardest Working Band


The omnipresent Mirk are performing at The New York State Plaza one night, Alive at 5 the next, Lark Street the next, Pearl street the next. Saratoga . . . don’t fret they will be there over the weekend. This amazing R & B/pop/hip hop/soul band are what you call a working band. They are bringing the funk to the people. Everywhere!!!

Best Cover Band

Diva and the Dirty Boys

The Beatles, Cream and Jefferson Airplane share a set list with Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, the Traveling Wilburys and Amy Winehouse.  Singer Lisa Gordon’s range (in terms of both octaves and genres) is remarkable, and she’s backed by some of the area’s finest musical veterans.  They’ve got a handful of interesting originals too.

Best Cover Band (Instrumental)

Dr. Magnum

Fine, we’re being cheeky here. But so are Dr.Magnum. The guitar-led soul-jazz quartet are hardly a conventional barroom cover band. Instead, the group have reimagined tunes by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Nas and Madvillain. Just don’t yell for “Freebird” (like, ever).

Best World Music

Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde

La Banda Rebelde are repeat winners in this category and the recently revamped band deserve the honor again as they ready the release of their new record Fruit of Hope. Uncompromising as always in her political outlook, frontwoman Taina Asili continues to synthesize world rhythms and bi-lingual lyrics, crafting music that is potent on the stage and in our community.

Best Hip-Hop DJ

DJ Trumastr

Beat*Shot founder, scene champion, tireless turntablist, DJ Trumastr is the selectah with the most respect in these parts. From touring with J-Live to soundtracking your cousin’s bar mitzvah, Trumastr’s mix is always on point.

Best Rapper(s)

Giant Gorilla Dog Thing

We doubt that Dezmatic and Dood Computer will mind sharing the honor this year, since the two lyricists are at their best when they’ve got each other’s back. As Giant Gorilla Dog Thing, the duo released Horse this spring. From the beats to the music videos, the record is a beast, but most vicious are the two-headed monster manning the mic.

Best Hip-Hop Producer

Big Malk

Big Malk has done his fair share of rhyming but it’s his work with the sampler that really stands out. This spring he released the Actuator EP with elsphinx and Sime Gezus. Like any great beatsmith, Big Malk’s crate is deep and his ear is sharp.

Best Ambient/Noise

Moon Magick

Technically, they call it “ambient dream psych,” but Moon Magick create music ethereal enough to dissolve most conventional genre descriptors. At turns foreboding and entrancing, the duo’s cassette-only debut situates itself nicely on the brink between esoteric experimentation and easy-listening ambiance.

Best Moment

Valentine’s Closing Singalong

There was no better way to mark the end of an era than when Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned led a sing-along of “I Am the Past” on Valentine’s closing night last fall. Here’s to the future of local music in Albany.


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