Category Archives: concerts

Mountain Jam, 2015

10426562_10153351556722889_5769053083587712742_nI’ve been doing the Mountain Jam thing for a few years now and really feel like I’ve got this music fest under control. I know how to get to the event, where to park and the best landmarks for meeting my friends. I understand and accept that there will be red mud and rain at least one of the days and that the sun always shines when Michael Franti plays. I got this. For those who may not have had the good fortune to attend MJ2015, let me share some of my impressions from this year’s festival.

• Grace Potter is always an energetic and enthusiastic performer. I particularly enjoyed “Turntable” and her rip through “Cinnamon Girl.”  The complete setlist is here.

• I’ve had mixed Robert Plant experiences, but amazingly enough he’s gotten better each time I’ve seen him. How’s that for longevity? That 66 y/o rock and roll icon was so smoking hot that he compelled me to drop an f-bomb when I captioned an Instagram shot of him. I had no other word to describe the thrill of seeing him rock once again. Prepare to be impressed by this setlist!

• Gov’t Mule’s Dark Side of the Mule inspired me to stay on the Mountain far later than ever before – it was definitely pushing 2:00 a.m. before we headed for the gates. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but Warren and the band (including 3 phenomenal female back-up singers) killed it. I hope to experience this spectacle again and my respect for the band has gone through the roof.

• The food and beverages in which I indulged were all of good quality and fairly priced. I was impressed by the sausage stand’s commitment to checking the internal temperature on their offerings prior to selling and thought $6 for a big cup of cider was more than reasonable. Take note, SPAC!

• Saturday’s headliner was the dynamic duo, The Black Keys. I’m most familiar with their junior Kimbrough tribute album, Chulahoma, as well as 2011’s El Camino. Well, these guys absolutely rock! The drums/guitar combination is always my favorite and watching these two play was unbelievable. I’d do that again in a heartbeat.

• Unlike other large musical gatherings I’ve attended, there was zero drama or aggression in this crowd.  It was soooo mellow and pleasant.

• I already talked about Sunday on the mountain, but I wanted to add a note about Warren Haynes joining Franti and Spearhead during their set. What a treat it was to see Haynes play three consecutive days! And, his range – from Pink Floyd to jammy originals to Franti…wow! I even finally got a few good pictures of him, too.

  • Check out all my photos here.

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Filed under concerts, favorites, Music, road trips, SEEN

Mountain Jam packed with good vibes

Have you ever had a day when the universe lets you know that you must be doing something right? You know, everything just goes your way, from the weather to the drive to the food you eat and the people you meet..every single thing just goes your way. For me, that was yesterday in a nutshell.

My day began a little bleary after two consecutive late nights (more on those in another post), but I fortified myself, and the guys, with French toast with strawberries and bacon, along with coffee. Lots of coffee. I refused to rush, but still managed to get some necessary chores done, read the paper and mow the lawn before heading south for my third day of music on the mountain.

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I found myself with an unexpected opportunity to have a friend join me and immediately thought of my Franti-loving, Lunar B#tch friend, Chrissy. I knew she was on the road, heading north after some time spent with friends, and figured Mountain Jam might be the perfect pit stop – and it was. We texted and talked and put an impromptu plan together, including parking coordination and where to meet on the inside. And it all worked. Perfectly, in fact.

Franti was his consistent dose of sunshine and good vibes and the crowd was fantastic. Being in the pit to shoot photos has ruined me for all future shows, I’m afraid. It’s going to be like returning to coach after being bumped up to first class on an international flight. The other photographers were all friendly and cooperative as we moved around the area, each taking our shots and making way for one another. Security was cool, too, and there were no harsh voices to be heard. Amazing, just like the set Alabama Shakes laid down after Franti. Mercy, Brittany Howard takes no prisoners! She didn’t hold an iota back and I am so glad I got to experience this band live. If you have the chance – do it. No regrets, I promise.

I took hundreds of pictures this weekend and every single person I interacted with was pleasant and happy and totally cool. There were smiles and laughs as far as the camera and eye could see. It was one of those magical times when I couldn’t stop myself from continually wondering “How did I ever get to live this life?”

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Filed under concerts, Events, favorites, friends, Music, road trips, upstate New York

Cool moms rock

imageIn 2001, I accepted a librarian position at Mohonasen High School. Although I only remained in the district for three years (the position which I currently hold became available and I had to go for it), I made some wonderful friends, worked with some cool students and was introduced to some great music. One English teacher, if you can imagine, during my brief tenure exposed me to Jeff Buckley, Wilco and the White Stripes. Talk about getting an education!

My middle son was a toddler when I got a bootleg of the White Stripes’ Elephant and the song Seven Nation Army quickly became one of the songs he always requested in the car. Repeatedly, of course. It didn’t matter because I wanted to hear it, too. Loud.

Fast forward a dozen years or so, New York City, that same son and I walking up 7th Avenue. We were on our way to catch Jack White at Madison Square Garden… My son is tall, maybe 6’1″ and he looks comfortable. It’s the third weekend in January that he’s been in the city and it shows in his confident stride. He’s got a new phrase he’s been running recently, “you be you,” he says.  I love it.

I think I was 15 at my first show at the Garden, just like he is. Unlike Griffin, I never went to a rock show with my mother, not even in my imagination. Never. I understand that taking your kid to an adult-ish sort of venue can define one as a “cool” mom, and it’s a term I’m okay with except for the fact that I think it’s too small of a name.

You see, I take my kid(s) places that we both want to go because I’m a person who has interests. When my sons and I share experiences together we always learn something – about each other, ourselves, something. I love my sons, even adore them at times, but they aren’t my entire world.  They’re who I want to share my world with.  That’s what I want my children to take away from our outings and shows, trips and vacations.

As far as Friday night’s show in NYC, it was very much like time spent with my guys – really fun and not quite as much as I would have liked.  Absolutely memorable.

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Filed under Boys, concerts, family, moms, NYC, relationships, travel

I think the cops are watching me…

…and I’m okay with that. My usual running route is a 5-mile loop around New Scotland Avenue and Whitehall Road. Often I see a police cruiser drive past, usually more than once, and I always feel reassured by their presence. It’s comforting to know that there are police officers around observing the neighborhood and keeping an eye on things. This is what I expect from public safety officers.

Image of properly parked car: alloveralbany.com

Sunday night, following the Ray Lamontagne show at the Palace, my friend and I returned to her car which was parked on North Pearl Street. It had been a long day and we were both ready to head home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t simply get in the car and go because Chrissy’s car was double parked in its space. She leaned on the horn, hoping the other driver was nearby, but there was no response. We waited.

After about 5 minutes, during which time 2 police cars drove past, I called 911 to explain the problem. I know, I know, it wasn’t an emergency, but it did seem the fastest way to get some assistance especially since the drive-by cops weren’t responsive. The dispatcher was pleasant and said they’d look into the situation. We waited.

I got out of the car to look around, noticing there were 3 police vehicles parked slightly down the block behind us. I gave the car next to us a second look and realized it was probably an unmarked police car. Hmmm. Looking to the nearby storefronts, I spotted the glow of flashlights in a nearby (closed) business, Buddha Tea House. I went closer and peeked in the window. Yep, lots of cops. I knocked on the window and got the attention of an officer. At the same moment, the man who owned the car behind us arrived and quickly pulled out, enabling us to do the same.

Okay, I know being trapped in a parking space isn’t tragic. There certainly are worse things that can happen, like this for instance. Still, it bothers me that our law enforcement officers thoughtlessly inconvenience residents and visitors. If the situation were an obvious emergency one, fine, but that did not appear to be the case.

So, the cops are watching me and maybe I’m watching them.

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Local, musings, Rant

Mountain (without the) Jam

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Aloysius

Last year’s memories of Mountain Jam are a bit tainted. I’d had a really rough morning, thanks to my middle son, and my early afternoon proved that the day could, in fact, become even worse. As always, my friends pulled me through that day and were once again on hand this year to replace any previous negative associations with laughter – and beer.

Unlike previous years, the weather was spectacular. I think this May have been the first time I attended this show wearing anything other than rain boots. We successfully smuggled some sunscreen in and I do not regret my criminal decision. I would have fried without repeated doses of #30.

Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson

The music was great! Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes) has a new project and I appreciated their set more than I had enjoyed his band when I saw them last. Sean Lennon performed with his band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, and while I may not have been familiar with his band, it was really cool watching the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono making music. He’s definitely rocking his father’s look and vibe.

Sean Lennon

Sean Lennon

As far as Michael Franti goes – well, sign me up to be a member of his church. He preaches good vibes, positivity and love and I’m a believer. He is one of the most inspiring and alive performers I have ever seen and this show was awesome. Musical joy. The Allman Brothers played a super set of rock and roll. As always, their songs seemed to have risen up from some dank mud which also happened to have bred the blues and jazz.  While we didn’t stay for their encore, we did hit the road satiated and completely satisfied with our day.

Michael Franti

Michael Franti

A couple of random things –

  • Security was pretty strict and did not permit food or aerosol cans to be brought in.  A bit of a bummer for those on a budget or who had packed cans of sunscreen.
  • I ate a delicious bratwurst sandwich, with everything, thank you very much.  And an ice  cream sundae!  Beers were reasonably priced ($6 for decent drafts) and a full bar within the lodge was also available.
  • Offered as continued evidence that it is indeed a small world, I ran into not one but, two, guys I knew from when I was married.  I hadn’t seen either in years and it was more pleasant than awkward.

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Filed under Aloysius, beer, concerts, friends, Music, road trips, upstate New York

Two Step while trying not to step in anything disgusting

628x471For the second year in a row my middle son and I went to both nights of the Dave Matthews Band’s pretty much annual stop at SPAC.  As always, Carter smiled continuously as he banged the drums and Dave praised the crowd and venue.  We had a good time and I got some great crowd photos in the parking lots prior to the shows.  We ran into some people we knew and even made some new friends.  It was fun and I imagine we’ll do it again next time the band is in town.  By then, I hope to have erased some of the less pleasant parts of this year’s shows.

I haven’t kept track of how many times I’ve seen DMB, but seeing that it was Griffin’s 6th show, I imagine I’ve got somewhere between 12-15 shows under my belt.  I grew up taking the bus into the city for shows at the Garden and consider myself a concert veteran, but there’s always something new to see, right?  Take that man’s penis, for instance.  What a shocker that was!  I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never before stood in line next to someone who was pissing into a red solo cup – and I hope to never repeat that experience.  The close up of a stranger’s not so privates may have been a blessing in disguise because when that woman on the lawn threw her skirt up and prepared to pull her underwear down to pee on the lawn in front of everyone, it wasn’t that traumatic for me.

Now, urine aside, the only other bodily fluid which made an appearance was vomit.  Fortunately, I missed seeing that (re)enter the world, but I became aware of it after someone near me on the lawn stepped in it.  Situations like this completely validate my decision to always wear closed shoes, often rain boots, at outdoor concerts.

Now – the good stuff!  We met some awesomely friendly people while taking photos, including two adorable hula hooping pixies who were so pleased with the photo I took Friday that they sought me out on Saturday to reward me with a hug.  Sweet!  I also ran into one of my favorite parents from school and finally met her collaborator in creating 4 fabulous kids.  That kind of made my night.

As far as the music goes, the set lists were epic and I’m so glad we went both nights because we heard nearly every song we had hoped to hear.  The transitions between songs was flawless and the flute solos provided a fresher sound than the sometimes (to me) tedious violin solos.  Highlights were #41, the acoustic What Would You Say, and pretty much the entire second set on Saturday night.

Towards the end of Saturday night I looked around at the crowd and concluded that pretty much everyone would end the night by either fighting, having sex or falling asleep.  Me?  I slept well.

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Filed under concerts, Music, Observations, Saratoga, SEEN, SPAC, upstate New York

The sky was dry but it rained the blues

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Missed my camera – big time!

I did it.  After 25 years of living in Albany, I finally made it up to SPAC to take in some of the Freihofer’s Jazz Fest this weekend.  Wow!  So, that’s what it’s like to be treated like an adult at an event at SPAC.  Bravo!

I promise this isn’t going to be an anti-Live Nation rant, but, I have to acknowledge how much more pleasant an experience this concert was than the typical rock show at SPAC.  I mean, for Pete’s sake, they were giving away cookies.  When was the last time Live Nation gave you anything other than a firm pat down?  The bottled water was literally half the price we paid a week prior at the Tom Petty show and the beers were similarly discounted.  I think premium drafts were $6.50.

We were freely allowed to bring in snacks and beverages of our own choosing and cameras were also permitted without the ridiculous stipulation a la Live Nation, that those with removable lenses are not allowed.  I left my Nikon at home, fearing rain, but took about a million mental pictures of the beautifully diverse crowd doing their thing with tarps, blankets, martini glasses and elaborate food preparations.

We drove through a deluge in Albany to arrive at a miraculously and vaguely sunny venue .  Apparently Saratoga had a mere drizzle and we guaranteed that things would remain dry by remembering to bring our umbrellas through the Charlie gate. We snagged a spot on the lawn, enjoying the sounds of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and relaxing into the peaceful Sunday afternoon vibe.

The legendary Tony Bennett, at the ripe old age of 86(!), put on an unforgettably lovely show.  Seeing him was a once in a lifetime opportunity and he impressed me with the strength of voice, his physical appearance and the tremendous class he exuded.  They don’t make them like that anymore!  It was a true thrill to be in the audience while he performed.

Buddy Guy closed the show in a downpour of soulful blues and thunderous guitar licks.  Holy crap – that man is 76 years-old and he smoked it.  There was no calling it in – he simply killed it.  The songs he chose to play highlighted the family tree of guitar players with which any modern music lover is familiar – Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, each of whom made virtual appearances on the stage.

Among all the veteran musicians playing, there was also a beacon of the future present.  Fourteen-year-old Quinn Sullivan, of New Bedford, MA, ripped it up playing along side of the masterful Guy.  His playing reminded me of Clapton, but his stage presence was all Derek Trucks.  The future looks bright.

The biggest thrill of the night for me was when the remarkably nimble Buddy Guy came down into the audience and I anticipated where he would ultimately end up – right in front of me.  Like, I could have touched him if I was one of those people who invades the personal space of someone.  I was giddy.  Great show, great company, great night.

Those taut arms, way up high on the right?  Yep, mine!

Those taut arms, way up high on the right? Yep, mine!

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Filed under concerts, Events, Music, Saratoga, SPAC, Summer