Category Archives: concerts

Music to my ears – Modern English and Albert Cummings

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My new favorite cocktail – Cimarron Tequila,Pear Liqueur, Allspice Dram, Lemon Juice

2017 has been a year of great live performances, with a couple of exceptions. The most recent disappointing musical act I saw was Modern English at The Hollow earlier this month. I was so excited for this throwback band – the timing was ideal (the night before a holiday), I had plenty of friends going and their big single “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” is a classic 80s tune. What could go wrong?

Well, the tickets ($25) said 8:00 and we arrived pretty close to that time only to find the band’s equipment just being loaded into the venue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, some guys got on stage without introduction (that I heard at least) and played a song that was so friggin loud that we left the spot we had nabbed near the back bar and headed to the dining area where we wouldn’t be blasted at an obscene volume. Shortly after they left the stage an opening act came on and played some noise that just didn’t appeal to us, so we left and grabbed a drink at dp’s. Come to think about it, that drink (the Autumn in Jalisco) was probably the best part of the night. Maybe tequila isn’t just for summer.

We went back to The Hollow at about 10:30 and Modern English was just coming on stage. We stood about 20-25 feet back from the stage, but again, the music was damn loud that I just couldn’t deal. By this point, I was pretty much thinking “just play the song so I can go home, please.” They didn’t hear my mental plea, so I left. Too late and too loud = no fun for me.

Now, last night I had a completely different experience. After vowing to not squander an infrequent Saturday night off, my favorite guy and I made a pretty darn spontaneous decision to check out a blues performer downtown at The Upper Room. The space was new to us (I never went to Jillian’s) and had two distinct areas depending upon whether one had purchased general admission tickets ($20 at the door) or made a reservation prior to the show. We weren’t able to get a table so we instead staked out a spot near the railing which divided the sections and had a decent view of the stage and excellent proximity to the bar.

B44FCCA2-7D59-4CF3-B07C-B2C690A38E50Albert Cummings has played around Albany a number of times, but it was our first time seeing him and from start (when we walked past him behind the venue) to finish (when guitar geek guy copped a pick and we complimented the band on their set) it was an awesome show. The sound mix was solid, the volume was on point and the crowd was enthusiastic and fun. I was disappointed by the lack of cider as a beverage option, but the Jack’s Abbey Oktoberfest that we opted for was so very tasty that I had three. Yes, three!

Somehow I missed the fact that The Upper Room was doing a blues series, but there is one more show scheduled for next month and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. The show started on time, the band was tight (that drummer!) and the value in terms of price was terrific. I’ve enjoyed other shows (and meals) at The Hollow and will continue to keep an eye on their events calendar. Multiple entertainment options downtown are a good thing. Now, if we could just get some residents to occupy some of the space above the businesses downtown, we’d really be making progress, Albany.

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Filed under Albany, beer, concerts, drinking, Events, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations

Time is short

I’ve been so busy doing things and going places that I haven’t had a moment to chronicle any of it. It’s kind of getting me frustrated, but that’s how I typically react to not having what I want – in this case more time. I’ve made some notes and I swear I’m going to carve out some time over Thanksgiving break (See what I did there? Carve??) to share things that I’ve seen (an 80s band, some television and a couple of movies), a couple of books that I’ve recently read, some delicious things I’ve enjoyed eating and drinking, a week focused on health maintenance, and a couple of Albany experiences that I was lucky enough to take in. Stay tuned.

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Rickie Lee Jones at the Cohoes Music Hall

Yes, RLJ at the Cohoes Music Hall. I was on the Cape when the tickets went on sale and immediately snatched up six, knowing that it wouldn’t be hard to share them with likeminded friends. You know, people who would also be blown away by the fact that RLJ was playing in a 475 seat venue in our area, even if it is a place that always feels like a firetrap to me.

I’ve seen RLJ a couple of times before and I’m familiar with her reputation for being ah…a bit difficult eccentric. The last time I saw her was maybe 7 or 8 years ago at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie. It was a beautiful venue, but what has stayed with me since that particular show was something Rickie did to one of her percussionists. As I recall, he wasn’t a regular in her band at that time, but was filling in for an absent member. At one point, apparently, he wasn’t playing the little handheld instrument the way she wanted him to. She walked over to him, took the shaker out of his hand and stared him in the eyes as she demonstrated how she wanted it played. It was awkward.

Wednesday night, though, she seemed very pleased with her two band mates, a percussionist and a guitarist. Actually, in general, Rickie seemed to be in a good place, sharing stories and soaking in the love the audience (less than capacity) freely showered upon her. She explained that she preferred to play for small audiences of adorers rather than larger groups who might not really be present for the music. Recalling a story Aloysius had once told me about Rickie leaving the outdoor stage at a show he attended and inviting true fans to follow her to a different, more intimate venue, I took her at her word.

The show was magnificent. Her voice sounded incredible and she retains a control over her instrument which is remarkable. Her setlist was amply stocked with old favorites and more than once she brought me to tears, an experience I don’t have very often at a musical performance. There’s just a raw quality to her work that penetrated that particular evening. I was mesmerized – and not just by the fact that seemed to be wearing the same red velvet Frye boots I scored last month. It was easily my favorite performance of hers ever and I swear it’s going to be one of those shows that becomes legend.

My only criticism goes to the venue’s employees. There was way too much noise being made in the balcony where we were seated as the bar staff broke down their service bar. Buckets of ice being dumped and bottles clanging did not add to the event. What did add to the night, though, was a really good meal pre-show at The Hollow. I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries and look forward to eating there again in a couple of weeks pre-show for the Modern English concert. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Catching a Lyft to see the Shakes

Following what may have been the best June ever and a July that was fantastic, August has started with a bang! Last night I had a primo Albany evening – drinks with friends, a concert that was beyond all expectations and a late night walk around the Empire State Plaza. Plus, there was the bonus of leaving my car at home and relying on Lyft for transportation, a new and welcome option in our area.

Let’s start with my getting a Lyft. I got an email this week offering me up to $100 off of my next 20 rides within a specific time period. Knowing that I’ll be traveling for some of this time, I decided to initiate the offer last night and start saving $. I requested a ride from my home in the DelSo to McGeary’s, where I was meeting friends to pregame before the Alabama Shakes show. My driver arrived in less than 5 minutes and for a discounted total of $4.50 (plus a $3 tip) I was dropped off downtown at my requested destination. Hours later, I paid a similar amount to get from Lark St. back home. Again, the wait for my ride was mere minutes, unlike any time I’ve ever taken a cab in Albany. Total and complete game changer.

The concert was phenomenal. Thanks to the power of Facebook, I scored tickets after appealing to my friends that I needed to see this show. My seats were in the balcony, I had lots of friends in the venue and Albany welcomed the Alabama Shakes with great enthusiasm. I was lucky enough to have seen the band a couple of years ago down at Mountain Jam and their performance last night again demonstrated what a great band they really are. Lead singer and guitarist, Brittany Howard, is a force to witness and her modest, low key personality is a rare thing in the music industry. I absolutely loved the show. Put them on your list to go see next time they come around.

In between Lyfts and the show were a couple of tasty beverages with a group of people who I was happy to mix together. There was a lot of laughter, good conversation, a few tall tales and a stroll around the Capitol on a gorgeous summer night. Oh, August, you’re killing it! Summer, 2017 is turning out to be epic.

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Seeing the whole of the moon – U2 at MetLife

Note the vintage baseball jersey.

I’ve seen U2 a half dozen times, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a show as I was last Wednesday. Every single thing aligned to make for a perfect night – the weather was phenomenal, the company was sublime and our seats exceeded my expectations. The foundation was all in place and Bono and the boys stepped up and provided yet another musical experience to treasure. Unbelievable.

The last U2 show I attended was in Montreal. My middle son and I drove up and had a great night. As had been my previous experiences, the show was fantastic and I was so happy that I had made the effort to get there. While I didn’t imagine it as my last U2 show, it seemed that that was what it would be. After that tour, Bono had a cycling accident that did some damage and then the Edge fell off the stage at the beginning of their next tour. Having no interest in seeing a broken down band, I figured I was done. Until they announced the 30th anniversary tour of the Joshua Tree, that is. Game on.

The Joshua Tree is my favorite all-time album. I fell in love with it during my very first heartbreak. I had gone to the desert to escape and my jet-lagged body walked the streets of Palm Springs with my headphones in place and Walkman in hand. It was magical. I’ve never heard that record without feeling a tide of emotion and the opportunity to see it performed was undeniable. I re-upped my fan club membership and dropped a bunch of money for tickets.

The Lumineers opened and were just fantastic. Our seats were directly across from the stage and the sound was incredible. The temperature was ideal and the tequila buzz was delicious. All systems were go. The message of the night began with a huge display of rolling poems, sobering and inspirational all at once. The huge speakers started to crank out the Waterboy’s The Whole of the Moon and a piece of my mind was blown away. Unimaginable joy.

When the band came out is was, as always for me, like church with the Pope officiating. I feel their music in every part of my physical body. Without question, I am Irish and flawed and optimistic and sad and filled with compassion and hope. There’s no other way to describe it. My favorite songs of the night were the ones I’ve never heard live before – Red Hill Mining Town and One Tree Hill with another nugget, Running to Stand Still, that is my ultimate favorite U2 song. So tasty, so mind blowing.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again, but I’ll never forget the times that I have. I hope everyone reading this has been fortunate enough to connect and be moved by music or art or some other undeniable external force. It’s magic. It’s what makes life glorious.

Setlist here.

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Best of what’s around – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at SPAC

IMG_2024I’ve lost count of a number of things in my life. For instance, I can’t remember if Jeter is 2 ½ or 3 ½ years old. I no longer remember how many times I’ve flown across the Atlantic and while I can count the number of U2 shows I’ve been to (5, soon to be 6!), I can’t for the life of me recall how many times I’ve gone to see the Dave Matthews Band. We’ll leave it at quite a few.

I’ve got memories from some DMB shows that I’d prefer to forget. There was the year a man seated below our balcony seats got urinated on – that was gross. On another occasion rabid fans rushed the back gate at the end of the grassy area behind the vending and out ran the outnumbered security force to gain access to the show. That situation was pretty entertaining to watch, unlike the year the crowd actually pushed through the gates at the back of the amphitheater in an obnoxious show of entitlement and rushed the stage. That was just kind of scary.

Friday night, though? That was all new. First – it was “just” Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, not the entire band. I’d never seen Dave without the band before and I’ve got to say I loved it. Sometimes things get a little too jammy for me when each player takes an extended solo and I really enjoyed the stripped down experience. The setlist   was pretty damn phenomenal and we got lucky with the weather with barely a misty drizzle over the course of the entire evening.

We parked in a different area than usual and the tailgating was absolutely on point. We didn’t see anyone getting out of hand or vomiting, two things I’ve seen far too frequently at DMB shows in the past and everyone was just completely chill. We spent a couple of hours hanging out and achieved the ideal state of…zen, let’s call it zen, before taking the short walk to the gate. We staked out some lawn space, but I know I was never even tempted to sit. It was all about dancing.

FullSizeRenderSpeaking of dancing – we had a fantastic vantage point to take in the writhing mass  of humanity that was the lawn. One guy in particular kept us all entertained with his enthusiasm and sense of rhythm. There were no obnoxious frat boys or bros to be seen and it was almost as if the entire audience had been dosed with something that resulted in pleasant politeness. It’s too bad whatever that was isn’t in the water universally because we could all use more nights like that. It was a perfect Dave show – whether you were a newbie or a veteran of the scene. So. Much. Fun.

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Lola Shine(s) at the Hangar

img_1099I’m not exactly certain how it happened, but February flew right by me. I’m cutting myself some slack since it’s a short month filled with 2 Fabulous Lilly Boy birthdays, a major restaurant holiday and a week of vacation, but still…I wish there were a couple of more days to do even more things.

My last day of vacation, Sunday, was a testament to how crazy I can be. The morning opened with a 10 mile run, which actually went pretty well. There was some downtime midday, defining downtime as loads of laundry and other house chores, and then the Lark + Lily holiday party, which kicked off at 5:00.

Following a fantastic dinner (more about that in another post), I hauled over to the Hangar in Troy for a show that I had impulsively bought tickets for a couple of weeks ago – Lolo. I had heard a couple of the band’s songs on 97.7 WEXT and am a real fan of their sound. I’d never been to this venue before and I really think Lolo might go big, which means the chance of seeing them in an intimate setting may not come around again. So, despite the fact that it already felt like a long day, we went.

Bathroom graffiti

Bathroom graffiti

The venue was really cool – kind of stripped down as you might imagine, but with a good vibe and solid beverage selection. We arrived just as the band went on and I couldn’t be happier that we made the effort to get there. The band was terrific and Lolo’s voice is a powerhouse sometimes reminding me of Joss Stone and at other moments, Adele.

The song that had prompted me to buy tickets, Not Going to Let You Walk Away, was their encore and it sounded great. Her voice is strong and bluesy and I just love it. Since the show I’ve been listening to her album, In Memory of When I Gave a Sh*t, and have become smitten with Shine, the track from which I copied the lyrics below. I think I have a new anthem.

Why you waiting on the world for a favor?
This is your life go ahead and change it
You’re the brightest star in the sky
But no one’s gonna know if you never shine
Why you waiting on someone else?
To give you the things that you want yourself, oh
You’re the brightest star in the sky
So go ahead and shine, yeah, go ahead and shine

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