Category Archives: Music

Lake Street Dive

My Spotify playlists lean heavily towards classic rock with a side of traditional jazz, mostly for Sunday mornings with the New York Times and an extra mug of coffee. Any new music I’ve been exposed to in the past 20 has come from either students (thanks, Dani and Skrabs!), my sons or, in more recent years, 97.7 WEXT. There’s some good stuff out there and I’m more than open to expanding my musical horizons any time.

 

I’ve seen a few shows this year that have been, what I consider to be, slightly under the mainstream radar. There were The Suffers at the Egg, The Marcus King Band in Cohoes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones in Asbury Park, each qualifying as not exactly well known, but extremely talented musical groups. Sunday night, I saw another one of these special performances, this time at the Palace.

 

What happens when you go to a concert, thinking you’re one of the cool kids hip to a great band, only to learn that the rest of the audience is your age or even older? Well, that was my experience this past weekend at the Lake Street Dive show at the Palace Theater. I went into this show assuming the crowd would be trendy and young and I couldn’t have been more wrong because most of the folks were my peers. You know, the well preserved middle aged type.

 

I can’t claim to be incredibly familiar with Lake Street Dive’s catalog, but I can tell you this – they were awesome and put on a killer show. The band, who have been playing together since meeting as students at the New England Conservatory of Music, plays music that spans multiple genres including Indie Rock, Neo Soul and Alt Jazz. The lead vocalist, Rachael Price has a truly phenomenal voice that she seems to effortlessly unleash, even from a sitting position necessitated by a booted broken foot. Bridget Kearny who slays on upright bass completely blew me away with the sounds she created – and her adorable hot pink booties. The remaining members of the band Mike Olson (on guitar/trumpet), Mike Calabrese (organ and drums) and new member, Akie Bermiss on keyboards.

 

After attending a huge two-day music fest a few weeks ago, this concert was a warm welcome back to the kind of show I enjoy – one that is local, low key and absolutely danceabley fun. If it hadn’t been a Sunday night, I would have hung out until the bitter end and maybe even waited at the stage door to thank the band for a terrific night out. As it was, I left before the final encore and joyfully hummed my way back to the car. You know me – I’ve always loved a dive.

 

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Filed under Albany, Events, friends, Local, Music, sunday

It’s hot In the Heights

Image: Troy Record

Hope you’re making it through this spell of humidity and heat. Greece was really hot, but there always seemed to be a breeze and the heat was dry, which made it different. Instead of my hair springing into curls and frizz, my skin screamed for moisturizer and sunscreen in massive amounts. It’s summer, what can you do?

Well, I’m glad you asked because I have an idea for you – get yourself to Albany’s beautiful Washington Park Lakehouse and check out In the Heights. We went the other night and it was absolutely a joy to watch. The performances were inspired, the voices soared above the excellent orchestra and the dancing was mesmerizing. I loved it.

Take my opinion, of course, with a grain of salt because I am no theatrical critic. What I can say with confidence is this – I believe this production is the best one I’ve ever seen at the Lakehouse. Granted, I haven’t been to them all, especially in recent years, but I’ve hit quite a number of them over the years and this cast and crew is exceptional. When I contrast this show with one I saw last year at a local theater, Into the Heights easily blows it out of the water.

I’ve never seen Hamilton and was unfamiliar with the story told in this early Lin-Manuel Miranda musical. The message, however, remains timely especially When You’re Home which made my eyes fill with tears. You’ve got to see this show!

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Filed under Albany, art, Events, favorites, Greece, ideas, Local, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, upstate New York

A due date becomes a do date – 22 years later, that is

My first pregnancy was pretty dreamy – I conceived the exact month I wanted to, which meant my maternity leave would be perfectly integrated with my academic calendar. The Lilly baby was due April 5th, which would give me about 6 weeks home, followed by 6 weeks back at work, and then summer off. It all seemed pretty ideal.

Of course, Liam was born 5 1/2 weeks early, arriving at the end of February, rather than early April. Obvious proof, of course, to support the theory that parenting is state of being that can not always be controlled. That perspective, along with the knowledge that once your child almost dies, subsequent things that occur to them make one both less concerned, and more inclined to worry, are how I’ve rationalized a lot of things in the last 22+ years. So far, so far mostly good.

So good! Pizza Suprema.

When it came time to celebrate my oldest’s most recent birthday, we headed to NYC, a full six weeks after his actual birthday, but the day before his original due date. He was interested in seeing a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House and it was challenging to synchronize our calendars and that of the Met to get to the opera that he wanted to see. We were able to find a mutually good date on Thursday and grabbed Amtrak to the city, leaving ourselves barely enough time to eat a couple of slices, get checked in to our hotel and catch the subway to Lincoln Center.

We were cozy in our upgraded seats (When we picked up our tickets at Will Call the man helping us said he had “something better for us.” Turns out that was 11th row center in the orchestra. Bonus!) when the chandeliers lifted to the ceiling and the lights went down. The music was fantastic and the conductor led the orchestra with as much well placed energy as I’ve ever seen. Take this all with a grain of salt – I know nothing about music or conducting.

Don Giovanni is a wonderful opera and the costumes, sets and singing created an experience which was satisfying. I mean, come on, the cad gets his comeuppance! Everyone loves when that happens. While the demise of Don Giovanni was dramatic and well depicted with fire, there were also some more lighthearted scenes with clever dialogue and wit. Admittedly, I dozed a bit here and there, but I don’t believe I missed much. I had feasted on the production and felt sated. It was way better than a C-section.

#renttherunway #openingceremony

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Filed under aging, beauty, birthdays, Boys, concerts, Events, moms, Music, NYC, pizza, road trips, Spring, theater

Mums the word – Mumford and Sons at the Times Union Center

Confession: three concerts in three nights nearly broke me. By the time Sunday morning rolled around last weekend, I was completely exhausted, but I couldn’t stop smiling. What a great few nights this little city of ours showed visitors, local music fans and me! Here’s how this early March Bucket List concert went down…

After hearing from friends about the impressive wait lines they had encountered at the City Beer Hall on Elton John night, I made sure that I called in a favor we arrived before 5:00 for dinner pre-show. Cozy and warm by the fire, our party of 5 ordered an array of food, including burgers and two chicken sandwich variations along with drinks. Despite the fact that the inside of this place was absolutely jammed, the kitchen and front of the house staff were on their game and absolutely humming with professional competence. Food and drink were without exception excellent and I highly recommend this place whether its pre or post show or any other occasion when you want quality ingredients well prepared. I’m still thinking about that burger!

While the girls continued socializing I grabbed my crowd photos for the TU, which was a blast. It was an awesome crowd and there was no shortage of folks willing to pose for me, including a fair number of my friends. This was Mumford and Sons first Albany show and there were lots of excited people, including me. I had been shut out when they last came around for a sold out concert at SPAC and I was still kicking myself for missing that show. By the time the lights went down, I was comfortable in my seat and ready to enjoy some music.

And, boy, did I! Marcus Mumford was absolutely mesmerizing singing his pipes out and playing whatever instrument he happened to land in front of as he ran around the stage. There appeared to nothing he couldn’t play and somehow, the sound mix was remarkably good, something I’ve never thought before at this particular arena. At one point during their set, I couldn’t stop myself from texting a friend with this message: I am so happy.

I will not miss this band again. Maybe you’ll go next time too?

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Dinner, drinking, Events, favorites, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations, Restaurants, SEEN, upstate New York, winter

Elton John in Albany – Seen and heard!

In recent months, once again, I’ve picked up some side gigs taking photos for the Times Union’s Seen galleries. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures and it’s fun for me to make chit chat with people, even if I don’t always actually get to attend the concert or show that I’m shooting. I feel almost like an ambassador to Albany when I’m talking to folks, asking where they’re visiting from and offering suggestions for places to eat and drink. Once a hostess, always a hostess.

Last Friday night’s event, the Albany stop of Elton John’s farewell tour, promised to be a great crowd. The event was sold out months in advance and it seemed like a lot of people I knew were attending the show. I myself hadn’t purchased a ticket since I was fortunate enough to have seen Elton John before – in London’s Wembley Arena in the early 90s. With Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt. Backstage. Come on! How would this show possible top that?

I took up my position in the fairly recently enclosed lobby of the Times Union Arena and started grabbing my shots, beginning at about 6:30. The crowd was colorful and excited and I met people from all over the state, as well as New England, Canada and Florida – all in our fair city for the night. The concert was scheduled to begin at 8:00 and by 7:20 or so, I had my shots and was getting ready to head to my car. Until I ran into someone I knew, that is…

My friend, a retired teacher who was attending the show with his husband, and I took a few minutes to catch up and then he asked me if I was attending the show. I explained that I was just working pre-show and didn’t have a ticket. He asked if I wanted to go in…uh, yeah, that would be cool. It was my lucky night and a short time later, we were inside the TU Center waiting for the lights to go down and Elton to come out.

I have to say, Elton John 2019 was even better than he was circa 1992. Somehow I had forgotten what a terrific piano player he was and his performance was truly stellar. The setlist, which I checked out online once I was in the arena, was pretty much every song a fan might want to hear and his band was tight with the percussionist particularly standing out. He opened with “Bennie and the Jets” and forged ahead full steam rolling out some of my favorites including “Levon” and “Burn Down the Mission.”  It was a great night for Elton and his band, Albany and every person fortunate enough to catch the show.

How about you? Were you there? Were you Seen??

 

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Filed under Albany, concerts, Events, friends, Local, Music, SEEN, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Steve Earle and Shannon McNally at The Egg

There are two things that people say about Albany* that make me crazy, ok, maybe three, and on the top of the list is “there’s nothing to do.” As someone working really hard to pace themselves, I’m going to tell you right now that that’s crazy talk – there is so much activity in Albany these days, that it’s a struggle to not overextend one’s self by trying to go to every single cool thing happening. Truth.

Late winter isn’t known as the most hospitable time of the year in upstate New York, but we’ve gotten really lucky in Albany and have welcomed some terrific performers to the area already this year. Thursday night I had the chance to see a musician, Steve Earle, whom I’ve been interested to see ever since reading a biography about him. This bonafide American low-key legend rolls through town every so often and friends who were unable to make use of their tickets, were generous enough to make their seats available. And, they were great seats!

Shannon McNally opened the evening with a set of the perfect length, perhaps 40 minutes. She was charming with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a voice that shone particularly well when she and Steve harmonized together. While it didn’t seem that McNally had been to our Egg before, she’s obviously been performing for years and played a set that was really easy to enjoy. I’m still chuckling over a remark she made while gently touching upon life and politics. She quoted her grandfather with the following:

In a hundred years, all new people.

Exactly.

As for the headliner, Steve Earle did not disappoint. The “tools” of his trade, 6 various stringed instruments, were arranged around him like a womb and he played each of them with incredible technical skill and respect. His prowess reminded me of Richard Thompson, in a way. But, when I hear Thompson I can’t help but look for the other guitar player who surely most be playing simultaneously, because one guitar player can’t possibly create that much sound. When it came to Earle, though, my eyes were seeking the additional musicians who had to be contributing to the sound with instruments beyond this one single guitar. He just made so much music! Genius comes in many flavors, friends.

If you haven’t seen Steve Earle, or Richard Thompson, you need to get on that. Keep your eyes open and you’ll be rewarded next time either of them swing through Albany. And don’t miss Shannon McNally – she’s got her own special magic, too.

*(In case you’re interested in the other two things rounding out my list – “there’s no parking” and “the taxes are too high.”)

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Filed under Albany, art, concerts, Events, friends, Local, Music, Observations, Recommendations, Uncategorized, upstate New York, winter

Keeping Christ in Christmas

As in “Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?” Let’s talk for a moment about babies and Christians and Christmas songs and greetings and how the upcoming holiday has become a battleground instead of a celebration and why reasonable human beings are allowing that to happen.

To begin, babies. Big confession here…I don’t find babies to be very interesting. When I say I didn’t even like my own babies all that much until I had my third, I am being completely honest. My lack of enthusiasm for infants, however, doesn’t prevent me from feeling incredibly sad for children who are separated from their families or born into situations which fail to provide opportunity or stability. You know, like Jesus – and all the children who continue to live in tents apart from their families in a state of imprisonment. How people who claim the mantle of “Christian” can fail to see the parallels between their savior and those babies is truly one of the wonders of Christmas to me.

“Baby, It’s Cold Out” is not a date rape song in my head or heart. They’re flirting, he’s cajoling her to stay and she’s finding lame ass excuses blaming everyone but herself for not being able to stay. That’s my read at least and I’m entitled to it. I refuse to feel icky about this song, but you can feel free to rail against it if you must. I’m not buying in to that craziness and I’m not taking that song off my holiday season playlist.

The phrase “Merry Christmas” should be received by non-Christmas celebrants in the same way “Happy Hump Day is. Maybe neither are your holiday, but it’s ok to acknowledge that they’re both important days to those who choose to celebrate. If someone wishes you the “wrong” sentiment, do you really get offended by their greeting? Isn’t there so much more to take offense from in our world? You know, like children in cages? As for me, I’m just going to keep saying “Merry Christmas.”

Migrants and other seekers of asylum and the chance for a better life, should be more compassionately dealt with, particularly by those who like to claim religion as their justification for how they approach the world. Please don’t talk to me about the miracle of a savior’s birth in a manger if you’re unwilling to recognize the efforts being made by contemporary families to achieve a similarly blessed life for their own child(ren).

I’m all about remembering the reason for the season, but, Jesus Christ, can’t we do a better job honoring him?

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Filed under Christmas, holidays, Music, musings, Observations, politics, Uncategorized