It’s a wonderful night…
First Night Saratoga was blessed not only with exceptional performers, but also with clear night skies and good weather. This made the sidewalk inviting for the many storefront window shows and the handful of street performances on Broadway.
Timing is everything, and mine was a bit off in hoping to catch Matthew Carefully at the City Center. The interactive exhibits were fine consolation prizes for the attempt. Undaunted, I pressed on to the promised free cocoa with both marshmallows and whipped cream provided by the “we bring good things to life” guys.
I was encouraged by the oddly suited-to-the-task volunteer who inquired of many a puzzled First Nighter – in a hushed, crazed, wanna-buy-a-watch kinda way – if they happened to be in the hidden courtyard of St. Peter’s looking for Ramblin Jug Stompers. As it turned out, I was. Who doesn’t like to have their Jug Stomped over the holidays? The RJS lads were in fair form and fooled a room full of slack-jawed onlookers into believing their railroad stories. Typewriter tuning jokes served to further the strange bond of band and audience. A fine time was had by many, if not all.
The Saratoga Arts Center was busy as a beehive with art installations and simultaneous music performances. I chose the path less traveled and headed into the theater to catch me some experimental music provided by the male-female duo, Shape Shifting Shepherds. They created impressive sonic soundscapes by manipulating conventional guitar bass and keyboards with an array of electronic goodies blended with visuals of the players in silhouette on an ever-changing dual-projected background of moving images.
Saratoga’s own Betsy and the ByeGons were perfectly cast as the house band at the Bettie’s Cakes Café with their trademark golden era, girl group sound. Betsy just out and out wails and knows which mini-dress to wear while doing it. The early set found the rock-solid ByeGons pleasing kids and boomers alike, but it was a later set where the blond siren had ‘em dancing in the aisles. It was, however, the slow dance tempo cover of Lulu’s “To Sir with Love” that bowled me back!
The Tern Rounders – hot the heels of the release of their sophomore CD that found its way onto many a year-end Top 10 list – did not disappoint. Clearly the best concert I have ever seen in a post office. Oh and yes, front-woman Kim Kilby and crew delivered to the packed house brilliant songs with beautiful yet powerful vocals that simply transport one to another place. As the applause died down on the Tern Rounders’ third set, the fire works began rumble in the skies above Congress Park.
Welcome 2011. “It’s one louder.”
Review and photographs by Matt Mac Haffie
Related Story: First Night Saratoga, Part I by Andrzej Pilarczyk