Story by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Sara Ayers, Stanley Johnson, Kirsten Ferguson, Chuck Van Zyl, Timothy Reidy, Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk, Greg Haymes
An awful lot of great music emanated from stages large and small all across the Nippertown landscape over the course of the past 12 months.
EDM extravaganzas lit up big venues like the Times Union Center and the Washington Avenue Armory… and then almost took down the Armory. On the other end of the spectrum, old-school rockabilly rave-ups and stone-cold country shows rolled into cozy, little neighborhood corner bars like the Ale House. Yes, we were offered a serious hodge-podge of performances from classic rock tribute bands like the Dark Star Orchestra at The Egg to decidedly off-beat, non-musical performances by the likes of Ira Glass at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
2012 was a year that encompassed shows from Bootsy Collins to Judy Collins…
From Lucky Jukebox Brigade to Jukebox the Ghost…
From Shearwater to Roger Waters to John Waters…
From Aaron Lewis to Lewis Black…
Yeah, it was a seriously wild, wacky and quite often wonderful year. Of course, I didn’t see (or hear) it all – nobody could possibly even pretend to do that (other than perhaps Timothy Reidy or Steve Nover), but here’s the way I called what I saw during 2012:
MUST HAVE A SUB-LET IN TOWN (The How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away Award)
Chandler Travis, who brought his utterly unique music sensibilities to town again and again and again with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, the Chandler Travis Philharmonette, the Chandler Travis Three-O, the Catbirds…
Honorable mentions: Pedrito Martinez, Sharon Van Etten, Chick Corea
THE NAME GAME (The You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Program Award)…
We Are Jeneric > The Parlor. Their original moniker was clever (the band is led by Jen O’Connor and Eric Krans – Jen & Eric, get it?) but the music they made was anything but generic.
Honorable mentions: The City Never Sleeps > Stellar Young; “Wakin’ Up With the Wolf” @ PYX-106 > “Wakin’ Up With the Wolf” at WDST-FM; Northern Lights > the Upstate Concert Hall; Amy & the Whomevers > Shadowland; Around the World and Back > Northern Faces; Bread & Jam Cafe > More Bread & Jam Cafe.
GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN…
Ernie Williams, Jillian’s, Richard Lainhart, Art Snay of Arabellum Studios, Savannah’s/Dublin Underground, Pat Tiernan, Levon Helm, IndieAlbany.com, Mike Doss of Audio 300, Bill Connelly of St. James Gate, Jeff Ellis of Parkway Music, the Starlite Music Theatre…
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT AGAIN (The One Night Only Comeback Award)…
Kamikaze Hearts @ Restoration Festival
Honorable Mentions: Fear of Strangers, Urban Gumbo, Rocky Velvet, Emerald City
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT AGAIN (The For Real, Yes, We’re Really Back Comeback Award)…
Honorable Mention: Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (Solo Division)
ROOKIES OF THE YEAR (Band Division)
FAVE CONCERTS OF THE YEAR
1. Restoration Festival @ St. Joseph’s Church, Albany, September 7-9. Especially the Kamikazee Hearts’ reunion, Sharon Van Etten and Swamp Baby…
2. Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra/Sticklips/Jherek Bischoff @ Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, September 5.
3. The Neighborhoods @ Valentine’s Music Hall, Albany, March 3. Nobody really celebrates their 34th anniversary, do they? WCDB-FM did, and it was a stone cold gas featuring folks like Brian Dewan, Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned, Ramblin Jug Stompers and lots more. But it was the reunion of the Boston bad boys that made the night something truly special. Full throttle rock’n’roll the way God intended it…
4. Rosanne Raneri/Bryan Thomas @ Steamer No. 10 Theater, Albany, April 14. Two of Nippertown’s very best (and sadly, most reclusive) singer-songwriters on the same bill in an intimate listening venue/theater? And then they get together and play a mini-set of duet encores? Thrilling, simply thrilling…
5. Roger Waters’ “The Wall” @ the Times Union Center, Albany, June 28. Likely the most over-the-top arena extravaganza I’ve ever seen. Overload… overload… ovewrload…
6. J.B. Scott’s Reunion @ Michael’s Banquet Hall, Latham, May 5. Let’s face it, a reunion of local bands from 30 years ago sounds like a quaint nostalgic evening at best. Celebrating a grungy downtown ’80s rock club at a kitschy suburban wedding venue sounds like disaster. So why did it all come together so dazzlingly?
7. Hiromi’s Trio Project and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue @ Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at SPAC, Saratoga Springs, July 1.
8. Shearwater/Will Sheff @ Club Helsinki, Hudson, February 26. Perhaps the most thrilling surprise of the year because I really didn’t know what to expect…
9. Buffy Sainte-Marie @ the Eighth Step at Proctors, Schenectady, January 6.
10. The James Carter Organ Trio @ The Egg, Albany, April 15.
Diego Garcia/Matt Durfee @ The Linda, Albany, January 27. Elegant, edgy and oh-so-sexy, Garcia is the Latin Bryan Ferry. So sorry that I missed him at Schenectady’s Music Haven when he returned in August…
Sarah Jarosz @ The Egg, Albany, March 17
Riders in the Sky @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, April 28. The funniest show of the year
Los Straitjackets/Eilen Jewell @ Club Helsinki, Hudson, June 1. Sadly, I missed Los Straitjackets during their two-night stand at the Ale House later in the year, but this show was an absolute knock-out – the best I’ve seen them in years. And Jewell and her band were nearly as good…
Chick Corea & Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet @ Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, Lenox, August 26.
Bootsy Collins @ Riverfront Park, Albany, June 14. I’m still kicking myself for having to leave this show early, but the hour that I saw left me thoroughly funkified. The best show of the best Alive at 5 season in a looong time…
Chris Smither @ The Linda, Albany, August 11.
John Prine/Lucinda Williams @ the Palace Theatre, Albany, August 17.
Carolina Chocolate Drops @ FreshGrass at MASS MoCA, North Adams, September 23.
Magnetic Fields/Bachelorette @ Club Helsinki, Hudson, March 6
Mary Stallings @ A Place for Jazz, Schenectady, September 28. Runner-up for Most Thrilling Surprise of the year…
New York Banjo Summit @ The Egg, Albany, November 3.
SHOWS THAT I OH-SO-DEEPLY REGRET HAVING TO MISS (The Why Can’t I be in Two Places at Once Award)
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings @ The Egg, Albany, 7/13
Billy Joe Shaver at the Ale House, Troy, 12/2
Steve Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra @ Shepard Park, Lake George, 9/16
Nick Lowe at The Egg, Albany, 9/18
Tom Harrell Quintet @ A Place for Jazz, Schenectady, 9/14
Matuto @ the Central Park Music Haven, Schenectady, 7/15
Dr. John & the Blind Boys of Alabama @ the Palace Theatre, Albany, 11/1
Glen David Andrews @ Club Helsinki, Hudson, 12/31
Godspeed You Black Emperor @ the Basilica, Hudson, 9/20
Bon Iver/Anais Mitchell @ Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, 9/17
BEST OPENING ACT
The Barr Brothers with Brandi Carlile @ The Egg, Albany
Honorable mentions: Ghost Wolves with Alejandro Escovedo & the Sensitive Boys @ The Egg: the Alison Jacobs/Matt Mirabile Band with the Deb Callahan Band @ the Music Haven, Schenectady
WORST OPENING ACT
Kristeen Young with Morrissey at the Palace Theatre, Albany. No contest…
Rosanne Raneri and Bryan Thomas’ “A Case of You” @ Steamer No. 10 Theatre, Albany, April 14. See video above…
Honorable mention: John Prine and Lucinda Williams’ “Angel From Montgomery” @ the Palace Theatre, Albany, August 17
BEST DOUBLEHEADER (Two Shows Attended at Different Venues on the Same Night Award)
August 17 – John Prine/Lucinda Williams @ the Palace Theatre, Albany; the Figgs @ Valentine’s Music Hall, Albany
Honorable mention: March 17 – Sarah Jarosz @ The Egg; Sean Rowe @ Steamer No. 10 Theatre, Albany
BIGGEST MISTAKE OF THE YEAR (The What Were You Thinking Award)
WGNA-FM moved Country Fest downtown and indoors to the Times Union Center
MOST DEPRESSING CANCELLATION OF THE YEAR (The Didn’t You See the Weather Report Award)
Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival @ the Riverfront Park, Albany. With a massive thunderstorm headed to town – big enough and with enough warning that the Local Legends Live festival at the Empire State Plaza the same day was cancelled – Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival went on as planned… until the storm arrived, cancelling half of the fest and all of the headliners. Serious bummer…
FAVORITE THEATER PERFORMANCES
1. “Here Lies Loves” @ MASS MoCA, North Adams, 6/21.
2. “Far From Heaven” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, 7/19.
3. Roger Waters’ “The Wall” @ Times Union Center, Albany, 6/28.
4. “All My Sons” @ Barrington Stage Co., Pittsfield, 7/27.
5. “Jersey Boys” @ Proctors, Schenectady, 3/1.
6. “Satchmo at the Waldorf” @ Shakespeare & Co., Lenox, 8/26.
7. “Woody Sez” @ the Wood Theater, Glens Falls, 7/21.
8. “Ella” @ Capital Repertory Co., Albany, 7/25.
9. “Four Years, Four Seasons” @ Old Songs Festival, Altamont, 6/22.
10. “A Chorus Line” @ the Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, 7/10.
11. “Black Pearl Sings” @ Capital Repertory Co., Albany, 3/13.
12. Bread & Puppet Theater @ Time + Space Limited, Hudson, 3/22.
MORE OF NIPPERTOWN’S BEST OF 2012 LISTS
Fred Rudofsky, Part II
J Hunter, Part II
Various: Other Voices Round-up
Fred Rudofsky, Part III
Timothy Reidy, Part II
Steve Nover, Part II