LIVE: The James Cotton Band @ Music Haven at Proctors, 7/27/14

July 31st, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg
Ted Henessey and Matt Mirabile (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Tom Holland and James Cotton (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Stanley Johnson, Andrzej Pilarczyk, Rudy Lu, Richard Brody

For a quarter of a century now, the Music Haven has presented what is unquestionably the Capital Region’s most ambitious and culturally diverse free annual summer concert series. The concerts don’t always attract the big, Alive at Five-sized crowds, but the series always attracts great musicians from all over the globe, and it consistently lives up to the motto of its mission – “Come travel the world with us, one concert at a time.”

Due to the threat of inclement weather last Sunday, the Music Haven’s concert featuring legendary blues harmonica master James Cotton was moved to the rain site – Proctors – and when the show is moved to a beautiful site like Proctors nothing is lost in the venue shift. Not even the audience, apparently, as nearly 1,400 people packed the downstairs of Proctors’ Main Stage theater for what proved to be a very special celebration. Not only was it the biggest Capital Region blues event of the summer, but it was also the Music Haven’s 25th anniversary gala party, and the bash was well attended by a plethora of local political dignitaries, as well as staunch music supporters.

In a brief, pre-concert ceremony on the Main Stage, former Schenectady mayor Karen Johnson was honored for her support of the Music Haven throughout the years, and in a surprise proclamation, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy honored Music Haven’s founder, visionary and producing artistic director Mona Golub with the Patroon Award, the city’s highest honor. “It’s been a labor of love for me, bringing such a diverse, cross-generational audience together,” said an audibly choked-up Golub, as she accepted the award.

The concert also served a heartfelt memorial to Albany bluesman Tom Healey, whose death the previous Monday shook the Local 518 blues community. Guitarslinger Matt Mirabile and his band, fronted by vocalist-harmonicat Ted Hennessy, tore through a seven-song opening set that ranged from such blues classics as Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “So Sad to Be Lonesome” to a funky, cowbell-fueled rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” and they dedicated their performance to Healey. The Music Haven folks also joined in the tribute, playing selections from the Tom Healey Band’s two albums – Pearl Street and Tough Dog – during the between-band intermission.

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LIVE: The Green River Festival @ Greenfield Community College, 7/13/14 (Day Two)

July 31st, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg

Review by Fred Rudofsky

Whereas Saturday was blessed with perfect weather, the forecast for Sunday at the Green River Festival was mixed; the question was how much rain would hit central Massachusetts. It certainly did hit hard late in the afternoon. The one assurance was the quality of several featured acts. Here is an abbreviated account of various highlights.


GIRLS GUNS & GLORY: Based out of Boston, the four-piece Girls Guns & Glory has built up a loyal following in the Northeast with extensive touring – their double-bill with Sarah Borges at Club Helsinki this past spring ranks as one of the best concerts I have seen so far this year. With four albums to their name, they had great material to feature in a dozen-song set that mixed rockabilly, country and rock. Ward Hayden sang a bopping take of Johnny Burnette’s “Lonesome Train,” a fine opportunity for some solo flourishes by lead guitarist Chris Hersch. Several songs were drawn from their recent album, Good Luck. “UUU” detailed a broken romance; “Be Your Man” had the melodic hooks worthy of Rockpile in their heyday; and the rhythm section of Paul Dilley (bass) and Josh Kiggans (drums) propelled the harmony-rich “Shake Like Jello” like it was a lost-long Bobby Fuller Four gem. Energetic takes on Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and their own “667” closed out a laudable set at the Four Rivers Stage.

DAVE AND PHIL ALVIN & THE GUILTY ONES: Arguably the most anticipated act of the weekend was the reunion of Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin of the Blasters, one of the most beloved bands of the American music roots revival of the early 1980s. (For the full story of why this reunion occurred, go to NPR’s “Fresh Air” episode). Their first full collaboration in 30 years, the extraordinary Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy, has put the two brothers from Downey, California on the road with a talented band (Lisa Pankratz – drums; Brad Fordham – bass; and Chris Miller – guitar).

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A Few Minutes With… the Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward & Graeme Edge

July 31st, 2014, 2:00 pm by Greg

Interviews and story by Don Wilcock

The Moody Blues are headed back to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center next week – not on “Tuesday Afternoon,” but rather on Monday evening (August 4).

The classic rock band’s use of technology changed the entire paradigm of pop music back in 1967, late in the British Invasion. The Stones used a gizmo consisting of taped sounds called the Mellotron on Their Satanic Majesties Request, and the Beatles used it on “Strawberry Fields,” but the Moody Blues combined the Mellotron with Decca Records’ stereo recording technology to create a majestic rock equivalent to a classical music symphony with their groundbreaking sophomore album, Days of Future Passed.

In the liner notes of the concept album, executive producer Hugh Mendl described it this way: “The Moody Blues have at last done what many others have dreamed of and talked about: they have extended the range of pop music and found the point where it became one with the world of classics.”

Decca Records had told the Moody Blues that they could work off their debt to the label by producing a rock version of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” to showcase the label’s stereo capabilities. But when the group got into production with Peter Knight, conductor of the London Festival Orchestra (a fancy name for a group of classical session musicians), the symphony morphed into an original long-form composition based on a day from “The Day Begins” to what would become the band’s signature song, “Nights in White Satin.” It was a gutsy move that the creative team in the studio never told the label about until after it was finished.

“We’d already recorded our songs so that he could hear them and do his classical interpretation of them, but he did that session in three hours,” recalls Justin Hayward, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band. “(Peter Knight) and Tony Clarke made a tape up that they could bounce, and they edited all our songs together with space in between with Peter counting. So their recording was a bounce from one machine to the other with the orchestra doing it live. They did one run-through in 47 minutes, had a tea break, recorded it, and they used the first take, and that was that. But he was my hero, absolutely. I adored him as a man.”

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THEATER: A Chekhov Farce and a Wharton Delicacy from Pythagoras Theatre Works in West Stockbridge [Berkshire on Stage]

July 31st, 2014, 1:30 pm by Sara

Berkshire on Stage Theatre Review

Review by Gail M. Burns

Do not get confused and go, as I initially did, to the building the town of West Stockbridge, MA, currently uses as its town hall. The 1854 Town Hall is located on Main Street directly opposite the Public Market, and parking is abundant, although often cleverly concealed, nearby. Like most assembly halls of the 19th century, the public space is on the second floor above the office or retail space at street level which provided free heat for the upper level, although the thimble for the stovepipe is still visible on the side of the chimney upstairs. The hall features a tiny stage whose enormous windows (yes, there are windows on the back wall of the stage) attest to a time when natural light was necessary for most gatherings and performances.

In this slightly shabby space – the West Stockbridge Historical Society is investing first in modernizing the building and bringing it up to code – the newly formed Pythagoras Theatre Works is mounting their inaugural season featuring a pair of one-act plays – The Bear (of the Berkshires) by Anton Chekhov and The Rembrandt by Edith Wharton – both adapted and staged by Artistic Director Michael Burnet. Do not allow the modest sets, lack of theatrical lighting or the choice of public domain material to fool you – these are talented, Equity actors who choose to live, and often work, locally. And this is a low-key but auspicious launch for this group, with the newly-revitalized downtown of West Stockbridge as the perfect setting.

As you enter the hall, you are treated to Jonah Thomas playing his original compositions on the cello. The acoustics are excellent, and Thomas’ music is evocative of both time and place. (Is there any instrument more Chekhovian than the cello?) Presently Leonard, the butler, (Scott Renzoni) appears to berate his mistress, the widowed Elena Winterbottom (Diane Prusha), for her prolonged and maudlin mourning and self-imposed isolation for her late husband, the philandering Nicholas. It has been seven months since his death, why won’t she leave the house?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

The Palace Theatre Adds Another New Concert

July 31st, 2014, 1:00 pm by Greg

Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra is scheduled for a return to Albany’s Palace Theatre at 7:30pm on Saturday, November 15 to recreate a song-for-song performances straight from the set list of an historic Dead concert.

The band features Jeff Mattson (Jerry Garcia), Lisa Mackey (Donna Jean Godchaux), Dino English (Bill Kreutzmann), Rob Koritz (Mickey Hart), Skip Vangelas (Phil Lesh), Rob Eaton (Bob Weir) and Rob Barraco (various keyboardists).

Priced at $33.50, tickets are slated to go on sale to the general public at 10am on Friday, August 8.

Festival Fever: Falcon Ridge Folk Festival

July 31st, 2014, 12:00 pm by Greg

The annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival returns to Dodds Farm in Hillsdale this weekend with a jam-packed three days of sparkling acoustic music presented on four stages. The music gets underway on the Main Stage at 12noon on Friday (August 1) and wraps up at 6:30pm on Sunday (August 3).

Three-day all-festival tickets are $135; $45 for ages 13-18. Three-day tickets with camping are $165; $65 for ages 13-18. Children 12 and under FREE. Single day tickets are $45 for Friday; $50 for Saturday; $40 for Sunday. $10 discount on single day tickets for students and seniors.

Here’s the Main Stage Schedule for the 2014 Falcon Ridge Folk Fest:

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Artbeat: What To See

July 31st, 2014, 11:41 am by Sara


Ambulance Blues @ Basilica Hudson

Ambulance Blues @ Basilica Hudson

Ambulance Blues @ Basilica Hudson, Hudson. An exhibit curated by Erin Falls that examines the creation of art in the face of a fragmented socieity, featuring works by Rey Akdogan, Polly Apfelbaum, Uri Aran, Donald Baechler, Milano Chow, Peter Coffin, Ann Craven, Sam Falls, Deborah Falls, Jack Goldstein, Elias Hansen, Marc Hundley, Mirabelle Marden, Nancy Shaver, Matt Sheridan Smith, Jordan Wolfson and Joe Zorrilla with performances by Mick Barr and Hart of Gold. Opening reception: Saturday, August 2, 7-9pm with an after-party live show at 9pm featuring performances by Big French, Penn Sultan, Lissy Trullie and Imaad Wasif with Brian Chase. (Through August 18)

Jasper Johns: Target

Jasper Johns: Target

Make It New: Abstract Painting from the National Gallery of Art, 1950–1975 @ The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. An exhibition that examines the different paths taken by abstract painting in the first quarter-century of the postwar period, presenting Abstract Expressionist and color field masterpieces alongside other canonical works organized by the formal categories of pattern, texture, and shape. Featuring key works such as Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), Mark Rothko’s No. 1 (1961) , and Lee Bontecou’s Untitled (1962), the show also includes paintings by Jean Dubuffet, Jasper Johns, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Ryman and Cy Twombly. Opens Saturday, August 2. (Through October 13)

(left) Steven Young Lee: Vase with Peonies (detail) and Sin-ying Ho: Temptation: Life of Goods, No. 2 (detail) @ Independent Art Projects

(left) Steven Young Lee: Vase with Peonies (detail) and Sin-ying Ho: Temptation: Life of Goods, No. 2 (detail) @ Independent Art Projects

Grand Opening Weekend @ Independent Art Projects, North Adams. Independent Art Projects (IAP) celebrates the grand opening of its 2,500 square-foot exhibition space at 1315 MASS MoCA Way with a reception and a series of talks by artists and the gallery owners who represent them. The exhibit includes works by Tanya Marcuse and Christopher Russell, represented by Julie Saul Gallery; Shuli Sadé, represented by Cynthia-Reeves; Steven Young Lee and Sin-Ying Ho, represented by Ferrin Contemporary; and Lauren Fensterstock, represented by Sienna Patti Contemporary. Opening reception during DownStreet Art: Thursday, July 31, 6-9 pm. Talk with artist Tanya Marcuse: Saturday, August 2, 11:30am. Talk with artist Sin-ying Ho: Saturday, August 2, 3pm. Talk with artist Lauren Fensterstock: Sunday, August 3, 11:30 am. (Through August 24)

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JULY 31: On This Day in Nippertown Music History…

July 31st, 2014, 10:00 am by Greg

Devo (photo by Joe Putrock)

Photograph by Joe Putrock

It’s Throwback Thursday, so we’re looking back through the years for another installment of our weekly feature: On This Day in Nippertown Music History…

It’s the anniversary of the birth of the late Cheese Blotto

2013: The Gaslight Anthem played at the Upstate Concert Hall
2012: Wilco played at MASS MoCA
2010: Devo played at Northern Lights
2009: Jimmy Webb played at the Wood Theater
2008: Sheryl Crow played at SPAC with James Blunt
2004: Kamikaze Hearts played at Caffe Lena
1998: Richie Havens played at the Van Dyck
1997: Foghat played at Alive at Five in Tricentennial Plaza with Marcus Ruggiero
1996: Weird Al Yankovic played at the Starlite Music Theatre
1995: The Last Poets played at Valentine’s Music Hall with Solomons RamaDa
1994: Traffic played at SPAC with the subdudes
1993: Tina Turner played at SPAC with Chris Isaak
1992: Regis & Kathie Lee played at the Starlite Music Theatre
1991: Crystal Gayle played at the Starlite Music Theatre with the Desert Rose Band
1990: Poco played at the Berkshire Performing Arts Theatre with Kris McKay
1989: Carole King played at SPAC with Wayne Toups
1987: Watne Newton played two shows at the Colonie Coliseum
1984: The Cars played at SPAC

Holly & EvanCartoonist John CaldwellThe Cock'N'Bull RestaurantCaffe LenaJim Gaudet and the Railroad BoysAdvertise on Nippertown!Berkshire On StageAlbany PoetsLeave Regular Radio BehindArtist and Musician Michael Eck