LIVE: “Raise the Rafters” @ Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center, 5/16/15

June 2nd, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

We should be celebrating Caffe Lena every day, but, of course, we tend to take it for granted because it’s always there. OK, well not exactly “always” – but for 55 years. And for the past 20 of those years, it’s been the guiding hand of manager Sarah Craig that’s has been at the helm, steering the Caffe into the 21st century with a delicate balance of adventure and tradition.

So for “Raise the Rafters” – the dual anniversary concert celebration for Craig and the Caffe – Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center in Saratoga Springs hosted a half-dozen Caffe favorites from the past two decades. There was the jugband vaudeville of the Wiyos, the father-and-son Beaucoup Blue duo, the wry bluegrass of Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys, the fab fiddling Sara Milonovich & Greg Anderson, rollicking one-man band the Suitcase Junket and the husband-and-wife team of Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion – each playing a short, 20-minute sampler set.

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Yes, it was a delightful sonic smorgasbord that somehow stretched from blues to ballads, from a reggae-tinged polka to a Cajun two-step, and tunes plucked from the songbags of folks from Woody Guthrie to Led Zeppelin.

While the concert was celebrating more than a half-century of musical history, it was also the first step into the future, serving as the launch of the Campaign for Caffe Lena, a $1.5 million fundraising campaign for the restoration of the second floor Caffe and structural repairs to its building at 47 Phila Street. Let’s call it life insurance so that the Caffe will be around to celebrate it anniversary for years to come.

SECOND OPINIONS
Excerpt from Kirsten Ferguson’s review at The Daily Gazette: “Although [Lena] Spencer died in 1989, that same spirit of showcasing new talent survives today through Caffe director Sarah Craig, celebrating her 20th anniversary managing the venue. ‘Caffe Lena was one of the very first places to say yes, to give us a [booking] date,’ said Teddy Weber of the old-timey trio the Wiyos, the first act to take the stage during four hours of music and tributes to Craig and the Caffe. Craig first booked the vaudeville-inspired group when they were barely a month old. The Caffe itself was also celebrating an anniversary — 55 years — while launching a $1.5 million campaign to raise funds to support the restoration of the club’s aging building at 47 Phila Street. Since that space only holds 80 people, the Zankel hosted the bash. The six acts that performed on the Zankel stage at Skidmore College for 20 minutes each — all regular performers at the Caffe — were a diverse crowd, and a testament to how the definition of folk has expanded far beyond any purist or traditional sense.”

Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys

Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys

Beaucoup Blue

Beaucoup Blue

Sara Milonovich

Sara Milonovich

Greg Andersen

Greg Anderson

The Wiyos

The Wiyos

The Suitcase Junket

The Suitcase Junket