RIP: Hajji Majer, 1966-2014

July 31st, 2014, 9:00 am by Greg

Hajji Majer (photo by Bob Lukomski)

Hajji Majer (photo by Bob Lukomski)

John “Hajji” Majer, drummer for such popular ’80s Albany bands Hundred Acre Wood, Home and People, died suddenly last Friday (July 25) in Manhattan, after suffering a massive heart attack while rehearsing with his current band, Brooklyn art-rockers Fall of Another Year.

The 48-year-old Majer was a Troy native and a graduate of Lansingburgh High School.

Calling hours will be held from 4-7pm Friday (August 1) at the Sanvidge Funeral Home in Troy.

John “Hajji” Mayer’s obituary


7/31/14: Today’s Tips: Thursday

July 31st, 2014, 8:00 am by Greg

MUSIC: Ramblin Jug Stompers @ City Beer Hall, Albany. CBH is back with its second big Country Boil of the summer. Boil, beer and banjos… what’s not to like? 6pm. FREE.

MUSIC: Manchester Orchestra @ the Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park. Singer-guitarist Andy Hull leads the Atlanta-based indie rockers in support of their fourth album, Cope. With the Mowgli’s and Brick + Mortar. 8pm. $21. GO HERE to win FREE tickets…

OPERA: “An American Tragedy” @ Glimmerglass Opera, Cooperstown. Blinded by ambition, a promising young man makes a series of unfortunate choices culminating in a mysterious death in the Adirondacks. Based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel and inspired by a sensational murder trial in Herkimer, Tobias Picker’s opera explores a small-town boy’s pursuit of his idealized dreams. Conducted by George Manahan and directed by Peter Kazaras. 7:30pm. $26, $55, $78, $95 & $115; $10, $15, $20 & $25 youth 18 & under.

MUSIC: Grand Funk Railroad @ Jennings Landing Corning Preserve Boat Launch, Albany. They’re comin’ to your town, they’ll help you party it down… Founding members Don Brewer (drums) and Mel Schacher (bass) are joined by vocalist Max Carl, guitarist Bruce Kulick, keyboardist Tim Cashion to power through such hits as “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” “The Loco-Motion” and of course, “We’re an American Band.” With Wild Adriatic. 5pm. FREE. NOTE: This Alive at Five concert has been moved to the rain site. GO HERE for more info and a complete schedule of concerts…

MUSIC: Bang On a Can @ MASS MoCA, North Adams. “Music by Steve Reich” @ Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective – a concert of Reich’s works, including “Electric Counterpoint,” followed by a talk by the composer. 4:30pm. ALSO; Recital in the Dark: George Friedrich Haas @ the Chalet. 8pm.

DANCE: Bolshoi Ballet @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming… It’s Day Three of their SPAC debut with a four-night stand of “Don Quixote.” 2pm – yes, it’s a matinee.

MUSIC: The Lustre Kings @ Schaghticoke Town Hall Lawn, Melrose. 6:30pm. FREE. GO HERE for more info and a complete schedule of concerts…

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LIVE: Bang On a Can Music Festival @ MASS MoCA, 7/26/14

July 30th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg

Bang on a Can

Review and photographs by Joel Reed

Long before MASS MoCA began hosting Wilco’s Solid Sound and the FreshGrass music festivals, the sprawling North Adams museum and performance space offered the Berkshires and the Capital Region unmatched opportunities for extended exposure to alternative music. In 2002, the NYC-based new music ensemble Bang On a Can began taking up an annual summer residency there with two weeks of concerts and recitals coupled with instruction for a small group of “fellows” eager to study extended technique and composition from the All Stars who launched a genre.

Though Bang On a Can’s founding composers and musicians are classically trained and mostly work with traditional instrumentation, their work refers more to late twentieth-century experimental or avant garde composition and rock than it does the orchestral and chamber music of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. As with all art, theirs is based in a set of conventions that become more familiar and accessible over time, but its relevance is less in doubt, and so their annual presence at MASS MoCA fills a unique niche in our region for those who are looking for world-class live music but aren’t turned on by SPAC’s classical season or rock reunion acts.

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Comin’ Soon: New Concert Announcements

July 30th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg

The Split Squad – a nifty little all-star combo featuring guitarists Eddie Munoz (of the Plimsouls) and Keith Streng (the Fleshtones), bassist-vocalist Michael Giblin (Parallax Project), keyboardist Josh Kantor (the Baseball Project) and uber drummer Clem Burke (Blondie) – lands at the River Street Pub in Troy at 2pm on Sunday. And the Knyghts of Fuzz open the show. Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 at the door. You’re definitely not gonna want to miss this one… POP QUIZ: When was the last time that Clem Burke played in Troy?

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The classic line-up of Primus is reuniting for a tour that’s slated to make a stop at Albany’s Palace Theatre in support of their upcoming Willy Wonka-inspired album, Primus & the Chocolate Factory. Tickets go on sale Friday (August 1).

The Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park is bolstering its fall calendar with a handful of new concert additions including the Grammy Award-winning instrumental collective Snarky Puppy led by bassist-guitarist-composer-arranger Michael League at 8pm on Thursday, September 11 ($20 in advance; $22 at the door); Less Than Jake with the Interrupters at 7:30pm on Friday, October 24 ($16 in advance; $18 at the door); and Killswitch Engage with All That Remains, Death Ray Vision and City of Homes at 7:30pm on Saturday, November 1 ($25 in advance; $28 at the door). Tickets for all three new shows will go on sale at 10am Friday (August 1).

CH-CH-CH-CHANGES: Originally, the Steely Dan concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday, August 31 was a pavilion-only show. In SPAC-speak, that meant that no lawn tickets would be sold, only reserved amphitheater seats. But now they’ve decided to put lawn tickets on sale – priced at $30.

Although we initially announced the fest and headliners three weeks ago, the organizers of the American Music Festival for the Lake at the Festival Space in Charles R. Wood Park (formerly the site of Wood’s Gaslight Village amusement park) in Lake George held a press conference yesterday to announce ticket prices and a few more bands. The line-up for Saturday, September 20 currently features Robert Randolph & the Family Band, NRBQ, Wild Adriatic and the Paranoid Social Club. Tickets are $15; $25 VIP. The line-up for Sunday, September 21 includes New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Claire Lynch Band, Girls Guns & Glory, the Stony Creek Band and Roscoe Bandana. Tickets are $10; $20 VIP. Tickets are now on sale. More bands are yet to be announced for both days.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The Egg in Albany announced a batch of concerts this week, including Richard Thompson, the Mavericks, the Touré-Israeli Collective and Solas. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday.

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LIVE: Green River Festival @ Greenfield Community College, 7/12/14 (Day One)

July 30th, 2014, 2:00 pm by Greg
Trombone Shorty And New Orleans Avenue

Trombone Shorty And Orleans Avenue

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

This year marked the 28th anniversary of the Green River Festival. Held in mid-July at the picturesque grounds of the Greenfield Community College – a two-hour drive from Albany – it featured more than 30 bands drawn from an array of genres worldwide.

Whereas other outdoor music events generate false hype, book predictable bands and/or cater to the lowest common denominator – the semi-coherent twentysomething who views the world through a selfie lens – the Green River Festival remains an eclectic, cordial, downright fun and affordable two-day gathering ($70 for the weekend!) that you could take your kids or grandparents to without hesitation. It is also a place of progressive ideas – throughout the site there are vendors promoting the arts, education, grass-roots causes concerning the environment (easy to use recycling bins did abound), etc. Add an eclectic choice of foods, hot air balloon rides, rock climbing walls, second-line parades, and new this year a fine selection of craft beers, and it is obvious why the festival sold out quickly.

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THEATER: “The Golem of Havana”: The Mystical Musical at Barrington Stage Musical Theatre Lab [Berkshire on Stage]

July 30th, 2014, 1:00 pm by Sara
Julie Benko and Ronald Alexander Peet. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Julie Benko and Ronald Alexander Peet. (photo: Kevin Sprague)

Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: The creators of The Golem of Havana deserve to light up some nice big Cuban cigars, because they have a lot to celebrate following the world premiere of their smash new musical. And those associated with William Finn’s Musical Theatre Lab should be popping some champagne corks over at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield right about now. They have told a complex story exceptionally well.

This tale of a Hungarian-Jewish family living in Batista’s 1950’s Cuba conflates history with a legendary protective golem. The combination sets up all the drama one could ask for in a musical, a story replete with good fortune and deadly reversals as Fidel Castro brings revolution to the Frankel family. To dramatize the story, the company uses everyday realism mixed with nighmarish surrealism; and the memories of a bright and imaginative young girl mixed with the mysticism of Jewish and Santeria traditions.

Gail M. Burns: This is an original story, based on the composer and lyricist’s personal experiences in Venezuela. The American media keeps us so very ignorant of events on the whole South American continent that the creative team was wise to move the story to Ricky Ricardo’s pre-Castro Cuba, not only for us Ugly Americans but also, as I understand, for their own political safety as artists.

Larry: What I most liked about The Golem of Havana is the music itself, and when it is brought to life in songs that move the plot along it has me singing its praises. Much of it is delivered in snippets, as when first Laszlo and later Yutka sings; “I had no choice, I bear no blame, I had my family, You’d do the same” Or when Teo laments “Rich Men’s Sons, Poor Men’s Sons.” Written by Salomon Lerner, the music is a colorful tapestry of sounds, often distinctly Cuban and Caribbean, and at others clearly Jewish with Klezmer influences. The scene dictates the style. It is at its best when the two meet, sort of in the middle, and the songs become a blend of the two cultures. Lyricist Len Schiff wastes no time in finding words to the winsome melodies that either express the characters feelings, or advance the plot, sometimes both at the same time.

Gail: The music is lively, melodic, and beautiful. And eminently danceable. Choreographer Marcos Santana blends the dancing seamlessly into the characters’ movement. He is likely also responsible for the striking shadow work that opens the shows and which helps anchor the ancient tale of Rabbi Loeb and the Golem of Prague in its time and place.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

John Doyle, Chita Rivera, Roger Rees All Excited by the Kander-Ebb Musical “The Visit” at WTF [Berkshire on Stage]

July 30th, 2014, 12:00 pm by Sara
Chita Rivera stars in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Visit. (photo: Laurie Duncan)

Chita Rivera stars in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Visit. (photo: Laurie Duncan)

Preview of “The Visit” by Larry Murray

There’s a lot going for the Kander and Ebb musical The Visit, which runs on the Main Stage of the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown from Thursday (July 31) through August 17, 2014. First and foremost is its lead actor, Chita Rivera. And then there is the return of John Doyle as director and Roger Rees, a WTF favorite.

I had a chance to chat with all three briefly before one of their rehearsals. I asked Doyle, who is known for having actors play instruments during a performance (Remember Donna McKechnie in Ten Cents a Dance at WTF?) if that was to be for this new project, and he laughed, “No, not this time. It’s really a rather dark musical, very European, and not at all what you might expect from a Kander and Ebb score.”

Rivera for her part was delighted to have a chance to put together a large scale musical once again, thinking out loud that “It’s very exciting, very unique, dark [and] passionate. It’s one of the last scores Freddie and John wrote. I am enjoying the challenge and who knows where it might go.” With luck, it could have a life on Broadway after Williamstown.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Hump Day Unusual Moment

July 30th, 2014, 11:00 am by Greg

A tip o’ the hat to Timothy Raab

Holly & EvanCaffe LenaCartoonist John CaldwellAdvertise on Nippertown!Hudson SoundsBerkshire On StageKeep Albany BoringThe LindaArtist Charles HaymesLeave Regular Radio BehindThe Law Office of Paul RappThistle Hill Weavers