LIVE: New Year’s Eve Comedy Show @ the Pearl Street Pub, 12/31/13

January 10th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Frank Vignola

Frank Vignola

Review and photographs by Jason Spiro

Everyone, well, most everyone has something that they’d consider the breath of life: a hobby, avocation or leisure activity that provides literal or virtual sustenance. Foodies have their new restaurants. Aesthetes have jazz, classical and dance. But I need the comedy. I crave it. Until recently I’d absented myself from any live stand-up comedy experiences. I’m finding, lately, that I’m getting pulled back in, that I’ve got the bug.

It’s a little surprising and very heartening to know that there’s a dedicated group of comics who book local shows in smaller rooms, who bring talent from Western Mass, the mid-Hudson Valley and, more to the point, New York City or even Boston. When a New York comic of note is coming to town, I certainly make note. When two or more NYC comedians and a bevy regional talent is advertised, I have to make a point to attend. If it’s downtown and I don’t have to worry about drink minimums, that’s a huge bonus.

It was a kind of DIY comedy show, but in an environment styled after “big room” comedy. The dinner crowd looked well fed, sated and ready for more when the show began. Emcee and Schenectady resident Russell Davignon delivered his jokes, introduced the acts and provided a firm hand (yes, apparently even pros need “the light” to know their set is over) to keep the show tightly paced.

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LIVE: “The Ghosts of Comics Past” @ Flo’s Lark Tavern, 12/16/13

January 9th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Joe Greene does Louis CK

Joe Greene does Louis CK

Review and photographs by Jason Spiro

Host Mo Haskins conceived of “The Ghosts of Comics Past” and hosted this second annual celebration of the best jokes – a night of “covers” only. Haskins stuck to the jokes of Hannibal Buress as he emceed and introduced the stand-ups. The comedians in attendance followed the format, save the few unaware before arriving.

The crowd consisted mostly of walk-ins and friends of the comics. The stand-up personas, played by an array of local talent, were tributes to – among many others, about 20 in all – Redd Foxx, Mike Birbiglia, Chris D’Elia and two distinctly different but equally effective Mitch Hedbergs.

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LIVE: Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam @ The Egg, 1/4/14

January 7th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg

Dave Mason @ The Egg

Review and photographs by Jason Spiro

Dave Mason’s concert at The Egg on Saturday night was preceded by a slideshow of images, archival photographs that illustrated Mason’s long and storied history in the field of rock, blues, etc. A soundtrack played along with the images, that sounded not unlike modern remixes and covers of classic rock, but were more likely Mason’s originals of his oft-covered songs.

The show was advertised to begin at 7:30pm, and so began promptly at 7:48, perhaps to allow this crowd time to amble in – with scents of patchouli nearly ever-present, one loyal service dog for the aged, and much greying of hair progressed far beyond mere temples or sideburns – but more probably in deference to time honored tradition of holding the show. Yes, a polite crowd, with a few rabble rousers, but mostly quiet and not prone to dance, even upon urging from the band. But at least they weren’t supine.

I kid, of course, because I was in awe of the band, and thus I respect anyone who braved the cold and took advantage of the opportunity to see a bit of rock history played out memorably in the present. It is to my elders’ credit, those who grew up with these songs as tweens, teeny boppers, mods, hippies, Yippies, et al., that they came out, if you like, to show them, that there is an audience for this stuff, even on the night following a snowpocalypse. (Would that the kids would see… The same brain frazzled noodle dancers who pay hundreds to tour with (take your pick) could instead invest a fraction of the time and money to see an outfit with real, vested, undeniable provenance.)

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LIVE: The Figgs @ Valentine’s Music Hall, 12/20/13

January 6th, 2014, 11:00 am by Greg
The Figgs

The Figgs

Review and photographs by Jason Spiro

How great are the Figgs? You don’t know? What are you kidding me, or do you live in the trees? Somehow even if you lived in the trees, say outside of Woodstock, I’d still expect you’ve heard of this great band piloted by Pete Donnelly, Mike Gent and Pete Hayes. They were legendary as young upstarts, stars of the upstate New York alt-rock scene before they left high school. Later they backed Graham Parker, an English rocker of some repute, lately a resident of the Woodstock area. Maybe you’ve heard of Parker – well, of course you’ve heard his tunes – or you saw him featured in Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40,” where his legendary status and talent were gently, lovingly lampooned.

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LIVE: Melissa Ferrick @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 12/7/13

December 30th, 2013, 2:00 pm by Greg

Melissa Ferrick

Photographs by Jason Spiro

I heard this amazing singer-songwriter on “Live at The Linda” radio show the Wednesday before this concert, and I was blown away. Then they announced on the air that she’d be returning to Albany that Saturday. What? They should always do that! That’s good promotion.

Melissa Ferrick was great – powerful voice, nice guitar chops, a variety of popular and folk-influenced solo guitar song styles, capo’d many frets, etc. She had the audience sing along and her between-song patter was great. What a warm environment. She’s so funny. And the sound was good, too…

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Some Holiday Ha-Ha’s

December 20th, 2013, 11:00 am by Greg
Vernon Payne

Vernon Payne

Photograph by Jason Spiro

If you’re still out there shopping for this holiday season, you might need a laugh or two to help take the edge off of mall madness.

So why not drop by the Hudson River Coffee House in Albany tonight (Friday, December 20) for the Coffee & Comedy Show?

Hosted by Vernon Payne, the end-of-the-year laugh-fest will also feature comedians Terrence Green, Shawn Gillie, Michael Gregg, Lee Stevens and Bobby Masi. It all gets started at 8:30pm, and admission is just $5.

LIVE: Mike Watt & the Missingmen @ Valentine’s Music Hall, 10/18/12

November 16th, 2012, 12:00 pm by Greg
Mike Watt  (photo by Kirsten Ferguson)

Mike Watt (photo by Kirsten Ferguson)

Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson. See more of Kirsten’s photos from this show here.
Additional Mike Watt photograph by Jason Spiro. See more of Jason’s photos from this show here.
Last Conspirators photograph by Denise Jordan
. See more of Denise’s photos from this show here.

Across town at the Palace Theatre, fans screamed and stormed the stage when Smiths’ singer Morrissey bared his chest during his debut Albany performance. Over at Valentine’s Music Hall on the same night — at a show that unfortunately competed for some of the same fans of ‘80s college rock — bassist Mike Watt stripped his shirt off onstage, too.

Granted, when Watt did it the show was over and fans had mostly cleared out, and the former Minuteman was really only swapping his sweat-soaked stage flannel for a drier shirt to wear in the van. He and his partners in plaid — guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales, who made up the Missingmen — had just ripped through 30 rapid-fire songs in 45 minutes and then played a frenzied encore of classic Minutemen tunes.

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LIVE: The Magnetic Fields @ Club Helsinki, 10/25/12

October 31st, 2012, 4:00 pm by Greg

The Magnetic Fields @ Club Helsinki, 10/25/12 (photo by Jason Spiro)

Review and photographs by Jason Spiro

This past Thursday, the Magnetic Fields appeared at Club Helsinki in Hudson. I heard about the show less than a week beforehand from a my-old-school acquaintance via Facebook. and within minutes I purchased a ticket.

For reasons that escape me now, I neglected to see this band at either their last Club Helsinki or Beacon Theater appearances earlier in the year. These dates followed the release of their latest record, Love at the Bottom of the Sea. I remember listening to this record, and at the time, I enjoyed the songs but didn’t fully grasp either the brilliance of the songwriting or the entirely appropriate, sonorous, technically able arrangements.

Revisiting this last album’s material reinforced as correct my otherwise snap decision to attend the concert – although, the live presentation of this and other selections from the band’s oeuvre was entirely different from recorded versions.

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