Review and video by Joel Patterson
Photograph by Joe Deuel
If the name Steve Shook evokes some kind of half-buried memory, but you just can’t quite place it, relax – you’ve got a lot on your mind! But see if this rings any bells… In the ’70s, he was part of Travis Shook & the Club Wow, who regularly opened for comedian George Carlin.
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez (photo by Joe Deuel)
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Denise Borden and Joe Deuel
A handwritten sign posted on the interior door of Caffe Lena proclaimed “Sold Out!,” and the two sets of music that ensued within the landmark venue on a warm Friday night justified why it would be standing room only. The performance was so hot that I had two pens run out of ink – thankfully, I had brought along a Sharpie as a backup.
After a rousing introduction by Caffe director Sarah Craig, Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez opened with a poignant “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” a soul classic written in 1964 by Roosevelt Jamison, who passed away last month. A song associated with O.V. Wright, Otis Redding, and more recently, Buddy Miller. Ohlman’s performance this night could join that list of definitive renditions. She nailed the longing, pleading and devotion innate to each and every verse.
Chandler Travis made a Capital District stop, once again, at the Linda, this time dragging the rest of the Philharmonic with him. The last time in town – at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park – they were missing their mandocello-accordion player, Dinty Child. All nine members made this one, albeit with a slightly different line-up. I have seen the Philharmonic several times, but I do not believe it has been the same line-up twice, as Chandler has a stable of fantastic musicians he can draw from in case someone can’t make the gig. Trumpeter Keiichi Hashimoto and pianist Cliff Spencer came along for the ride this time.
Anyone who has seen Travis knows that he possesses a dry wit that can border on hilarity, so it should be no surprise that he would have good friend Pete LaBonne along to warm up for him. LaBonne has that same sense of understated humor. He may not be quite as polished as Travis – possibly due to living in a small cabin in Upstate NY… without power – but he can be just as funny. LaBonne hit the stage to a chorus of “PETE… PETE… PETE,” which of course, he joined in on. As he ran through his short set, all the members of the Philharmonic left the green room and sat with the audience to catch it, a tribute to how they all felt about him.
“Here’s a song I wrote before I ever wrote a song,” Peter Case explained as he picked up his acoustic guitar and ran through “Here He Comes, There He Goes,” a little ditty that he penned during his teenage years in Buffalo. Case was having a flashback moment, and he wasn’t afraid to share it with the intimate crowd at his mid-week Caffe Lena show.
Surprisingly enough for the veteran singer-songwriter, it was his Lena’s debut.
After years of banging out music that is both sweet and out-there – sometimes at the same time – singer-songwriter-ringleader Chandler Travis seems to have made Nippertown his second home. In a dizzying variety of different musical contexts – from solo to the Incredible Casuals to the Chandler Travis Philharmonette to the full-blown, three-ring Chandler Travis Philharmonic – he’s become a regular around town, making stops at Caffe Lena, The Linda, Valentine’s Music Hall and some Indian restaurant in Clifton Park.
A big thank you goes out to Sarah Craig and the volunteers that helped make the 50th anniversary of Caffe Lena such a wonderful and memorable event.
We’d like to offer one last photo from the vast archives of longtime house photographer Joe Deuel. It’s a 1989 photograph of Dave Van Ronk clowning around after Lena Spencer’s memorial service. He’s surrounded by Anna McGarrigle, Utah Phillips and Roy Book Binder. It’s also the only one of Joe’s photos that we’ve published that wasn’t taken at the Caffe. This one’s from the Parting Glass:
Congratulations go out to Sarah Craig and the tireless volunteers who made Caffe Lena’s 50th anniversary possible this month. We’re joining in the celebration by publishing one photo each day from the collection of house photographer Joe Deuel.
Here’s a 1989 photograph of John Hartford lounging backstage with Lena Spencer (and Sasha):
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