The Best of Bluegrass

September 29th, 2009, 12:46 pm by Greg

The International Bluegrass Music Association’s Awards show takes place on Thursday, October 1 down in Nashville, and believe it or not, Nippertown has a couple of horses in the race.

You might think that bluegrass is strictly a southern, rural brand of music, but, of course, you’d be wrong. And in fact, we make some mighty fine bluesgrass right here in Nippertown.

The Gibson Brothers

The Gibson Brothers

Held in July at the Walsh Farm down in Oak Hill, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival has become a major player on the bluegrass festival circuit – so much so that Grey Fox is one of only three festivals from around the entire globe to earn a nomination as “Bluegrass Event of Year.”

And our own super picking ‘n’ singing sibblings the Gibson Brothers earned a nod in the oh-so-prestigious “Song of the Year” category for the title track of their sparkling 2008 album, “Iron and Diamonds.”

Good luck!


See Here Now: Brickman X 3

August 7th, 2009, 5:08 pm by Greg

David Brickman: Oriental Frieze

David Brickman: Oriental Frieze

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the local art scene, then you undoubtedly know David Brickman, either from his excellent photography or from his art criticism.

But just in case you aren’t familiar with his work, you’ve got a golden opportunity in downtown Troy this month. Brickman is represented in not one, not two, but three simultaneous art exhibitions all within walking distance of each other around town.

His work is on exhibit as part of the Fence Select ’09 show at the Arts Center of the Capital Region through Sunday, September 13.

His photos are also featured in the Photo Center‘s third annual members’ exhibit, on view through Monday, September 7.

And he’s one of the eight area artists featured in “Group Show, Part I” which is on exhibit at the Clement Frame Shop and Art Gallery through Wednesday, August 26.

Be Here Now: The Dollar Store Mega Summer Tour, 7/15

July 14th, 2009, 2:13 pm by Greg

Out in Chicago, the Dollar Store Show has become something of an institution on the Windy City literary scene since in started up five years ago. Or perhaps it’s headed for an institution.

Either way, it’s headed for Valentine’s in Albany at 7pm Wednesday, July 15, and it sounds like a promising evening of off-the-wall storytelling by a self-described gaggle of “Chicago’s top literary talents, monologists, performers, and drunks.”

So, what the heck is the Dollar Store Show? And how does it work? Well, apparently each writer/performer is given an item that’s been purchased at a dollar store – ranging, of course, from the sublime to the ridiculous to the astonishingly ridiculous. They then have a month to cobble together some sort of a story (fiction, non-, whatever) that somehow involves the item. During the performance, the item is then put on display or somehow incorporated.

It sounds like a simultaneously literary and wacky experience, and that’s totally cool in our book. These are the fearless wordsmiths slated to take the stage at Valentine’s – Aaron Burch, Zach Dodson, Amelia Gray, Mary Hamilton, Jac Jemc, Patrick Sommerville, Colie Collen, Shane Jones and Dan Nester.

My guess is that they’re gonna be more than just a little punch-drunk by the time they hit the stage. After all, the “Mega Summer Tour” is packing a dozen performances into two weeks on the road, and the Albany date is the second-to-last one on the itinerary.

And if ya go, don’t keep ’em up too late after the show. Sure, we know that you want to share your own dollar-store stories, but seriously, these guys have another show to do the following night – in Ann Arbor, Michigan. And that’s a loooong drive, so give ’em a break.

LIVE: River Street Festival Wrapup

June 22nd, 2009, 11:09 am by Sara

A little rain never hurt anybody. And it certainly didn’t keep many folks away from downtown Troy for the sixth annual River Street Festival on Saturday, June 20.

(photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

(photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Although armed with only an acoustic guitar, Rob Dickinson somehow managed to conjure up the massive wall of sound of his old band, the Catherine Wheel.

(photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

(photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Chris Barron declared, “Yes, I’m that guy from the Spin Doctors,” as he delivered a solo performance of Spin Docs classics and tunes from his new solo album, “Pancho and the Kid.”

(photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

(photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Mike Doughty wasn’t the headliner, but you’d never have known it from the enthusiastic crowd reaction. Barefoot violinist Caroline Pook joined him for most of his rain-soaked set.

Straight outta Connecticut, the Alternate Routes served up the festival’s opening set.

The festival’s second stage showcased a lot of Nippertown’s homegrown musical talent, including Simple Theory.

“Whip it…

…whip it good!”

And of course, no festival on River Street would ever be complete with a sidewalk chalk painting competition. Among the entries were dog portraits, Van Gogh wanna-bes, cartoon characters, landscapes, trippy abstracts and more…



And in addition to presenting the massive exhibition of the Fence Show artwork in the galleries, the Arts Center of the Capital Region also hosted performances by Eddie Ade Knowles and Ensemble Congeros:

(photo by Matthew Mac Haffie)

(photo by Matthew Mac Haffie)

(photo by Matthew Mac Haffie)

(photo by Matthew Mac Haffie)

Now that’s what I call some percolating percussion…

LIVE: Eddie Vedder @ the Palace Theatre, 6/8/09

June 9th, 2009, 1:07 am by Greg


“I can’t wait to tell my four-year-old daughter that I played at a palace tonight,” the Pearl Jam frontman told the sold-out crowd at the Palace Theatre on the first night of his solo tour. “She’s going to be so impressed.”

And if he wasn’t a king at the Palace on Monday night, he was certainly at least a prince, garnering a standing ovation from the devoted crowd of fans before he even strapped on his guitar.

Yes, rock stardom does wonders for your self-esteem – as well as your bank account – but in truth Vedder earned the accolades with a solid 110-minute solo show that bounced around from PJ classics to Vedder solo tracks from “Into the Wild” to the usual assortment of cover tunes.

When Pearl Jam made their Nippertown debut at RPI’s Houston Field House back on Nov. 5, 1991, Vedder was a kinetic dynamo, clammoring atop the PA speakers and howling with wild abandon. It was, in fact, one of the most electrifying rock & roll performances I’ve ever seen. And the same can be said for the band’s next area performance – a mid-afternoon showstopper (literally) at the Lollapalooza tourstop at SPAC.

On Monday night, it was a complete about-face from those early days. Vedder was totally relaxed and casual – perhaps a bit too much so. He had a false start on “Man of the Hour,” as he tried to get the volume turned down on his tenor guitar. “It’s a small guitar trying to be the loudest,” he explained. “It’s got a Napolean complex.”

He had a lot of trouble getting through “Guaranteed,” as well, blanking out on the lyrics three times during the course of the song. When he finally did manage to finish the song, the crowd roared its approval, and Vedder responded by saying, “Thank you very much for your patience. That’s the longest version of ‘Guaranteed’ that I’ve ever played.”

And halfway through the performance, Vedder took a break, declaring “I feel like I’ve got a pretty good fucking job.” Sauntering over to stage left, he settling into a chair that looked like a giant pair of feet. He lit a cigarette, sipped on a beer and told a story about a somewhat embarrassing rock star-fan interaction. Finally, he admitted about his eight-minute storytelling excursion, “Well, this is the only time I’ll be doing this on this tour.”

But really, those were about the only miscues of the night, and the rest of the show was pretty damned fine. Vedder was in excellent voice, and his solo repertoire focused nicely on the soundtrack for “Into the Wild.” Separated from the film, songs like “No Ceiling” and the hard-stomping “Far Behind” sparkled.

There was quite a collection of cover tunes on parade as well, from the opening rendition of Daniel Johnston’s “Walking the Cow” to the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” spiked with a bit of harmonica playing. The Dylan songbag fared best, given top-notch performances of the anthemic “Forever Young,” as well as a folksy, understated treatment of “Girl from the North Country.”

There was a bit of a surprise, as well. “I’ve never played this song before. Well, I mean, I don’t think I’ve played it since I was 15 years old,” he admitted as he launched into an appropriately ominous rendition of Springsteen’s “State Trooper.”

And of course there were old Pearl Jam favorites aplenty, including the churning “Sometimes,” the raging “Lukin,” a folksy acoustic rendition of “Around the Bend,” the furiously strummed “I Am Mine” and the audience sing-along, crowd-pleaser “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.”

He grabbed a mandolin for “Rise” and a ukulele for “Soon Forget.” And Vedder wrapped up the night with a potent a cappella looping performance of “Arc,” his powerful baritone massing into an intoxicating choir of vocal acrobatics.

The music continued to loop around as he stepped away from the microphone and the red theater curtain closed behind him. He walked out into the orchestra pit to shake hands with front-row fans for a few minutes, then climbed back onstage, flashing one final peace sign before disappearing through the curtain.

After that, the final encore of “Hard Sun” – accompanied by opening act / deliriously fractured popster Liam Finn and his musical partner E.J. Barnes – was so anti-climactic that it was barely there at all.


Monday night’s show sold out in four minutes – the fastest sell-out at the Palace in recent memory – or ever, for that matter.

He will deliver another show at the Palace Theatre tonight (Tuesday), but that show, too, is sold out.

He’s been here in Nippertown since Saturday, rehearsing at the Palace, and relaxing by paddle-boarding on the Hudson River and up at Round Lake.

When he sat down to start the show, he explained to the crowd, “This is going to be a joint effort. Get comfortable, and thanks for letting us experiment on you.”

He sang “a work in progress” about the NY state capitol, an off-the-cuff joke-song that began, “Albany, you’re so tall to me.”

When he came back out for his first encores, he launched into a conversation about the Carpenters. “They were white bread, but they had great songs – kind of like America’s ABBA.”


Walking the Cow
Around the Bend
I Am Mine
I’m Open
Man of the Hour
No Ceiling
Far Behind
State Trooper
Girl From the North Country
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Soon Forget
You’re True
– storytime –
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
(goofy song about Albany)
Society (with Liam Finn)
Forever Young
Hard Sun (with Liam Finn, EJ Barnes)


Dave Singer at the Daily Gazette
Michael Eck at the Times Union
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