The Venues of Nippertown

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Like everyone else, I am jumping out of my skin to get back to seeing live shows around town.  The online performances being put on by Caffe Lena and many others are awesome, but there’s no substitute for a great live performance on one of our many local stages.

Which got me to thinking…we really are blessed with an awful lot of great venues around greater Nippertown.  The Capital District has something less than 900,000 people, which makes it squarely “mid-sized”, by any measure.  But take a look at our live music options, and I’d argue we punch way, way above our weight class. And not just in the quality and quantity of the bookings (though that is obviously key).  In many cases, the venue’s history and beauty itself adds immeasurably to the experience.

Think about it:

Saratoga Performing Arts Center

SPAC: The best outdoor music venue in the entire country, according to one poll.  If you grew up in the Capital District, SPAC was a part of your childhood.  An absolute treasure…still going strong 50+ years on.

The Palace Theatre: Originally an RKO movie palace built in 1930, it is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  A gorgeous, timeless place to see a show, and where you see bands move from the small time to the big leagues.

Proctors: A spectacular old vaudeville theatre, built in 1926.  With a palatially beautiful interior, it’s best known for hosting touring Broadway musicals.  However, it’s also an important music venue, regularly hosting artists on its main stage as well as its (several) smaller performing areas.

The Egg Performing Arts Center

The Egg: The most iconic part of Albany’s skyline is host to not one, but two theatres.  Some of the best sounding rooms anywhere, and not a bad seat in the house. They book an eclectic mix of exciting up-and-comers and legendary veterans.

Troy Music Hall: One of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls.  If an artist you like is playing here (and they often do), you should run to see them.

Cohoes Music Hall: Built in 1874 (!), it doesn’t get much more vintage than this – it’s the 4th oldest operating music hall in the country.  A delightful, creatively booked small theatre with a ton of history.

The Linda: A converted bank, this 2002 addition to the local music scene has the advantage of a direct tie-in to our local NPR station, WAMC.  Bonus points for the reverent wall art of the acts that have played there.

The Hollow:  Located in the historic Brewster building, it’s also the current queen of Albany’s “club” bookings.  

Caffe Lena

Caffe Lena: The longest continuously operating folk venue in the country.  Dylan played here in ’61, and so has everybody else since then.

The Van Dyck: Jazz runs deep here.  Since 1947, one of the country’s best “listening rooms” has hosted Gillespie, Brubeck, Monk, and untold others.

Universal Preservation Hall:  Greater Nippertown’s “newest” major venue is actually a gorgeously restored Methodist Church from 1871.

The list goes on and on.  From the ordinary-looking-but-really-well-booked (Times Union Center, Upstate Concert Hall), to the hidden gems (Hangar on the Hudson, Chrome, Cock ‘n Bull), to the jam-centered rooms (Putnam Place, Parish Public House), to the grittiest and most authentic small clubs you could want (Low Beat, Pauly’s Hotel, Fuze Box).  So many more not mentioned here…

What more could you want?  As a live music fan, I feel very lucky to live here.  Can’t wait to get back out there…

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