The Streets are Alive with the Sound of Music!
You couldn’t ask for better birthday weather. Thursday was sunny and mid-70s, barely a cloud in the sky. It was the kind of day that made you itch to be outside of your home, and fortunately, in a world where there are very few places to go, Caffè Lena had the answer. When you can’t invite the world into your venue, you have to make the world your stage and perform in the streets.
Standing on the curb, I saw more people than I had seen in one place in a long time. Despite the masked faces and raised awareness of maintaining space between their neighbors, it almost felt like a regular day in Saratoga. I hadn’t realized how much I had ached to be around other people, to have a sense of social belonging, and Caffè Lena had brought us all together.
There is a distinct pleasure of watching a parade. Waiting for the floats to come builds a sense of anticipation and when you hear the sweet chords of music from down the road, you feel a thrill of excitement race through you. It’s like being a kid again. Everyone had phones ready to record these precious moments of joy.
The performers came on a rolling stage, the back of a flatbed truck provided by Bonacio Construction adorned by balloons and colorful streamers. Hot Club of Saratoga was the first to pass me by, with their bright gypsy swing sound. Their songs hold a rollicking bounce that seemed to bound from rooftop to rooftop as they progressed down Broadway.
They were followed by Let’s Be Leonard. Only three of the five members were on the truck due to restrictions, but they still brought the sound of a full band. Their upbeat emotive songs and smiling faces brought joy to the surrounding crowds.
The final of the three performers, Garland Nelson, had a voice like sunshine personified. It was rich and brilliant, and I could have listened to him sing all day long. He sounded like summer to me, and when he passed, I felt an upswing from the crowd as they applauded and cheered.
Later, when I was heading out, I was behind Let’s Be Leonard as they rolled down Circular Street. I rolled my windows down and watched the live show before me. As I drove, I saw people relaxing on their lawns, blankets spread out as they enjoyed the day with their family. Children were dancing on street corners, and others waved from their lawn chairs. One gentleman stood on a street corner, holding a hand-made sign and balloons, wishing Caffè Lena a happy birthday.
The fact that we have artists like these in Saratoga and a venue like Caffè Lena is truly a gift. For 60 years Lena has been giving us the present of their presence, of offering a stage for humble musicians to share their voices and their talents. She’s been a comforting space for people like me. I’ve seen many shows at Caffe Lena over the years, and I’ve been volunteering there for a little over a year now. You may actually recognize me since I’m usually a server. I miss talking to patrons and bringing you coffee. I miss how friendly everyone is as I navigate the tight squeeze of the tables. I also miss the cookies. You have to admit, their cookies are some of the best you’ve ever tasted.
If you’d like to give back to Lena, you can. They’re always accepting donations to support both themselves and the artists who perform there during this trying time.
You can even become a member, which comes with various perks that you can enjoy when they reopen. If you’re interested, go here.