LIVE: Mark Gamsjager & The Lustre Kings @ Caffe Lena On the Road, 7/30/2020


We are all well aware of all that has been missing during this pandemic.  Our favorite eating establishments and watering hole were shut down for months, some of which, sadly, permanently.  While these precautions have slowly started to be loosened, one area still completely closed off is nursing home visitations.  This is particularly heart wrenching for families, but understandable in this climate.  A little lower on the importance scale, but sad nonetheless, are the lack of visits by entertainers, from artists to musicians, the frequent visits by these folks can be a bright spot in the day for many of the residents and staff.  For an hour or so, someone has taken the time to come visit and share their talents solely for the people.  Whether is be an art teacher, or a dance instructor or a musician singing songs, it helped the time pass in a constructive way.  In fact, studies have shown this to help the cognitive well being of the participants.  With this in mind, Caffe Lena has expanded their Caffe Lena On The Road Program to include content specifically tailored to some of these facilities.

Photo by Ed Conway

First up, The Pines at Glens Falls Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.  When contacted by the Caffe’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Reese Fulmer, residents placed several requests, including Elvis, which immediately led to Mark Gamsjager & The Lustre Kings.  Since this was an all-request show, it was interesting to watch as some of the finest musicians in the area brainstormed ideas and ran through these requests, many of which had not been played by them as a group.  Each of them dug into their personal catalogues of music to fulfill these requests.  It was wonderful to watch them quickly run through the slate of songs for the first time, in many cases, and to see the end result as they blossomed into what appeared to the naked eye as if they had been performing for years.  The songs ran the gamut from Elvis and early Rockabilly, to George Jones, country into standards territory of Frank Sinatra and the Lustre Kings handled it all.,

Photo by Ed Conway

Some of the highlights were, steel guitarist Kevin Maul, as he stood up from behind his pedal steel to croon Tony Bennett’s “I Wanna Be Around”, or bassist Don Young’s versions of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon.”  One song that made me forget that I was at a taping was “Route 66” where I was so into it, I started to clap, oops, which made keyboardist Mike Kelly, start laughing. Keeping the beat was Chris Sprague, who may be better known as the drummer for Los Straitjackets, and recently made the Capital District his home after moving from Southern California.  The most beautiful song of the afternoon was Merle Haggard heartbreaker “Silver Wings”, sung by Gamsjager and backed up by Maul, Young and Sprague, making for a four part harmony that really added to the heavy emotion of the song.  A complete list of songs is below the interview with Caffe Lena’ Executive Director, Sarah Craig.

Ed Conway: Doing a session for the Nursing Home is a great idea, what was the process to come up with the show? Who did you contact, etc?  How did you go about outreach?

Sarah Craig: The folks who love seeing shows at Caffe Lena have been helping us out in lots of ways, including by sending great ideas. This concept came from an audience member named Denise McDonald.  It’s a fresh interpretation of our Caffe Lena On the Road program, which delivers live music to neighbors who can’t get to the venue.

Photo by Ed Conway

EC: How is the show set up, can everyone see it, or just the facility that’s involved?

SC: We will limit it to The Pines because we want the “chat room” to be a private place of special connection for the residents and their families. 

EC: Are there anymore shows set up like this?

SC: I’m talking to some other musicians on our roster who specialize in working with the elderly to see if we can keep this going.  

EC: What’s next for Caffe Lena?

SC: We’re developing new ways to share our livestreams in order to expand the audience and generate revenue to pay musicians and save our stage. We’re also sharing our broadcast capacity with other nonprofits so they can raise money, connect with their audience, and keep their work in the public eye. Also, our Caffe Lena School of Music for kids continues to grow as an online classroom. We added an adult track, a theater program for teens, and now we’re adding some one-session masterclasses.

Photo by Ed Conway

EC: I know you put off opening on a partial basis for shows inside the Caffe, are any plans to do this in the near future, or is it a play by ear situation?

SC: We expect to be letting in a couple dozen people for food, drink and instrumental music once the busy summer tourist season is over.  From there we’ll play it by ear, taking into consideration any easing of restrictions that may come along, and any new safety equipment that may be advised by the state.

EC: Anything else you think fans of the Caffe may want to know?

SC: We’re part of an industry that has been nearly extinguished by Covid-19. When the pandemic ends, we know that independent music’s network of agents, artists, publicists and venues will have been decimated. We’ll need to rebuild live music from the ground up, and that’s exactly what we intend to do. Folk music was born in a forest around a campfire with nothing but our voices. Making music is an essential part of our humanity and we take courage from that. 

Set List with who sang it

  • All Shook Up – Mark Gamsjager
  • Folsom Prison Blues – Mark Gamsjager
  • She Thinks I Still Care – Mike Kelley
  • I Wanna Be Around – Kevin Maul
  • Fly Me To The Moon – Don Young
  • Route 66 – Mark Gamsjager
  • Ain’t That Loving You Baby – Chris Sprague
  • Georgia On My Mind – Don Young
  • Sweet Caroline – Don Young
  • White Lightening – Chris Sprague
  • Silver Wings – Mark Gamsjager with Young, Sprague and Maul
  • I Got Friend In Low Places – Don Young
  • On The Road Again – Mark Gamsjager and Don Young
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