Finding Live Music just a few miles down the road

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For the past 25 years or so I have averaged between 15 to 20 concerts per year. Live music has always been my favorite thing to do.  The day that COVID changed the world as we know it, I had a front row seat to see Cody Jinks at the Palace Theatre in Albany.  The entertainment industry is trying to pivot and come up with fresh ideas to present concerts.  The folks at the Jericho Drive-in, in conjunction with Proctor’s and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall have offered a ton of terrific shows this summer.

As an avid concert-goer, I have found that there are options out there.  I have just had to expand my horizons and look beyond Nippertown proper.

Photo by Claude Sawyer

Several weeks ago, I ventured out to Stowe Vermont to catch a live show by Stephen Kellogg.  The show, hosted by Spruce Peak, was part of a fundraising campaign called “Spruce Peak Cares.”  This initiative has raised over $80,000 for various charities in the Stowe area.  Held on the green at the Lodge at Spruce Peak, the concert was a sell out.  Families and smaller groups each sat at least six-feet apart.  Each table was equipped with bottled water and hand sanitizer.  There was a barbecue station, a taco truck, a bar and an ice cream spot.  The staff went above and beyond to create a unique live music experience. Kellogg played an amazing set and fed off the energy of the crowd.  It was just his second in-person live show of 2020.  For a guy who has averaged over 150 shows per year since the early 2000’s, this was clearly a big deal for him too.

This past weekend I made the scenic drive back to Stowe, for a weekend of shows.  Spruce Peak pulled out all the stops and hosted three fantastic artists over three nights to close out their concert season.

Ryan Miller
Photo by Claude Sawyer

Friday night, Guster guitarist and lead singer Ryan Miller took the stage with a fiddle player and a $75 Lowrey “Wandering Genie” organ/drum machine.  For the next hour and a half he went from Guster hits to choice covers.  Miller covered “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry and “By Your Side” by Sade, finding a way to make them his own.   As the temperature dipped and he kicked off “Satellite” from Guster’s 2006 release “Ganging Up On The Sun” you could see his breath with every word.  Everyone sang along to “Do You Love Me?” from 2010’s “Easy Wonderful.”  It was a perfect way to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall.

Saturday night, O.A.R. lead singer and guitarist Marc Roberge brought a solo acoustic, stripped down approach to the band’s music.  The band, with a full horn section, normally sells out Madison Square Garden and Red Rocks.  Here we had one man and one guitar.  Roberge brought as much energy to the sold out green at Spruce Peak as he does to any arena.  The set was heavy on fan favorites, from “Back to One” and “Shattered” to “Heaven,” “Love and Memories,” and “Hey Girl.”  You could tell that the audience wanted to get out of their seats to dance, but they held back.  That is until Roberge kicked off “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker.”  Fans couldn’t hold back anymore.  They were up and dancing, yet STILL socially distanced.  It was so odd to see little pods of folks just trying to dance their way back to some sense of normalcy, yet very uplifting.  He seemed truly happy to be out, playing for other humans, in person.

Marc Roberge
Photo by Claude Sawyer

Dispatch, is an independent band that started their career in Middlebury, Vermont and became the first indie artist to sell out Madison Square Garden.  Their first farewell concert, at the Hatch Shell in Boston drew an estimated crowd of 166,000 people.  Singer and guitarist Chadwick Stokes returned to Vermont on Sunday.  He brought along his brother Will on banjo.  Stokes has also been a member of the bands State Radio and Chadwick Stokes and The Pintos.  His setlist covered his entire career.   I spoke to a couple sitting behind me, only to find out that they are from Round Lake.  It seems that I am not the only person willing to travel to find live music.

I am still on the hunt for possible concerts.  If you are like me, The Circle Drive-in in nearby Scranton, Pennsylvania has a great upcoming lineup including shows by Steel Panther and Blackberry Smoke this weekend. Smith & Myers from Shinedown and The Allman Betts Band next week and Skillet and Chase Rice in October.

Chad Stokes
Photo by Claude Sawyer

Closer to home, this coming Friday, September 11th Jericho Drive-In is bringing Almost Queen to the stage.  To call this band a tribute act would be a disservice.  They are not called Almost Queen for no reason.  They are note-for-note perfect.  Stay safe, take care of each other and get out to support the venues that are keeping live music alive.  God knows I miss the production value of an arena show and the energy of a packed, steamy and sweaty Upstate Concert Hall or Hollow Bar + Kitchen.  Until things change, we are all going to need to be a little creative.  

Photo Gallery by Claude Sawyer

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