Twelve Notable Live Music Moments from 2020
In a normal year, this would be when all the “Top Ten Shows of 2020” lists would be coming out, to be compared and argued over. With Covid cutting that short in mid-March, it didn’t really seem appropriate to take that approach this year. Rather, what I offer below are twelve notable Live Music moments from around Nippertown. In aggregate, they tell a story of Covid, and how the local music scene reacted to it.
February 29: Rosanne Cash at the grand opening of Universal Preservation Hall. Perhaps nothing encapsulates the Covid impact better than UPH. A spectacular, successful opening for the area’s newest venue, followed by its forced shuttering a couple weeks later. By summer, they were creatively hosting a Rock & Pinball exhibit, but it was obviously not what they expected their first year to be like.
March 14: Caffe Lena launches “Stay Home Sessions”. Caffe Lena hardly missed a beat in figuring out how to respond to Covid. By March 14, they were broadcasting live acts into your living room, and continue to do so as we speak. Having this national treasure (and non-profit) in Nippertown has really paid off. These shows have really helped keep people sane.
April 5: The Eddies that weren’t. The Eddies are essentially the local music Grammys. In only its second year, they were originally scheduled to be held April 5 at Proctors. This was then delayed to December 6 at UPH, before finally being pushed out to an as-yet-to-be determined date in 2021. Too bad…it looked to be a good show.
May 21: Caffe Lena’s Birthday Parade. This was really the first event that figured out how to safely present some live music during Covid lockdown. Three bands on the back of flatbeds, rolling through the streets of Saratoga at lunch hour. I know more than a few people who made a point to drive up, just to hear a few minutes of live music.
May 29: The Window Sessions at Lark Hall. Similar to UPH, what to do when you’re just about to open up your new venue to the world, and Covid shuts you down? In the case of Lark Hall, they opened up their windows (literally) and played the music out to the world. A much needed breath of fresh air to the Lark Street neighborhood.
July through the summer: Live music and a drive-in movie. By July, both the Jericho and the Malta drive-ins had started hosting “drive-up” live shows, most of the time paired with a similarly themed movie. I went to a couple of these, and they are great fun. I see no reason these couldn’t continue next year, when (hopefully) we can all crowd around the stage again like normal.
July 13: Motorbike kicks off the “Open for Take-Out” series at the Linda. Following in the footsteps of Caffe Lena, The Linda began its own weekly series of livestreamed concerts on Mondays. This excellent series continues to this day.
September 14: The Low Beat closes. This one hurt the most. Howard Glassman announced he would not be reopening, and September 14 was the last day patrons could stop by and take some memorabilia home with them. The Deadbeats will go down as the last act to play there on March 9. For the past several years, the Low Beat was the rock and roll heart of Albany. It will be sorely missed.
October 9: Girl Blue performs at the Hollow’s first “Supper Club”. Covid restrictions limited crowd sizes and advertising, so the Hollow and Guthrie/Bell got creative and came up with “The Supper Club” series. An intimate show paired with a delicious dinner, limited to only 30 socially distanced patrons. The weekly series was very well received, but sadly had to be halted by mid November due to increased infection rates.
October 26: Skyloft closes. In the end, the sister location to Daryl’s House down in Pawling didn’t make it a year. But man, they had a bright, brief run. Very aggressively booked out of the gate, they won over many dedicated patrons quickly. And so went the only good reason to go to the mall.
November 1: “There’s No Place like Chrome” telethon. Owner Darla Cherry had previously announced the Waterford venue for sale due to Covid-related financial hardships. After a large number of patrons responded, she decided instead to stage an all day telethon to try to raise funds to stay open. Whether or not that pans out long term still remains to be seen.
November 23: Goodbye, Hal Ketchum. Locally-born-and-raised country legend (and Eddies Hall-of-Famer) Hal Ketchum died.
What moments would you call out?