Who: Chuck Vosganian, AKA “Rochmon.”
Where are you from originally?
East Moriches, Long Island. I moved to the Saratoga area 30 years ago.
What’s changed in Saratoga since you’ve been here
A lot has changed in 30 years, but living right in town, being downtown, and being part of this community is really cool. My wife, Karen, teaches at Empire State College and when gets done at 5:30 we’ll take a half-hour, 45 minutes, and just walk around downtown. It’s just a vibrant downtown, there’s a lot to do.
What are you doing today?
Preparing for Rochmon Record Club, which takes place July 18 at Caffe Lena. What that is: one Tuesday a month we’ll get together and talk about a classic record. I do a breakdown about the history of the album, the history of the players, and I talk about the songs, play the songs, show pictures.
What are some of the records you’ve showcased?
David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” Creedence Clearwater’s “Cosmo’s Factory,” Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung,” Led Zeppelin “Houses of the Holy,” are some of them. In August, we’re going to do Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon,” and this month it’s Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” (Tuesday, July 18 at Caffe Lena). I’ve been doing music my whole life. My parents were musicians, I play drums, my son, Matteo, is in the band Wild Adriatic who are touring all over the place, and I’ve always been into the details. Doing this takes me right back to being a little kid sitting on the couch, in the sweet spot in the center the two speakers, holding the album cover and listening to the record.
CD, vinyl, tape - what’s your favorite format?
I love vinyl first. To my way of thinking there’s so much more information in there, you hear more things and it just sounds so much better.
Where did you get your nickname ?
It was a weird thing. Back when we got AOL Instant Messenger, my kids were all picking their aliases, and I picked Rochmon P. Nickname as an alias for myself. I don’t why I came up with it, but for some reason my kids held onto it and started calling me Rochmon.
What do you see in Saratoga’s future?
I would like Saratoga to continue to always be a good walking city. One of the things that makes it so much fun is walking down Broadway from one end of the street to the other. Parking is always going to be an issue; I’m not sure we can ever have enough parking, but just so it stays walking-friendly, so people can come and feel safe and see what there is to be seen. I love the diversity of the retailers on Broadway – I’d like to see a little bit more diversity there as well, but there’s a lot to do off Broadway as well, from Beekman Street all the way down to Congress Park.
Where did you grow up and what helped shape you creatively?
I was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Saratoga Springs when I was around 10 years old. My earliest memories include my mom taking my brother and I to art museums, and driving around in the front seat of my dad's pickup truck, because the backseat was too full of construction tools. In large ways and small, my mom and dad would always put me at the intersection of inspiration and the possibility to make something... so I was off to a good start.
I couldn't read or write until I was around eight because of a learning disability, and that was incredibly discouraging for me throughout my time in school. As a result, I always gravitated towards expressing myself through art in some capacity.
How does the creative process work for you?
It's incredibly unpredictable. Sometimes things will begin to crystalize after I've been sitting with the guitar for a little while, and other times fully formed choruses will erupt in my head - lyrics and all. I've written songs in the car and in the shower, but many of them were born in the middle of the night on my bedroom floor. Just in case, I always try to carry a notebook with me.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned traveling around the world?
The world is on your side, if you'll let it be. People want to connect with one another and help each other. When I've trusted that, and approached others with kindness, curiosity and enthusiasm, I've heard beautiful stories and had incredible conversations and have made wonderful friends. Even when bad things happened, they only opened up more room for the good in people to flourish and be seen.
On Sunday night, your homecoming will be celebrated with a concert at Caffè Lena. What can people coming to the show expect?
It's been about two years since I've played a proper show in Saratoga, so I want it to be a blast for everyone, and unique. I'll be playing songs new and old. I'm toying with the idea of playing the first song I ever played at Caffè Lena's open mic when I was 17. It might be a little embarrassing, hahaha. I attended the open mics religiously as a teenager. I would sit with other musicians in the greenroom and they would teach me cool things I could try on guitar, or we would talk about a song I was working on. The whole night is going to be really special to me, and I'm hoping everyone feels that.
Folks attending will also be given a CD with an exclusive preview of your next record.
Often we only see the finished product, and Caffè Lena is where I learned to value and fully engage with the process of writing songs. The process of writing was made so special because of the people I met there, and I thought it would be fun and appropriate to share a work "in process."
MaryLeigh Roohan will perform at Caffè Lena at 7 p.m. on Sunday June 25. Tickets are $14 general public, $12 café members and $7 students and kids.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Three Sundays of free music, a new gazebo, and nearly three weeks of film screenings highlight some of the new amenities at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this season, the organization announced Wednesday at the Hall of Springs, during its annual meeting.
A “Caffè Lena @ SPAC” Concert Series – in reciprocity of the recent “SPAC at Caffè Lena” series will take place on SPAC’s gazebo stage from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, June 11, July 9 and Aug. 27.
“We look forward to bringing people from all corners of our community together to experience the exhilaration of live music performances, without the barrier of cost,” said SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol.
The musical lineup, thus far, features Birds of Chicago, The Pines on June 11; The Steel Wheels, Twisted Pine, Honeysuckle and Western Den on July 9, and Soul Inscribed, Sweet Megg & The Wayfarers, and Let's Be Leonard on Aug. 27. Fans are welcome to bring in food, drink, blankets and lawn chairs for the concerts. Food concessions will also be available. In the event of rain on the day of performance, the concert location will shift to Caffè Lena, on Phila Street.
Also new this year: SPAC will host the Saratoga Film Forum at the Spa Little Theatre from July 20 – Aug. 2, and Aug. 23 - 28. Many of the films screened during the series will feature subjects with connections to artists, composers, choreographers or works that are part of SPAC’s summer programming. The film schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
The venue’s new gazebo, which will feature an increase in square footage of 133 percent over the current one, will be named after the late Charles R. Wood – who in addition to his other regional accomplishments was a member of SPAC’s board during the ‘90s. The Charles R. Wood Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to SPAC that will underwrite the cost of replacing SPAC’s aging gazebo stage.
According to SPAC’s 2016 Revenue Statement issued Wednesday, $10 million in operating revenues topped approximately $9.85 million in operating expenses, resulting in a net surplus of approximately $152,000.
Who: Joe Deuel, photographer, sound man.
Where: Caffè Lena.
You’re a native Saratogian. How long has your family been here? What did they do?
I’m the fifth generation. And everyone in town knew my dad. He was a pro bowler in the ‘50s and had a photo studio on Phila Street. Later, he ended up being the manager of Saratoga Bowl and Hi-Roc Lanes. I kind of grew up in bowling alleys.
How long have you been interested in photography?
I always had a camera in my hand, from the time I was eight. It was a cheap little thing and I was always shooting pictures. Later, they had a photo club when I was in junior high – it’s the Lake Avenue School now - and the first time I saw a print develop, that was it.
Do you remember the first time you came to the café?
I was in 12th grade and came here with two friends from high school. This was late ’72 or early ’73. Utah Philipps was recording his album called “Good Though!” That was my introduction to Caffè Lena. Utah turned out to be a real influence, a real teacher.
You have been the sound man at Caffè Lena for several decades. How did that start?
I came here to do the dishes one night and got wrapped up in the place. Someone asked me to do the sound one night for Peppino D’Agostino, the Italian guitar wizard. I helped him turn a few knobs, then Lena kind of stuck me on it and there was no getting out.
What are your lasting impressions of Lena, who died in 1989?
Lena was pretty complicated and fascinating in a lot of ways. I remember I’d go out on Thursdays and buy all the groceries for the weekend and come in and do sound and wait tables at the same time. On the days I wasn’t here I’d asked her, “Why don’t you call me, so I know you’re OK, or if you need anything.” So, she’d call me every morning. She was like my alarm clock. The first thing I did every morning was get a phone call from Lena, and we’d chat. It was sad when that stopped.
You have probably had many a-brush with fame?
This town’s crazy because with SPAC here. You can be sitting in Desperate Annie’s and the guy sitting next to you is Donovan. A friend of mine was sitting in the Parting Glass once, and Tom Waits walked in - still wearing his bum clothes from (filming the movie) “Ironweed,” and they were about to boot him out of there. Robert Plant came in one night. This town’s full of funny things. The first time the Talking Heads played at SPAC, the band showed up at the Bijou where we were watching Fear of Strangers, who were a great Albany band. I was wearing my Harley jacket and my Ramones T-shirt and Jerry Harrison walked up to me, laughed and said: Nice shirt. That cracked me up. We ended up chatting for a little while.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Saratoga Springs during your lifetime?
The bottom line for me is that I can’t afford to live here anymore. One thing I always looked for in apartments was how far the walk was from the café, because I was here all the time. Now it’s a 10-mile drive for me. It was such a threadbare, defunct town in the ‘70s. The stores on Caroline and Phila were pretty much shut down. There were some old stores on Broadway that had been there forever, then the mall came and that made it worse downtown. There were some great places I miss to this day, like Mabbett’s and Farmers Hardware. Even though the town now is gleaming and successful it’s gotten a little too precious. I think the ‘80s, when things started to come around, was a wonderful time here.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This weekend’s concert by The Orchestra of St. Luke’s will mark the second of six concerts brought to Saratoga Springs this year born of a newly forged partnership between Caffè Lena and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The collaboration between the two venues, each which has staged more than a half-century of performances, will encompass jointly curated and presented programs at both venues, with the location varying by season.
The Orchestra of St. Lukes, one of Americas foremost chamber orchestras, will make a first-ever appearance in the Capital Region on April 25 in an exclusive performance at Lena’s café.
“I was in New York in January talking with some friends over coffee when they mentioned they had this program of baroque chamber music they were doing,” recalled SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol. “It was written by Bach to be performed at Café Zimmerman - a coffeehouse in Leipzig where all the artists and intellectuals would gather at the time Bach was living there. When I heard it was at a coffeehouse, I thought: Oh my God, that has got to come to Caffè Lena. It’s a perfect collaboration between SPAC and Caffè Lena.”
And while this weekend’s show is sold out, tickets are still available for the third spring program, which will be staged at Caffè Lena May 4 and features Louisville, Kentucky-based folk band Harpeth Rising. Tickets are available at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2910973.
In June, the series shifts to SPAC, where three free Sunday afternoon concerts, one each in June, July, and August will be staged at the new gazebo.
“Very soon we’ll be announcing the summer component to the partnership which will include a monthly Caffè Lena Day at SPAC,” Sobol explained. “It’ll be the whole afternoon, from 12 to 5, and families will be able to come and hang and make music a real part of the afternoon in the park.” The three summer concerts are being curated by the café’s executive director, Sarah Craig.
“When we sat down and started talking about artists, every band Sarah mentioned to me I flipped over. Everything she mentioned I love,” Sobol said.
“I looked for artists that have a huge energy and a rich intensity that can hold up well in an outdoor environment,” said Craig, adding that the schedule of musicians, when solidified, could number as many as three performers on each of the three days. And while the teaming-up of the two Saratoga Springs powerhouses marks the first official collaboration between the venues, there is a long list of artists – from Bob Dylan to Melanie to Don McLean – who have performed at both, as well as a synergy historically fostered by Lena Spencer, who invited musicians appearing on the SPAC stage to come and perform after-hour concerts at her Phila Street café.
With six months under her belt as the new leader at SPAC, Sobol said one goal is creating new ventures while maintaining the venue’s time-honored traditions.
“I was being very conservative until I got the lay of the land. I haven’t touched the big resident companies because they’re so important to the DNA of SPAC, but we’ve been making some enhancements – like this Caffè Lena partnership, and within the next couple of weeks we’re going to be announcing all sorts of partnerships with some of our other cultural family members,” Sobol said. “There are so many organizations here, my feeling is the more we all work together the more we raise Saratoga up.“
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Rochmon Record Club has hosted monthly learning and listening parties featuring classic rock ‘n’ roll albums since last fall at Universal Preservation Hall.
With the Washington Street space set to undergo a lengthy renovation, Rochmon brainchild Chuck Vosganian announced this week – during a listening party that featured Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” – that the sound and vision show will be relocating to Caffè Lena for the foreseeable future.
Vosganian credited the local creative arts community for making the relocation to Lena’s café possible. The Rochmon Record Club series continues Tuesday, April 18 at Caffè Lena where the album focus will be on Jethro Tull’s 1971 album, “Aqualung.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Drawing inspiration from everyone from Bob Dylan to Raymond Chandler, Tom Waits has merged song and monologue into a distorted vaudevillian kaleidoscope for the past 40 years.
This weekend, Michael Eck hosts an evening of Waits’ songs performed by Capital District artists. Show headliner Sean Rowe - known internationally for his powerful original songs and raw baritone voice – will be joined by blues man Mark Tolstrup, literary word-slinger Thomas Dimopoulos, and Elrod, Motherjudge, McWatters - a powerhouse trio assembled specifically for The Heart of Saturday Night. Also performing is Girl Blue - the latest breakout from Albany’s fertile new music scene – who will stage her Caffè Lena debut in advance of her show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom.
Host Michael Eck will join in with the beautiful maladies, singing between acts. Waits’ gruff voice imagery and roots rock catalog has inspired generations of musicians.
The Waits bio: “By turns tender and poignant, to strange and twisted, his songs tend to explore the dark underbelly of society as he gives his uniquely human voice to adventurers both romantic and mercenary, drifters, con artists and those forgotten characters on the fringe and in the fray.”
The Heart of Saturday Night: Songs of Tom Waits will be staged 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at Caffè Lena. Doors open 30 minutes before showtime. Desserts, light fare, FTO coffee, beer & wine will be offered. General Admission is $20, café members: $18, and student/ child: $10. Call 518-583-0022, or go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2724524
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Bicycle Retailer, an online industry website known as BRAIN, is reporting that Serotta has laid off almost half of their employees and after finishing producing the bikes they already have orders for, plan to shut down production within the next two weeks.