City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
MECHANICVILLE – Two teens have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old David Feliciano which occurred shortly before 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7.
Authorities said Thursday 19-year-old Nikolai Mavashev, of Halfmoon, and 16-year-old Joseph Broscko, of Clifton Park, were apprehended Wednesday night.
The incident took place inside of Feliciano’s house, who was home alone.
Authorities said the parties were acquainted with one another and that there is a motive, but are reluctant to divulge any other information at this time so as to not hamper prosecution efforts.
The Mechanicville Police Department, which was assisted by state police investigators, received as many as 50 leads regarding the case and sought to assure the public, while more arrests may be pending, that those suspected of doing the actual shooting have been apprehended.
Mavashev and Broscko are being held at Saratoga County Jail.
Elevated Levels of Lead Discovered in Drinking Water in Some City Homes
While conducting routine testing of 60 city households, seven households were discovered to have elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco sought to assure residents that the exceedance occurred in a small number of homes with lead plumbing fixtures and that the city’s municipal water supply does not contain lead.
“First and foremost, the water supplied to the city is safe and free of lead,” Scirocco said. Both of the city’s public water sources at the Water Treatment Plant and Geyser Crest Subdivision tested at “non-detect” levels for lead.
It is believed the cause for the exceedance in the seven households – which were built between 1982 and 1986 - is due to older pipes or plumbing materials containing lead. Previous sampling in 2015 and 2016 demonstrated levels below the action level threshold.
Homes built before 1986 can potentially have lead soldering and other fixtures that increase the possibility for lead to enter the water. Lead can enter the water when it remains in contact with pipes or fixtures that contain lead for an extended period of time. To reduce the amount of lead in water, it is recommended the water be run for at least 30 seconds, or until water is cold to the touch or reaches a steady temperature, before using it for drinking or cooking. This process flushes lead-containing water from the fixture, according to the DPW.
“We are conducting confirmatory sampling of the impacted homes and taking action to ensure that every resident in our city has clean water,” said Scirocco, adding that an aggressive plan to adjust the water chemistry to prevent the leaching of lead from older residential pipes and fixtures is being finalized for approval by the New York State Department of Health.
The City has contacted the seven households where testing levels were above the threshold to re-sample the water and offer an alternative water source while awaiting a second round of testing results.
Anita Gabalski, district director at the state Department of Health, was present at Tuesday’s meeting and credited Scirocco with acting swiftly to address the issue and hiring a firm to conduct a corrosion control strategy.
Residents concerned about the plumbing in their homes, or with any questions about their drinking water, can contact the city’s 24-hour water response line established at the Water Treatment Plant at 518-584-1848.
Public Hearing Re: Eminent Domain Procedures for Geyser Road Trail Plan Remains Open
A 90-minute public hearing regarding Eminent Domain Procedures related to the city’s proposed Geyser Road Trail Plan was held Tuesday night at City Hall. Public comments regarding the issue will be accepted through Aug. 15, and the council will not take action prior to its Sept. 5 meeting, Mayor Yepsen said. Contacts via the city’s website is at: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/.
PILOT Plan Approved for West Side Affordable Housing Development
The council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a payment-in-lieu of taxes agreement regarding the Intrada Saratoga Springs Affordable Housing Project. The Missouri-based Vecino Group seeks to develop one three-story building and three four-story buildings just east of the Saratoga train station and near the Washington Street post office.
The development proposal calls for the construction of 158 “affordable” multi-family rental units. For renters, the one, two and three-bedroom apartment units break down in this way: 24 will be available for persons with an AMI of 50 percent or less, 109 will be available for persons with an AMI of 60 percent or less, and 24 will be available for persons with an AMI of 80 percent or less. AMI, or the Area Median Income for a family of four in Saratoga County is approximately $84,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The PILOT Agreement calls for the company to make annual payments in lieu of taxes to the city. The tax exemption will begin on the date when the city issues a final certificate of occupancy and extend for 31 years. The annual payment in lieu of taxes will start at approximately $84,000 and increase each year by two percent.
City Adoption of South Broadway Park Remains on Hold
The City Council tabled a vote that would have used up to $20,000 of Open Space Bond Funds in the process of securing a parcel of land at a key intersection on South Broadway donated by the Crown Oil company.
The council was informed at the last minute that funds specific to Open Space could not be used for things such as ground-testing.
“We’ll have to find a different funding source to conduct testing,“ Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
Last month, the city tapped the brakes regarding the gifted parcel, pending a further review pending any potentially lingering hazardous conditions, given its previous standing as a longtime gas station.
The property sits at 209 South Broadway - adjacent to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop - and has been vacant for a decade. In April, David Eshaghian - doing business as the Crown Oil Co. – expressed a desire to gift to the city the parcel, which was recently appraisal set at a value of $340,000. As far back as a decade ago, the city had considered purchasing the 0.2-acre parcel outright to develop a pocket park that would feature equine sculptures.
City costs associated with the donated parcel, outside of testing, include conducting a standard title search and closing costs.
Some suggestions regarding its future use if and when the city does accept the parcel include turning the property into a pocket park, installing benches, constructing a pavilion, or possibly re-routing a nearby spring to flow to the site.
Behind Closed Doors
An executive session was held late Tuesday regarding a lawsuit challenges the permanent siting of the proposed Code Blue homeless emergency shelter on city’s west side, and an unrelated suit involving Mouzon House restaurant and the potential development of a multi-story parking garage behind the Saratoga Springs City Center. No action was taken on either discussion.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert Chauvin at Saratoga County is believed to be hearing both cases, and a decision regarding the Code Blue shelter is anticipated to be delivered in mid-August.
The Planning Board will host a workshop 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7 and a full meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 at City Hall.
The Charter Review Commission will host a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – What was the first song you heard that opened up a whole new world of possibilities? What was the most memorable concert you attended that remains a fond memory to this day?
Come a share an evening of stories celebrating the history of rock and roll in Saratoga and beyond in a free public forum from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Ever since 1956, when Elvis first shook his hips into the living rooms of America, rock and roll has had a powerful impact in shaping our world.
Where you there the night Phish played at a small club on Caroline Street in 1990? How about that summer night in 1984 when Bruce Springsteen stopped the rain? Were you among the 30,000-plus who saw The Who at SPAC, or in the crowd of 40,000 who partied to the sounds of the Grateful Dead at the venue in 1985? The Allman Brothers at Skidmore College? U2 at the Saratoga Casino?
The Jean Stamm Memorial Event will be held at the H. Dutcher Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library at 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs and will be followed by an open mic featuring any audience members willing to share their own special moments.
The free event will be moderated by journalist Thomas Dimopoulos and will feature George Demers, Joe Deuel, Mary Ann Fitzgerald, Greg Haymes, Robert Millis, Larry Wies and other guests.
When underground ideas, sounds, or images seep into conventional culture, the status quo itself is altered. Surely, one aim of politically subversive art is exactly that: change the world. When commonly held assumptions are challenged and subverted, a new synthesis is born, whether that be in the art world or politics or everyday life. The subculture’s loss is the mainstream’s gain.
- excerpt from Paul Hockenos' new book “Berlin Calling.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Berlin has long had a reputation for its off-beat mystique and powerful allure, drawing an array of underground artists, punk rock and techno connoisseurs, and DIY political activists into its city limits. From free-love communes to the era of amphetamine-fueled techno clubs, it’s a city of charisma and innovation. So how and why did Berlin become the vibrant world capital of eccentric subculture?
American journalist Paul Hockenos moved to West Berlin in the 1980s and has watched it change over more than three decades. In “Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin,” Hockenos delves into Berlin’s tendency toward reinvention and its ability to “posit itself anew many times over” – a quality he attributes to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Hockenos presents his book, “Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin,” in conversation with William Lewis, professor of philosophy at Skidmore College, at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11 at Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, 424 Broadway.
Other notable upcoming events at Northshire Bookstore:
7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5 - Karen Rogers – “Racing with My Shadow “- signing only with the author, a professional leading jockey at the New York tracks and one of the first successful female jockeys. This memoir shares her personal journey to overcome the negative results of childhood sexual and emotional abuse through her work in the sport.
2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 - Bob Cafaro – “When the Music Stopped: My Battle and Victory Against MS.” The author, a cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, will share his personal journey and a brief musical performance.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Stéphane Denève was 11 years old when he sat inside a darkened movie theater and watched a young boy try to help a loveable alien find its way home. Thirty-five years later, that moment continues to carry a special emotional significance for Denève, and one that he hopes to share with thousands of others on Saturday when he stands atop the stage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, flanked by four HD screens showing Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” and leading the Philadelphia Orchestra in a live musical accompaniment of John Williams’ score.
“I was born in ’71 so I saw the movie when I was 11. I loved it so much I cried in the theater. And during my childhood, I had a poster of ET over my bed,” says the conductor.
When it came to his own daughter, Denève and his wife ensured the first time she saw the film was during the staging of a performance accompanied by the screening of the movie with her father conducting the orchestra. “That was very special, being able to share that with her,” he says. “I was very moved by it.”
Conducting the orchestra in real time while the film is screening is not without its challenges.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m piloting a big plane,” Denève laughs. “The movie is moving forward and so you’re moving forward with it. You cannot stop and say: oh, let me do it again.
“There are hundreds of cues through the movie interpreting the score. It’s fun, of course, but it’s also one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my career because you want to be both precise and expressive,” says Denève, who in June was named as the next music director of the St. Louis Symphony.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s August residency, which kicked off Thursday with Tchaikovsky’s famed 1812 Overture, will run through Aug. 19 with a celebratory “A Night at The Opera.”
“It’s an incredible orchestra. It’s home for them, of course. You feel the connection they have with the audience. Some of the musicians even have their private homes in Saratoga,” Denève says. “You put a group together to do something special and I feel we are creating the tension, the rhythm and the dialogue between the instruments.
“When I am conducting I can feel the energy in the room. The energy of the audience, even though I have my back to them, is essential. You really feel when people are listening and the peak of tension, and attention, in the audience. I find that quite magical.”
Elizabeth Sobol, who is spending her first summer guiding SPAC as the organization’s president and CEO, says she is excited about all of it - from the scheduled appearances of Yo-Yo Ma and Marcus Roberts, closing night’s “breathtaking evening with exquisite arias,” and a night set aside to pay tribute to Gershwin.
“At SPAC you want to be presenting the best of all genres. Gershwin was the ultimate composer who brought popular and classical music together on the knife edge that made it such brilliant, amazing, universal music,“ Sobol says.
Saturday, Aug. 5 - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (complete with film). Steven Spielberg's cinematic masterpiece “E.T. The Extra—Terrestrial,” will be shown on four HD screens and accompanied by a live performance of John Williams's Academy Award-winning score.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s return to its summer home at Saratoga Performing Arts Center features three weeks of performances. The season, Aug. 2 – 19, encompasses wide-ranging classical and contemporary repertoire, world renowned musicians and conductors, family-oriented multi-media offerings and an opera evening. All performances at 8 p.m.
Some highlights: Friday Aug. 4 - Cirque de la Symphonie; Saturday, Aug. 5 - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (complete with film); Wednesday, Aug. 9 - American Classics Day 1. An icon of classical music and arguably the world’s greatest living cellist, Yo-Yo Ma will grace the SPAC stage with his unmatched artistry; Thursday, Aug. 10 - American Classics Day 2. Maestro Marin Alsop n conducts an evening dedicated to the music of cherished American composer George Gershwin. Also: The Marcus Roberts Trio; Friday, Aug. 11 - American Classics Day 3. Duo Concerto for Vibraphone and Marimba is comprised of several Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays compositions arranged and orchestrated by Principal Percussion Christopher Deviney; Saturday, Aug. 12 - Raiders of the Lost Ark (complete with film). The film that gave the world one of its greatest movie heroes, Indiana Jones, will make its SPAC debut as John Williams's epic score is performed live; Wednesday, Aug. 16 - Sophisticated Ladies; Thursday, Aug. 17 - French Festival Day 1. Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Grammy Award-nominee Yannick Nézet-Séguin returns to Saratoga to lead the final week of programs; Friday, Aug. 18 - French Festival Day 2; Saturday, Aug. 19 - A Night at the Opera. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will lead singers from The Metropolitan Opera in an evening of glorious arias and sublime ensembles from the opera repertoire.
The full schedule of SPAC’s programming and events is available at spac.org.
Why We Like Him: With his trademark raspy voice and exemplary musical lineage, Rod Stewart is one of the top-selling singers of the 20th century. Of particular note: his run with the Jeff Beck Group in the 1960s and his stint with The Faces, as well as his solo albums, through the mid-1970s.
Heritage: Born of Scottish and English ancestry. Loves soccer. Knighted by Prince William at Buckingham Palace in 2016.
Set List: Twenty songs. Ten originals. Ten covers.
Visually: Sir Rod looks healthy up against the 72 years he has spent on earth: shirt unbuttoned to mid-chest, swatches of blonde zagging across his scalp, and a voice that mostly still manages fine and complemented on stage by a chorus of back-up singers. His shaggy-hair look also inspired more than a few fans to don Rod The Mod hair-wigs, although for the most part the wigs seemed less like the classic rooster-cut of the ‘70s and more like a Long Island housewife’s beehive hair-do that had been violated by a pair of sheep shears.
Memorable songs performed: The Faces’ “Stay With Me” still maintained some of its original joy-filled intensity, and was supplemented by the kicking of several soccer balls into the crowd. Renditions of Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe” and Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is The Deepest” were emotionally moving during the evening’s five-song acoustic set. “Maggie May” and “Ooh La La” were not.
Stewart name-checked blues legend Muddy Waters before performing the Hambone Willie Newbern song “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” – which dates back to at least 1929 - dedicated “Young Turks” to World War II servicemen, covered Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train,” and performed a duet with Cyndi Lauper on The Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart of Mine.”
“You Wear It Well” brought the crowd to its feet, and “You’re In My Heart” had them swaying, arms waving and taking the lead on the choruses.
Ill-advised: The drum solo during “Forever Young,” featuring two drummers no less, making the most boring thing in rock doubly so. Another low moment occurred when the band, sans Rod, played “Proud Mary” Ike & Tina Turner style - likely meant to be a tribute, but mostly just looked like a foolish parody. Coincidentally, both segments were used to occupy time so that Rod could go backstage and change into another outfit.
Overall: Entertaining, but lacking the emotional passion that set him apart from his peers during the early 1970s when he reigned as king. All the sharp edges were removed from the guitars, the band – in their matching suits and neat styles – looked more like Rod’s wait staff than musical foils, and Rod himself seems destined to grab the title of rock’s version of Wayne Newton. Clearly, he misses Ron Wood, who left to join the Rolling Stones in 1975. It doesn’t look like the Stones are going to give him back any time soon.
Most annoyingly is the known talent that Stewart once promised before he began his descent into the maelstrom of mainstream mediocrity. It was what promptedmusic critic Greil Marcus to proclaim decades ago: “Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely.” Not much has changed.
Why We Like Her: Fun, talented, and charming.
Heritage: Born at Astoria General Hospital and grew up in Ozone Park - both neighborhoods in Queens whose surrounding environs also spawned Tony Bennett, Simon and Garfunkel, Marty Scorsese, three New York Dolls, all four of the Ramones, and Steinway Pianos.
Set List: 11 songs, covering a span of recordings from 1983’s “She’s So Unusual,” to “Detour,” which was released in 2006.
Visually: The show began with Lauper swinging around an oversized traveling trunk while teetering atop a pair of high heel shoes, her dancing form framed by massive video screens that depicted Betty Grable days and classic Horror film nights. During her singing of “She Bop,” perhaps most appropriately, she shucked off her oversized top hat and her shoes and performed the balance of the set in bare feet, alternating between song and stand-up shtick, including a joke of sorts about a Nashville hotel that merged Dolly Parton with the Dalai Lama. She also name-checked Captain Lou Albano.
Memorable songs performed: The set began a bit rough – including one off-key tune which was halted and re-started for which a missing stage prop was blamed - but hit stride mid-way through the set and absolutely took off with the turbo-charged fury of “Money Changes Everything,” the joy-filled “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – which also included pertinent social messages - a charming rendition of “Time After Time,” and an emotionally charged “Not My Father’s Son.” “True Colors,” Lauper’s beautifully haunting ode to humanity, provided the show-closer.
Throughout her set Lauper alternately whirled like a dervish, shared center stage with a dulcimer, and serenaded like a chanteuse. “Have a beautiful summer,” she told the crowd as she exited the stage. “Take care of each other and remember: diversity makes us stronger.” As one clearly moved row-mate inside the amphitheater expressed after Lauper’s finale: She really leaves it all up on that stage.
BALLSTON SPA - “After Hours,” an exhibit featuring the vintage photography of Bradford J. Smith, will be displayed Aug. 7-10 at the Brookside Museum.
Smith (1925–2016) was a photographer for over 75 years, during which he amassed a multitude of stunning photographs. A New York City fashion photographer during the 1940s and ‘50s by day, he shot nude portraits of aspiring actresses by night.
After Smith left his Madison Avenue studio, he returned to upstate New York and purchased a home in Ballston Spa, which today is the Saratoga County Historical Society’s Brookside Museum and fittingly, the site of the “After Hours” exhibit- where 50 of Bradford’s original vintage fashion and vintage nude prints will be on display and available for purchase, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Saratoga County Historical Society.
Brenda Dentinger, Bradford’s daughter is carrying out her father’s dream to share his work with the world. “These are originals that Brad had safely hidden away for over 50 years. Most of these vintage prints have never been displayed and the fashion and nude work have never been shown together,” Dentinger said, in a statement. “My father loved to share his stories with people and I am delighted to honor his memory in this creative way.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public and will take place 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 7-9. The After Hours at Brookside Soiree will take place 7 p.m. Aug. 10 – during which Brookside will be transformed and attendees will have the chance to own a piece of the historic collection before it is auctioned in New York City in October.
After Hours at Brookside Soiree will feature a runway room with Bradford’s vintage fashion photography. Nude portraits will be discreetly displayed in a curtained-off area.
Tickets to the After Hours at Brookside Soiree are $50. VIP tickets are $150 and offer entry into the Soiree, the opportunity for pre-sale purchase of prints and a copy of the newly published companion After Hours book. Reservations may be made at AfterHoursVintage.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Because minutes matter, an important service recently instituted at Saratoga Hospital that offers emergency cardiac interventions for heart attack patients has potentially life-saving ramifications.
“Saratoga Hospital is now at the tip of the spear of a public health effort to bring the most effective treatment ever invented to the world’s deadliest disease,” explained Dr. Patrick McNulty, director of Interventional Cardiology at the hospital.
The minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures is available 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. What that means is patients requiring treatment for heart conditions won’t lose precious time being transported beyond Saratoga County.
“The best chance of survival is getting the blocked artery open as quickly as possible, so it’s a matter of how many minutes you have,” McNulty said. “The faster you can get to a hospital that has this effective treatment and get it done, the better chance you’re going to have of surviving - and surviving in a way that gives you a better quality of life that allows you to be functional.
“When I was starting my training, patients with heart attacks were admitted to the hospital just like people with pneumonia or broken legs,” said McNulty, who has conducted 30 years of cardiology training. “They’d be in the hospital 10 days or so, their heart would undergo enormous amounts of damage and they would have all sorts of complications. Most of the training in being a cardiologist back then was a matter of training to treat all of the electrical and mechanical complications after people had big heart attacks. This was 20 years after we landed on the moon, so this was not the dark ages - but still the treatment of heart attacks was pretty primitive.”
Clinical research trials were conducted during the 1990s and it was determined the fix involved getting people with heart attacks caused by blocked arteries into an operating room and conducting a minimum evasive operation to open the blocked artery with a balloon. Moving forward, the research indicated patients would be best served having an emergency operation. The issue then became how to make that procedure more readily available to people having heart attacks.
“It requires sophisticated technicians and physicians and nurses working as a team in a complicated medical facility at a large hospital,” McNulty said.
A little over a decade ago, when Angelo Calbone became Saratoga Hospital president and CEO, he says the question was: How do we move Saratoga Hospital into a position of what the community needs? “The vision of Saratoga Hospital for many years was as the hospital for Saratoga Springs. We wanted our scope and vision to be much bigger than that. We thought it was part of our responsibility as the only hospital in the county.”
A lot can change in a decade. Technological advances, such as robotic surgery, were brought in. Emergency rooms and the Intensive Care Unit were expanded and improved. Older operating rooms were replaced with new ones, built to accommodate members of the staff, surgeons, robots, and supplies required in present-day procedures. The hospital grew its regional footprint by adding off-site services in places like Wilton, Malta, Galway, Schuylerville, and others. It also developed a “medical group,” that incorporates professionals who had previously operated their practices independently.
“We have over 100 physicians now that work inside with us. We see them as our partner and they see us as their home organization,” Calbone said. “We had to get a little bigger and reach further out into the county. Ten-plus years ago, we said we’d like no one in the county to be further than 10 minutes from one of our services. By the time we’re done, over the next few years, we will fulfill that. We still have our eyes on two or three other places in the county where we can expand some programs and physician services.”
The hospital built upon its growing momentum and invested in a 50-50 joint venture with Albany Medical Center at Exit 12 in Malta, which Calbone said has been very successful and is a direct connection to being able to bring McNulty to the community and setting up its 24/7 emergency interventional cardiology service.
“Ten years ago, New York State did not have any hospitals offering coronary angioplasty for heart attacks except for hospitals that also did heart transplants and heart valve replacement surgery,” McNulty said. “Now, Saratoga Hospital offers a procedure so complicated and technically demanding that no hospital in the world offered it until 20 years ago, and only very large tertiary academic medical centers offered it 10 years ago.”
Hospital facilities were renovated and the Saratoga staff trained in March in preparation of the service. Since that time, the hospital has served 20 patients.
“Those 20 cases were 100 percent successful,” McNulty said. “The mean time it’s taken to get people in here, assemble the team, stabilize the patient, get them to the operating room and fix the artery in the last four months is 59.6 minutes, (less than the) 90 minutes that the government says you should be aiming for. And so now, after a year or two of preparing and four months of early experience, in the way that it provides this one critical service Saratoga Hospital is hitting the same type of quality benchmarks as some of the largest and most sophisticated hospitals in the country.”
This is an article from our publication: Simply Saratoga, out now! Or view it online!
You hear them advancing with trepidation, an apprehensive echo of footsteps atop the sturdy new staircase, creeping around the corner and anxiously peeking inside. Can the beloved space that has stood for more than a half-century ever
be the same?
“They’re wondering if it’s still going to have the right vibe,” explains Sarah Craig, who has witnessed the scenario over the past several months many times. “Finally, they do this big ‘Wow! It’s a more beautiful version of what it always was,’ says Caffè Lena’s executive director. “And it’s very gratifying to hear people have that reaction.”
Following a six-month renovation, the legendary café which first opened in 1960 and has played host to some of the folk music world’s biggest names, re-opened with a new look, and sound. Cameras were installed capable of producing hi-definition music videos, and a new digital soundboard punches up state-of-the-art tones. The listening room capacity has been expanded from 85 seats to 110, and the backstage dressing rooms are fitted with a shower - much to the delight of traveling musicians.
Many traces of the hallowed past have been preserved, or upgraded anew. The vintage wood entry doors have been relocated to the main room upstairs, where yesterday-meets-tomorrow in a frame of redbrick. Historic performance flyers were rescued and placed on display, and comfortable couches line the wall, providing a homey feel. Overall there is a funky gleam to the re-modeled space.
Craig remembers the January day in 1995 she first set foot in Lena Spencer’s hallowed café.
“It had this legendary reputation. It was famous and held in such incredible esteem, but when you walked in those front doors it seemed so…shabby,” she says. The bright lights grew dim, a pale-yellow hue clung to the walls and architectural signs of chipping and warpage were everywhere. When Spencer died in 1989, the cafe lost its guiding light. Craig came aboard and the café began to build anew. A nonprofit corporation was formed and purchased the building in 1998. In the new millennium, a $2 million capital campaign was launched.
“I’m here to nurture the café, to help it be what it wants to be in the world,” Craig says. “I’m excited at the possibilities of building community around music and launching new artists into the world.” One of those launch pads is the weekly Open Mic night, where anyone can come and perform, read, or share a story. It is a window into people’s lives, Craig says.
“You can be the most successful businessman in town and not the most talented guitar player, but you come down and do your thing at the Open Mic because it’s part of who you are, and you have the need to share it.”
“Some people who have played the Open Mic have gone on to some big things: Sawyer Fredericks, Hal Ketchum, G. Love,” says Joe Deuel, longtime photographer and soundman at the cafe. “It’s just endless how many great and notable shows were here. This place opened up a lot of the universe to me.”
Deuel first picked up a camera as a young boy and his image-capturing abilities have served the community well: his photos of Lena Spencer and Don McLean, Dave Van Ronk and Rick Danko preserve an important part of the music’s past.
The fifth-generation Saratogian first wandered into the café during his high school years in the early 1970s during a Utah Philipps performance. He returned a few years later to simply help out with picking up dishes, ended up “turning a few knobs” on the soundboard, and has been at the café ever since.
“Lena kind of stuck me on it and there was no getting out,” laughs Deuel, recalling with fondness Spencer’s days presiding over the room, chain-smoking Pall Mall’s, playing Scrabble and listening to music.
Despite the newness, the threads to the past are in plain sight. Some of the venue’s tables harken back to the venue’s origins – including most notably the “Dylan” table, where the then barely-in-his-twenties folk singer is famously pictured sitting with Spencer and Suze Rotolo during one of his visits in the early 1960s. The café has also adopted Al McKenney’s record collection. The beloved Saratoga figure often seen wearing his purple Caffè Lena T-shirt and red suspenders died in 2015 and left his collection - comprised of about 600 albums and 400 CD’s - to the café, where there are plans underway to launch a lunch-time music series during which people would bring their food and listen to the music McKenney left to be heard.
“There is so much need for optimism to be fostered in the world right now and I think there are a million ways we can serve the community,” Craig says. “I feel the music you hear at the café can trigger compassion and open-mindedness, set the stage for positive things to happen and provide the opportunity to bring good things to the world.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Does it feel like the first time, like the very first time?
Gorging on a setlist first unveiled between the years 1977 and 1984, Foreigner brought their 40th Anniversary Tour to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Tuesday night, for better or worse sticking to a menu of hits that ruled the pre-Google airwaves.
But, does it feel like the very first time?
That all depends upon what you felt about it then. Foreigner has always been a polarizing band. Even at the time of their founding they represented a symbolic continuum of a middle-of-the-road arena rock that ruled the American mainstream. The first time I saw Foreigner was on a June day in 1978, opening for the Rolling Stones (who were awful that night) with 100,000 other people in a Philadelphia stadium undoubtedly constructed during the Fred Flinstone Era and subsequently condemned and mercifully demolished at some later date.
Cheap Trick, who also performed at SPAC Tuesday night, I first saw on a stage at The Palladium in New York City that same year, in support of The Cars. So, it is through this historic lens, perhaps, that gave the evening the feel of a high school reunion. This despite the comments of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, who introduced his band’s recreation of its debut album tune “He’s a Whore” this way: “Here’s a song from an album that came out before 90 percent of you were born.” Nice sentiment, but likely not accurate.
Adding a touch of surrealism to the back-in-the-day feel of the concert, Jason Bonham - son of late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham - opened the show with a nine-song set consisting entirely of Zeppelin tunes. Flanked by bass player Dorian Heartsong – draped in a Leo glyph T-shirt reminiscent of Mick Jagger’s “Gimme Shelter” days, and guitar player Tony Catania – bearing a New York City T-shirt similar to the one John Lennon wore for Bob Gruen’s iconic photograph, Bonham pounded his drum kit with a befitting sense of his dad’s original work while singer James Dylan delivered an uncanny spot-on recreation of Robert Plant’s vinyl vocalizations. Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience: the best Led Zeppelin cover band in the world.
Cheap Trick, which mostly remains intact member-wise (drummer Bun E. Carlos was replaced by Rick Nielsen's son Daxx in 2010) hit several high points during its 55-minute set. They performed crowd favorites “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and “Surrender” – to the band’s credit the only three songs repeated compared to its show at the venue last September – and a passionately haunting rendition of “Heaven Tonight.”
Singer Robin Zander, bearing a cop’s hat and a “Dream Police” stitched leatherette jacket played to the crowd and guitarist Rick Nielsen was his usual gregarious self, perpetually swapping six-string machines from among his armada of guitars, flipping guitar picks into the crowd, and during the lyric in “Surrender” when Zander sings “Got my KISS records out,” flinging (presumably a KISS) album jacket, ninja-like 15 rows deep, and inspiring a mad dash of concert goers scrambling for the souvenir.
The intermission change-over on stage was accompanied by the inescapable bleating of ‘80s tunes by the likes of Supertramp and Billy Joel, eventually leading to a tear-away curtain that unveiled the night’s headliners. Foreigner – led by sole remaining founding member Mick Jones - kicked off its set with “Double Vision” and “Head Games” and didn’t veer off course from the identical dozen-song hit parade they’ve been performing on this 40th anniversary tour. Juke box heroes? Or, cold as ice? That all depends upon how you felt about it that very first time.