Thursday, 01 February 2018 16:35

Neighbors: James Mastrianni

Who: James Mastrianni

Where: Caffè Lena

Congratulations on being elected Board Chair at Caffè Len Where are you originally from?

- Niskayuna originally. I’ve been in Saratoga Springs since 1994.

Do you recall the first time you came to the café?

- I know exactly when it was. The spring of 1990.  I had a guitar teacher who was playing a show.

You play guitar?

- I’ve been a musician for 40 years, a pianist and guitarist. I’ve played with The Refrigerators, in Dead cover bands, with jam bands and duos with guitars. I have a recording studio in my house and release music of my own as well as produce other folks.

What do you think of the café since the renovation?  

- It’s awesome. I think it has the chance to be one of the best listening rooms in the country - capable of attracting high caliber performers to a great sounding intimate space and in an awesome community. We also have the capability now to be a full-fledged studio and offer production services to artists – off-hours recordings, or live recordings. We can do audio. The next phase is video. If you’re an up-and-coming artist, we can create these videos that go on YouTube and can go viral. So, there’s an opportunity to be a little video production studio as well. That’s what we’re shooting for. We’ll see if we can get there.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

- A professional hockey player. I was a hockey addict from 5 to age 15 and grew up ice skating rink in back yard. But, I couldn’t do both – play piano and hockey. I was missing my piano recitals and it got to the point where I had to choose. I chose music.

If you had the opportunity to play music with anyone, who would that be?

- It’s hard to pick just one. I’m a huge fan of Lake Street Dive. And if I could hang with the guys from Snarky Puppy, that would be unbelievable.

What stands out to you about Saratoga?  

- I think there are some very interesting people and businesses who are doing very interesting things. There’s a heck of a talent pool of very committed folks in this community and that’s what I like about it.

A Saratoga entrepreneur and business owner, since 2007 Mastrianni has served as president of a company that administers federally funded affordable housing programs in 11 counties. What is the vision in the near future for Caffè Lena?

- We’ve built this tremendous infrastructure and now we have a real organization to run. We have to deal with things like human resource issues and health insurance, employee handbooks and contracts. I’ve done these things my whole career - these things you do in business. It wasn’t too long ago, if we ran out of copier paper we would check the bank balance to see if we could buy some paper. We’re a very different organization now. The nuts and bolts stuff, and that’s where the café is now.  

Who would play you in a film about your life?

- George Clooney, of course. I’m often mistaken for him.

Mastrianni was joined by five new Board members the famed music venue: Tom Kernan, Margo Olson, Christopher Shaw, Kevin Veitch and Joanne Dittes Yepsen. They join current Board members Kevin Bright, Eric Brodwin, Michael Eck, Wanda Fischer, Kira Karbocus, Peter Martin, Bob Rehm, George Ward and Brent Wilkes. 

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 26 January 2018 15:31

Performance Announcements

Return of the Dead

Dead & Company, featuring Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, John Mayer and Bob Weir with Oteil Burbridge & Jeff Chimenti will stage a show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on June 11. Tickets are $149.50, $99.50, $75.50, lawn - $45, and are available online at LiveNation.com, Ticketmaster.com or Charge By Phone at 1-800-745-3000.

      

SPAC to Host Quintet of Country Music Concerts

Promoter Live Nation has announced five country music concerts that will be staged at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this summer, and sales of a “2018 Country Megaticket” that will allow fans to attend all five shows.

The concerts include: Keith Urban with Kelsea Ballerini on June 27; Rascal Flatts on July 7; Jason Aldean with Luke Combs and Lauren Alaina on July 15; Dierks Bentley with Brothers Osborne and Lanco on Aug. 5, and Luke Bryan with Jon Pardi and Morgan Wallen on Aug. 19.

The Megaticket sale begins Friday, Jan. 26 and goes through Feb. 24, and is as follows: Gold: $695 – Secure the same reserved seat to all five shows in sections 1-7 or 15-18 plus get one premier parking pass per show, per pair. Silver: $450 – secure the same reserved seat to all five shows in sections 8-14 or 19-30; Lawn:  $159 – spend an evening on the lawn with a ticket to all five shows. Tickets available at Megaticket.com. Shows will go on sale individually at later dates. Ticket subject to service charges.

 

Kuinka Performs at Caffe Lena Saturday          

Pacific Northwest band Kuinka performs at Caffe Lena 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27 in advance of a 17-city tour through the western states. The dynamic string band’s new EP, “Stay Up Late,” will be released June 2. Tickets to the local show are $18 general admission, $16 members and $9 students and kids.

 

Funkadelic George Clinton Coming to the Mountaintop for 3-Day Fest

George Clinton, Sturgill Simpson, Alt-J, and Jack Johnson lead a musical cast of dozens slated to perform at this year’s three-day Mountain Jam concert, June 15-17, on Hunter Mountain.  

Mountain Jam will also feature yoga events, an Awareness Village with exhibits from not-for-profit organizations and a children's activity tent (those under 10 are admitted for free with a paid adult). Other activities include a Sky Ride offering scenic views of the Catskill Mouintains and North America's longest, highest zipline.

A three-day general admission pass is $184; a three-day pass with campground access is $219. For more information, go to: http://mountainjam.com/.  

 

Avant Folk Duo Bringing Sound and Verse to Saratoga and Schenectady

Billed as an “avantgarde folk duo,” and sporting impeccable influences that run the gamut from Laurie Anderson and Meredith Monk to Patti Smith, Anna & Elizabeth will be stage a show at Taylor Music Center at Union College on Feb. 23 and at Caffe Lena on April 20. The duo will performs new music from their upcoming Smithsonian Folkways debut, “The Invisible Comes to Us,” which is out March 30. Tickets for the Caffe Lena show are $22 general admission/ $ 20 members, and $11 students and kids.  

 

The Championship Tour at SPAC

Kendrick Lamar with special guests: Schoolboy Q, Sza, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, Sir, Lance Skiiwalker and Zacari, will perform at SPAC June 9. Tickets are $125, $89.50, $49.50, $39.50, lawn $35 and available online at LiveNation.com, Ticketmaster.com or Charge By Phone at 1-800-745-3000.

 

Sawyer Fredericks to Perform Sunday on Live TV Fundraiser

ALBANY - Singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks will perform live during the #518Gives televised fundraiser to benefit the Center for Disability Services on Sunday, Jan. 28.

Fredericks is scheduled to appear at 5:40 p.m. and 6 p.m. and the broadcast airs from noon to 7 p.m. from the Radisson Hotel Albany, 205 Wolf Road, in Colonie. The all live, all local show airs on WXXA/FOX23 (cable channel 8, or check listings). All proceeds support the Center and its divisions, Down Syndrome Aim High Resource Center, Life Quality Solutions Incubator, Prospect Center in Queensbury and St. Margaret’s Center in Albany.

The Center is celebrating 76 years of service to the community in 2018 and offers opportunities for achievement, hope and innovation to people with disabilities and their families. Text 518Gives to 41444 to donate or give online at www.cfdsny.org. Call 518-459-7070 to make a pledge that day to benefit the Center. For more information, search #518Gives, or go to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @cfdsny.

Published in Entertainment

I was 12 years old and sprawled across the back seat of the family station wagon – a big-finned, hardtop machine with wicked tail lights and heavy metal side panels painted the color of wood. Dad sat in the driver’s seat, directly in front of me, losing his mind.

My sister and I had reached the age when promises of ice cream sodas and enticement of egg creams in exchange for orderly behavior – can you just sit still, for five minutes, please! – no longer carried significance. If we were going to be bribed into silence, it was going to take cash. Five bucks apiece, to be precise. Our palms dutifully greased with paper greenbacks depicting a serious-looking Abe Lincoln, we giddily trotted into the department store. It was a momentous occasion: each of us setting out to purchase our first record album. Dad waited in the car. My sister chose an album by The Beatles: love, love, love, blah, blah, blah. I made a beeline for the new releases. The Rolling Stones. Sticky Fingers.

I cradled it in my arms, this inspired 12-inch by 12-inch platter, double-wrapped in an opaque shopping bag, the contents within filled with strut and swagger and songs about slave-owners and demon lives and drugs, salivating Pavlovian dogs, mad, mad days on the road and nightdreams of sins and of lies and living after we’ve died. 

“Beatles, very nice,” said dad, during the unveiling of the albums in the family station wagon. “And you?”

He gazed over the back of the album jacket first, which was festooned with a bright sticker that depicted a big red mouth and a long unfurling tongue. It was the album’s front side that got the more immediate reaction. Here was a near life size snapshot of a human torso wearing a pair of jeans upon which was fixed a working zipper. When unzipped, the jacket revealed an inner-jacket picture of a pair of cotton briefs. To this day I’m not sure what dad said when examining the zipper-front, other than the sound of the words seemed to emanate from somewhere deep in the gut. The jargon itself was a mash-up of words that mixed phrases from the Old Country, new American slang and some otherworld language yet-to-be invented. 

Of course, immediately, I was hooked.

“God knows what I’m on about on that song,” Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine many years later, when asked about his lyrics for the album’s first track, “Brown Sugar.” “It’s such a mishmash,” Jagger said.  “All the nasty subjects in one go.”

The Rolling Stones debuted a rough working version of “Brown Sugar” at the Altamont festival in 1969 - the first song in the setlist performed immediately after that infamous stabbing captured in the film “Gimme Shelter.” Despite the karmic baggage, when it was finally released as a single a year-and-a-half later, it climbed up the American charts and all the way to number one, displacing Three Dog Night’s six-week cling to the top of the charts - with “Joy to the World” of all things - and provided a daring counterpoint to chart-topping snoozers by Carole King - “It’s Too Late,” James Taylor -“You’ve Got A Friend,” and the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” - that would soon follow.       

“Sticky Fingers” begins, as most good things do, with a succession of scything Keith-chords, adds a dose of heavy horns, and a killer rhythm section highlighted by the booming of Charlie bass-drum beats, as Mick Jagger releases the pent-up verse: Gawlko slayship bownfocottan feels/ sawld in-a-mawket-down in New Awleens…  

The album was released at an important time in popular rock and roll history: the Beatles had broken up, Bob Dylan a recluse and the trippy-hippy ‘60s were over. ‘Sticky Fingers’ boasts 10 songs in all, and not a throwaway tune in the bunch. There is the acoustic beauty of songs like “Wild Horses” and “Moonlight Mile,” the Gram Parsons-inspired country-rock-and-tonk of “Dead Flowers,” the heavy horn and musical jam explorations of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” and the solemn hair-on-your-neck at attention moodiness of “Sister Morphine.”

The Rolling Stones classic 1971 album "Sticky Fingers" is the focus of the next Rochmon Record Club Listening Party, which takes place Tuesday, Jan. 16 at Caffe Lena. I can’t wait to see and hear what Rochmon’s got lined up for the night. Doors at 6:30 p.m. and show time is at 7. A word of advice: If you want a seat, get there early. A $5 donation is suggested. Donations go to the restoration funds of Caffe’ Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Rochmon Record Club continues its successful monthly run at Caffe Lena on Tuesday, Dec. 19, this time with a focus on the music and career of Tom Petty.  

Some fading notebook scribbles related to live appearances witnessed by this reporter, to get you in the mood:

 

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 2006 --- In the end, Tom Petty finished where he began, completing the circle of a 30-year career with a final stroke on his jangling guitar to the tune of “'American Girl.”

Thirty years ago, the youthful face of the singer stared back from his debut album, donning a black leather motorcycle jacket beneath the logo of a guitar shooting through a heart like a broken arrow. Sunday night, Petty returned as the musical maestro of the timeless verse, adorned in crushed velvet with glitter speckles and caught in the reflection of the floodlights that sprayed the crowd in crimson and lavender neon.

With the word out that this summer's tour may be the band's last large cross-country journey, there was a touch of finality in the air at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where a sell-out crowd of 25,000 cheered Petty and his band of Heartbreakers through a 19-song set celebrating their decades of musical service.

 

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 2005 --- Wearing a schoolboy smile and a multi-colored ascot that invoked the mod Carnaby Street pop-isms of his teenage years, Tom Petty clutched the neck of his white tear-shaped guitar and led his band of Heartbreakers through a rousing two-hour set at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Saturday night.

Petty's onstage exuberance was reciprocated by a joyous gathering of nearly 25,000 fans, while breathing new life into 1970s material “Breakdown,” “Listen To Her Heart,” and “Refugee,” revisiting drive-time radio hits “'I Won't Back Down,” and “Free Fallin,'” and ratcheting up the sonic intensity beneath the lighted effects of the white-hot strobes with a hit parade that included “Learning To Fly,” “Mary Jane's Last Dance,” and “Don't Come Around Here No More.”

 

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, July 2002 --- For a quarter of a century, Petty has weaved the poetic language of the common man with a sonically jangled surrealism, along the way acquiring star-power leverage to do battle with record labels, concert promoters and music publishers, and championing the rights of fans and fellow musicians.

His name has been engraved on a five-point star on Hollywood Boulevard, and he was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not bad for an insurance salesman's son who grew up in Gainesville, Florida who left high school to pursue his vision of the American dream.

Friday night, performing on the fifth date of a summerlong tour, Petty tore through the set opener ''Runnin' Down A Dream,'' flashing his pearly whites at the mic. “'It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down,'' he sang, amid the arsenal of guitar riffs behind him, ''I felt so good, like anything was possible.''

With the backdrop projecting images of falling snow, Petty sang, ''Please shed some light on the road less traveled,'' in a piece titled ''Lost Children,'' as the stage resembled a scene inside a tumbling Christmas snow globe. Haunting melodies oozed from within during his tune ''It's Good To Be King,” and Petty donned a Rickenbacker guitar for the show-closing ''American Girl,'' giving birth to a jangling resonance which hung in the dense air long enough to inspire one last primal dance from the faithful. Eventually, they filed out to rejoin the rest of the world, taking the vibration of its memory far as they could with them into the night.

 

Palladium, New York City, July 1978 --- “Breakdown” is a nice song. Moody, like Mink DeVille. “I Need To Know,” from the new album, kicks it well enough for a boy from the sticks, ‘tho not as kicking as, say, The Ramones. A slew of obligatory ‘60s covers dotted the night and the highlight was, of course, “American Girl,” which sounds like a tune Petty lifted from Roger McGuinn’s mojo.

Rick Derringer opened the show. He was fine, though not nearly as entertaining as when he played with Edgar Winter Group a few years back. Ted Nugent came on to play a song or two, which signaled most everyone it was a good time for a bathroom break. Ran into David Johansen in the art-deco bathroom downstairs. His new solo album is great and he’s playing the Bottom Line next weekend with Sylvain.  Somebody said Warhol is here, up in the front somewhere.  

Tuesday’s event begins at 7 p.m., although if last month’s sold out celebration of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story” is any indication, you want to get there early, or you’re likely to get shut out.  Doors open at 6:30. Admission: $5 donation, which goes to the restoration funds of Caffe Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.  

Published in Entertainment

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Bolstered by now-classic performances of the songs “Maggie May,” “Mandolin Wind,” the album’s title track, and a moving rendition of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” Rod Stewart’s 1971 solo album “Every Picture Tells a Story” will receive the Rochmon treatment at Caffe Lena on Tuesday, Nov. 21. 

Rochmon Record Club gathers once a month under the guidance of music savant Chuck Vosganian, who selects one ground-breaking rock or pop album to dig deep and wide in creating an entertaining, illuminating program of anecdotes, biographical, technical information and photos.

Stewart, accompanied by Ronnie Wood, was ascending to the height of his powers with “Every Picture Tells a Story”- an album cranky rock scribe Robert Christgau graded with an A-plus with extra credit for Rod the Mod’s ability of being “tawdry enough to revel in stellar pop-and-flash” while able to “refine the rock sensibility without processing the life out of it.”      

Doors at 6:30 p.m., presentation begins at 7, and a $5 donation is suggested.  Donations go to the restoration funds of Caffe’ Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.  

Published in Entertainment

Who: Chuck Vosganian, AKA “Rochmon.”  

Where: Broadway.

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.   

 

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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.

Published in Entertainment

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.   

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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.

Published in Entertainment

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.“ 

Published in Entertainment
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