» Capital Region music fans weigh in on best shows


UPSTATE BEAT – A few weeks ago, I highlighted some of the summer concert events I am most excited about — from Nipperfest in Schenectady’s Central Park on July 22 to the triple bill of hip-hop pioneers Big Daddy Kane, Black Sheep and Roxanne Shante at Empire Plaza in Albany on Aug. 2.

But that column was more about my taste, so I decided to query some local music fans to find out what upcoming musical events they are most excited to attend this summer.

Summer tends to bring larger acts to the area at venues such as Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and a sense of nostalgia is often involved in the concert choices. We like music that brings us back to our youth.

For Kathy Conway of Amsterdam, that means seeing Gary Puckett & The Union Gap on the Happy Together tour with the Turtles, the Cowsills and other 1960s pop bands at Albany’s Palace Theatre on Aug. 1.

“In the late ’60s, my first concert was Gary Puckett & The Union Gap opening for Judy Collins in Albany. My dream came true!” said Conway. “Attending Gary Puckett & The Union Gap shows are a way for me to relive my first favorite band from my teenage years.”

Conway owns a complete collection of 45 RPM records from the ‘60s pop band, known for hits such as “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower” and “Woman, Woman.” She first heard the band playing on her transistor radio, and even got to meet Puckett at a Spectacular Sixties concert at Proctors in Schenectady in 2014.

“Gary Puckett is still singing songs and touring even after all those years. I picked a keeper ‘first band’ to follow way back in the late ‘60s,” Conway said.

For the Generation X cohort, the nostalgia concert of the summer might be the indie rock triple bill of the Pixies, Modest Mouse and Cat Power at MASS MoCA’s Joe’s Field on Aug. 26.

The Pixies were a relatively short-lived band in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but following their acrimonious 1993 breakup the group’s stature in the music world only grew, influencing bands from Nirvana to Weezer. When the Pixies re-formed in 2004, fans were ready.

The offbeat indie rock band, known for gloriously quirky songs like “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man,” have now been together longer post-reunion than they were initially a group. The Pixies regularly release new music and tour, although the role of original bassist Kim Deal, an integral part of the group, is now filled by bassist Paz Lenchantin.

Still, the nostalgia component to the Pixies’ appeal remains.

“The Pixies album ‘Surfer Rosa’ was released my junior year of high school, and along with ‘Doolittle’ it was a major part of the soundtrack of my youth,” said Kim Marsella of Gansevoort.

“The later albums helped me get through college and grad school, but I’ve never seen the band live. Although I would love to see Kim Deal, who I just worshipped in high school and still do, I’m still super excited. I also think Modest Mouse will be fun to see. I love their energy.”

For many area music fans, the tour by Dead & Company, which comes to SPAC on June 17, is not to be missed.

This summer’s tour will be the final one by Dead & Company, who represent the best opportunity to relive the spirit and music of legendary jam band the Grateful Dead, which ended in 1995 after the death of frontman Jerry Garcia.

Dead & Company formed in 2015 when the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir joined forces with musician John Mayer, Allman Brothers’ bassist Oteil Burbridge, and Fare Thee Well and RatDog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. The supergroup quickly became one of the most popular touring bands.

“I grew up listening to taped copies of recorded Grateful Dead shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s,” said Tara Eaton of Saratoga Springs. “I was at the last show Jerry played at the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany in March 1990. So, for me, seeing a Dead & Co show is an embodiment of the ‘60s and ‘70s counterculture and the San Francisco revolutionary spirit of that moment in our history. It’s happy, exciting, everyone is vibin’, and the songs are poetry in motion.”

“At a Dead show, you feel like there is a real chance for peace and love for our fellow humans to reign — like there’s hope for a better world,” Eaton said, adding. “Let your love light shine!”

Another undeniably popular act is Dave Matthews Band, which has performed at SPAC more than 40 times since 1994. The South African-born Matthews has always been a big fan of the Saratoga Springs amphitheater, where he typically returns for two shows every summer.

Alisa Huggins of Glens Falls has been to every Dave Matthews show at SPAC since 2000, and has seen his band perform a total of 58 times throughout the Northeast. She and her friends make a full day of it, staging picnics in the pavilions at Saratoga Spa State Park before Dave takes the stage. She even met Matthews at Farm Aid at SPAC in 2013, when he was on the bill for the farm advocacy organization, of which he is a founding member.

Matthews’ deeply nostalgic songs tend to resonate personally with his audience.

“It’s a yearly tradition. I’ve made a number of friends through the years bonding over our love for the music,” said Huggins.

Here are some other picks by area music fans:

Laura Jane Grace, Empire Underground in Albany, June 28

“I’m excited because I think the songwriting and music are fantastic, and they speak to me. But I also recognize the importance of LJG as a visible role model for those who might be transitioning or struggling with their own gender dysphoria. Brave people inspire other people to be brave and be themselves.” — Diana Steenburg, Albany

Tears for Fears, SPAC in Saratoga Springs, July 2

“Tears for Fears remain my favorite pop band from the ‘80s. Their more recent albums are just as good or better than their early work. Solid songwriting, catchy hooks, great balance of new wave sounds and electric guitar work. I saw them open for Hall & Oates some years ago, and they stole the show. I’m excited to see them in a headlining slot.” — Bob Buckley, Albany

X, Empire Live in Albany, July 3

“To me, they remain an important band, and they get out there and prove that they still enjoy sharing the music and history with the crowd. I missed the very early iterations of their fame, so this is only my third live X show, and I wouldn’t miss it.” — Chris Nemeth, Albany

Big Thief, Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, July 19

“Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker has gotten increasingly adventurous with her songwriting and arrangements, so I’m eager to see how the band performs her songs live.” — Eric Schneider, Saratoga Springs

Julia Jacklin, Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, Aug. 4

“She’s an Aussie singer with an incredible voice. I caught her twice pre-COVID at the Shaky Knees festival in Atlanta, and it will be amazing to see her in such an intimate venue.” — Craig McAvoy, Waterford

Messer Chups, No Fun in Troy, Aug. 21

“Summer is all about hitting the beach and catching some tasty waves, so I’m eagerly looking forward to the killer surf/rockabilly/twang/rock ‘n’ roll lineup of Messer Chups, Ichi-Bons and Albany’s own Jagaloons. Messer Chups from St. Petersburg, Russia, look like a motorcycle mechanic and a craft brewer kidnapped a Bettie Page look-alike to have her play bass in their band. I’m interested in any band that has been known to rock the ‘Twin Peaks’ theme live.” — Leif Zurmuhlen, Schenectady


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