It’s a Saturday eve in mid-August, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, and itz been 3 years since I’ve posted anything new. Not that I haven’t written anything, I have a thousand scattered fragments and scraps that I am trying to mold into a mosaic novel about my time here in Toga town, and I am officially tired of merely being a verbal storyteller to my clients and contacts and circle of friends, I need to place it again in a readable, fixed format. Waynesword2 is my tease for the first coming-of-age novel by a 63 year old dude whose high school class is down on the Hudson River in Selkirk on the very day I re-kick-start this… celebrating their 45th anniversary post-graduation shindig, Class of 1973, from RCS Central HS. I feel I have nothing to brag about yet (other than my kids) until my long-postponed book is done and therefore I’m just not ready– maybe in another 5 years I’ll go, if still here.
I feel fortunate on this particular eve that the Racetrack has not let out yet and so I was able to procure a parking spot within a couple hundred yards of my downtown office, which is devoid of other Realtors at this point, and a perfect enclave where I can hideout from the touristo hordes and horse race enthusiasts who will soon be bombarding the restaurant district, just below me on Broadway. But you can’t believe how quiet it is up here in the former Rip Van Dam Hotel, these days serving as home to Salt & Char (formerly the site of Maestro’s) as an adjunct to the freshly renovated Adelphi Hotel, next door. On the fifth floor in back, one can’t hear the hubbub at all, and everyone else who might work here during the week– including some of Saratoga’s most notable Real Estate Brokers, among which I do not count myself– have better things to do than hide out in the air-conditioned confines above and aside from the more exciting fray on the street.
It is an amazing block of the burgeoning city I am on–the old mixed with the new– and its history here is rich. For instance, just talked to my dread-locked friend Curtis out in the parking lot as he finished his shift for the day, as porter to the Adelphi’s incoming visitors, and told him I worked the desk at the original re-birth of the Adelphi back when Sheila Parkert and Gregg Siefker owned and ran it, around 1981. No one was allowed on the staircase above the 3rd floor back then, or out in the back part at all, as the building was still deemed a bit unsafe at that time. I was a desk clerk there and watched night turn into daybreak almost every night for one full summer season, from debutantes and ballet dancers prancing past the mirrors in the evening to party people stumbing through the grand front entrance in the wee hours, to the street-sweeper ground past the front glass, pulling the next day’s light in ever so subtly. By 7 a.m. when the owners came down, I was inevitably a zombie.
When he heard I worked there, Curtis asked me if I knew the story of “the lady in the blue dress” who apparently was a legendary ghost on the premises…I had to admit I forgot if I ever knew that story, but then again I never actually slept in the rooms upstairs myself. He implied that even with significant renovations on this 150 year old Broadway structure, the ghost stories were still being perpetuated….
The Rip Van Dam Building, where I am, next door, I could vouch for, however, I told him. On more than one night when I had first moved into my 10′ X 12′ enclave down the hall, I heard footsteps and muffled sounds above me when working after hours, that first winter I worked here. I was puzzled so went out to the stairwell and trotted up the short back and forth flight to the 6th Floor where a notable financier’s office had recently been cleared out and gutted of its file cabinets when a certain government agency shut down his business and confiscated file cabinets and whatnot. I thought maybe the building owners were in there discussing plans to re-decorate and revamp the place for new tenants, but when I picked in the wondow of the locked door, the rooms were black and no one was in there. The hairs on my arms accordingly raised, and I went back to get my stuff and called it a night. I know what I heard, and minus the chains dragging, it was right out of a Dickens novel.
I haven’t heard that since, but other agents have mentioned that they ‘get the creeps” sometimes in here late in the evening, which is good for me as I get more privacy to tackle my blogs, or catch up on business, or finally compile my book. For as long as Keller Williams Capital District keeps the space, I’ll be able to camp here in peace…and regale you with tales and opinions.
The initial stated premise of this blog– way back when–was to specifically describe the music scene not just here in Toga town but area wide– wherever it was worth driving to on a given night. I will get to that subject again, perhaps next time…and have a good list of concerts to recapitulate.
After all, the love of concerts at SPAC in the early ’70’s, and live jazz music that was featured in the original Saratoga Trader’s (which now has become Gaffney’s)– is what drew me to want to live here in the first place, after my aborted college career. Back then a guy named Bob Cleary was running the place and regularly brought in high-level talent like the late great baritone sax player Nick Brignola’s quartet, or James Spaulding, a New York City guy who played alto and tenor sax like upstate’s answer to Charlie Parker. At Caffe Lena back then I’d go to see David Amram, a veteran of the bebop scene who also played French Horn with the NY Philharmonic, and played folk songs about hanging out with Jack Kerouac in the’50’s beatnik days. I might go see Rosalee Sorrels, or Happy & Artie Traum–original lower east side folkies who pre-dated Bob Dylan. There was a slide guitar player named Spider John Koerner, and a harmonica player named Peter who blew me away on Lena’ stage back then, and then just like 2 years ago my wife and I saw Sean Rowe play a killer show on the same stage as the final show of that fine old coffeehouse before the formerly rickety building below and alongside was revamped and converted to high-class storefront and condos above. Lena’s, as the locals say, fortunately survived the lean years and the massive makeover and is apparently thriving, as a testament to its past since 1961. I followed my friend Carl Landa– still a killer keyboard genius– for years thru permutations of his bands and solo work as he played with Scott Smith, a tenor player, Jill Hughes, a great R & B and sol singer in places like The Tin Shop (now Harvey’s), Jacksland’s (now Starbucks), and most famously, The METRO, when Peter Paquette owned– now the Sinclair Lounge at 17 Maple Ave.
In recent years, places like Bailey’s Cafe, Caroline Street Pub, City Tavern, Druthers, and most notably Putnam Den (now Putnam Place) have featured compelling live musicians, while other stellar venues have come and sadly gone– like One Caroline Street, and Circus Cafe. 9 Maple Ave still features the purest jazz in town on an every weekend basis. Gaffney’s has the best outdoor music stage in its generous fenced courtyard, and The Parting Glass reliably offers live Irish music and folk rock bands. Places like the Inn at Saratoga The Mouzon House, and Morrisey’s Lounge (at The new Adelphi) will frequently host topnotch acoustic players whose names I plan to mention in future installments. The scene has evolved and there are more places than ever to visit where live tunes can be heard.
BUT JUST LAST WEEK….I Realized that…
There are some places where music doesn’t necessarily NEED to be heard, depending on the variety, and I will give you an example.
My cousin Kim and her husband Jeff came up from New Jersey for a day at the Races to join Jeff’s longtime friend Alan Draper, who had bought a home here through me a year or two ago. After Jeff lost a couple hundred and then gained it back at the end, and Kim had assiduously finished a NY Times Crossword puzzle without spending a dime (lol), we decided to meet for dinner, and I chose a place I liked called The Dizzy Chicken, on Congress Street. I had been there for solo lunch and family dinner at different times of year, but hadn’t thought anything would be different, albeit was August now. As soon as we opened the door, it was audibly apparent there was a rather loud and obtrusive lounge music act– a husband/duo, it turned out, whose name I will not divulge except to say His name was eerily similar to mine. He was attired in some kind of slick Vegas tux with a silver fox haircut and she had a leopard-skin-themed pants suit or something, and the room was apparently largely filled with groupies of theirs, who were equally grey, and a lot more enthused about their music than we were. We, however, were sitting right in front of the band and could not even hear each other talk, so loud was the synthesizer and drum machine, and vocals, as they serenaded us with sappy versions of Proud Mary and Kenny Rogers’ tunes, things like that. They dredged up some Sinatra and some Elvis (with the inevitable “Who Still Loves The King? Raise your hand?!!”) at which point we asked to have our drinks taken out to the rear deck when we could order our food in peace.
The self-promoting duo seemed shocked and chagrined when I did not take the bait as they dropped off a request to be on their mailing list and a list of future dates they’d be playing, and where. We left that info on the table and hustled with our first beers out to the deck facing the parking lot, where we found blessed relief from their sampled syncopations and their lounge lizard harmonies. It felt like a Bill Murray sketch, an old SNL skit. The owner apologized to us and another transposed table, to whom eating their meal and conversing a regular voices was more important than cheering along to the golden oldies… and I felt once again like an anomaly to my generation…or those a bit older actually. While they were singing their self-chosen hits of the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70s… I imagined letting them know what my musical tastes were.. if my namesake had asked what I like to listen to, I would’ve given him a litany of my favorite WEQX music of the current moment:
Rubblebucket (Great interview in local arts weekly The Alt, with Alex Toth detailing his story)
Dirty Projectors (Current song “She’s a Breakthrough!” extremely catchy and unique)
Mansion Air (“Violet”)
Beach House (7) (“Lemon Glow” a throbbing beauty of a song)
Spoon (entire 2017 album “Hot Thoughts”, a masterpiece)
Black Pistol Fire (two guys younger than my sons)
K. Flay & Robert DeLong (“Now my favorite color is Blue!”)
Company of Thieves
Manchester Orchestra (“The Moth”)
Sir Sly, Tuneyards, The XX, Foster the People, Sylvan Esso, In The Valley Below, Courtney Barnett, Everything Everything, & Glass Animals, to name a few.
I would tell them that my favorite concerts of the past couple years have involved ecstatic experiences listening to
The Record Company at The Hollow (Fall 2016)
Portugal The Man (at The Palace in Albany-mind-blowing!)
SPOON (at Upstate Concert Hall-phenomenal!)
The National (at Mass MOCA, 2 summers ago–superb)
Marion Hill (Jupiter Hall, Albany)
K. Flay (at LollaPalooza, Pearl St, last summer
Minus The Bear (Tulip Fest, 2017-sorry to hear they are breaking up)
Northern Faces (at Brown’s Brewing in Troy, outside also)
Electric Guest (as a warm-up at The Palace)
Mondo Cosmo (” ” ” ” The Palace)
Vance Joy (this past June, Palace)
and St. Motel (as warm-up for Phantogram at Upstate Concert Hall)
The Head and The Heart (also at UCH)
and the aforementioned Rubblebucket (at Pearlapalooza).
Kings Of Leon at SPAC was likely as close to mainstream as we’d seen in the past couple years….
I can’t help it; I truly like new music, not recycled old chestnuts….
Don’t get me wrong; I had a recent discussion with younger friends about the virtues of Led Zeppelin, Jim Morrison & The Doors, Cream, and The Allman Brothers band… the true heavyweights of my youth! I will defend those groups– Aretha Franklin, Smoky Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Otis Redding, all the stalwarts of my junior high andnhigh school era…But when contemporaries of mine start pining away for The Eagles and want to play pap like “Peaceful, Easy Feeling“…I head for the exits and tell them I can’t hang with them anymore. No nostalgia for The Doobie Brothers or Chicago or The Moody Blues nor even Steely Dan (RIP Walter becker), is tolerated in my presence. Don’t even mention any shit by Neil Diamond– I was sickened when Dave Matthews sang a version of his Sweet Caroline a few years ago, frankly, stopped my fandom of him at that point, and I specifically left the room when the lounge act started trying to get the audience to sing along with that nonsense at The Dizzy Chicken. Now you see why I am a different kind of curmudgeon…sitting here listening to music from the current year, much less decade, while avoiding my high school reunion where they no doubt are resuscitating Jim Croce, or James Taylor, or Poco in the background; sorry…I need and still crave some newer stimulation than that… and you will be hearing about it here, as I dig into the present tense of music.
Amen for now, my rant is complete for today, and I hope someone notices I am back in the Blog World; more to come.
Copyright Wayne Perras 2018, for Waynesword2.com