Concerts, festivals to launch outdoor season
Despite the ice-swamp weather over the past few weeks, what’s happening on area stages proves summer is happening after all.
The hugely popular Dave Matthews Band returns to Saratoga Performing Arts Center this weekend with a typically strong opener; Alive at Five fires up tonight with Dave Mason, and the Emerald City Band; the Rhythm on the Ridge festival brings local roots bands together in Rotterdam; and local bands team up for Art on Lark on Saturday.
Opening for DMB
Since the Dave Matthews Band graduated (almost instantly) from opening act to headliners after playing SPAC on the H.O.R.D.E. tour in the 1980s, hats off to them for consistently using their stature to introduce their ever-larger, open-eared audiences to extra-cool openers on tour.
This month and next they feature the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Delta Spirit, Brandi Carlile, the Head and the Heart, SOJA, Tower of Power, The Avett Brothers, Allen Stone, Fitz and the Tantrums, Gary Clark Jr. But only Tower of Power could conceivably match Lettuce, the mighty musicians opening here at SPAC for DMB on Friday and Saturday.
Lettuce, whose new album is called “Fly,” is an all-star crew of Brooklyn funk blasters who get way down by making a big sound from expertly placed small pieces. Riffs don’t last long with them: They erupt out of booming vamps, then duck around the corner, to emerge arm in arm with other riffs, and party. Saturday’s show is sold-out at press time but if you have tickets for that one already or score a ticket (soon!) for Friday, get to SPAC on time (7 p.m.) to catch Lettuce. You’ll break a sweat just listening to these guys, without moving a muscle.
Mason at Alive at Five
Alive at Five opens tonight with veteran British rocker Dave Mason. Reconstituted local heroes the Emerald City Band opens at 5 p.m. Restless, Zelig-like, Mason co-founded Traffic, left, returned and left again; recorded with Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson; toured alongside Eric Clapton in Delaney and Bonnie & Friends and was supposed to join Clapton’s Derek & the Dominoes but quit before they could record anything. He later briefly joined, then quit, Fleetwood Mac — and he did all this while releasing albums of his own.
In other words, he has an extra-deep songbook and, as he proved at The Egg several years ago and a previous Alive at Five show, he knows what to do with it.
A top local attraction through the 1970s and into the 1980s, Emerald City has reunited around its nucleus of keyboardist Gary Brooks and guitarist Joe Mele.
Alive at Five shows are free, staged in Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater in the Corning Preserve in dry weather and at the Quackenbush Square parking lot behind the Albany Visitors Center on Broadway when it’s wet.
Roots & Rhythm
Rhythm on the Ridge on Saturday and Sunday at Maple Ski Ridge, (2725 Mariaville Road, Rotterdam) presents more than 20 performers spanning bluegrass, Celtic, country, folk and rock.
On Saturday, Flood Road starts at noon on the outdoor Ridge Stage; Three Quarter North, CB Smith & the Lucky Devils, the Ramblin Jug Stompers, Dan Johnson & His Expert Sidemen, the Stoddard Hollow String Band, Idette & the SunRunners, the Dyer Switch Band, and the Red Haired Strangers play hourlong sets, starting on the hour.
Meanwhile on the indoor Lodge Stage, Anthony Fallacaro starts the show at 11:30 a.m. with Mark Baptiste following at 12:15 p.m. and the other performers playing hourlong sets starting at quarter past the hour: 2Late, The Retrobilleze, Uncle Bootsy, Brendan’s Boys, the Lost Radio Rounders, Lawson, Cavanaugh & Kavanaugh, and Big Creek.
On Sunday, a pancake breakfast feeds everyone at 8 a.m. in the Lodge, then Tom Keller hosts an open mic at 10 a.m. on the Lodge Stage. At noon, the Bald Mountain Rounders start the outdoor action on the Ridge Stage, with Neversink, Everest Rising, Running the River, and the Hilltown Ramblers playing hourlong sets starting on the hour.
Art on Lark
Art on Lark brings six local bands to Albany’s Lark Street on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for free performances, in addition to food and crafts vendors and exhibits in many artistic media — including a new fiber arts section — and on environmental themes.
The performers are the Ashton Williams Band, Mike Grutka, Betsi Krisniski, Matthew Carefully, the College Farm, and Babe City. For more information, phone 434-3861 or visit www.larkstreet.org or www.exit977.org.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.