A farewell Valentine to a cool, raucous, joyful club
Raise a glass to Valentine’s Music Hall & Beer Joint, evidently doomed by the expansion of Albany Med to join many vanished venues in rock ’n’ roll oblivion. Roadies have rolled the last amps out of these places, their beer coolers and kegs as empty as their dark stages.
So, let’s toast the raucous, smoky memory of the Hullaballoo, 288 Lark, QE2, the Chateau (“Rateau,” say some), the Metro, Saratoga Winners and J.B. Scott’s, maybe the most missed of all — apart from the Aerodrome, whose size and stature stands in a nostalgic spotlight all its own.
How cool is Valentines? Let us count the ways.
1. It’s in a city, on a real street with real people and real businesses, a nice, noisy neighbor. Coming out of the next-door pizza joint after a predinner slice with the NRBQ guys, I was run down by a woman pushing her cart home from the Laundromat. (The rock ’n’ roll bars mourned above were all in cities, apart from Route 9 roadhouse Saratoga Winners.)
2. Cool shows. I missed many, but some I hit still make my ears and synapses ring: pre-operatic Rufus Wainwright, numerous hot NRBQ shows, many Alejandro Escovedo shows, never with the same band twice. Make your own list, but a big hats off to Howie Glassman for bringing in cool music,
3. It’s classy. Some would disagree, citing floors and bathrooms. So, let me tell you about taking my daughter Pisie and her friends Katie and Shona there to see Of Montreal. They were all 15 and gorgeous, so I was kind of on my guard. Nobody did anything skeevy around them, and everybody was super nice, including Kevin Barnes, main man in Of Montreal who was very gracious to them.
4. Even when something sucks, it’s still cool. Once Alejandro Escovedo brought just a bassist and a cellist. They played so quietly that loud talkers at the bar first annoyed Escovedo, then drove him offstage. He led us into the poolroom where we perched everywhere, including on the table, and played a stunningly intimate show. Energy looped around from us into the band and back, filling the room. Then Escovedo and the boys took the stage again and were unstoppable, explosive. When the music downstairs is too loud for the band upstairs, or vice versa, they somehow manage some mighty mojo that makes things all right.
The website www.valentinesalbany.com lists shows through Nov. 9, and I hope the place manages to survive that long or longer.
Remember last week we talked about artists coming home to play? Tonight is an encore for Johnny Rabb and Eddie Angel, playing “Rally in the Alley” outside Franklin’s Tower (414 Broadway, Albany) after Skeeter Creek and Whiskey City play this summer’s last Alive at Five.
Rabb and Angel have probably played more gigs together than Lennon and McCartney. But Angel lives in Nashville now and tours the world with Los Straitjackets or plays in town with the Martian Denny Orchestra. He and Rabb reunite occasionally in the Neanderthals, but Angel doesn’t play here much.
“Rally in the Alley” features Angel and Rabb with bassist Steven “Cousin” Clyde and drummer Pete Curry of Los Straitjackets: the Neanderthals, minus the faux-fur Flintstones finery. The fun starts at 7:30 tonight. Admission is free. Phone 431-1920.
Bob Irwin moved to Nashville after establishing Sundazed Records in Coxsackie, where the classy reissues label pumps out surf-guitar, garage rock and other blasts from the past.
When he worked in record stores here before launching Sundazed, Irwin played at Catskills ski resorts in such bands as Laugh at the Cold. Like Angel, though, Irwin doesn’t play here often. However, he plays for happy hour on Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Storm King (10 Reed St., Coxsackie — near Sundazed headquarters) with multi-instrumentalists Chris Fisher and Ed Wasilewski. Phone 431-3463
That's rock 'n' roll
Though never much of a singer, Mick Farren died the perfect rock ’n’ roll death on July 27 after performing with his reunited band the Deviants. They released three albums from 1967 to ’69, earning comparisons to the Fugs and the Mothers of Invention for rocking rudeness.
Farren’s New York Times obituary excerpted his landmark 1976 article in the New Musical Express, “The Titanic Sails at Dawn,” sounding the punk call to arms.
“If rock becomes safe, it’s all over,” he wrote. “It’s a vibrant, vital music that from its very roots has always been a burst of color and excitement against a background of dullness, hardship or frustration. From the blues onwards, the essential core of the music has been the rough side of humanity. It’s a core of rebellion, sexuality, assertion and even violence. All the things that have always been unacceptable to a ruling establishment. Once that vigorous, horny-handed core is extracted from rock ’n’ roll, you’re left with little more than Muzak. No matter how tastefully played or artfully constructed, if the soul’s gone then it still, in the end, comes down to Muzak.”
Betcha nobody ever played that kind of crap at Valentine’s.
Former Albany rockers moe. headline their own moe.down festival Friday through Sunday at Snow Ridge (4173 West Road, Turin — north of Utica). The band plays plenty at this 14th moe.down, along with Dr. Dog, the Del McCoury Band, Conspirator, Karl Denson, Steve Kimock, Stanley Jordan and too many others to list here. Visit www.moedown.com or www.moe.org.
String of Pearls sings two shows in Saratoga Springs next week: at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St.) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. and in the gazebo at the Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday at noon. Masters of vintage jazz up to girl-group styles, the harmonizing String of Pearls are Jeanne O’Connor, Sue Halloran and Holli Ross, accompanied by pianist Peg Delaney, bassist Pete Toigo and drummer Sam Zucchini. Admission at Caffe Lena Tuesday is $18, $16 for members, $9 for children or students. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org. Admission to their show at the track on Wednesday is free with track admission.
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at email@example.com.