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Matthews first played SPAC 20 years ago

Thursday, May 29, 2014
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The Dave Matthews Band performs at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center last May. The group returns to SPAC on Friday and Saturday. A few lawn tickets remain.
The Dave Matthews Band performs at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center last May. The group returns to SPAC on Friday and Saturday. A few lawn tickets remain.

Who knew? When the Dave Matthews Band played Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Blues Traveler’s H.O.R.D.E. tour 20 years ago, who knew they’d still be coming back to fill the place year after year and night after night?

They certainly had no idea. When I bumped into Matthews himself backstage at H.O.R.D.E., he seemed shy and genuinely grateful that Blues Traveler (now playing clubs and freebie festivals) had plucked them from college-bar obscurity to take them national.

Matthews seemed equally modest in a phone interview before they played the Palace soon afterward, beginning their climb, venue by venue, to multi-day headliner status at our biggest outdoor venue, where once no one knew who they were. Now, everybody knows, so they can pack SPAC at will; though their journey to the top levels of jam-band-dom hasn’t always been easy.

Several members recorded solo albums, often a sign of shaky solidarity. They scrapped at least one completed album. They lost saxophonist LeRoi Moore to an accident in 2008, and in 2011 they took a hiatus some saw as the end. Bringing in Nashville-based saxophonist Jeff Coffin — he can honk several saxes at once, ala Rahsaan Roland Kirk -- and adding trumpeter Rashawn Ross and perennial guest guitarist Tim Reynolds — restored them to full-on jamming strength, while Matthews and Reynolds have played as a duet subset of the band at times, including last September at FarmAid.

The DMB is among the top touring acts on the road, playing top festivals and multiple dates in even the largest venues. Their albums usually top the charts. In fact, they tied the Eagles for having the most No. 1 albums by any American band.

Here they come again: The Dave Matthews Band plays Friday and Saturday at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Few lawn tickets remain: 800-745-3000, www.spac.org/tickets/live-nation.

Fest for Vets

A belated Memorial Day celebration and fund-raiser for the initiative by Soldier On and Albany County to convert the Ann Lee Nursing Home into housing for veterans comprises an all-day event on Saturday.

Inspired by the alarming fact that one-third of returning veterans wind up homeless at some point, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, a vet himself, and promoter Jim Anderson, are teaming up with Soldier On, led by Jack Downing, in this music-for-a-cause enterprise.

In the spirit of the veterans’ motorcycle pilgrimage Run for the Wall across America and the Rolling Thunder bikers’ rally at the Wall on Memorial Day, the event begins with a noontime motorcycle run from the Ann Lee Home to the Times Union Center.

A street party there will feature performances by local southern rock favorites EB Jeb and country-rockers Skeeter Creek. Then at 7 p.m., the action moves indoors where the Charlie Daniels Band, Bret Michaels and the Marshall Tucker Band perform. Admission is $55, $45 and $35. 487-2000 www.timesunioncenter-albany.com.

Irish voices rising

Celtic Woman brings its latest song and dance extravaganza, “Emerald: Musical Gems,” to the Palace Theatre in Albany on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (See Jeff Wilkin's story on D1)

The cast comprises singers Susan McFadden, Lynn Hilary and Mairead Carlin and violinist Mairead Nesbitt, the Aontas Choir and a chamber orchestra, plus Irish stepdancers. Like Lord of the Dance and Riverdance, this production changes members periodically, but strong artistic direction maintains consistency and regularly freshens things with new pieces. Admission is $102, $62 and $42. 800-745-3000. www.palacealbany.com.

Short cuts

Those shows are in big places; these, in small ones.

Malian guitarist Oumar Konate plays the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Ave., Troy) on Friday at 7 p.m.

He plays “desert rock” with a trio (percussion, balafon and bass), making music of peace and reconciliation. $10. 272-2390 www.mediasanctuary.org.

Diego Garcia plays on Saturday at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). Rising like a rocket since leaving the band Elefant, the Brown University graduate and Detroit-born, Tampa-raised son of Argentine parents has been a big hit here at LarkFest and The Linda last year. $17. 465-5233 ext. 4. www.wamcarts.org.

The veteran folk trio Huxtable, Christensen & Hood play Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs on Saturday at 8 p.m. Performing together since meeting as Skidmore students — they’re faculty age now — they return every year to a warm welcome, often with drop-in guest performers. $15, advance; $17 door.

On Sunday, Louisiana-born singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier (say “Go-SHAY”) returns to the Caffe. Her backstory — teenage runaway, addict, chef — informs her candid songs, and she has proclaimed her new album “Trouble and Love,” due later this month, to be a “transformation record.” 7 p.m. $22, advance; $24, door.

Texan honky-tonk hero and western swingster Dale Watson plays the Hangar Bar (675 River St., Troy) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. In his signature song, he admits, “I Lie When I Drink,” then acknowledges, “I drink a lot.” His bar-room ballads bear big, deep truths, however. $25. 272-9740 www.alehousetroy.com.

Phyllis Diller joked she was years behind on her ironing: That’s me and movies, even movies on music. When I found “Beware of Mister Baker” (2012) about madman drummer Ginger Baker Monday on Netflix, I watched; intrigued and horrified. Is it possible to be a monster talent without being a monstrous person? How do people get the nerve to be completely, fearlessly, horribly and destructively themselves? Does the talent power the arrogant hyper-autonomy, or vice versa?

I’ve wondered about this for years, partly because Ginger and I go way back, you see. Flying on Pan Am’s round the world flight 1 to Istanbul in 1968, I was in coach and London-bound Ginger was in first class. He was being The Rock Star: yelling, throwing champagne bottles, making noise and a mess: That escapade would have fit perfectly in the movie.

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at hochanadel@dailygazette.net.

 
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