City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Tim Davis roams the corridors of the Tang Museum, surveying the gallery landscape where the work is ongoing in preparation of this weekend’s opening of his new show.
“This is the first time I’ve ever really done a show on this scale of things - things that aren’t just pictures that I took on a wall,” he says, the sonic echo of swinging hammers and buzzing drills flowing all around him. “This has a lot more going on.”
There are photographs – which he calls cartoons, selfies captured in the South Sea, videos of radios that he filmed in Tunisia; There is a self-portrait sculpture composed of multiple copies of Bob Dylan’s “Self Portrait” album, and a multitude of grave rubbings of people with funny names. “I can’t believe that I spent all this time in the summer doing these grave-rubbings,” Davis says, with a laugh. “It just seems insane.”
“While I’m out there making photographs about the immediate moment, I’m also collecting stuff all the time,” he explains, posing for a photograph in front of his Library of Ideas. Here, the book shelves are lined with titles that boast the word “Idea.”
"It all started with the sheet music of the song ‘(When We Are Dancing) I get ideas,’ Davis says. “I started collecting printed matter that has the word IDEAS in it, thinking that if I ever needed more ideas…”
Davis had staged solo exhibitions in Italy and France, Belgium and Canada. He has been involved in group exhibitions in spaces like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “When We Are Dancing (I Get Ideas),” - which opens on Saturday at the Tang Museum - marks the first large-scale exhibit in Saratoga Springs for the artist who spent his childhood here.
Davis grew up in Saratoga where at a young age he went around town with his friends making home movies with a Super 8 camera. He played in local bands. He created handwritten stories that were published in a homemade newspaper created by his friends. The TV news was their inspiration. “We were all obsessed with this weekend news anchor in Albany named Joe Moskowitz,” he recalls. “We got his 8x10 glossy, signed. We were in his fan club…”
The artist’s father, longtime Saratogian Peter Davis, was the program director of the Flurry Festival and plays a variety of instruments with numerous bands in the region, from Annie and the Hedonists to Saratoga Race Course house band Reggie’s Red Hot Feetwarmers. Music also plays a prominent rule in the exhibition. A monitor inside the museum displays music videos the younger Davis created for each of the 11 songs that he wrote for an album titled “It’s OK to Hate Yourself.”
“It’s got many of Saratoga’s finest musicians on it,” says the artist who spent many years writing lyrics for his brother’s band, Cuddle Magic. On Dec. 6, Tim Davis will perform all new material with his all new band. “We’re called Severely Brothers. not THE. Just called Severely Brothers, OK?”
He is an artist, writer and a musician who makes photographs, video, drawings, sound, and installations. Humor plays a vital role.
One of his earlier videos - “The Upstate New York Olympics” - depicts Davis leap-frogging over lawn jockeys. Sixteen different lawn jockeys in fact and some of which would be readily recognizable to residents of the Spa City.
“On my 40th birthday, I said: I’m going to go out and just make something that’s super fun, something I enjoy. My birthday is Nov. 5 and it’s always cold and miserable and I came up with idea of making new sports. And I love playing sports, so I was like: Can I make art as fun as playing sports? For a year I made this thing – The Upstate New York Olympics - and I went all around upstate scanning the landscape,” says Davis, who is 48. “The lawn jockey leapfrog seemed logical. I get a rush out of doing something I’m not supposed to do. I never really got in trouble,” he says. “And I only went to the hospital once.”
Another early video features 12 minutes of various Dollar General stores that accompany the lonesome traveler on a journey across the upstate landscape.
“I was visiting a friend in Chenango County, out near Binghamton. You’re driving around an realize there are these Dollar General stores in like every town, these amazing glowing things where they leave the lights on really late at night. You’re like: Oh, there goes another one. He fixed his camera to the side window of his car and continued on his journey. ”I enjoy being out in the world and being dedicated to capturing something about the immediacy of the moment.”
In the Tang Museum exhibition, two fixed walls play moving images that showcase, respectively, the formative beginnings of the hope-filled power of creativity - called “Counting In” - and its successful conclusion, called “Curtain Calls.”
“This is all footage I shot. Counting In took a year of going to band practices and waiting for them to say: one, two, three, four. Filmed in their rehearsal spaces, I just take the part where they go: one, two, three, four and string all of those together, before the song even starts. Curtain Calls are of amateur theatrical plays. It’s the ecstasy of the thing being over. Different plays from all over the country, shot from the same vantage point,” Davis says.
“A curtain call is what everyone is aiming for in a play - especially an amateur play that’s three hours long. Everyone’s like: can we get it there without messing it up? And Counting In is something that’s necessary to make music happen. I feel these two pieces are the real American Dream – which is playing in a band in your basement and doing an elaborate theater production. It’s not making a million dollars on Wall Street. “
Another music-meets-culture depiction - Un-Easy Listening - takes up a glass housed section of the museum’s second-floor space.
“There are about seven or eight hundred easy listening record in here - records you pick up when you go digging through the Salvation Army,” Davis says. “Elevator music. Music meant to be in the background in a suburban house in the ‘50s, when people moved from urban ethnic-type apartment tenements to the suburbs, where they created all this music to fill up that space. That happened at the same time of the invention of the long-playing record and hi-fi stereo. So, it was the perfect storm of blandness.” A trio of record players simultaneously spin three different easy listening selections. “It’s interactive. People can come in and take records, put them on, change them out, take them home if they want. I would be grateful to get rid of them.”
Davis lives in Tivoli, N.Y., near Kingston and teaches photography at Bard College. He previously taught a different generation of students at Yale, from 2001 to 2004. It was an era before Google, before Facebook and prior to Instagram. The technological changes of the past 15 years have been massive.
“One thing that’s harder and harder is going out into the world (for a new generation of students). Computers and the Internet are things that make us… we know where we can go to get answers. Every question can be answered in one place. The idea of moving through the world randomly may lead you to your answers, and unexpected answers, but it’s harder for them to do that. So, I give an assignment that’s called ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and the idea is you have to be completely lost before you can take any pictures, and you can’t have a phone with you. For me, the idea is that there’s a heightened attention when we’re lost, a feeling of being hyper-aware,” Davis explains.
“On the other hand, the idea of their lives being something they want to share with other people is something that’s totally familiar to them. It’s easier for them to make work that’s more personal, that’s more connected, because they’re used to it. It’s something they’ve done their whole lives. Not only making art about their whole lives - but publishing it, for all to see.”
The exhibition reflects the wide variety of the artist’s works. “I’m paying attention all the time,” Davis says. “The thing is, we may run out of a lot of things, but we’re never going to run out of significance. We’re never going to run out of something to say. As long as there are human beings, there is going to be significance in a sense that: this is really important, let me tell you this. And that’s what I’m here for.”
(photo: the artist in the spotlight, at the Tang Museum, Oct. 17, 2018. Photo: Thomas Dimopoulos)
Tim Davis — When We Are Dancing (I Get Ideas), a solo exhibition opens Saturday. Oct. 20 at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. Opening reception is at 5 p.m.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, Davis hosts an evening at the museum of storytelling about how and why people collect things. he will also stage a musical performance on Dec. 6. For more information, go to: https://tang.skidmore.edu/
Meet The Candidates - Senate 43 and Assembly 113 – Monday, Oct. 15
The League of Women Voters of Saratoga and Rensselaer counties has scheduled a candidate forum for Monday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m. for New York Senate 43 at the Saratoga Town Hall, 12 Spring St., Schuylerville.
To follow at approximately 8 p.m. will be a candidate forum for New York Assembly 113, organized by the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County.
All candidates on the ballot for the general election for Senate 43 and Assembly 113 have been invited: Aaron Gladd, Daphne A. Jordan; Carrie Woerner, Morgan Zegers.
Meet the Candidates - Congressional District 21 - Thursday, Oct. 18
The League of Women Voters of Saratoga County has scheduled a candidate event for Thursday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m., for New York Congressional District 21. It will be held at the Lake George Jr-Sr High School Auditorium, 381 Canada St., Lake George.
Invited Candidates for Congressional District 21 -- Tedra Cobb, Lynn Kahn, Elise Stefanik.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and Republican challenger Chele Farley will debate in Saratoga Springs two-and-a-half weeks in advance of the November midterm election.
The debate will be staged 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21 at the Arthur Zankel Music Center, on the campus of Skidmore College.
A limited number of tickets to the debate will be available to the general public. The tickets are free and limited to two per person.
To order tickets, go to this link: https://tickets.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=3ba01176502e75b37cb9d8f93193709f&vqitq=d8e3ccfc-4273-49f5-9c6d-cc729215902f&vqitp=b4a9f749-9d93-4e6c-a979-519b989f4327&vqitts=1539007963&vqitc=vendini&vqite=itl&vqitrt=Safetynet&vqith=73f39385b014dc549265f00462c78c5b
SARATOGA SPRINGS - In addition to the first presentation of the proposed 2019 city budget, the Council tonight will vote on a PILOT agreement regarding the planned mixed-use development on South Broadway, which currently sites the former Saratoga Diner.
The proposed project will include 101 multi-family dwelling units – 68 of those units “for citizens having household incomes less than or equal to 60 percent of area medium income (“AMI”) for Saratoga County, adjusted for family size.”
AMI for Saratoga County is approximately $86,400. Sixty percent of that number translates to a family of four having a household income of $51,840 or less. The income number roughly decreases approximately $5,000 for each member of the family less than four.
In addition to the 68 units, another 14 units are to be specifically designated for veterans. The remaining 33 units are for persons having household incomes of between 60 percent and 130 percent of AMI or less.
The planned project is named “SoBro,” as it is SOuth of BROadway, and reminiscent of the SoHo (SOuth of HOuston Street) moniker placed on a portion of lower Manhattan – known in the 1970s and ‘80s as an inexpensive haven for creative artists and independent business owners, more recently gentrified and home to box stores.
SoBro is slated to designate at least 10,000 square feet of commercial space for an “affordable economic development business incubator work space” to assist city businesses and up to an additional 10,000 square feet of commercial space for “below market rental use” by not-for-profit groups arts-based organizations.
The 30-year PILOT (payment-in-lieu of taxes) agreement starts with a near- $64,000 payment in year 1, and concludes with a more-than $267,000 payment in year 30.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Inside the gymnasium, on the south side of the city, a basket and backboard tower over a long row of white tables. Sturdy swivel chairs and a mesh of computer wires stretch across the foul lines. A filing cabinet stands at the top of the circle abutting a bookshelf that extends to center court.
“All the inner workings of City Hall,” says Mayor Meg Kelly, gesturing across the 30,000-plus square feet of gymnasium space where city employees are busy at work. These new temporary quarters will act as their offices for the next 12 months.
A Friday night lightning strike upon City Hall in mid-August acted as the catalyst for the change, after a drainage pipe on the roof was struck and melted, causing heavy rains to pour into the building which has served as the center of Saratoga Springs’ government since 1871.
The city’s new and previously untested emergency management plan was put to a real-life test.
“The Emergency Management Plan was put into effect immediately when the lightning struck,” Mayor Kelly says. “As soon as it went into effect, we had all the people converge. Everyone’s got a job to do and everybody has their role.” City Fire Chief Bob Williams was designated incident commander. Marilyn Rivers, director of risk and safety, and Assistant Police Chief John Catone had boots on the ground – a job they basically took over for 24 hours, Kelly says. The city's emergency dispatch center was relocated to the county's facility. “We moved it that first night, because we just didn’t know how much damage there was going to be. The water just kept coming, all over the place.”
The commissioner of public safety is charged with developing and periodically updating the city’s Strategic Emergency Management Plan. In 2016, assistant Police Chief Catone completed the near-two-year project of compiling potential disaster concerns in Saratoga Springs and how to best address them. The plan is comprised of approximately 500 pages of documents and annexes and was the first new comprehensive plan for the city in a decade. It includes risk preparedness, response, and recovery in the aftermath of potential catastrophic weather events, terrorism incidents, school shootings, workplace violence, and public exposure to hazardous materials, among other things.
“The plan worked very well,” Mayor Kelly says. “The biggest thing with our plan was – number one - that we had a plan. A lot of cities don’t, and I would recommend that if you are a city you do need to get one. We’re not under that plan anymore, because now we’re up and operating. We were up and running in six days.”
Like any first-time implementation, there are lessons to be learned, Kelly added. “You do learn. A lot of things worked, some we’ll go back and look at. One area we need to improve was the court system, which wasn’t in the plan. We need to get that in there because they’re in our (City Hall) building.” Court sessions are currently being held in the Lincoln Bath building on South Broadway.
City workers were initially displaced in a variety of locations across the city, with DPW officers at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park, legal staff and commissioners of Finance and Public Safety at The Mill on High Rock Avenue and Risk and Safety located at the Lake Avenue Fire Station. There is a move to consolidate most of the workers at the Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue, which when fully relocated will house about 65 employees.
The $6.5 million recreation center – which faced some public opposition as well as an unsuccessful court action prior to its development – opened in 2010 and was wired to be computer-friendly.
“We have the fiber in this building, which made it easy for people to just come and plug right in: bing, bing, bing and we’re up and running,” said DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. “That’s important because it’s not all over town. When they built this, they put infrastructure in here to accommodate the new technology.”
“We did look at several places all around the city, but very few are large enough to hold us, and if they were they didn’t have the fiber,” Kelly says. “It would take four to five months to get the fiber (for communications) to the building, and it’s so expensive to have that happen. So, that’s why we’re staying here.”
The city is working with the YMCA, Skidmore College, and the Saratoga Springs School District to relocate as many of the city programs that had been held at the center as possible. “The programs are going on if they can, if not then they’ll be brought back in a year when we’re moved out of here. This is an emergency situation,” Kelly says. To that end, the city Recreation Commission will host a Recreation Master Plan Public Meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Mabee Building, 2nd floor Community Room, on 31 Church St.
While the gymnasium section of the building is for employees only, a separate section of the building holds offices the public is likely to need, such as those seeking licenses and other information. A “greeter” has also been placed at the center to help direct people where they need to go and is something that has officials thinking there should be a similar point person installed when City Hall reopens.
The work environment at the rec center – essentially a city government without walls – has gone well moral-wise, Kelly says. “I think everybody seems to work a lot more together in this environment. I’ll tell you, we have a very strong group of employees here to pull this off, because it doesn’t happen easily. Everyone we asked for help has jumped right in.”
THE STATUS OF CITY HALL
“We’re shooting at re-opening in a year from now,” Scirocco says. “We met with engineering architects last week and we’ll be moving forward on our master plan for City Hall. Right now, we’re in the process of doing demolition and there is some testing on where the asbestos is. Once that happens, we’ll get an abatement contractor and we’ll probably do the abatement and any other demo work that needs to be done.”
The configuration of offices at City Hall is anticipated to change. A second courtroom, which is required, is targeted for the second floor where currently a single courtroom is located. That would effectively force the relocation of the public safety offices and the law library. The Saratoga Music Hall, which is located on the third floor and sustained the most damage, will be reconstructed and will remain a music hall. Cost estimates regarding the damage is anticipated before the end of this calendar year.
“It’s a good opportunity to make changes – some which we’re obligated to do, some to be more efficient and safer. So, that’s the goal,” Scirocco says.
UPCOMING MEETINGS, which will be staged at the Saratoga Springs City Center. The City Council holds a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1 and a full meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday; The Design Review Commission meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, and the Planning Board meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4. Additionally, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, the city will publicly open and read sealed bids for preliminary and final engineering for the Complete Streets Saratoga Greenbelt Downtown Extender as it relates to Lake Avenue bike lanes.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A family friendly kickoff to fall featuring food, music and individual and group art projects will take place Saturday afternoon at Pitney Meadows Community Farm. Attendees will have the opportunity to create kites, flower crowns and a collaborative sculpture project - which will be installed at the farm.
The event is hosted by C.R.E.A.T.E Community Studios, a nonprofit organization that works with children and adults to promote freedom of expression, personal growth, and community connection through art.
“We were formed by a group of art therapists and art educators,” says group co-founder Julie Lewis. “Our mission is really about bringing the expressive arts to an underserved population and working with communities to bring health and wellness - through the expressive arts - as a medium through which community togetherness can happen.”
The focus is on the process of art-making, which includes interacting with subjects, creatively working from a feeling, or becoming inspired by community issues. It is about using the creative process as a vehicle for personal growth, communication and social change.
“My interest came from my background of working in schools and specifically working with some low-income at-risk populations,” says Lewis, a NY State certified teacher.
“I saw half of my students struggling so much with the academic side of things and what I realized is they weren’t struggling because of academic needs – they’re extremely bright – but because there was so much change and trauma and difficulty in their family lives. And they didn’t have a proper outlet for that in school,” she says. “The kids were clearly showing me that there were ways they wanted to utilize activities in terms of the arts and physical activity, music and the movement to express themselves. I felt a little powerless trying to change that in a school structure. I realized I really wanted to find a way to make a space for that.”
Inspired to seek like-minded collaborators, Lewis connected with Heather Hutchison – a state licensed creative arts therapist, and Aili Lopez, a licensed mental health counselor. “They both had a similar dream of opening up some type of community center focused around using all the arts – movement, music, visual, performance everything to help bring communities together and to heal,” Lewis says.
C.R.E.A.T.E is located on Broadway in Saratoga Springs in the Collamer Building and on State Street in Schenectady and offers a variety of affordable art-based workshops for all age groups. The organization has also partnered with veterans’ groups and agencies such as the Franklin Community Center, Wellspring, and Shelters of Saratoga to offer programs for specific populations.
“We’re really focused on trying to meet all the needs of our community members,” Lewis says. A list of programs may be found on the organization’s website at: http://www.createcommunitystudios.org/.
Saturday’s events take place 3 to 6 p.m. at Pitney Meadows Community Farm, 223 West Ave. Tickets are $30 per family and $15 per individual and may be purchased in advance on the organization’s website, or at the farm on the day of the event.
Funds raised support C.R.E.A.T.E.’s mission to serve everyone who walks through their doors by providing a space where the benefits of art-making impact each person’s overall mental, emotion-al and physical health through free and low-cost open studio time, expressive arts groups for kids, teens and adults, arts workshops and community wellness activities, community building events and imperative outreach programming.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - A decision has been made in the lawsuit against the City of Saratoga Springs which seeks to block a permanent Code Blue shelter from being built on the property of Shelters of Saratoga, Inc. at 14 Walworth St., according to S.O.S.
In an order dated Sept. 17, a Saratoga County Supreme Court judge has vacated and nullified all City approvals granted to SOS in response to a lawsuit filed by surrounding neighbors. The order vacates and nullifies the determinations by The City of Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and Planning Board in 2017 and 2018 which would have allowed the shelter to be built.
Shelters of Saratoga, or S.O.S., oversees the Code Blue program, and siting an emergency shelter at a permanent location has been a high priority following a series of temporary shelter venues that have been staged at St. Peter’s Parish Center, the Salvation Army building and the Soul Saving Station Church.
In early 2017, local business owner Ed Mitzen, and his wife Lisa, stepped forward to announce they will pay for the costs of a new, permanent Code Blue homeless shelter to be built on the current Shelters of Saratoga property on Walworth Street.
The 2017 and 2018 approvals from the ZBA and Planning Board were challenged based upon the opposition to the City’s administrative determination that the proposed Code Blue shelter met the definition of a “neighborhood rooming house” as set forth in the Saratoga Springs City Zoning Code. Following the administrative decision, the ZBA voted in favor of the interpretation that the proposed shelter was zoning compliant. The decision revoking the most recent approvals resulted from the combination of two lawsuits filed by the neighbors in 2018 which is in addition to a 2017 lawsuit neighbors filed following the ZBA dismissal of their case as untimely.
Code Blue, a program of SOS, is a restriction-free winter shelter that operates from November until April when the temperature drops below 32 degrees or more than 12 inches of snow is predicted. The temporary shelter was located at Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street in Saratoga Springs for the winter of 2017-2018. During the 2017-18 winter season, Code Blue provided meals, clothing and support to 144 people. An average of 53 people used the shelter for 162 evenings and 44 daytime openings. Forty-five individuals transitioned into treatment, reconnected with family, entered another program, or found permanent housing.
The Franklin Street residents opposed to the shelter being developed on Walworth Street, released a statement through their spokesperson subsequent to the ruling by Judge Robert Chauvin. The statement reads: "Given the order and judgment of the court that the proposed Walworth Street shelter expansion was not an appropriate use of zoning, it is our hope that the Shelters of Saratoga, the City, the neighbors, the County, and involved parties can work together to carefully address homelessness and Code Blue services in our community. Alternate sites have been offered and should be considered as part of a meaningful, long-term solution."
“Our plans to shelter people for the upcoming winter season are well underway thanks to the commitment of Soul Saving Station Church and Presbyterian New England Congregational Church as temporary locations for Code Blue.” said Marcy Dreimiller, SOS board president, in a statement. “We are disappointed in the decision and will now need to evaluate what options exist for a permanent, long term solution for the Code Blue program.”
BALLSTON SPA – A 31-year-old Saratoga Springs accused of causing serious physical injury to his Boston Terrier, was convicted Monday by a Saratoga County jury of one count of Aggravated Cruelty to Animal, according to Saratoga County District Attorney Karen A. Heggen.
The man, Aaron Brinkley, was convicted of brutally beating his 29-pound Boston Terrier “Riko,” with a hammer, inflicting injuries that ultimately led to Riko’s death.
“We are pleased that the Jury held the Defendant accountable for this especially depraved conduct,” Heggen said.
The trial began last week with jury selection, continued with more than 7 witnesses and over 50 items of evidence. Heggen commended the efforts of the Saratoga Springs Police Department for their work investigating the case.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 14. Brinkley faces a maximum of two years in the Saratoga County Jail.
“They're gonna put me in the movies... They're gonna make a big star out of me…”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Fifty-three years to the day since the Beatles recorded a live performance of their song “Act Naturally” on the Ed Sullivan show, Ringo Starr revisited the tune at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center during an appearance with his All Starr (sic) Band.
The two-hour-long, 24-song set was evenly split between a dozen Ringo-led tunes, and three songs apiece performed by each of the four main other players of the ensemble.
Ringo assumed vocal duties on songs once performed, if not written by The Beatles, including: Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox,” “Boys” – popularized by The Shirelles, and the previously mentioned “Act Naturally” - a tune originally recorded by Buck Owens.
From The Beatles canon, Ringo tinkled some on the keyboards and sang “Don’t Pass Me By” and took mic in hand at center stage for “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “What Goes On” – which he introduced as “the only song written by Lennon, McCartney and Starkey,” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” – which in 1963 the Beatles wrote for, and gave to, the Rolling Stones. Perhaps the night’s greatest joy was delivered in a full theater sing-a-long of “Yellow Submarine.”
Starr, with a little help from his friends, returned to the venue for the first time since August 1989. At that time, his All Stars Band consisted of Joe Walsh, The Band’s Levon Helm and Rick Danko, Dr. John, Billy Preston, and Clarence Clemons and Nils Lofgren, who were on hiatus from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
This time around, the ensemble featured prolific studio musician and Toto guitarist Steve Luthaker who led a performance of that group’s hits “Rosanna,” “Africa,” and “Hold the Line.” Guitarist Colin Hay revisited his time with the band Men at Work, singing “Who Can It Be Now,” “Down Under,” and “Overkill.” Original Santana keyboard player and vocalist r Gregg Rolie revisited the songs “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” and “Oye Como Va,” and 10cc songwriter Graham Gouldman added “I’m Not in Love,” “Dreadlock Holiday,” and “The Things We Do for Love.”
Starr, when he wasn’t at the lead mic at center stage, played drums throughout, aided by a second percussionist. Culling a quartet of ditties from his solo albums, Ringo revisited “It Don't Come Easy,” “You're Sixteen,” “Photograph,” and “Anthem” – the latter signifying one of the evening’s few tracks, if not the only one, written in the current century.
Looking decades younger than his 78 years, the one-time Beatles drummer sported a colorful off-center screen T-shirt depicting a face reminiscent of Nina Hagen, a black blazer and jeans and pyramid-studded belt, a slew of bangles on his right wrist, a timepiece on his left and a gold “Peace” symbol around his neck.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Some people called him “Captain Fun,” others the “unofficial mayor of Saratoga Springs,” but the one sure thing of which you could be certain when running into Al McKenney on one of his strolls along Broadway, was you would hear a story you had never heard before. And he had a wealth of lifetime experiences from which to draw.
McKenney had managed concert tours featuring musicians from David Bromberg to Clannad and performed emcee duties for the Smithsonian’s annual National Folk Festival, and Pete Seeger’s Great Hudson Revival. His voice is forever immortalized at Kent State University on their KSU Folk Festival Recordings, which date back several decades. Beyond McKenney’s omnipresent suspenders, purple Caffe Lena T-shirt and similarly colored beret were the tales of musicians Utah Philipps or Rosalie Sorrels and memories of Lena Spencer, owner of the coffeehouse on Phila Street where so many memories have been made.
When the then 26-year-old hitchhiked a ride from his native Massachusetts to land in Saratoga Springs in 1971, there was no going back. When McKenney died in the summer of 2015, he had amassed more than 1,000 vinyl records and hundreds of CD’s and music-related books.
This week, volunteers at Caffe Lena began unpacking the first 18 boxes containing the vinyl collection and placing them alphabetically in specially designed purple shelves, each standing nearly seven feet in height and located in the café’s entry area.
First out: Joan Baez’s self-titled debut on Vanguard Records – in mono, no less and released in 1960, the same year Lena and Bill Spencer opened the doors of their café. Next came a slew of Louisiana Cajun compilations led by the 1934 Lomax Recordings and a handful of platters by Clifton Chenier. There was a large collection of albums by Joni Mitchell, by Hank Williams, and by Bruce Springsteen. More than a half-century of Bob Dylan recordings spread across the lobby floor.
“The ‘D‘ space will probably have to be larger,” surmised Caffe Lena Executive Director Sarah Craig, eyeballing dozens of record jackets whose vinyl grooves contained the original strains of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” to "Silvio" and "Gotta Serve Somebody," live performances of "My Back Pages" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," to cover renditions performed by The Byrds, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The plan for the collection – named the Captain Fun Listening Library - is to share with the community the kicks the music delivers. Caffe Lena will host a Lunchtime Listening Hour one Friday each month, with the tentative hope to kick off the series the first Friday in October. The listening hour will take place 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It will be a completely free event, curated by Chuck Vosganian aka Rochmon, and attendees are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch.