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Square dance gets rusty participants stepping

Thursday, November 21, 2013
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A fundraising square dance seemed a natural for our friend Kat, lead organizer of the Electric City Food Coop. She grew up in the Carolinas where square dancing celebrated every harvest season.

Not so natural, maybe, for many of us: We recalled grade-school classes where we had to grab, in sweaty discomfort, the deeply strange members of the opposite sex. A Texas-raised friend told me the command “Swing your partners!” inspired him and his buds to test centrifugal force — swinging their girl partners out of control, careening toward the walls.

Who still remembered how to do-si-do or allemande left?

So, many of us had to achieve a victory of altruism and openness over apprehension as we approached Rob and Ginger’s converted barn/house above Rotterdam Junction on Saturday night. A wide, welcoming space downstairs was cleared as the dance floor. Food and drinks waited for intermission on a balcony above, where a trio of guitar, fiddle and flute tuned up at one end.

Caller Paul Rosenberg invited, cajoled, instructed and guided about 50 dancers in how to form sets (long lines) or squares (you know) — and how to do-si-so, allemande left and swing your partner. Cowboy hats and boots abounded. Ellie danced in my late Uncle Mickey’s yellow El Paso handmades — we’ll fight over those boots for years to come. There were lots of jeans, checkered shirts and flouncy skirts between hats and boots: The place looked like “Hee Haw.”

Our friend Madelyn wore the bolo tie her late father, Charlie, wore to hundreds of square dances, and some in our Saturday night throng seemed to have celebrated hundreds of square dances themselves. They were veterans. They were skilled. They were hot to trot.

Rosenberg consulted with the band, dance by dance, agreeing on Celtic or bluegrass songs and matching moves to the music. He started and ended with circle dances engineered to bring every dancer face to face with every other one, and called square dances whose daunting intricacy caused laughing, collisions — sweet confusion, under the moonlight, as Dr. John sang years ago in “Such a Night” — as the full moon peeked through tall windows and taller trees.

In other words, the whole thing was more fun than any of us rookies might have imagined.

’60s Experience

On Saturday, “The Sixties Rock Experience” reaches back to the Rascals’ era, with live re-creations onstage at Proctors of the music the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, the Mamas & Papas, Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues and others created decades ago.

Show time for “The Sixties Rock Experience” at Proctors on Saturday is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, $27.50 and $20. 346-6204 www.proctors.org.

Folk combos

The Stray Birds from Pennsylvania make deep connections through down-home Americana; they play tonight at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). The trio — singer/fiddler Maya de Vitry, guitarist Oliver Craven and guitarist Charles Muench — has two releases, “Borderland” and “The Stray Birds,” with a third due soon.

Troubadour Dietrich Strause opens this 8 p.m. show. Admission is $16 advance, $18 at the door. 583-0022 www.caffelena.org.

Jim Gaudet and The Railroad Boys take over at Caffe Lena on Friday for an 8 p.m. show. These local heroes have been busy, releasing the highly praised album “Reasons that I Run,” playing the International Bluegrass Music Association “Bluegrass Ramble” in Raleigh and many other festivals near and far.

And now there’s one more Railroad Boy: banjoist Scott Hopkins, along with Gaudet, bassist Bob Ristau, mandolinist Sten Isaachsen and fiddler Mat Kane. Admission is $16 advance, $18 at the door.

The Tartan Terrors from Canada terrorize the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theater (432 State St., Schenectady) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Returning to the scene of last year’s triumphant area debut and celebrating the release of their new CD “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” the Tartan Terrors are dancer/singer Ellen Wilkes Irmisch; bassist, singer and bodhrán player Kneeland Wilkes Irmisch, fiddler D’Arcy Furniss; bassist and guitarist Phill Hood, percussionist and drummer Jon McCann; and multi-instrumentalists Daniel Pentecost and Jake Saenz. Admission is $28, $50 for front and center. 474-1703 www.8thstep.org.

Once-local fiddler Jane Rothfield returns here on Saturday for an 8 p.m. show at Old Songs (37 S. Main St., Voorheesville) with a new band, Panache Quartet. This band is all fiddlers and all women: southern-style Rothfield, Cape Breton stylist Andrea Beaton, Franco-American Donna Hebert and Quebecois Veronique Plasse. Tickets are $20, children $5. 765-2815 www.oldsongs.org.

On Trial at Valentines

A one-man rock band, Hamell on Trial is Ed Hammell and his beat-up Gibson. He clearly doesn’t need any help to rock the house, grab you by the funny bone and give a mighty shake or three, and tell deep and sometimes uncomfortable truths. He is positively explosive, all by himself — and he returns on Wednesday to Valentines (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) where he’s delivered many a mighty show.

This may be his last there as the clock ticks on the doomed, venerable rock ’n’ roll bar. Hamell once lived here, and he credits Jim Gaudet as a songwriting mentor. Lessons well learned, I’d say. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is $10, 432-6572 www.valentinesalbany.com.

B3NSON blast

You might want to get to Valentines early for the B3NSON Recording Company holiday showcase called “Funsgiving” on Friday at 7 p.m. featuring Barons in the Attic, Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned, the Parlor, Rival Galaxies, Bear Grass, Hammer Hawk, and Scientific Maps. Admission is $10 and this includes two CDs: the 11th monthly release of the year by the Hobo Banned and “A B3nson Family Funsgiving 2013” compilation.

The festivities include the traditional beard contests — c’mon, Red Sox fans! — prizes and other special events.

One-man band

In addition to Hamell on Trial, another one-man-band plays here on Monday: loop master Zach Deputy at Red Square (388 Broadway, Albany). An avid hybridizer of dance music in all styles, a man of many mics and machines, Deputy has a new album, “Another Day.”

Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $14 advance, $17 at the door. 465-0444 www.redsquarealbany.com,

On Saturday at Red Square, troubadour Matt Durfee celebrates his new CD “Little World” at 8 p.m., with Alta Mira and Henry’s Rifle opening.

Strange sites

Check these out:

www.dustandgrooves.com/rutherford-chang-we-buy-white-albums — about a wonderfully obsessive collector. This reminded me of my friend Charles Steckler’s many, many copies of Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint” and his still-nascent ambition to open a bookstore with that name and selling only that book.

www.texasmonthly.com/story/trigger?fullpage=1 — about Willie Nelson’s battered, noble guitar; a marvelous tale of heart and hardware.

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

 
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