Jukebox: SummerNight, Music Haven serve up free treats

Headliner Blues Traveler has rocked audiences here since the late '80s
Blues Traveler is the headliner for Friday's SummerNight celebration.
Blues Traveler is the headliner for Friday's SummerNight celebration.

SummerNight Friday on Schenectady’s State Street serves drinks, food and family activities from dinner (5 p.m.) through fireworks (9:45 p.m.) Here’s the music, the loud fun.

Main stage action features 1980s-to-now blues-rockers Blues Traveler (8:30 p.m.) after openers the Stockade Kids, and Lucy — winners of recent county Battles of the Bands.

Blues Traveler has rocked audiences here since soon after forming in 1987. Rumor has it they were discovered while playing the Saratoga Springs City Center. That led to a record deal and upgrades from a beat-up van, bar gigs and sleeping on fans’ floors to filling America’s biggest venues.

Leveraging their success, Blues Traveler founded the 1990s H.O.R.D.E. Festival that introduced the Dave Matthews Band and other then-emerging acts to SPAC, becoming leading lights on the national jam scene along with the Spin Doctors, roommates of some Blues Traveler guys in their early NYC days.

Blues Traveler orbits around the ferocious, high-blues-pressure harmonica of John Popper, also the band’s lead singer. Bandmates are Chan Kinchla, guitar; Brendan Hill, drums; Tad Kinchla, bass; and Ben Wilson, keyboards. Wilson and Tad Kinchla joined after bassist Bobby Sheehan died in 1999. In addition to 12 albums — “Blow Up the Moon” hit in 2015 — Blues Traveler lets fans record their live shows, a jam-band tradition.

Also in Schenectady, also free, brilliant Afro-pop stars Amadou & Mariam play Sunday at Music Haven in Central Park. Guitarist-singer Amadou Bagayoko and singer Mariam Doumbia may be the best husband-and-wife musical team since Womack & Womack. They’ve never played here. When they played the Iron Horse a few years ago, I saw Music Haven Producing Artistic Director Mona Golub and her second-in-command, Michael Eck, checking them out and liking what they saw and heard. Me too, along with pal Dennis from Northampton and daughter Pisie, who came from Boston that fantastic night.

Simply put, this is a great, great band, crisp and strong, with tribal depth, rock-band energy and tremendous spirit: Yves Albert Abadi, drums; Christophe Pascal Thibert, bass; Charles-Frédérik Avot, keyboard; Joel Hierrezuelo Balart, percussion; and Aminata Doumbia, vocals. Versatile Ghanian singer JoJo Abot, touring this summer with Lauryn Hill, opens. 7 p.m. Rain site: Proctors.

Also free, tonight the Funky Meters play Alive at Five in Albany. (The concert has already been moved to the rain site, the Corning Preserve boat launch under I-787 at Colonie and Water streets because of an unfavorable forecast.)

From 1965 to 1980, the original Meters defined New Orleans instrumental R&B. Funky Meters is today’s model: founders George Porter Jr. (bass) and Art Neville (keyboards) plus Brian Stoltz (guitar, formerly of the Neville Brothers) and young newcomer Terence Houston (drums). He proved he belongs, playing the groove like a master in a rocking funk blast at The College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center in early 2015. Albany’s Wurliday funk crew opens. 5 p.m.

Rear view

The Tedeschi Trucks Band scaled a dizzying peak of blues-rock splendor with “Anyday” last week to open their tremendous SPAC show and just kept soaring, never looking down and tugging the large, happy audience up with them in tears-of-joy exultation. Mike Mattison and Susan Tedeschi shared vocals on this Derek & the Dominos chestnut, the rhythm section kicked the groove hard, the horns blasted bright and true, but the song and the show belonged to Derek Trucks’ incandescent slide guitar.

Nobody enjoyed their great band more than Tedeschi, sparkly as Vegas, and down-to-earth Trucks, grinning at their singers’ and players’ hot licks. They explored and exploded just 16 songs in 100 electrifying minutes that felt like a highlight film — familiar-sounding music played with fresh ingredients.

Ear-opening deluxe were Mattison’s deep-blues ramble in “Leaving Trunk” that slid without seams or road map into Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s rousing/ironic “Volunteered Slavery,” Tedeschi’s soaring vocals in her own “Let Me Get By” and Bobby Blue Bland’s “I Pity the Fool,” the set-closing “Soul Sacrifice” (Santana) sprouting organically from “I Want More.”

Without mentioning the recently deceased Gregg Allman or long-gone Duane Allman, they conjured the brothers’ spirit in “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” Tedeschi singing in full defiance and Trucks echoing Duane’s classic solo. Then they walked back from the graves with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” A special hat’s off to keyboardist Carey Frank, filling in for Kofi Burbridge, who’s recovering from a heart attack. In every show, Trucks and bassist Tim Lefebvre cluster together with drummers Tyler Greenwell and JJ Johnson and Burbridge to jam. At SPAC, Frank more than carried his weight.

Early in the tour, openers the Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna played strong, discrete sets, without the guest spots the Tedeschi Trucks Band has invited openers to play on previous tours. The Woods were earthy, exotic; Hot Tuna bluesy, spicy and psychedelic.

Singer-songwriters, fine folk, hip-hop and Texas

Mary Fahl brings her gigantic, uniquely resonant voice and cinematic chamber folk songs to Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) on Saturday. Formerly with NYC drama-pop combo the October Project, Fahl has sung a redo of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” made music for films and her own hypnotic albums including “Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.” 8 p.m. $25 advance, $28 door, $14 children and students. 583-0022

Also at the Caffe: Bluegrass giants Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen (Solivan, mandolin; Mike Munford, banjo; Chris Luquette, guitar; Jeremy Middleton, bass) play tonight (7 p.m. $25 advance, $28 door, $14 children and students). The Triple Play trio of Chris Brubeck, bass; Madcat Ruth, harmonica; and Joel Brown, guitar, plays rock and jazz on Friday (8 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 children and students). On Sunday, Gangstagrass — the unlikely love child of bluegrass and rap — serves up genre-jumping surprises. 7 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 children and students.

Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen visits The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Tuesday, bringing his full band after solo shows here. Keen’s keen wit, deep storytelling authenticity and bouncy band place him in the Lone Star pantheon alongside Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett and the late Guy Clark. Keen followed his much-honored bluegrass album “Happy Prisoner” with “Live Dinner Reunion,” recorded onstage. Ruston Kelly opens. 7:30 p.m. $34.50 473-1845

Timewarp jazz-pop

Pianist/wack visionary Scott Bradley is onto something strange: His Postmodern Jukebox band plays and sings modern pop tunes in the sly, entertaining styles of decades past, sometimes with a 7-foot-tall clown taking the lead. What’s not to like? On Wednesday, Postmodern Jukebox and the similarly retro Straight No Chaser share the bill at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs), celebrating how good songs stay good, despite odd mutations. 7:30 p.m. $79.95-$29.95. 800-745-3000

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected].

Categories: Entertainment


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