A spirited young troupe from Pai’s Tae Kwon Do martial arts school in Saratoga Springs spun and kicked with lightning-fast feet in a demonstration on State Street just after Saugerties band Hudson’s Crew pounded out heavy Black Keys-inspired classic rock riffs on a stage set up next
to Bow Tie Cinemas’ Movieland theater.
Two hours later, frontman Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors, best known for 1990s hits like “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” executed improbably high leg kicks on the GE Main Stage, making one of his signature stage moves look impressively easy for a now-50-year-old
The New York City band’s well-received headlining set capped off Schenectady County’s SummerNight on Friday, as thousands of people gathered for the annual downtown block party that closed a portion of State Street to traffic and spilled over onto the Jay Street pedestrian mall.
There were food trucks, fried dough and kettle corn stands, local brewery tents and family-friendly activities like light-saber giveaways, a climbing wall, a cannoli-eating contest and Amsterdam artist Phil Singer’s sand sculpture of Chewbacca from “Star Wars.”
Before the Spin Doctors took the stage shortly after 8:30 p.m., their set capped off with fireworks, Schenectady’s City Beat, an energetic party band, had people dancing and doing awkward breakdancing moves in the middle of the street to covers like House of Pain’s “Jump
Around” and Wild Cherry’s “Play that Funky Music.”
The county’s 2016 and 2017 Battle of the Bands winners, Lucy and Bendt, opened with driving alt-rock performances. Bendt’s set was of the gritty, angst-oriented, Grunge-like variety, while Lucy (formerly known as Better by Morning) offered angular, catchy and pleasing pop led by
singer/songwriter Jake Brooks, including a twitchy cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”
It can be hard to book a headlining band for a public, free event like SummerNight; the act needs to appeal to a wide range of people and have name recognition, yet not bust the budget.
That’s why groups who had their heyday decades earlier tend to get the nod.
Although the funky-blues-jam band the Spin Doctors are best known for their major-label debut, “Pocket Full of Kryptonite,” which came out in 1991, they didn’t seem like a nostalgia act.
Including Barron, all four original members were onstage together: guitarist Eric Shenkman, bassist Mark White and drummer Aaron Comess.
“We’re the original band. We’re the original grooves. We played all these little towns in New York back in the day. They remain the best,” said Barron after kicking off with the funkified “What Time Is It?,” “Traction Blues” and “Nice Talking to Me.”
Far from rusty and not burned out, they played like a band with decades of experience together yet, jamming organically on tracks like the blues stomper “If the River Was Whiskey,” blues-groove “Shinbone Alley” and crowd favorites “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” and “Two Princes.”
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