Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs like home for band Darlingside


Darlingside may live around Boston for most of the year, but the band counts Saratoga Spring’s Caffe Lena as a home of sorts.

“We wax poetic about Lena every time we’re there because they offer[ed] us gigs before we had any crowds to bring really,” said bassist Dave Senft, “ There are very few venues around the country that are willing to do that, to take a chance on bands that haven’t really proven themselves yet or don’t have a huge crowd.”

Senft and the rest of Darlingside have been playing the venue for the past five or six years, selling out shows as their sound, and popularity grew. So the venue holds a close place in their heart, especially for Senft.

“My parents live across the street from Lena. They retired recently up to Saratoga Springs so they even like to host artists there from time to time. They’re kind of like inserting themselves into the Saratoga music scene, which has been fun for me,” Senft said.

Although the band is based mostly in Boston, they’ve been an honorary part of the local music scene for several years now, and audiences have had the pleasure of hearing Darlingside’s sonic identity develop into the intricately and nostalgically layered folk sound it is today, far from where it started.

The band formed as a rock quintet back in 2009, after the band members all met at Williams College. Even though they didn’t study music, they were all musically inclined.

“Our musical coming together was mainly through the acapella group that we all sang in,” Senft said.

After graduation, they played together as Darlingside—the name is derived from the saying “kill your darlings”—and garnered a following around North Adams and in Saratoga Springs.

Senft tends to think of the band’s decade long sonic history in two parts.

“We have two halves of that decade; the first five years having a drummer and being more of a rock band and then when we became a four-piece becoming more of a folk band or whatever we are now. It’s continued to evolve, but those are the two big periods,” Senft said.

The second era was brought on when the band’s drummer bowed out, and the remaining quartet started to go heavier on the harmonies and the vocals. The change comes through on albums like “Birds Say” and “Whippoorwill,” both of which are nostalgic, reminiscent of the sweeter days of childhood, and long-held dreams.

“Extralife,” which came out in 2018, ushered in a new soundscape for the band.

“With this album, we were just feeling more confrontational and wanted to talk about the anxieties that we were feeling and looking at the state of the world and imagining different futures,” Senft said.

They did most of the songwriting during 2016, a tumultuous year both globally and in the United States, no matter where one falls on the political spectrum. “Extralife” speaks to that sense of anxiety and panic, without using politically charged lyrics, but instead evocative harmonies harsher electronic effects.

“Extralife” was well reviewed and had an impact on the proceeding EP, “Look Up and Fly Away,” which dropped earlier this year.

“We went into the studio for ‘Extralife’ with about 30 song ideas, some of which had been around before ‘Bird’s Say’ even. One of the ideas I think was one that Harris had started in 2008 or something. So collectively those songs had been around for a very long time and were around during the ‘Extralife’ process but didn’t really make the cut for one reason or another. Three of the songs on ‘Look up and Fly Away,’ had been around for so long that we had the sense that if we don’t finish these now we will never finish them because they kept getting kicked down the road,” Senft said.

Darlingside’s recording process is democratic; every member has a say in which songs stay in the line-up and how they should be mixed or edited on the albums. Although when they got into the studio for “Look Up and Fly Away,” band members weren’t quite sure how the songs would come together, a plan emerged during the recording process.

“Weirdly, we didn’t really talk about the thematic element, but there ended up being a pretty thematic tie in that all the songs felt like they were dealing with; a lot of the same images and definitely going back to some of the ‘Bird’s Say’ stuff partially because they were older ideas, more dreamlike, thinking about light and darkness and growing up and maturing,” Senft said.

Tonight, they’ll be playing some of the songs from that EP, among many from other albums during their two sets at Caffe Lena, a venue that Darlingside partially credits for its success.

“It feels like our career has gone really well and we sort of owe that to venues like Caffe Lena that gave us a chance early on so we’re definitely going to keep coming back as much as we can,” Senft said.

Although both the 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. shows are sold out, there’s still a chance for fans to catch the shows on Concert Window. For $5 people can live stream one of the sets. For more information visit


Categories: Entertainment, Saratoga County

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