Jukebox: A pack-rat serenade to decades of memories

Looking through the attic, I found decades of my concert reviews, columns, previews and features
Cindy Mangsen and Steve Gillette will be at Caffe Lena on Saturday.
Cindy Mangsen and Steve Gillette will be at Caffe Lena on Saturday.

Doing a GIANT attic cleanout last week brought to light decades of printed work for The Gazette — also for Kite, Metroland, Vermont Vanguard and the New York Post newspapers; also Capital Region, Boston and American Farmland magazines; and printouts of online stories in Nippertown. But mostly The Gazette.

My first column says I’ll try to be your eyes and ears at as many shows as I can see. I caught 120 one year, 11 in a thrilling/exhausting 13-night run. I also ambitiously offered listening/reviewing services on records. They then came in snail-mailed boxes; I once opened 28 vinyl albums in a single day but now download emailed MP4s. I love how John Pizzarelli or Jessica Molaskey praise records (not songs or albums or tunes) on “Radio Deluxe.”

I found decades of my concert reviews, columns, previews and features, mostly on music but also on photography. In the ’70s (my fee was $10), I called my column “Electric Music” after a late-’60s Country Joe and the Fish album. It was “Jukebox” by the mid-’80s when previews of live shows increasingly dominated as Albany’s punk-and-pop scene lit up and readers told me this was the most useful service my column gives them.

Reviews (and ticket stubs I obsessively squirreled away) reminded me of MANY shows and of reviewing them, sometimes as “overnights” right after (or during) shows. I modem’ed them on deadline from venue lobbies or even backstage dressing rooms to Gazette editors whose patience still amazes me in retrospect. When my hookup failed from the Times Union Center after the Rolling Stones played a GREAT concert there, I ran through the back streets to The Gazette’s downtown Albany bureau blocks away and barely made deadline. That was only the second-best show I saw that week, after the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra all but levitated Revolution Hall, but I digress.

I don’t know how I managed to write anything coherent after James Cotton (RIP) taught me how to drink tequila shots during intermission at JB Scotts. As I lost the ability to speak English or stand upright, he went back onstage to play a second set I barely saw.

I found letters from readers, praising me when a review made them feel they’d actually seen a show they’d missed or correcting me when I got something wrong; artists, too.

Random stuff from dusty boxes: an unlabeled, handwritten set list I identified as a Joe Jackson show by the song titles; an “Achtung Baby”-vintage 4-inch-by-5-inch color transparency of U2 (saw them play their second-ever U.S. show at JB Scott’s, but I digress again); a pen that lights up, emblazoned with Rolling Stones logos and a notepad to match; about a dozen Grateful Dead backstage passes; propaganda, promos and photos from artists living or gone; and notes from phone interviews. Promised 20 minutes on the line with the great singer-songwriter Laura Nyro (RIP), we talked two hours, as I later did with jazz trumpeter Mario Abney. I’d prepared 20 questions but only asked the first two, which launched talk in ALL directions.

More than just the papers in them, those boxes are full of gratitude — for all the music, for readers and editors, my writer and photographer colleagues, and the friendships of fellow fans at a million shows.

Well, not exactly — but the segue was too cool to waste, By this time in 2020, we might feel we’ve seen a million shows. All good ones, I hope.

Quiet most places, this weekend is busy at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs): Joe and Jesse Bruchac Friday, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen Saturday and Scott Sharrard Sunday.

Abenaki troubadours Joe (father) and Jesse Bruchac (son) play native and conventional instruments, sing and tell tales of times past — seen in both a long view and with modern insights. 8 p.m. $16 members, $18 door, $9 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

Life and musical partners Gillette and Mangsen have written hits for others but remain the most compelling voices singing their songs.

The “Art of the Song” radio team presents a preshow (7 p.m.) interview; show at 8. $20, $22, $11

Guitar great Sharrard led the late Gregg Allman’s last band, playing southern soul, blues, country and R&B. Since Allman’s passing, Sharrard has become a compelling solo performer with brilliant guitar chops and thematic ambitions; releasing a fine album, “Saving Grace,” and playing every venue hereabouts. 7 p.m. $25, $28, $14

On Saturday, the Strand Theater (210 Main St., Hudson Falls) presents Dark Sarcasm, a Pink Floyd tribute.

Eight players and singers led by guitarist Bob Bivona, Dark Sarcasm plays classics from the post-Syd Barrett Floyd. 8 p.m. $10 advance, $12 door. 518-832-3484 www.mystrandtheater.org

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

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