Live music has returned to the Summer Gazebo Concert Series at the Niskayuna Town Hall and no one is more excited than the Doc Benson Band, who will perform tonight.
“It’s our first live event,” said vocalist Mary Beth Arcidiacono. “We’ll be doing the six feet apart, wear masks to set up and then take them off to play.”
Arcidiacono works with partner Tom Benson, who plays guitars, mandolin, banjo and fiddle. For this concert, they’ll be joined by another fiddler, bass player and another banjo/guitarist.
Fans of Arcidiacono may know of her from her days with Fennimore Blues, a six-piece group that evolved out of Skidmore College personnel that played blues, rock and R & B.
But she left to pursue a doctorate in psychology and currently works at Oneida Middle School. Meanwhile, Benson was a longtime member of the Dyer Switch Band that performed blues and country music and is a two-time inductee into the New York State Country Music Hall of Fame. When all the band’s dates were canceled because of the pandemic, he continued with his day job as a salesman/estimator for a building materials company.
Stranded at home without gigs, the two decided to try playing together.
“It all started with the pandemic,” Arcidiacono said. “We began doing Facebook concerts — thirteen weeks and then that turned into the Doc Benson Band. We were surprised by the response.”
Benson said they do all styles.
“We’ll play swing, pop, blues, country, bluegrass,” he said. “We have a huge repertoire. The audience will get a taste of everything.”
Julie Lohre, who directs the series of one-hour concerts that began June 25, said the community has been wildly supportive.
“It’s been going great,” she said. “We’re very pleased.”
Usually the summer series has eight to ten groups performing on Thursday nights. So far they’ve had two jazz groups, a Dixieland band, and two rock and roll/’70s-’80s groups. Because the venue is quite large, groups have been able to space out well and there’s plenty of distance between them and the audience, which numbers usually up to 100 people.
“Audience members wear masks. We’ve put circles on the grass six feet apart and they pick out their spot and stay put,” Lohre said. “There’ve been no issues. People are doing a great job. All have been safe. There are also no food vendors but audience members can bring their own as well as their own lawn chairs and blankets.”
Some people opt to stay in their cars and listen since the bands are all amped.
The final concert on the series is Aug.20 with Joe’s Boys, which is a three- or four-piece group that plays ‘60s to ‘80s music. The group is well-known, having performed at least five times over the last few years.
“They’re phenomenal and they are super, super appreciative to be able to play,” Lohre said.
As for any other events at the venue, Lohre said there’s been some talk about movie night because they have the equipment, but how to do it all safely is still requiring “a lot of thought.”
The series is put on by the town’s Community Programs and Highway Departments with a grant from the Schenectady County Initiative program.