The Park Theater, like many venues, was backed into a corner last summer.
Given COVID-19 restrictions, hosting regular programming indoors wasn’t an option for the Glens Falls venue. Instead, Executive Director Chris Ristau tried something new: hosting a weekly concert series with local bands at the Crandall Park bandshell. He first had the idea years ago, back when he was studying at SUNY Adirondack.
“I’ve got this idea in my back pocket from 15 years ago and a lot of artists were champing at the bit to do something because there weren’t any venues open,” Ristau said.
That summer brought in bands like Let’s Be Leonard, Wild Adriatic, The Sea The Sea, The North & South Dakotas and Washington County Line Bluegrass. Though organizers didn’t advertise the series too much (around that time, there was a state-mandated 500-person cap on outdoor concerts), the shows brought around 175-200 attendees.
The series returns tomorrow with Let’s Be Dead, a Grateful Dead tribute band, and runs every Friday through July. The line-up features a mix of genres and most of the musicians are based in the Capital Region or have strong ties to the area, including the Dylan Perrillo Orchestra, Chestnut Grove, the Josh Morris Band and Hartley’s Encore.
Perrillo’s group features an 11-piece orchestra that brings swing and jazz music to the stage. Morris’ band offers up alt-rock and while Morris is a familiar face in the Capital Region’s music scene (he’s performed with Girl Blue, Dark Honey and others), the Glens Falls show will be the band’s debut performance.
Hartley’s Encore, an Albany-based band, brings funk and soul to the series, while Chestnut Grove brings a blues-rock sound. The latter is based out of Pennsylvania but plays often in the greater Capital Region.
This year, there is no cap on attendance and Ristau is getting the word out about the series by once again trying something new. Earlier this month, he started The Park Presents, a podcast featuring interviews with the bands performing in the series.
“It’s a bit of an experiment,” Ristau said. “It just seemed like a way to introduce artists . . . [and] to take a little deeper dive into how they’re all interconnected. We’ve got such a great talent pool in the Capital Region.”
The latest episode, which was released Monday, is focused on Let’s Be Dead, with a conversation between Ristau and Karl Bertrand. It’s a casual conversation about the roots of the band (which stemmed from the locally-loved jam band Let’s Be Leonard) and delves into much more.
Subsequent episodes will be released on Mondays, featuring interviews with the bands set to perform that Friday.
Recorded at the Glens Falls Music Academy, the podcast is well-produced and entertaining.
It helps that Ristau has made connections with most of these local artists and bands through his work as a musician playing with The WonderBeards among other bands.
“We played around with a lot of these groups and just knew them from being in the same scene,” Ristau said.
Depending on how these first several episodes are received, Ristau may continue the podcast throughout the year.
“We’re using this as a way to not only highlight the artists that are going to be playing this Summer Series but if we do see that we have a decent listenership, [we’ll also] try to expand it into our regular season.”
That usually runs from September to May and includes everything from tribute band shows to films to international touring artists.
The Park Presents podcast is available on Anchor and Spotify. New episodes are released each Monday in July.
The Summer Series Concerts kick off at 7 p.m. on Fridays in July. Attendees are welcome to bring chairs and blankets.
Here’s a look at the schedule:
July 1 – Let’s Be Dead
July 8 – Dylan Perrillo Orchestra
July 15 – Josh Morris Band
July 22 – Hartley’s Encore
July 29 – Chestnut Grove
For more information visit parktheatergf.com.