NipperFest to help put Schenectady’s music scene on the map

Girl Blue and band will perform at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at the inaugural NipperFest  at Music Haven in Schenectady's Central Park. (photo provided)

Girl Blue and band will perform at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at the inaugural NipperFest  at Music Haven in Schenectady's Central Park. (photo provided)

Schenectady may just give Saratoga – not to mention a few other neighboring cities – a run for their money when it comes to live music this weekend.

That’s in part thanks to NipperFest, a new music festival set for Saturday at Music Haven that will include 15 local bands performing on two stages. The day before, downtown Schenectady will be packed with people celebrating Schenectady County SummerNight with a performance by Better Than Ezra. Then, on Sunday, Sammy Miller & The Congregation is set to play Music Haven.

“What a great weekend to put Schenectady on the map,” said Jim Gilbert, publisher of Nippertown, which is presenting NipperFest.

The Niskayuna resident has photographed and covered the music scene around the greater Capital Region for years, with NYS Music and then with Nippertown, which he and his wife Laura DaPolito took over upon co-founder Greg Haymes’ death in 2019.

“I’ve wanted to do a local festival for a long time. I’ve always had an affinity to local bands,” Gilbert said.

Nippertown seemed like the right avenue to make it happen.

“We were all itching to get out of COVID and our numbers, our brand, everything was getting more [visibility],” Gilbert said.

He thought the first festival would be small, featuring a few locally-loved acts.

“I didn’t expect it to be as big as it’s going to be. I expected it to be a small festival and then the bands just kept saying yes,” Gilbert said.

“Originally, I wanted a good strong headliner. So I emailed The Figgs, Sirsy and Super 400. I was hoping to get one of them and all three of them were available and all three of them said yes.”

The Figgs, which formed in Saratoga Springs more than three decades ago, are well loved locally, with a national following. Made up of Mike Gent (guitar, vocals), Pete Donnelly (bass, vocals), and Pete Hayes (drums, vocals), they’ve served as Graham Parker’s band for multiple tours and records, toured as the backing band for Tommy Stinson (The Replacements).

The Troy-based band Super 400, with Joe Daley (drums), Kenny Hohman (guitar, vocals), and Lori Friday (bass), have garnered a following for its blend of classic 1960s-70s heavy rock and contemporary melody-driven pop.

Sirsy, the moniker for the married duo Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti, plays hundreds of shows around the country each year, managing to create the effect of a full band with just the two of them.

Beyond the headliners, other rock-centric bands will play the main stage, including Side B (2022 winners of NipperTown’s March Madness contest), Glass Pony (2021 March Madness winners) and Bad Mothers, which will be celebrating its new album released on Shooter Jenning’s Black Country Rock label.

Noted comedian and musician Erin Harkes will also perform, accompanied by her band.

“Everybody knows Erin Harkes . . . and they know her for her party music. But they’re going to hear her originals. You’re not going to get that anywhere else,” Gilbert said.

To top it off, singer/songwriter Girl Blue is slated to perform on the main stage with her full band.

“Girl Blue with her full band could be the best concert you see all year,” Gilbert said.

On the acoustic stage, which will be under the pavilion, the line-up is just as strong, with Sawyer Fredericks headlining. Other performers include Sydney Worthley, Caity Gallagher, Reese Fulmer, Angelina Valente, Josh Casano and The Tradition.

The music is slated to run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with performances alternating between the main stage and the acoustic stage.

The talent, not to mention the sheer number of bands featured, is impressive.

Lining up funding for it was one of the biggest challenges in pulling it all off.

“It’s a free festival so we were working on a pretty tight budget. It’s expensive to throw a festival of this size,” Gilbert said.

Sponsors from around Schenectady and the Capital Region stepped up, like Frog Alley Brewing, Capital Region Living/Saratoga Living and Putnam Place among others.

Beyond the funding, the logistics of the endeavor were a challenge.

“We have a fully licensed security team. We’re going to have a few people from Schenectady Police Department. We want to make it a safe family-friendly event,” Gilbert said.

Besides the music, there will be food trucks and Frog Alley Beer on tap. In true Nippertown spirit, attendees are welcome to bring their dogs.

Folks from the Nippertown community and the Music Haven community will help to run the festival, though organizers are still seeking volunteers. 

“I know that I’ve got a few things wrong because it’s my first festival that I’ve ever done but the things I know I’ve got right are the bands, the sound and the location. To me, those are the most important pieces,” Gilbert said.

He’s estimating anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people will attend on Saturday.

“There’s never been a place where Sirsy, Super 400 and The Figgs have played the same stage. The three of them haven’t shared the same stage before. It’s unique,” Gilbert said.

“In my opinion, the music on that stage is going to be better than anything they hear at SPAC all summer long and it’s free.”

Here’s a look at the schedule:

Putnam Place Main Stage
(Music Haven Amphitheatre)
10:55 a.m. Derek Wolfe (Star-Spangled Banner)
11:00 a.m. Side B
12:00 p.m. Glass Pony
1:15 p.m. Bad Mothers
2:30 p.m. Erin Harkes Band
3:45 p.m. Girl Blue
5:00 p.m. Sirsy
6:30 p.m. Super 400
8:30 p.m. The Figgs

Capital Region Living/Saratoga Living Acoustic Stage
(Thomas Isabella Pavilion)

11:30 a.m. The Tradition
12:45 p.m. Josh Casano
2:00 p.m. Angelina Valente
3:15 p.m. Reese Fulmer
4:30 p.m. Caity Gallagher
6:00 p.m. Sydney Worthley
7:30 p.m. Sawyer Fredericks


WHEN: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Music Haven, Central Park, Schenectady

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Schenectady


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