Caffe Lena Streams Concerts Live Online

Bill Staines in concert @ Caffe Lena, from the comfort of your own home (photograph by Larry Marcus)
Bill Staines in concert @ Caffe Lena on Friday, from the comfort of your own home if you wish. (photograph by Larry Marcus)

Story by Greg Haymes and Paul Jossman

Now you can watch local music concerts without worrying about the usual array of problems, such as the weather, the price of gas, the lack of parking, the skyrocketing ticket prices, etc.

Just turn you your computer and watch the show streaming live on your computer.

So who is bringing this concert concept to the Capital Region? Some high tech arts center like EMPAC at RPI or MASS MoCA? No, no, no. In fact, it’s one of the Local 518’s oldest and least technologically oriented performance venues – Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs.

Yes, via, nearly all of Caffe Lena’s concerts – and even their Wednesday open mic nights – will be available for home viewing wherever in the world you might be. The concerts will be streamed live online, as they happen in the intimate second-floor coffeehouse with HD video and high-fidelity sound.

You can pay for streaming concerts in two different ways – on a per-show basis (generally $3 or $5 each) or as a monthly subscription with unlimited access ($8.99 per month). They’re also currently offering an unlimited 21-day free trial.

And Caffe Lena isn’t the only venue whose shows you can view via the service. Shows from a dozen other coast-to-coast venues – from NYC’s Poisson Rouge to the Bugle Boy in La Grange, Texas, from Boston’s Berklee Performance Center to Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse – are also available.

The streaming via ConcertWindow,com is scheduled to officially kick off on Friday (January 25) with a performance by veteran troubadour Bill Staines. But the Caffe decided to give the system a bit of a test drive last weekend, including the concert by Frank Jaklitsch & Friends last Friday (January 18).

Here are some observations from Nippertown contributor Paul Jossman, who watched the Frank Jaklitsch & Friends from the Caffe last Friday night:

I watched on both my computer with ethernet connection and middle grade external speakers and on my iPad 3 (retina display) with wifi connection and Apple ear buds. Some thoughts:

* It’s fun and feels live and immediate… ’cause that’s what it is. It works.

* The camera should be zoomed in a bit unless it’s part of the ambiance to see the audience members. It would be nice to see the performers as close up as possible.

* The audio was decent and live sounding. Ear buds sounded clearer and better than the computer speakers.

* The video was adequate but fairly low definition. (Perhaps they were using a regular web cam?) Full screen on the computer monitor was grainy. Looked better on the iPad but expanding to full screen was grainy too. Bigger is better with video, and we are getting spoiled with HD.

* Would I pay for it? Certainly, to watch the kind of shows that I like, such as this one, I can deal with the lesser video/audio quality. How much depends. The cost on the web site was $3, which is so nominal I wouldn’t think twice about it. If it was significantly more, I would prefer higher quality.

As Caffe Lena manager Sarah Craig says, “It’s not quite like being here in person, but we hope that those of you who can’t get your bodies here will join us in the ether.”

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