BEST OF 2016: Stanley A. Johnson’s Top 10 Favorite Musical Places

Martin Barre @ The Egg
Martin Barre @ The Egg

Story and photographs by Stanley A. Johnson

Poor health didn’t keep me from hearing some great music this year. The music made me feel better and was great fun.

Here is a list of local places where I know that fun can be found. The accompanying photos are evidence. I am grateful for the experiences.

THE EGG, Albany:
This venue leads the list because of several events, including:
The New York Living Legacy Project: The Band, which also included a musical lecture by John Simon which I saw at the Guilderland Public Library, one of several branches hosting the event (11/5/15). The Egg featured an interesting panel discussion followed the screening of a rare theatrical version of “The Last Waltz,” which was PLAYED LOUD! (11/25/16). Another event had Elliott Landy talking about photographing The Band while showing some of the images he had taken (12/3/16).
Martin Barre, (9/23/16) guitarist for Jethro Tull, playing with his new band and promoting his latest solo record, Back to Steel.
Richie Furay, (9/29/16) founding member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, playing with a band that included his daughter on vocals.
Hot Tuna, (11/20/16) with a electric set by guitarist-vocalist Jorma Kaukonen and a red-hot Jack Casady on bass.

Rickie Furay @ The Egg
Rickie Furay @ The Egg
Elliot Landry @ The Egg
Elliot Landry @ The Egg

I got there twice and saw six bands.
Tedeschi Trucks Band, North Mississippi All Stars and Los Lobos, (7/13/16) which featured much jamming.
Cheap Trick, Joan Jett and Heart, (9/8/16) which featured much rocking.

Cheap Trick @ SPAC
Cheap Trick @ SPAC
Heart @ SPAC
Heart @ SPAC

Gov’t Mule’s Mule-O-Ween, (10/29/16) which featured an extended second set of songs by Traffic. The best cover band in the business.

MuleOWeen @ The Palace Theatre
Gov’t Mule’s Mule-O-Ween @ the Palace Theatre

The Tulip Festival (5/8/16), featuring Jonathan Edwards, the Last Conspirators, Red-Haired Strangers and more, with thousands of beautiful tulips topping the bill.

Red Haired Strangers @ Tulip Festival
Rick Morse of Red Haired Strangers @ the Albany Tulip Festival
The Last Conspirators @ Tulip Festival
The Last Conspirators @ the Tulip Festival

With the new pedestrian bridge, which has become part of my daily exercise routine, this site had the most free events I attended this year:
Roomful of Blues (7/23/16)
Jocelyn & Chris Arndt (7/9/16)
Robin & Linda Williams (8/27/16)
The Revelers (7/2/16)
True Grit Outlaws with Tunnel (8/19/16)
The Lustre Kings featuring Cindy Cashdollar and Kevin Maul with Billy Eli (7/16/16)
Riverfest featuring Tumbleweed Highway (8/6/16)

Roomful of Blues @ Riverlink
Roomful of Blues @ Riverlink Park
Jocelyn Arndt @ Riverllink
Jocelyn Arndt @ Riverlink Park
Cindy Cashdollar @ Riverlink
Cindy Cashdollar @ Riverlink Park


Moving the stage to the other end of the rain-site parking lot resulted in having the stage in a nice sunset and a better view of the river for the Albany Jazz Festival featuring KJ Denhert, the Lucky Chops and more (9/10/16).

K.J. Denhert @ Albany Jazz Festival
K.J. Denhert @ the Albany Jazz Festival

MUSIC HAVEN, Schenectady:
A musical passport in Central Park.
DakhaBrakha with Tavche Gravche (8/7/16), which, for me, was the concert of the year. It’s not everyday I go to a show with absolutely no idea of what kind of music I will hear and come out completely blown away, still unable to describe the music.
Jerry Douglas & the Earls of Leicester with Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys (7/17/16). Bluegrass as good as it gets.

Jerry Douglas @ Music Haven
Jerry Douglas & the Earls of Leicester @ the Music Haven
Dakha Brakha @ Music Haven
Dakha Brakha @ the Music Haven

Graham Nash (10/9/16), giving the best performance I’ve ever seen him do.

Graham Nash @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
Graham Nash @ the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall

What a venue this has become…
The Felice Brothers (7/20/16)

SHEPARD PARK, Lake George:
A venue so nice you don’t even need a concert to enjoy it, but Jazz at the Lake – featuring the Brubeck Brothers, Charanee Wade, Diva and Tizer with Karen Briggs (9/17/16) – made it even better.

Charenee Wade @ Lake George Jazz Festival
Charenee Wade @ Jazz at the Lake

Time Magazine’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books
TV Guide’s Top Television Shows
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums (Part 1)
Esquire’s 25 Best Movies of 2016 (So Far)

  1. Steve Nover says

    great pics reminding us what another fine year in music in the 518……& much of it free

  2. Bill says

    Good list other than the bizarre pick of the awful sounding Corning Preserve overpass! I don’t care how good the bands they book there I doubt if I’ll ever go again.

  3. Stanley Johnson says

    As flawed as the boat-launch venue is, it’s still better than standing in the rain (I go to Mountain Jam for that.) Like Rodney Dangerfield, the venue gets no respect. But I remember some great concerts under the highway, including: Eddie Money, Asia, The Wailers, The Village People, The Outlaws, Chubby Checker, Ernie Williams with Dave Malachowski, Super 400, Wild Adriatic, Marshal Tucker Band, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Sheila E., Grand Funk, Yonder Mountain String Band, Eddie Angel, The Neanderthals, Booker T. Jones, Donna The Buffalo, Sam Bush and The Bluz House Rockers. I’m glad there was a rain site, so that none of these shows were cancelled. The main reason for the noise is not the road or the occasional train, but rather the food vendors’ generators.

  4. Suzanne Dudley says

    Is the best you could say about Traffic…”the best cover band in the business?” Was Winwood with them? I saw Steve Winwood this summer at SPAC opening, if such a concert unto itself could be called ‘opening,’ for Steely Dan. Winwood, of course, IS Traffic…and that’s what we had pretty much, a Traffic concert. Legendary … Some of the greatest music produced by a band in the earlier days… My God he was great. I wish you could have covered more Egg concerts, as I believe it to be Albany’s richest music venue, and it seems kind of a waste to spend some of your space on a lecture – even if it IS The Last Waltz, which I revere. So very many greats played at the Egg this year, such as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, David Brombert, Richard Thompson, to name just a few more than the last minute ones you covered. Anyway..sorry to be critical…just wished there was more … Always want more….

  5. Stanley Johnson says

    The best cover band in the business refers to Gov’t Mule, who in previous Mule-O-Weens (and sometimes New Year’s Shows), have done tribute sets to, among others, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Entire Watkins Glen Festival including The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band and The Band, Pink Floyd and The Doors (with Robbie Krieger on guitar.) The only other band in the running for best cover band is Phish, who started the trend off with a cover of the complete White Album at the Glens Falls Civic Center some years ago. I was lucky enough a few years ago to say hello to Steve Winwood after his fantastic performance (including a jam with Warren Haynes) at Mountain Jam. I think you can find a review of it somewhere in the nippertown archives. I wish I could have done a whole lot more this year, myself. What you see here is not a best of list; it is almost the only fun I had all year. I honestly think getting out and experiencing live music helped me turn a corner towards feeling good following a difficult Spring and Summer where I wasn’t well enough to attend some of my favorite venues: Mountain Jam, Alive at 5, Troy River Street Fest, and the Empire Plaza. Bringing my camera was just part of the therapy. And, thanks to nippertown, I was able to see some great pictures and read informative reviews of some of what I missed. I am looking forward to 2017.

  6. Rosemary Brennan says

    Great photos and comments Stan. I always look forward to these year end lists. We had some wonderful talent here in 2016. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and may you always find a great view and the music to match!

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