LIVE: “Rock & Roll Replay” @ Albany Institute of History & Art, 1/15/17

Review by Rudy Lu
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Charise Isis

We aging baby boomers nostalgically remember the Greater Nippertown music scene of the 1970s-’80s as the golden era. In conjunction with their current exhibit, “Rock & Roll Icons: The Photography of Patrick Harbron,” last weekend the Albany Institute of History & Art hosted “Rock & Roll Replay,” a panel discussion about the Capital Region’s music scene of that time.

The panel participants were all quite active in the scene of that era (and are still part of the scene today), including John Cooper (former manager of WQBK-FM, aka Q104, now senior vice president of iHeartMedia); Greg Haymes (publisher/editor of, Ramblin Jug Stompers, Blotto), Paul Rapp (entertainment lawyer, The Alt, Blotto) and Michael Eck (Ramblin Jug Stompers, Lost Radio Rounders, freelance music writer, Proctors publicist).

There was no real agenda for the forum, and there shouldn’t have been. Just fond memories of the music during that period and reminiscences of the old clubs where fans got the opportunity to see future superstars as struggling artists. The punk scene fueled many of these clubs, including such pioneering venues as the Hulla-Baloo, J.B. Scott’s and QE2. Can you imagine seeing the Police, U2 or Talking Heads playing in a small club with just a small audience? All of this was part of our music scene once upon a time.

Back then Saratoga Performing Arts Center hosted concerts that were literally wall-to-wall people, and the panel and audience members shared recollections of The Who (Who’s Next tour), Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) and risking life and limb to climb the fence to sneak into SPAC when the price of a lawn ticket was just $3.

Local 518 favorites Blotto received nationwide notoriety through a video that was made for a film class (“I Wanna Be a Lifeguard”) with a budget of $30 for a then-fledgling cable channel known as MTV. (Yes, they actually did broadcast music videos once upon a time.)

WQBK-FM ruled the airwaves with their “anything goes, we play everything, free-form music all in one show” that is now found only on college radio and even then generally in a more organized fashion. The DJs had close relationships with each other, their audience and the bands whose music they played.

Some non-local bands broke big only in the Local 518 and their own hometowns. For example, Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band, who had big pockets of popularity in Albany and Washington, DC, but hardly anywhere else. Many local music fans around town were in shock here when their record label dropped them due to lack of sales.

One primary reason that the scene began to shrink was the raising of the New York State drinking age from 18 to 21 back in 1985. The audience for live music began to dry up, and quickly disappeared altogether from the bars that catered primarily to college-age fans. Many of the bands of the area traced their break-ups to this period.

Of course, Greater Nippertown’s music scene certainly has not entirely died, but it is completely different now. There is now structure where there once were no rules. How will a future panel discussing our present music scene reminisce? We can surely wonder, but I am sure it will be with fondness and nostalgia.


A few of the concerts discussed at the panel:

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band @ RPI’s Houston Field House
Patti Smith @ the Palace Theatre
Genesis @ the Palace Theatre
The Who @ SPAC
Guns ‘N Roses @ the Palace Theatre
Talking Heads @ the Hulla-Baloo
Iggy Pop @ J.B. Scott’s
U2 @ J.B. Scott’s (three times in once year!)
Pink Floyd @ SPAC
Root Boy Slim & the Sex Change Band @ the Hulla-Baloo
Judas Priest @ J.B. Scott’s
Mr. Crowe’s Garden (aka, the Black Crowes) @ QE2
The Police @ the Hulla-Baloo

Paul Rapp
Paul Rapp
John Cooper
John Cooper
Michael Eck
Michael Eck
(Photo by Charise Isis)
(Photo by Charise Isis)

ArtBeat: “Rock & Roll Icons: Photographs by Patrick Harbron” @ Albany Institute of History & Art

  1. Vinny Natale says

    I really enjoyed this discussion. Many interesting stories from the panel as well as the guests. This is one of the reasons my wife and I are members of the Albany Institute of Art. Always something interesting going on.

  2. Nathan Hale says

    Patti Smith with John Cale opening at The Union College Chapel. The Talking Heads opening for The Good Rats at Page Hall. Elvis Costello also appeared there. McGuinn, Hillman and Clark at The Madison Theatre. The Ramones at The Hulla-Baloo. All those incredible JB Scott shows (Captain Beefheart!) . Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Tom Petty opening for Edgar Winter and a lot more gems happened at The Palace. Thanks for the memories guys, those were some great times even with foggy memories.

  3. Stanley Johnson says

    I seem to recall Root Boy Slim headlining a mostly local music fest at the RPI Fieldhouse, with Martha Quinn of MTV as the MC.

  4. Paul Fahey says

    I remember Q104 parties at the RPI Fieldhouse. Four bands. Artist exhibits, etc. I remember…Marshall Crenshaw, The Sharks, I think Blotto was at one of them…who am I forgetting?

  5. james says

    Metheny, Goodrick, Abercrombie, Swallow and Lester Bowie as sidemen on same bill (Gary Burton and Jack Dejohnette) at Campus Centre Ballroom, Arthur Blythe and David Murray with Dejohnette at JB Scott, Ron Carter with Buster Williams and Kenny Barron at Mr. C’s, Yusef Lateef with Jaki Byard and Famadou Don Moye at Mr. C’s, Sonny Fortune Group with Stanley Cowell at Mr. C’s, Sal Nistico at Schenectady Ramada Inn, Jaco, Brecker and Metheny with Joni Mitchell at Tanglewood, Chet Baker at Lark Tavern and Page Hall, Moffett Family at Gemeni Jazz Cafe, Doc Cheatham all over, Arthur Rhames at Elbo Room, McCoy Tyner at Union College Chapel, Mose Allison 10 times at a steakhouse on Route 20 in Guilderland, Alphonso Johnson with Clyde Criner on Caroline Street. After all the musicians listed in article and other comments have been relegated to the dustbin of history, two musicians who played frequently in Albany in the late 70’s with Nick Brignola will still be listened to and studied because of their crucial recordings with Charlie Parker. Al Haig and Howard McGhee.

  6. Dave Ardman says

    Thank you, Rudy, for providing such a great review of the “Rock & Roll Replay” at the Albany Institute of History and Art! I wish that I could have been there to listen and laugh, and perhaps even add to the memory collection. Plus, I would have treasured seeing Peggy Apple again! I miss not seeing her every weekday morning and handing over the Q-104 microphone at 10 a.m.

    The original JB Scott’s at 321 Central Ave. also holds many great memories. Tom Petty, The Pretenders, Martha Davis and the Motels, Kate Bush, just to name a few.

    Thanks for making me smile!

  7. Richard Brody says

    Rudy – Great review and photos of the “Rock & Roll Replay” at the Albany Institute of History and Art. It brought back a lot of great memories here are some shows that come to mind: Springsteen at The Palace, Talking Heads and Television at Page Hall, The Pretenders at J B Scott’s, Tracy Nelson at JB Scott’s – she honored the audience request by singing “Down So Low” for a second time, Emmylou Harris and The Hot Band at The Palace, and Michael Brecker with Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and Joey Calderazzo The Troy Music Hall doing “Tales from the Hudson”.

  8. Rudy says

    Thanks Richard and Dave.

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