Review: Caffe Lena’s Sing In the Streets at Downtown Saratoga


SARATOGA SPRINGS – Caffe Lena hosted their second annual Sing In the Streets music festival, an afternoon full of performances by original songwriters. All the musicians were local talent sharing their songs around Downtown Saratoga. Whether under clouds of sunshine, the crowds gathered at different sites – from Ben and Jerry’s picnic tables to Lena’s famed stage – to share their lyrics and harmonies.

Caffe Lena is celebrating their 63rd anniversary today. With a long history of hosting musicians in their listening room, Lena has drawn crowds to hear Bob Dylan, Don McLean, and with their Bright Star Series, up-and-coming artists like Nora Brown and Taylor Ashton.

Jimi W. Photo by Jim Gilbert

Crowds swarmed at each of the six sites in the city, and the twelve acts did not disappoint. With impromptu stages set up down Broadway, down Phila Street, and around the public library, the musicians each played their original sets to fans who found benches, brought lawn chairs, and many danced to the lively music.

With twelve different sets over just three hours, Jim and I scrambled to see each musician. And the popularity of the inside stage made finding space competitive; during Angelina Valente’s set, fans couldn’t find a seat to listen and even lined up to purchase tickets to her upcoming show at Lena’s when her set was done.

I was able to enjoy Jimi W’s set in the courtyard of Caffe Lena as my mother and I brunched on Sweet Mimi’s lemon pancakes. Like many of the young artists performing, Jimi W’s vocals rang out above the murmur of the crowd like a bell, drawing all eyes on him as he performed his solo in the open air. Keanen Stark and Orion Kribs played after Jimi W, carrying on with a bluegrass vibe to keep the crowd swaying.

Novus Cantus. Photo by Jim Gilbert

Saratoga legends Rick Bolton and Rees Shad captivated a large crowd behind the library. As they have for decades, Bolton and Shad were notable songwriters who joined a larger group of newcomers to the scene.

Children’s music was offered at the Frog Garden on the front side of the library. Father-son duo Bill and Finn Ackerbauer engaged a chirping crowd with their well-loved song “Chicken Milk.” Novus Cantus’ unique drum kit offered a playful uniqueness for the children, complete with a visual prompt for them to understand their music.

Other fun moments of the day included Steve Candlen on Broadway joking about competing with the many small dogs of Saratoga yapping through his set. Travis Gray’s voice drew pedestrians passing through to stop and watch.

Steve Candlen. Photo by Jim Gilbert

Margo Macero, traditionally a guitarist and singer, stretched herself to perform on piano, shocking the crowd with her flawless performance. Blue Ranger, a trio of skilled blues musicians, brought out a slide guitar to keep the sweetness of the day going outside of Ben & Jerry’s.

The last inside act, Reese Fulmer and The Carriage House Band featured Fulmer’s music with a wall of sound carried forth by the sax, keys, and guitar. Fulmer’s music took on an entirely different sound than usual and, while uniquely different from himself, held continuity with Fulmer’s lyrics and powerful songwriting. The band performed an improv song that included the crowd with clapping, laughter, and opportunities to showcase his colleague’s wide range of talent.

Each of these musicians has upcoming shows, so if you missed Sing In the Streets, you could still catch these wildly powerful – and popular – songwriters across the capital region this summer.

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