Favorite shows of 2012

Thumbnail image for sean rowe hat bw

Sean Rowe was mentioned more than once...

With the end of the year coming up, we thought it'd be fun to ask a bunch of people about some of their favorite/most interesting things from the 2012.

Next up: Capital Region musicians, actors, and artists on their favorite local shows of 2012.

Picking the best performance or artwork is so subjective. So we asked people who are very familiar with the art and music scene in the Capital Region to give us their personal thoughts on performances that moved them in some way. Here's what they said.

Answers have been lightly copyedited.


Louis Apicello, B3nson Collective and Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned

A show that sticks out for me was when The Parlor (then newly named, formerly We Are Jeneric) gave a sneak listening preview and performance of their 2012 album Our Day In The Sun at The Foundry in Cohoes. The mixture of great people, great music, and an amazing space really made a night to remember. That album has been a staple in my listening rotation this year.

Louis Apicello is a member of the B3nson Collective and Sgt. Dunbar & the Hobo Banned, and an organizer of Albany's Rest Fest.

Matthew Carefully

My favorite show this year was Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at The Egg in July. Their concerts are master classes in songwriting and performance for those who pay attention to such things. For those who simply want to be transported away from daily life, a Gillian show is just perfect.

(It should be noted that I will forever be sad to have missed the following concerts held in our area in 2012: Frankie Rose (twice), Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Eli Keszler, Real Estate, Tim Hecker, and the Emerson String Quartet.)

Matthew Carefully is one half of the band Rosary Beard

Laura Glazer, Hello Pretty City

My thoughts always go to Shearwater playing at Helsinki Hudson when I think of unforgettable shows of 2012. They played with a pulse and passion that felt like it was converting me into another voice in their songs. And now at the end of the year I can listen to their album and feel it pulling me back to that time and place when I was with them.

Also in my thoughts:
+ Dr. Dog at Upstate Concert Hall
+ Frankie Rose at Valentines (Downstairs)
+ The Antlers at Helsinki Hudson
+ Babe City opening for Langhorne Slim at Valentine's
+ MaryLeigh and the Fauves at Exit Dome 5

Laura Glazer is the host of Hello Pretty City on WEXT

KC Orcutt, Keep Albany Boring

As someone who has attended at least one local music event per week on average (no lie!), it's a bit difficult to narrow down what I thought to be the best of the best, especially considering different genres and venues. However, I can narrow it down to two.

The first was Against Me! at Upstate Concert Hall this past June. The show was shortly after the lead singer -- Laura Jane Grace, formerly Tom Gabel -- came out publicly as a transgender, which was a first for the punk community. It was incredible seeing the singer perform, perhaps even full of more confidence than normal, all while donning high heeled leather boots to a welcoming and receptive audience.

Secondly, was the live album recreation of PJ Katz's '92 Renault Music this past November at Valentine's. Not only do I consider the album in my top albums of this year (including national releases), but the performance was absolutely stellar. The album features collaborations with local rappers and hip hop artists and it translated to the live stage unlike any other performance I've witnessed before. The Pig Food Records label and collective makes me excited for what's ahead for local music in 2013 and beyond.

KC Orcutt is an editor at Keep Albany Boring

Jason Steven Murphy, EMPAC

With a wicked awesome toddler running around the house plus a busy job, I'm not out and about as much as I once was. I did, however, witness Tim Hecker go sonically buckwild in the EMPAC Concert Hall at RPI in September as part of said busy job. Dude was sick as a dog, and yet he still delivered an amazing set where he really "played the room" in terms of the speaker arrangement and acoustics.

I also saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor in Hudson in September, and while it was totally worth the drive, it was definitely "long on drones, short on rock" (to paraphrase a friend who was also there). That Basilica is a cool space, though.

Jason Steven Murphy is an EMPAC Communications Specialist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as a husband, dad, and comic book + music obsessive.

Chris Wienk, WEXT

So, I was just handed the most difficult assignment -- ever. All Over Albany asked me to come up with the "best show" I'd seen this past year. Well, I took that to mean my favorite show. So, I went looking through all the shows I'd been to. As I did that, I also saw shows I was supposed to be at, but had to miss out on for some reason. I noticed shows that I wasn't even at because of conflicts, but that I had really wanted to go to (Morrissey and Dr. John are two shows in that category).

I went through and listed off the shows. I started to think that singling out one show would be next to impossible. They were all so good. Even shows I didn't go to that my friends told me about sounded spectacular.

I decided that my friend Bruce is right. Live shows are magic happening right before your eyes and ears. There is something about the live show that can perhaps turn a great band/record into saw dust. There is something about a live show that can take a mediocre record and make it something you can't stop listening to for weeks after.

Perhaps I've failed Mary at All Over Albany when I present to you what I do right now. Perhaps. But I have to say, in my defense, there were some pretty spectacular events in the live concert setting this past year. So, without further build up, or wasting time, here goes nothing:

The concerts I had the most fun at this past year:
1/28 Exit Dome V
3/20 Dr. Dog (Northern Lights -- now Upstate Concert Hall)
4/16 Bruce Springsteen (TU Center) (The Boss at 57 stage diving and surfing the crowd!! Holy cow! Who does that?)
7/12 The Bacon Brothers (Alive @ Five)

Concert series I hope keeps rockin':
Garage Bands in the Garage, Albany Public Library series (Great Local 518 bands playing in the garage behind and below the Washington Avenue Branch. Curated by none other than Sarah Clarke of Charmboy).

The shows I wish I was at but alas wasn't:
3/30 Shelby Lynne (The Egg)
4/22 Avett Brothers (The Palace)
5/4 Jim Keller (Valentines)
5/26 Glen Campbell (The Egg)
5/27 The Kooks (Upstate Concert Hall)
7/4 James Taylor (Tanglewood)
7/25 Sharon Van Etten/Conor Oberst (The Egg) (You were so very lucky!!!)
8/18 SAW Fest (Salem Art Works)
10/18 Morrissey (The Palace)
11/1 Dr. John (The Palace)

The one I still kick myself for missing most:
6/15 Alejandro Escovedo (The Egg)

Magical moments from the stage:
5/12 Tulip Fest - Local 518 Stage (Washington Park)
5/14 Ingrid Michaelson/Scars on 45 (The Egg)
6/9 Art on Lark (Lark Street) (What could be better than a whole day of Local 518 musicians on stage?)
7/6 Scars on 45 (The Linda)
8/1 Brandi Carlile (The Egg)
9/7-9 RestFest (St. Joseph's) (The Kamikaze Hearts need to reunite, even if only as an annual event at RestFest - I don't want to hear any more excuses, boys! I'm older than you. I know better.)
9/12 Hand Habits (Tricentennial Park)
9/15 LarkFest (Lark Street) (Both stages were filled with magic from Dirty Paris first thing in the morning to World Party & Ryan Shaw closing both stages later that day.)
9/18 Nick Lowe (The Egg) (Strong contender for the best show of the year!)
9/21 Good Old War (Zankel)
9/23 Honest Weight Local 518 Food Harvest & Music (Washington Park) (Secondhand Roses were just one of the highlights, but you have to go see them!)
11/2 Molly Durnin/Melissa Ferrick (The Linda) (Molly stole our hearts; Melissa is like slipping into your PJ's with a good book, or a movie. She's a true performer!)
12/2 Tedeschi Trucks Band (The Palace) (Holy cow! They made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!)
12/6 Sera Cahoone (The Linda) (Perhaps the sleeper concert of the year. Sera killed it! Chris Pureka was awesome as an opener, too. Hope she comes back soon!)

Shows I wasn't sure of before I went, but they ended up being pretty awesome:
3/13 Elliott Brood (Valentines)
10/23 Electric Guest (Upstate Concert Hall)

Chris Wienk is the program director at WEXT Exit 977

Erik Flora, Stellar Young

I would have to say the best local show I went to as an audience member would have to be the Sean Rowe album release show with Railbird. It was put on with some help from 97.7 WEXT at Valentine's in Albany on September 8. Railbird really roped me in when we played with them at SAW Fest earlier in the year. They really inspired me to create more of an experience during a live show. I was unfamiliar with Sean Rowe (me not being originally from the 518) but Olivia Quillio was singing his praises (literally) before we went to the show. Railbird's set was unexpected by a lot of people there but was well received. The dueling guitars paired with syncopation with creative melody lines really pull you in. During Sean Rowe's set, he was accompanied by some members of Railbird too which made the experience that much better. Sean Rowe's raw Tom Waits-esque songs really take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride. You really just need to see it.

Erik Flora's band Stellar Young just released their new full-length album "Everything at Once" for pick what you pay.

Carl Anderson, Eastbound Jesus

Eastbound Jesus sees a lot of bands, but since we gig all the time they are our own shows. I think my favorite local show would be Pearl Palooza on September 22 with Barons in the Attic, Eastbound Jesus, Wild Adriatic, Mirk, and Conehead Buddha. It got five killer local acts together on one stage for a great afternoon of music. The crowd kept growing and growing till Pearl Street was wall-to-wall people rocking out to the local acts. We talked to out-of-towners who had made the trip to see bands they had never heard of, and I know were blown away from the local talent. It also got five different musical styles of bands together and all the members of the bands hung out and have since played more shows together. Great day for music. And it ended with an epic rainstorm! Good stuff.

Carl Anderson is the drummer for Eastbound Jesus

Olivia Quillio, singer/songwriter

The show that keeps coming to mind is Sean Rowe's release at Valentine's this fall. Railbird opened. I had never seen Railbird, so it was an exciting start to the evening. Hearing Sean is like meditating on every bittersweet moment you've known. I was constantly smiling, sometimes crying. His new album The Salesman and The Shark is on heavy rotation for me, still.

Olivia Quillio is a singer/songwriter, Garage to Glory winner and one of AOA's interesting people of 2011.


Aaron Holbritter, actor/director

It was an amazing year for local theater, with some really extraordinary work, and while doing shows often precludes me from being able to see as many shows as I'd like, two shows in particular stood out to me for taking somewhat risky material and presenting terrific productions.

Early in 2012, Schenectady Civic Players, in their 84th season (that's right, SCP has been around since 1928) presented Christopher Hampton's Les Liasons Dangereuses, best known as the basis for the 1988 film Dangerous Liasons starring Glenn Close and John Malkovitch. In this production, two of my favorite local performers took on the key roles, with Erin Waterhouse as the scheming La Marquise de Merteui and Ian LaChance as the dastardly Vicomte de Valmont. Their scenes absolutely crackled. Director Richard Michael Roe also put his own stamp on the production by moving the setting from pre-revolution France to 1939, just before the German occupation. And I would be remiss if I did not mention Jenniver Sporano's beautiful costumes. Rarely do all the aspects of a production come together so effectively to present a theater classic in such a fresh way.

More recently, Curtain Call Theater in Latham brought us the regional premiere of Opus by Michael Hollinger. About a world-renowned string quartet preparing for a performance at the White House while inducting a new member, the production slowly simmered with tension as it built to its surprising end. With standout performances by Chris Foster and Paul Dedrick, and one of the most beautifully simplistic sets I've ever seen, first time director Barbara Richards helmed a production that wove character, story and music into a cohesive narrative with a stunning payoff. I expect we'll see more from her. A fine example of the great work we've come to expect from Curtain Call.

Aaron Holbritter is a local actor, director, and producer with credits at many local theaters (disclosure: SCP and Curtain Call included). In 2012 he directed the regional premieres of Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention and Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things at Albany Civic Theater. His next project will be a reading of Dustin Lance Black's 8 - The Play about California's Prop 8 trial to be performed March 22 at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

AOA Mary, theater geek

AOA Greg calls me a theater snob. I don't think I am. I just know what I like. I've seen a lot of theater. A lot. And much of what I've seen has been here in the Capital Region. And you know what? I can appreciate the classics, but enough already. Fiddler on the Roof has some beautiful music -- and god help me, I don't care if I never sit through it again. OK, that's a lie, but you know what I'm getting at. I like to be surprised by theater.

In all my years of seeing shows in this region, I have never seen anything that surprised me as much as C-R Productions Cohoes Music Hall production of In The Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical about three days in the Washington Heights neighborhood where he was raised. I missed this show when it was in New York and I really wanted to see it, so I carved out some time I didn't have and caught a Saturday matinee. Absolutely everything about the production blew me away. The sets, the music, the dancing, the performers. Every second brought another surprise. I was never bored for an instant and -- here's the weird part -- it felt like I was there, in this neighborhood in Washington Heights and not in an old vaudeville house in Cohoes.

Here's a clip from a number they did to promote the show at Justin's. It doesn't do the whole production justice, but it's a small sample:

Dear C-R productions, and Capital Region in general: More like this please! Sincerely, AOA Mary.

Kat Koppett, The Mop & Bucket Company

Our favorite show this year was Northeast Ballet's gorgeous 25th anniversary production of The Nutcracker. The all-new first act costumes sparkled; the dancers -- from the tiny young Claras to the seasoned NY City Ballet stars -- amazed and delighted; the classic Tchaikovsky score never gets old. And because our daughter had the privilege of dancing in the show, we got to experience the deep professionalism, kindness, and creative spirit of this premier organization from the inside as well. Absolutely one of the gems of our region.

Kat Koppett is the training director at The Mop & Bucket Improv Company


Samson Contompasis, artist

More than a just a show, I really believe the most impressive artistic piece this region had the pleasure of seeing this year was Peter Leue's giant wooden erector system, which keeps impressively popping up in different areas. The fact he was able to work with an age-old concept, adapt its design to local architecture, be able to create new and amazing variations with each assembly. And its all made out of wood. It is an ever evolving project with unlimited possibilities. This is a man and a project you should all really follow.

Impossibly close second is Abraham Ferraro's mailable installation which is at CollarWorks this Friday.

Samson Contompasis is an artist and gallery owner, as well as one of AOA's interesting people of 2011.

Thank you to everyone for their answers!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Interesting stories to cover 2012
+ Favorite local foods 2012

photo: Marius Bugge


Man Man at Valentines was the best show I saw this year in the Albany area due to the energy of the band and the crowd. They are so much fun to see live when the crowd is into them.

Best show in the surrounding area was definitely Bon Iver in Holyoke. Followed by The Magnetic Fields in Hudson (twice!!), Fiona Apple, and Real Estate.

Show I regret missing: GY!BE in Hudson. That venue and that music - I imagine it must have been incredible.

I am glad that Laura mentioned The Antlers. They're set at Helsinki Hudson was aided by the venue itself by being the most intimate and sincere show I've seen in a long while.

However, I am surprised that no one mentioned Future Islands at Valentine's. I am going to have to list that as my favorite show of the year. It was so raw and cathartic that I've been watching their tour scheduled to catch another one of their sets.

There were a lot of great shows around the Capital Region this year. Big ups to Hudson for bringing more note worthy acts into the 518.

jeff mangum at bearsville theatre
felice brothers at jillians
sean rowe & and babe city at steamer 10
hop along & sharon van etten at rest fest

Roger Waters at Times Union. Great Lake Swimmers at Helsinki.

I can't believe I left off Sharon Van Etten's performance at Rest Fest. I'm still shuddering from it.

@ROB_MOR...you are so right about Helsinki as a venue. See you there sometime!

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