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SARATOGA SPRINGS - The David Cassidy Band returned to the stage this week to perform their first concert since the death of the singer last November. They chose to stage the show in Saratoga Springs, a place the singer himself had maintained was his favorite in the world.
The special tribute concert to honor Cassidy also acted as a benefit for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, an organization and cause close to Cassidy’s heart.
The six-member band gathered in Saratoga Tuesday morning and toured the TRF farm, located on Route 29, where they spent time with Bold Mon and Rock D.J. - two of the farm’s retired horses - in advance of that night’s show at Putnam Place.
The band’s 18-song set featured standard’s from Cassidy’s Partridge Family era – including "I Can Hear Your Heartbeat," "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque," "I'll Meet You Halfway," and "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" – a nod to David Cassidy’s solo work (“Cherish”), and a slew of cover renditions that featured Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” The Beatles’ “In My Life,” The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” – with drummer Teri Coté stepping up to lead mic – and a pair of back-to-back tunes popularized by the Monkees: “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m A Believer.”
Dr. Jerry Bilinski, and Gary Contessa – two close friends of Cassidy in the horse racing industry – each took a turn at the mic. “I miss him a lot, just sitting on the porch with a cigar and talking,” recalled Bilinski, before singing a few bars of “I Think I Love You.”
Contessa said he first met Cassidy at a Fasig Tipton horse sale 23 years ago and was amazed by the singer’s knowledge of horses. “He was a rock star who wanted to be a horse trainer.” Contessa then reversed that role when he donned a bass and joined the band for a blues jam.
The six-piece band featured Teri Coté (drums); Craig Snider (keyboards/vocals); Dave Robicheau (guitar/vocals); Matt Sullivan (guitar/vocals); Vance Brescia (guitar/vocals) and Darrell Craig Harris (bass/vocals). They performed admirably and provided a good time for many of the 250 or so in attendance, many of whom moved together across the dance floor, or released emotions in the way of pent-up tears. Some did both.
“This is the first time we got together and it’s a real blending of his past,” offered Craig Snider, during an interview prior to the show. “Sully (Matt Sullivan) was his guitar player before the current fellah, who wasn’t able to make it. Vance (Brescia) has been a friend of the band’s and David’s for a long time. He’s Peter Noone’s music director and a great singer. When we did the Idol Tour – which was David Cassidy, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Noone – we were the house band,” Snider explained. “So, when we thought: OK, who’s going to sing the body of these songs… Vance is a lead singer! I’m a good singer and Sully is a good singer as well, so in essence what we have are three lead singers filling in for what we had with one,” he said with a laugh. “Three divas, for the price of one.”
The rehearsal prior to the show was somewhat surreal, Snider said. “It was trippy because in my head I still hear David. It’s hard to verbalize, but when we started doing those songs, even though someone else is singing, physical memory is like musical memory so I was at times still hearing him, and kind of flipping back-and-forth.”
The event included auction items, and a meet-and-greet the band opportunity. Local artist David Hill painted a horse using the band’s live performance as inspiration. The completed painting was to be auctioned off as well.
“There’s a common thread we share, and that thread is David Cassidy. We had him come out of the TV screen and into our living rooms,” event organizer Linda de Ambrosio neatly summed up.
The TRF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse, and slaughter. The organization said details regarding the amount of money raised during the concert will be announced next week.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Diane Duhame says she has always felt the need to help others.
In late April, Duhame learned of a group of volunteers who host Friday get-togethers in Albany to provide hot meals for the hungry and necessary essentials to the less fortunate. “I thought: I want to do that,” says Duhame, who makes her home in Galway.
The Albany organization, who call themselves Street Soldiers, gather at the Soldiers' and Sailors' monument in Washington Park and was founded in 2016 by area residents Renee and Mike Fahey. Their motto: We can't change the world, but we can help those local who are a part of the world.
In Saratoga, things moved quickly. Drawing inspiration from The Faheys, a small group of volunteers assembled in May and were granted permission to set up some tables in the Salvation Army parking lot on Woodlawn Avenue.
“We started off with no idea what to expect,” Duhame recalled. “That first week we probably had two tables with some sandwiches and fruit. I didn’t know if anyone would show up.” Volunteers from the Albany group came to support the Saratoga version of the Street Soldiers. About 15 people showed up that first week. The group has gathered every Saturday night since their inaugural May event.
“It just grew from there. More and more people started coming. Now we have eight tables and we take up a third of the parking lot,” Duhame says. “The last couple of weeks we’ve had about 40 people – and it’s not just for the homeless. There are a lot of people who are trying to make it on minimum wage. There are people leaving bad relationships and on their own. We have families come by and working people who are making minimum wage. They can keep a roof over their heads, but not everything else - sometimes it’s some shampoo or toilet paper to get you through the week.”
The tables offer goods – from razors and shaving cream to hair conditioner, underwear and socks – as well as homemade food made by volunteers – a varying course of fried chicken and macaroni salad, to fruit and sandwiches.
“Everybody makes the Saturday supper and brings it over. We’ve had goulash and bean soup; we’ve also barbecued a few times. Every week it’s something else,” Duhame says. “It’s just a group of individuals who show up Saturday night to help our friends. These are people who have good hearts. There are a lot of good people in the world.” The core group of volunteers has grown to more than a dozen, and more are always welcome.
For those in need of a meal or supplies, there are no questions asked, and everyone is welcome, Duhame says. “There are no requirements. Just whoever needs it. We don’t ask for any kind of proof or even their name. And there’s no corporation (involved). Nobody has ever said anything negative to us. It’s been amazing, and it’s taken on a life of its own.”
The gatherings are staged 7 p.m. Saturday nights in the Woodlawn Avenue parking lot of the Salvation Army. The plan is to host the event year-round and there are currently discussions being held about moving to an early time slot, to maintain daylight hours, during the winter.
“I know it’s only going to get bigger and we would like more people to help out. I know people don’t want to come out every Saturday night, but people could do little things: make something and drop it off, or just tell us where you are and we’ll tell someone to come get it. We live all over Saratoga County,” she says.
The group has created a Facebook page - StreetSoldiers II Saratoga – which contains a “wish list” of supplies and food and information about how others may get involved.
“Sometimes people feel invisible. When someone pays attention, someone who touches your heart, it can make all the difference,” Duhame says. “It’s just human kindness.”
Michael John Stone shows his appreciation for the Saratoga Street Soldiers, Saturday night Aug. 10, 2018. Photo by SuperSource Media.
“In a place not too far from here, something happened. It was called Woodstock.”
– Melanie, on stage at Caffé Lena Aug. 2, 2018.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - On that August evening in 1969, Melanie Safka Schekeryk sat by herself inside of a country tent, fearful about what awaited her outside.
Her new album, simply titled “Melanie,” contained the song “Beautiful People,” which had given her a modicum of success. Still, an estimated half-million people sat in an open field outside her tent in anticipation of what the 22-year-old aspiring actress-turned-singer could bring.
“I listened to Richie Havens in his 50th minute of ‘Freedom (Motherless Child),’ and I heard Ravi Shankar. Then Wavy Gravy went on and announced that his collective was passing out candles and that everyone should light their candles, because it had started to rain,” Melanie explained to a sold-out house at Caffe Lena last week.
“I was in such terror that as I walked out onto the field, walked over that rope bridge – it was like a plank - I was (sure I was) walking to my certain doom. How can I possibly entertain 500,000 people with three chords, and my one song?”
Fair or not, she is often linked to her performance at the Woodstock music festival. Many have taken to tagging her as “the voice of her generation.”
“I was walking and walking and… I left my body,” she continued. “I watched myself take the stage. I hovered over my shoulder. I watched myself sit down and when I started singing ‘Beautiful People,’ I came back. I had this real-life experience. At that moment 500,000 people granted me beingness, granted me who I was. And I reciprocated. It wasn’t a musical moment, it was a spiritual moment. And it was real. I can’t tell you how life-altering that moment was,” she explained, before launching in to “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” – which anthemically captures her Woodstock moment – mated with an appropriately collaborative medley with a rendition of the John Lennon song, “Give Peace A Chance.”
At Caffé Lena, Melanie performed two sold out shows accompanied on vocals, guitar and occasional cello by her son, Beau Jared Schekeryk. Collectively, the evening featured 3-1/2 hours of music that covered a half-century of songwriting.
“I was just here - but somehow you all look different,” she quipped, acknowledging the café audience when taking the stage for the evening’s late show. The second set featured 14 songs which included “Animal Crackers” - dating to her 1968 debut, her love-‘em-and-leave-‘em ode “Any Guy” - released in 1969, and songs from the early ‘70s (“Babe Rainbow,” “Someday I’ll Be A Farmer”) to the 1990s (“Under Cool Cover of Night).”
Affected perhaps by the back-to-back sets, her voice wore rough early on, but when tackling “Ruby Tuesday,” any hoarseness majestically dissolved and the power of simple acoustic guitars and THOSE VOCALS were on full-on display.
“Ruby Tuesday” signaled one of three Rolling Stones songs performed during the night; a tasteful instrumental rendition of “Paint it Black,” and a version of “Wild Horses” – “we should do this because this is Saratoga Springs, it’s all about the horses,” she announced – were the others.
Melanie alternated between English, French, German, and Korean during the choruses of “Look What They’ve Done to My Song Ma,” inspired an audience sing-a-long on her Freudian ditty “Psychotherapy,” and delivered convincing performances of her songs “Beautiful People,” “Angel Watching Over You,” and her biggest chart-topping hit, “Brand New Key” – a song she admits she hated for a long time.
”When it became a hit, I went from playing nice, small cuddly places to big stadiums, where people wanted to hear 90 minutes of "Hump, Ha-HA, Hump, Ha-Ha,” she explained, pointing the song’s background chorus. “Here’s the clincher, all these years later, I’m OK with the whole song,” she admitted. “It’s a damn cute song.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - In the age of social platforms, event hashtags and electronic invites, it was a dinosaur. Suddenly one recent weekday morning, it was no more.
The Caroline Street Register stood fixed to a building on the south side of Caroline Street for approximately a half-century – the notice board a tapestry of flyers and posters and postcard-size bulletins that for several decades freely publicized city staged events. An adjacent plank which runs along the billboard’s left side lists 20 different businesses – and alongside, each business’ motto - a heavy plank reminder of the city’s funkier and hands-on, do-it-yourself past.
When the building was undergoing an exterior paint job recently, workers removed the large sign, apparently targeted for the trash pile. Local resident Stephen Smigielski was working at a nearby eatery at the time.
“I saw it sitting against the lamppost, just waiting for the dumpster,” Smigielski says. “The garbage truck was pulling up and I was like, whoa, whoa…”
Jim Stanley, who runs the Tin & Lint located a few yards from the board’s long-standing position, estimates the register has clung to the Caroline Street wall since probably the early 1970s. The business listings had been updated and repainted at least twice since that time, he added.
“I grew up in the ‘70s in Saratoga Springs,” Smigielski explained. “I remember a lot of the places being boarded up when the town was not as booming as it is now. That sign was always there. It was there when we were teenagers. I didn’t want it to hit the bonfire.”
Smigielski rescued the sign and placed it in a toolshed for safekeeping. Beneath a stencil burgundy-fade that reads “notices,” it remains as it was, festooned with staples and push-pins and swatches of flyers that existed the day the board came down. The “register” position holds a listing of businesses that date to the 1970s - some which continue to exist to the present day, others not as fortunate and obliterated by time.
Desperate Annie’s – with its’ motto “Lively Libations,” the Tin & Lint - “an American Bar,” Gaffney’s, Sperry’s, and the Vault – “coin shop and baseball cards,” maintain their respective businesses on Caroline Street.
Some have been replaced by other businesses: E.H. Holland (“70 years of Service”) most recently was the site of One Caroline Street Bistro; Boyce & Drake plumbing and heating currently sites Hamlet & Ghost; Madame Jumel’s “dining emporium” has been transformed into Dango’s pub; Aiko’s is today the Spa City Tap and Barrel, and Side St. Saloon (“Drinks Galore”) morphed into Clancy’s Tavern.
Gone are the Coronet Press (“Printers Extraordinaire”), Ambience Unlimited (custom audio environments), Jah Skates and Reggae Shop, Esthetiques (European nail and skin care center), Duval’s (games of chance), Hal Bigelow (custom cabinetry), Kitsch (non-essentials), Northwind Graphics (silkscreen prints), The Sideline (food emporium) and Discline – whose motto was “CD’s Forever.”
Some of the businesses existed in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, which suggests that may have been the last time the registry was updated.
Preserving the sign was Smigielski’s main purpose. He has no specific plans regarding its future destination, other than it should be somewhere where people can see it and where it will continue to be preserved.
“I’m not looking for financial gain, but I am looking for it to find a home,” he says. “Even if it sits in a shed for the rest of its life, my first thought was: let’s save this.”
“It was a wild ride sometimes and you never really knew what to expect from him, but we were all really close. He was always kind to us, always respectful and without a doubt the funniest guy I’ve ever known.”
–Teri Coté, longtime drummer of the David Cassidy Band, who will perform in a special one-off David Cassidy Tribute Concert in Saratoga Springs Aug. 14.
Teri Coté was 6 years old when the popular Partridge Family TV show concluded its four-year-run of 96 episodes in 1974. A year or two later, inspired by the music of Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire, she was drawn to the drum kit.
“That’s when I discovered I wanted to be a drummer, or, actually when the drums chose me,” says Coté, who became a member of the David Cassidy Band in 2003. It is a role she filled for more than a decade.
“He was a really nice guy and it was a lot of fun. We had some wild moments - he was a wild character, you know? But, always very loving to the band, even during the times when he was having a rough time,” she says.
Cassidy’s musical inspiration came from people like Jimi Hendrix and the Yardbirds, but his massive popularity as a teen idol in the early 1970s cemented an image ultimately impossible to shed. “It was a cage he couldn’t break out of - and he did try - but it didn’t work. I think he had a lot of frustration with that,” Coté says.
As a bandleader, Coté says Cassidy liked to keep things fresh, at times changing pre-written setlists at the last instant and creating unpredictable moments. “He liked that energy, creating that intensity. After being who he was in his heyday, I think he really craved that energy, creating excitement in his shows. One way or another he would make sure that was happening.”
Cassidy’s fan base, while not as large in number as once had been, was nonetheless just as energetic and intense. “We saw a lot of people in the front rows who were regulars. They would come from all over the world - which boggled our minds. They just loved him,” says Coté, who makes her home in Massachusetts, just north of Boston.
During some show segments, Cassidy and Coté would swap onstage roles - she picking up the microphone at center stage to sing the Pretenders’ song “Brass in Pocket,” and Cassidy taking a seat behind the drum kit, keeping the beat.
“When he sat to play the drums, he looked like a 12-year-old kid with this huge smile on his face,” Coté says. “He was just…so ecstatic. I admired that he would just let it show like that. I think sometimes he just wanted to disappear into the band and just be an I’m-one-of-the-guys kind of thing.”
The brief role-swapping scenario was played out in a March 2017 show at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square. Coté, who took a short break from the band a year-and-a-half earlier, returned that night for a special appearance with Cassidy’s band. The set began with a performance of “C'mon Get Happy,” and concluded 15 songs later with a performance of “I Think I Love You.” It would be the final concert Cassidy and the band would play. Less than nine months later, the 67-year-old singer died from liver and kidney failure.
Coté and a varied alumnus from the Cassidy band will perform for the first time together since Cassidy’s death in a special tribute on Aug. 14 in Saratoga Springs. The show will also serve as a fundraiser for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation - an organization close to the singer’s heart. Vance Brescia, longtime guitarist and music director for Peter Noone, will handle a good portion of the vocal duties. Popular horse trainer and bass player Gary Contessa is also expected to join the band onstage.
“It’s going to be exciting. Everybody’s a great player and we’ll be getting together to rehearse the day before,” says Coté, who maintains a busy schedule between teaching assignments, performing gigs and showcasing her own jewelry line. She and her husband, who is also a drummer, operate a drum shop – soon to expand to three music shops in the state - where she teaches the art of percussion.
After more than a decade of performances with Cassidy, one of Coté’s everlasting memories of Cassidy was his sense of humor.
“David would make us laugh so much. He was really funny. He got that from his dad (Jack Cassidy), I think. He really believed his dad was the funniest person he ever knew,” Coté says. “We had a good friendship, a joke-filled relationship. I have some friends who have a great sense of humor, but David really took the cake. His sense of humor…I really miss that.”
The David Cassidy Tribute Concert will take place 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 at the Horseshoe Inn, located at 9 Gridley Ave., Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and will benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
Tickets are $50 and available by calling TRF at 518-226-0028 or online at https://www.trfinc.org/event/david-cassidy-band-special-guests/.
Saratoga Springs’ native son Pete Donnelly has released a new album, a corresponding music video and is preparing to hit the road in October with an all-new combo at his side.
“Phases of the Moon” signals a departure of sorts for fans familiar with Donnelly’s work as co-founder of The Figgs. Ten of the album’s 18 tracks are instrumentals and include recreation of works by Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Erik Satie, Claude Debussy and Oscar Pettiford.
The Figgs – who formed in 1987 when Donnelly collaborated with fellow Saratoga Springs High School students Mike Gent, and Guy Lyons – have released more than a dozen albums and staged some 1,500 shows at hallowed venues like the QE2, CBGB’s, and the Whisky A Go Go. And while Gent and Donnelly continue to perform together, the solo record, “Phases of the Moon,” features a nod to the bass player-turned-guitarist’s younger musical ears - which heralded an appreciation for Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, as much as for bands like Black Flag and Hüsker Dü.
The piano serves as a driving force on “Phases of the Moon,” merging seductive jazz riffs laced with a sweet soul muse, topped with the familiar jingle-jangle of an electric guitar, a permeable dose of catchy songwriting throughout and adorned with a class rock and roll beat THAT JUST SWINGS.
Donnelly - who calls Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey home these days - asked director Geoffray Barbier to coordinate a New York City rooftop video shoot for the album’s debut single, “Dr. Richard.” The result maintains a rock ‘n’ rebel tradition not seen since The Senders rocked tar beach with their "My Baby Glows in the Dark" rooftop video in 1990 - look it up! – and the Jefferson Airplane sang and strummed atop a Manhattan rooftop a generation earlier.
For more information about “Phases of the Moon” – released as a full-length CD and a special hand-numbered double album, go to: http://www.petedonnellymusic.com/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – As an artist, Amy Lee is restless, as all artists with anything worth saying must be: searching; growing and endlessly re-defining.
“Challenges,” she says. “Pushing myself to the next place. At this point in my career, the challenges are the fun parts.”
Seeking a different path led the lead singer and co-founder Evanescence, perhaps surprisingly, down a road previously traveled. Once there, she discovered secret passageways with untainted, offshoot roads that pointed to some new place. She named this synergy between past and present “Synthesis.” An album was released last November and the summer leg of the tour - which features co-headliner Lindsey Stirling – will play the big stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on July 28.
The show includes the added dimension of a full orchestra – an orchestra not touring with the band mind you, but rather, a different orchestra with an entirely new set of musicians on each night who will perform with the band.
“It makes for a very high-energy, tightrope-like feeling and in a very beautiful way different every time,” Lee says. “It creates these very raw, vulnerable and quiet moments where you have to just be so comfortable in your own skin that you totally focus and make beautiful music. That’s what makes it so exciting to me, to do something so different.”
The band first meets the orchestra on the day of the show during soundcheck where they’’ll run through parts of three or four songs then collectively perform live together for the first time in front of a live audience. Some live collaboration between Lee and Stirling during each of their respective sets is anticipated as well. Setlists from the early part of the tour indicate songs that span the band’s career from 2003 to 2018, as well as an occasional nod to the Beatles “(Across the Universe”) and Ozzy Osbourne (“Alive”).
As nerve-wracking and exciting as staging a performance in front of a live audience for the first-time may be, Lee says the addition of an orchestra creates “an electronic, awesome, cool different world.” Allowing her imagination to run free, Lee says she can envision some of her own favorite bands doing likewise.
“I think it would be really good to see the Smashing Pumpkins do that. That would lend itself to it very well. And Portishead - Oh, that would be incredible! I’ve always gotten a lot of inspiration from Bjork and if I could go see the way she did “Vespertine” back in the day (2001) – it was sort of in this realm between the electronic elements and the orchestra.”
Evanescence formed in the mid-1990s and released their debut album “Fallen” in 2003. Commercial success was immediate; the album topped the charts in more than 10 countries and sold more than 17 million copies worldwide. Lee, the group’s sole original member in the band’s current incarnation, was tagged as a goth-metal superstar in Victorian dress.
“After our first album, ‘Fallen,’ I felt a serious urge to push us forward and show other sides. It was good, but it was just this bud, this beginning picture of all that I wanted to express and all that I am. It became important to show something else. I always want to keep that open, to try new things,” she says. “To the degree that ‘Fallen’ was so huge, I felt almost frustrated that no matter what I did there’s a mass of people that are going to see me in just that one, simple, first way.”
Over the course of the band’s career, the business of music and concerts has drastically changed. Lee has changed with it.
“We used to have lighters that we’d hold up in the audience, which was so beautifully romantic and sweet. Then people got cell phone with those lights which are so much brighter. I remember when that first started to be a thing, every artist was complaining, ‘Ah, they’re like zombies, they’re not even paying attention to the live show,” she recalls.
“We always want people to live in the moment, to live in the show, but I do take it as a sort of compliment: that they want to capture it, they want to remember it, they want to live it again. At the same time, we have this moment during special shows where we’ll have this… moment. One person with a cell phone and their light does it, then somebody next to them does it, then more and more and more and they all light up to make like these… glowing souls. Just this sea of light. It’s hard to explain, but you feel the magnitude as if in that moment every person is represented; everybody gets into it and it just chokes me up. Every time.”
Over the past 15 years, Lee expanded her collaborative circle to include recordings with Seether and Korn; she sang “Halfway Down the Stairs” – a song based on the lyrics of an A.A. Milne poem - for a cover album of Muppets songs in 2011, and one year later performed Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” for a Johnny Cash tribute album. In 2018, there are a multitude of creative reaches. “We’re just stripping all of my comfort zones away,” she says.
With “Synthesis,” Lee is re-imagining the band’s musical canon by collecting the shards of a melody once gifted from some ethereal place, disassembling its pieces, and then welding them with a new flame into a new composite.
“There are parts of these songs (on ‘Synthesis’), particularly the ones I chose, where there was something about them that stood out to me, or that I wanted to push more. There was a stripping away involved and rebuilding for sure, but it’s all stemming from stuff that was all in there, underneath,” Lee explains.
“‘Never Go Back,’ for example - our first song on this album - is a very classically minded song, which is funny because production-wise it’s this heavy rock song with swatches of metal. But, it’s so related. If you think about the instrumentation and the production of music, I feel there are so many similarities between heavy, metal music and the shredders of the classical age. I mean, you could Bach up against Pantera and find total similarities,” she says with a laugh.
“I’m not saying we’re Pantera, or Bach – nothing like! But there was always this part, this big, epic beautiful bridge in ‘Never Go Back,’ that in this version now starts off the song that to me was channeling some big, classical epic drama. I wanted to experiment with taking that all the way in the other direction, seeing what it sounded like and being able to let it live in that world where it was partially born in the first place. The whole (‘Synthesis”) is kind of like that, taking things and going: here’s the other side of it that maybe you didn’t notice.”
The idea for “Synthesis” was born after Lee sat down and revisited the band’s musical history in advance of the release of a comprehensive Evanescence box set.
“I realized how proud I am of everything that we’ve done. Instead of thinking that I have to keep pushing in new directions to show everybody how different we can be, I kind of fell in love with all of it and wanted to spend a little bit of time embracing all that we are,” Lee says. “Instead of feeling that my favorite parts are the parts that I’m running from, I can go back and pour more love into who I already am. I have a new perspective on what Evanescence is and it means something to me that’s just full of love in all directions. So, I feel that’s been a beautiful turn in my heart more recently. And I don’t know what the future sound will be, but I do know it will be out of love.”
Evanescence and Lindsey Stirling will perform at SPAC on Saturday, July 28.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – David Cassidy famously traveled the globe yet maintained Saratoga as his favorite place in the world. Plans are underway to honor the popular singer and actor this summer with a special memorial race at Saratoga Race Course, according to former Cassidy girlfriend Maura Rossi.
Plans call for the memorial race to be held Saturday Aug. 18 – a day that will also feature the Alabama Stakes race and which was among Cassidy’s favorite days to attend during the summer meet, Rossi said.
Cassidy - best known for his portrayal of Keith Partridge in the early 1970s television sit-com “The Partridge Family,” as well as for a series of chart-making hits during the same era, passed away last November at the age of 67. His passion for equines frequently brought him to Saratoga, where he bought his first yearling and where in 2001 he purchased a home.
The specific Cassidy memorial non-stakes race will be determined in the days leading up to the Aug. 18 date.
Rossi, who reached out to the New York Racing Association to name the race, said she is also coordinating a schedule for the winner of the race to be given a trophy in Cassidy’s honor, as well as for fans and friends of the singer to be able to have their picture taken in the Winner’s Circle. A Facebook page related to the event has been posted at: https://www.facebook.com/davidcassidymemorialrace/.
Cassidy has an ardent fan base. Samantha Cox, one of Cassidy’s fans, coordinated from her home in Indiana a successful social media effort shortly after the singer’s death that raised in excess of $2,500 to have placed a memorial bench in Cassidy’s honor at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Cox also initiated a “Celebration of David Cassidy’s Life,” event that was staged in Saratoga Springs on May 20 and drew fans to the local community from across the world. Cox has since said she plans to stage an annual event celebrating Cassidy’s legacy every May 20 in the Spa City.
Meanwhile, a David Cassidy Tribute Concert – featuring members of Cassidy’s band – will take place 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 at the Horseshoe Inn, located at 9 Gridley Ave., in Saratoga Springs, and will benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Tickets to the concert are available via the TRF website at: https://www.trfinc.org/event/david-cassidy-band-special-guests/
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Her songs have been covered by everyone from Ray Charles (“Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma”) and Mott The Hoople (“Lay Down: Candles In The Rain“) to the Dollyrots (“Brand New Key”), and her rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” is arguably the only time anyone has out-muscled The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band on their own turf.
Melanie – who alongside other iconic music-makers like Cher, Beyonce and Adele is quintessentially illuminative to be able to get by on a first-name-only basis – will perform two shows at Caffe Lena on Aug. 2.
Her discography counts dozens of releases and spans several decades, but perhaps is most notable for a song she wrote after her appearance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969, capturing the mood of the moment and providing a theme for a generation. Getting to play on the bill at Woodstock seemed simple enough.
“It sounded like camping for three days out in the country, so I asked the promoters, 'Can I do it?’” Melanie recalled, during an interview with this reporter when she visited Saratoga Springs to perform at Caffe Lena a few years ago. “They said: Sure, kid.” She was 22 years old at the time and as showtime grew near, the reality of performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people brought with it a dose of anxiety.
“I thought, 'Oh my god, there's Janis Joplin. I could hear Richie (Havens) singing: Freedom...Freedom...Freedom... It was scary. I'm just a girl with a guitar, they're never going to put me on that stage,” she said. “I started getting this real deep bronchial cough. Joan Baez heard me coughing and she sent an assistant over with a pot of hot tea. It was like nectar of the Gods.”
Shortly after Ravi Shankar performed, the sky threatened rain. “People from the Hog Farm, or some other group were saying some inspirational things about lighting candles to keep the rain away,” she recalled.
As the candles began to flicker, Melanie was told it was her turn to take the stage.
“I had to walk the plank and I watched the hillside completely lit up with candles, like the flickering millions… I had an out of body experience.” A few days later, she put the experience to song. “I started thinking about it, about what literally was right in front of me.”
A year later the song she’d written about the experience - “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” - was being played on radio stations across the country. It sold more than 1 million copies, showcased the singer with the childlike, yet other-worldly voice, blessed with reams of slicing vibrato, and began a longstanding concert tradition of audiences striking matches and thumbing lighters and holding the flame aloft in music halls across the world.
Melanie’s Woodstock moment spawned a music career with sprinkled with high points – she was introduced to a crowd of 600,000 at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival by Keith Moon after she took the stage immediately after The Who – and strung together a number of hits through the 1970s. More than 80 million copies of her records have been sold to date, she's had her songs covered by singers as diverse as Cher, Dolly Parton, and Macy Gray.
Melanie performs at Caffe Lena Thursday Aug. 2. Shows at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $45 general admission. $40 café members, $22.50 students and kids.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - A.M. Homes has been coming to Saratoga for nearly 30 years. During that time, she has published a dozen books - novels, memoirs and story collections among them - created a variety of original television pilots and saw the screen debut of a then pre-teenage Kristen Stewart in the film adaptation of her book “The Safety of Objects” – which also featured Glenn Close in a starring role.
Homes’ newest release, the short story collection “Days of Awe," was published earlier this month and the links to this region, she says, are substantial. “As much as this is a work of fiction - which took many years—in my heart it is set in Saratoga.”
The ties to local geography and events are sprinkled throughout the book’s 12 stories, albeit disguised at times beneath the cloak of fiction. There are visits to local ice cream shops, journeys to go apple-picking and trips to the mall; there are inferences – though neither is named - to the City Center during the staging of a gun show, and to Temple Sinai, which in “real life” stands directly across the street on Broadway. Segments of Homes’ work have also been scribed in Saratoga Springs, during her many residencies at the Yaddo arts colony.
The town has climbed out of a depression by branding itself, ‘America’s Hometown’. Flags fly from the lampposts. Signs announce the autumn harvest celebration, a film festival, and a chamber‑music series at the Presbyterian church. She parks behind the conference center and slips in through the employee entrance and down the long hall to a door marked THIS WAY TO LOBBY - “Days of Awe”
“I’ve built a relationship for myself with the town: going to the library, going to the Farmers’ Market, going to the YMCA. People and places have always meant a lot to me and have always been very inspirational,” Homes says. “In the new book, there’s a story about an ‘everyman’ who’s nominated to run for president that’s set in a big box store. In my mind that is somewhere over where Target and all those stores are.”
The story, “A Prize for Every Player,” depicts a man introduced to shoppers as candidate for President of the United States. The announcement is made over a microphone appropriated from a karaoke machine in the electronic section. As reporters descend upon the store, the local high school cheerleaders welcome the candidate by performing their rah-rahs outside, in the Keep Clear fire lane.
The strip mall location marks a literary return to the parcel of land Homes first discovered during a Yaddo residency early in her career.
“The Pyramid Mall floated in a sea of parking spaces…” – from “The Safety of Objects.”
“Some of the works that I got done during the early visits to Yaddo were in the book the ‘The Safety of Objects,’” Homes says. “I was fairly young (when I first came to Yaddo). It was before my first book was even published. I grew up as a writer hearing about Yaddo and being a huge fan of John Cheever and one of my teachers, Doris Grumbach, had been there before and knew all the people. It was thrilling and intimidating. There was a sense that being invited to come to Yaddo was a vote of confidence in you as a young person of exceptional promise. It’s a question of going to dinner at night with all the artists and we were terrified, hoping to sit next to somebody who didn’t reveal you to be a total fool, or a fraud.”
While in residence at Yaddo, Homes met Jay McInerney, who had a few years earlier achieved fame with his first published novel, “Bright Lights, Big City.” They decided to visit the Pyramid Mall.
“At one point I went over there with Jay McInerney. I guess we were going to the movies or something and they had one of those contests, you know, where you keep your hands on a car for as long as you possibly can. I found it just riveting. And that’s in one of the stories in “The Safety of Objects” - set in the old mall - the one they tore down - that used to have Jo Ann’s Nut House and a bible supply shop called Praises,” Homes says. The Pyramid Mall, which opened in 1973 with 50 stores, was demolished in September 1999 and later replaced by a strip of big-box retailers such as Target. The story, “The Bullet Catcher,” features a fact-meets-fictional world where characters go shopping at Sears, the Wire Wizard, and King Pin, and listen to the radio, which is tuned to Z-100.
“An even stranger thing happened 10 years later when that story was made into a film. I remember being in a shopping mall in the middle of the night in Toronto watching Glenn Close and a bunch of different people who were in the film re-enacting this scene.”
“I had a vanilla-and-chocolate twist with a dip into the chocolate that hardens. They called it a Brown Cow… the Farmer’s Daughter” – from “Days of Awe”
“I really do just love the history of places. Saratoga is obviously very important to me. And North Adams (Massachusetts) is where my grandmother’s family grew up, so it’s fun for me to play with all those things,” says Homes, whose work has been translated into 22 languages. “I’m a local in heart and spirit. When I’m there what I do is I drive from Saratoga (Springs) to Schuylerville, out to Greenwich and all over the place,” Homes says. “And I love a good thunderstorm in Saratoga, in the afternoon, when it gets so warm and there’s this intensity… these incredible cracks of lightning.”
With “Days of Awe,” characters embark on a fictionalized journey that local residents may recognize as markers along state Route 29, from the Spa City through Schuylerville and across the Hudson River to Greenwich. Characters go apple-picking - “the orchard is ripe with families and children and bumblebees buzzing… they buy a bushel basket and head into the fields,” writes Homes - cross a Revolutionary War battlefield with rolling hills, and pause to refresh at a shop reminiscent of The Ice Cream in Greenwich – “the ice cream stand is set back from the road in the middle of nowhere… scoops are like a child’s fantasy of what an ice cream cone might be” – as well as at The Farmer’s Daughter, which is mentioned by name.
“As she drives over the hills on a two‑lane country road, the sun is dropping low on the horizon. There are cows making their way home across fields and self‑serve farm stands with fresh eggs, tomatoes, and cut flowers, and free zucchini with every purchase. The sky is a glorious and deepening blue. It’s just past sunset when she pulls in to the tiny town. The raised wooden Star of David and the mezuzah are the only outward markers on the old narrow building... the synagogue is small and lost to time. There are about thirty people between her and the rabbi. ‘What is it to be a Jew?’ the rabbi is demanding of the group. ‘Has it changed over time?” – from “Days of Awe”
While staying at Yaddo, Homes has also spent time at Temple Sinai on Broadway in Saratoga Springs with Rabbi Linda Motzkin and Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein, who have served as co-rabbis since 1986 - the first rabbinic couple to share the sole rabbinic position in a synagogue.
Homes attended services, baked bread with Rabbi Jonathan and brought Yaddo residents to meet with Rabbi Linda, who talked with the group about her work writing a Torah Scroll. In “Days of Awe,” the rabbinic couple are noted as “very good friends, whose hearts have supported me” in the book’s acknowledgements, alongside local history writer and independent scholar Amy Godine, musicians Laurie Anderson and Rosanne Cash, and grateful nods to Yaddo President Elaina Richardson, and Candace Wait, among others.
“I did move the synagogue out of Saratoga and to somewhere around Schuylerville,” explains Homes. “It’s what I do in my imagination. That’s what fiction writers do.”
The difference between writing short stories, such as what appear in the new collection “Days of Awe,” and the longer novel form – which comprises the majority of her literary canon – comes down to the sustainability of the story over the long term, Homes says.
“Some stories wouldn’t be sustainable in a novel, so that’s one of the ways you sort-of know. Whether it’s the tone, or the intonation of the story, whether you know what’s going to happen in it. I think they function differently. Stories have a specific compression to them in a sense that something’s already happened by the time the reader gets to the story. So, there’s a lot of history, filling-in in a story. In a novel, I think there’s a much more leisurely unfolding.”
Readers of Homes’ books will be interested to learn that one of her most memorable characters – a teenage girl named Chunky who first appeared in 1989, re-appears in “Days of Awe.”
“Chunky sort of appears in the second book of stories, in a story called ‘Raft in Water, Floating,’ and then she appears in the new book. There are two very big stories in the book called ‘Hello Everybody,’ and ‘She Got Away.’ What’s fascinating to me with Chunky, (who first appeared) 30 years ago, is that it’s really taken this long from being a 13-year-old or so in the backyard to now being a freshman or sophomore in college. And oddly those stories are part of an opera I’m writing now that will open in New York, maybe next June. I’ve never written a libretto before, so this will be the first and it’s based on those stories.”
Many of Homes’ fictional characters are male, which she scribes in convincing fashion. “I think as a fiction writer, it’s probably in many ways easier for me to write from a male point of view than just to write from some mom’s point of view, or some lady’s point of view,” she explains. “That’s just not as much fun for me. I live in that world, and I know what that is. But, to really, truly inhabit other characters: that’s the good stuff.
A.M. Homes, posing in front of the Yaddo mansion, shortly after the release of her novel “May We Be Forgiven,” in 2013. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.
Homes’ many visits to Yaddo have inspired what she calls “a very active literary part of my imagination, in part because it’s been part of me for so long.” For the past five years, Homes has served as co-chair of Yaddo’s Board of Directors and involved in projects to both historically preserve the 19th century mansion as well as help get new studios built, with an eye one the future.
“My relationship to Yaddo as an artists’ colony has changed, because when I go now I’m more aware of everything: Oh, the lightbulb has burned out; we’ve got to take care of the paint on the porch. It’s like it’s your house,” Homes says. “But, the nice thing is you get to see, since (first visiting in) 1989, is that the fundamentals of the place haven’t changed. There is this place where artists from all over the world come to do their work, and I’m always amazed at how good they are – inspired and brilliant - and that there’s this wonderfully nice mix of people who are at the very beginning of their careers, and other people like me, who have been doing it for a long time.”
Homes was born in Washington D.C. Some of her earliest writings took the form of letters penned to people she admired.
“I was absolutely a rock and roll kid growing up. Pete Townshend was my pen pal (while I was) in high school, which is kind of amazing,” she says. “I wrote to these people and it wasn’t like: ‘Oh, I think you’re so great,’ but more like: ‘today, at school, Isabell was mean to me’. And he’d write back: ‘I’m having a terrible time with my record label.’ So it was nice, people out in the world who would talk to me. And it’s interesting because I sometimes wrote to women writers, women musicians and they would write back very curt responses: ‘Thanks, now go away.’ I realize now, as an adult, that women are probably much more protective and feel that they could be stalked, or, whatever. And that men were, in that sense, in the world in a different kind of way. But, I feel very lucky because I’ve have a lot of non-visible mentors along the way who helped me grow up as gracefully as one can - which is not very graceful at all.”