Dec 28, 2011

Putnam Den "assault": the real story

From the report, one gets the impression that the early Saturday morning incident at downtown Saratoga's rock venue The Putnam Den is yet another example of the Wild West / Free For All setting down in the Spa City's nightlife district. Another day, another brawl; with someone ending up either dead or seriously injured. To make matters worse, this most recent incident was an example of a Bouncer Gone Mad scenario.

That is if you believe what the Saratogian newspaper has reported. The lead word in their headline is FIGHT. Flashbacks of the massive brawl at the now-shuttered Shadow Lounge come to mind. Readers' comments are flowing-in, most in a "shut the Den down, too!" spirit.

Well, Nanoburgh? has a different take to report on this mess. Although we are not in the "scoop journalism" business, we'll run with this one anyways -- if for no other reason than to mark a line in the sand whereby the Saratogian can once again be pointed-out as holding the title of Upstate New York's Worst Newspaper.

Here's what we hear from two reliable sources (now don't we sound like an old school paper ourselves here?)that were there:

* There was no "fight"

* Instead, there WAS an extremely intoxicated young man on the scene, as demonstrated by his inability to stand on his own two feet as well as a propensity to keep dropping his cell phone.

* On at least two occasions, this young man was refused entrance/service in the venue. But he persisted in that quest, nonetheless.

* On a third attempt, he was "escorted" from the venue by a Security Guard. During that process, the young man was "picked up" by the Guard in some manner, whereby his feet briefly left the ground during the "walk". I think we can all make a mental picture here.

* Once the pair reached a final destination outside the immediate entrance area, the Guard placed the young man back on his feet, turned his back and returned to his duty station.

* The young man reportedly (again) lost his balance after being returned to his feet, fell, and struck his head in some manner. He suffered a serious injury as a result and remained motionless on the scene until police and medical assistance arrived.

* Police eventually arrested the bouncer on an assault charge.

So what have we here?

- We do know that someone got hurt. On that we all agree.

- We also know that the police investigators -- in their initial investigation -- feel that the Guard (bouncer) acted inappropriately in his role, and used some sort of unnecessary force in his attempt to rule the young man away from the establishment's premises.

- But: we also now know that the Putnam Den had at least one Video Camera capturing the sequence of events. Furthermore, we know that the ownership of the Putnam Den is anxious (we dare say: hyper-anxious)to share that video with the police. It is assumed that they have done so by the time we are writing here. Roll that tape!

- While the Guard's conduct will be then revealed, we can state that the venue "did the right thing" up until that point in time: it refused service to an inebriated individual.

- In addition, there is a report that the Guard had not completed the SLA-required "Bouncer School" training that is required of certain employees of licensed establishments. We do not know if this is the case. That question might become a bit more complicated, given that we have also learned that the individual was not an actual employee of the venue. One has heard the term Rent A Cop (which would assume a third=party provider), but this is something we can not confirm.

The prediction here is that the charges against the guard will either be outright dropped or drastically reduced. We also predict the venue will get some sort of slap from SLA, but not of the license-yanking variety.

But: the Saratogian got it wrong with their headline. That, you can take to the bank.


Dec 12, 2011

The Fix It Man: New Fans for Racing

If Slots and Racing are Destined for Marriage, At Least Make it a Functional Marriage!

Solution: Convert VLT Revenues into Betting Vouchers

The Problem:

The sport of horse racing is in the middle stages of its slow-motion crash; fading into oblivion from the American consciousness as the gambling public abandons it in favor of alternative entertainment and gambling options.

Despite the fact that racing has a number of key competitive advantages (ex: the advent of satellite telecommunications for broadcasting its product; the fact that it is the only legal form of online gambling in the USA; etc), its share of the overall gambling action continues to decline -- as does it standing in any popularity rankings. Whereas racing was once considered a Top 3 sport, it is now lucky to find itself in the Top 25.

Meanwhile, its legacy business model is failing: the cost of putting on the show has not only risen at a rate above normal inflation in recent years, but it is incredibly expensive to begin with. Whereas a poker operation might need nothing more than stacks of cards, tables and chairs to convene non-stop action, racing requires a massive staging grounds plus a small army of humans to train and maintain each and every equine athlete, which may (or may not) get to the track a couple times a month in an attempt to earn its keep.

There are several unique aspects of this model that need to be recognized: first is that those aforementioned costs are borne not by the "house" (ie., the hosting race tracks) -- in such a way as casinos bear the cost -- but by both those tracks and by a sector called called horse owners. Both have skin in the game, and both are dependent on the flow of wagering dollars as the sole funding means for race purses.

But because of those incredibly high operating expenses, the "takeout" (the piece of each wagered dollar that is retained) is itself incredibly high -- in some cases as high as 35%! Compare this to the typical casino games, where the takeout is in the low single digits. So, not only are horse players (the funding gamblers) dwindling as a % of the total market, but the few who remain are continuously punished for doing so!

The numbers prove it: fewer races are being run; the total purse dollars are declining; as is the money earned by each individual horse in training. That, in return, results in fewer people being employed in this in those once thriving industry, both on the track backsides and in the breeding barns. The vicious cycle ensues.

So, what to do....?

The Current (and Failed) Solution:

Slots +/or Video Lottery Terminals are popularly viewed as the end-all answer to the problem at hand. The thinking is this:

- Stop looking at alternative forms of gambling as the enemy and instead realize that their momentum can not be stopped

- Lobby to have slot machines embedded into race tracks (racinos) as opposed to casinos

- In all cases, dedicate a portion of the slots' revenues back to the racing industry

- This will result in increased race purses, thereby keeping/getting more owners in the game, which will increase the number of runners, field sizes and races. More action will result in more wagering.

The above initiative is at least partially successful in reaching its stated goals: in fact, the average purse-per-race is up, albeit barely -- although that could also be due to consolidation. But it is not fixing the big problem. Further, it is not addressing what SHOULD BE the primary goal -- attracting new action to the game. Heck, it's not even a logical outcome of the chosen plan.

The (Real & Viable) Solution:

1. Stop taking slot revenues for the sole purpose of feeding purses


2. Keep the the slot money in the hands of those doing the gambling and let them wager it on the horses


- Accept the logic, rationale and wisdom of slots/VLT's being used to support the horse racing industry.

- As an option to just moving the pre-ordained share of those slots into the various racing accounts (track, breeding and purse), distribute a BETTING VOUCHER to the individual slot/VLT players.

- Those players are then financially motivated to go "play the ponies" with their credits.

That's right: an increased number of people are now attending the races; handicapping, wagering and watching. Many of them will have never done so prior; many others will have done so only rarely in their lives beforehand. This is called 'new blood'. Some of them will actually find the experience to be a positive one and even (dare say) plunk their own, non-voucher / real money down in the future.

In other words, some might get hooked on the majesty of this great sport.

Objections, Answered:

O: But the machines are not setup to do this.
A: There is adequate software and engineering brainpower out there that can make this work.

O: But not all of the vouchers will be used, thereby costing the racing industry its rightful share of the slots/VLT funding.
A: Again: software accounting can track all of this, and make the necessary adjustments for expired and unused vouchers.

O: The general concept of using a portion of the revenues from slots/VLTs to support the racing industry is an anti-market example of corporate welfare, or at the very least it's an example of a favored industry / picking winners scenario.
A: All public policy and spending favors one industry or another. Even if 100% of the slots revenues were put into a state's General Fund, it is then subject to the the whims, prejudices and influences of its general budget spending. The rationale of this stated mechanism for supporting the racing industry has as its justification the obvious jobs-generating aspect of this major agri-industry.

****** UPDATE ****** UPDATE ******

Nanoburgh appreacites the national play this post/suggestion has received in the past few weeks, especially from the fine racing blog The Paulick Report.


Dec 5, 2011

The Nanoburgh 2011 Music Awards

Jamie Kent & The Options
Improv Records' Series @ Lake George

Artistic creativity generally happens early in life, and early in the career of a performing artist. There's even a theory out there claiming this is due to our genetic makeup, with creativity and innovation being nothing more than a way for us to show off our feathers, so to speak, and attract a mate. There it is, that old mating drive showing its dominating influence again. It's simply beyond our control, folks.

We don't know how Jamie Kent is making out in that mating department. But what we do know is this: the young Northhampton-based crooner is kicking on all 12 cylinders when it comes to crafting catchy tunes that span the full range of human emotion. Furthermore, he is then able to deliver them in a live setting with a passion and sensibility that surprises for both its depth and diversity. We're even tempted to add the word elegance here, if not for the lounge lizard connotation such usage would draw. Trust us; Mr Kent and his Options are the furthest you can get from that type comparison.

The smallish crowd gathered at the picturesque Lake George Ampitheater on this Travers eve night were treated to a set of that pulled generously from the collective band's 2010 Neotoney as well as their upcoming 2012 release. The baseboard of a made-to-order brand of adult-alternative rock was augmented nicely with touches of pop, scat-jazz, reggae and alt-country, all packaged in the confines of a small quartet that was so tight it that you would think it was a bunch of 70-year old jazz freaks up there.

While one is tempted to build a mile-high list of possible influences for both the vocal and compositional styles; save the effort. Mr Kent is both unique and at the peak of his creative powers. Those two facts alone make it worth the effort to see him in the near future.

The thought of his improving even more down the line, though, is downright scary.


Donna the Buffalo
Saratoga - Putnam Den

The Herd keeps rolling. While their tunesmithing of Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins remain top notch, it is those four or five times each night – when they lock-in to their patented extended groove-driven instrumental jams – that give goosebumps and drive the happy feet wild. The new rhythm section provides an upgrade, and the now-firmly-embedded David McCracken's Hammond organ runs drive them into whole new sonic orbit.

Kyle Eastwood Band
Lake George Jazz Festival

Seeing that Famous Guy's Kid listed as the closing act seemed to many Jazz Fest observers as a yawner, or possibly nothing more than a blatant attempt to add a name to the bill and attract a few newbies to the annual event as a result. But said observers obviously know little of this gig's reputation and track record of being a TRUE jazz fest par excellence, with no patience or desire for such nonsense.

Bassist Eastwood brought in a six-piece ensemble of the highest order and proceeded to lay out a set that channeled early-Crusaders fusion with touches of bebop, cool and even smooth (of the not-so-icky variety, of course) jazz fibers. The result was an electrifying and exhilerating set proving Mr E to be more than just a fine film scorer, but also someone who has earned his own claim to the family name.

Chandler Travis Philharmonic
Albany - The Linda

Seemingly carrying the torch-bearing spirit of NRBQ...

Avett Brothers
Nashville - Ryman Auditorium

The new Americana treasure, performing in the center of the Americana universe. Can it get any better?

My Morning Jacket
Boston - BofA Pavilion

Big room rockers playing in a big room in a big city. Although we rarely go this route nowadays, it's always good to do it now and then as a way of reminding one's self of the rock grandeur experience. MMJ delivers a progressive yet quirky brand of rock and roll with that unique, weird-key vocals on top of layered soundscapes. It works; even in such a poor venue as this one.

Joe Louis Walker
Saratoga - Parting Glass

Blues is a tough genre to make a living in. After you get past the top 3 or 4 names, the other 99% are playing 20-person rooms to get enough traveling money for European trips, where the audiences are more appreciative and supportive.

That's why the Joe Louis Walker turnout was so encouraging, with a full house not only crowding into Saratoga's Parting Glass on a Thursday night, but also hanging on every guitar note and lyric and responding with ovation after ovation. The twin leads of Walker and hotshot-in-his-own-right Murali Coryell were just the trick for the beer-soaked throng of genuine music lovers.

Peter Karp & Sue Foley
Saratoga - Parting Glass

Singer-songwriter Peter Karp is a mighty fine craftsman of deeply Americana tales of woe and hope. Juno-winning Sue Foley is a mighty fine guitar-slinger of electric blues. Combine these two talents into a single act, and the sky's the limit. Right?

Well, it doesn't seem to be quite working out that way, if their local stop was any indication. The couple's He Said/She Said collaboration – a musical interpretation of a series of letters between the two over the years – doesn't quite gel, allowing neither party the chance to shine in an almost Split the Difference kind of manner. This is not to say it was a “bad” show, by any means; it's just that the expectations were set so high given the players.

Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter
Marble Son

Elvis Costello is credited with first saying “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” So maybe we should take that subtle advice, and just say GO LISTEN TO THIS BABY. Besides, it is such a complex and confounding piece of work that we'd have a hard time putting it into words anyways!


Eilen Jewell
Queen of the Minor Key

Cowgirl Cool. The heavy touring has tightened up this gal's chops, and the result is one of the best roots-rock record in years.

Amy LaVere
Stranger Me

Fans of Nanoburgh know that we have long champ'd Ms Amy, with our sister biz having brought her into town for three shows over a twelve-month span a couple years back. In the interim, the Memphis-based hipstress has suffered the death of her legendary producer, the departure of her hot shot guitarist and a nasty breakup with her drummer-boyfriend. With this triple-whammy of losing her major support figures, Mr LaVere is faced with the need to take the proverbial bull by the horns, step it up and take full reins of her future, front and center, for all the world to see. Such a prospect is always full of challenges, fears and mis-steps, of course -- and the view of this tiny dynamo bearing down, clenching her firsts and saying bring it on makes the process all the more intriguing...and ultimately human. This new release offers random looks into new world of hers. Take a peek, if you dare...


The Saratoga by-way-of Greenwich duo continues their climb onto the national scene, complete with fawning press coverage, late night TV shows and festival gigs. Their recent release is downright glorious, which should add a second stage boost to this rocket. For decades, the Albany area has longed for that one breakthrough act it could call its very own. Phantogram is sitting on that very doorstep; right here, right now.

The General Scene

Boston, much like the smaller Albany, is the ultimate up & down music community. When it's good, it's good. But when it's dry, it's dry. The Hub seems to be into the second or third year of an upswing, with a number of local acts percolating around the 'hoods worthy of moving up the food chain.

Revolution Hall

Are we sounding like a broken record here yet...?

A North Shore Venue

You'd think the math (population & incomes) numbers would add up. Anyone?


Jill Andrews
(Knoxville, TN)
Other Lives (Oklahoma)
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds (Brooklyn, NY)
Great Lake Swimmers (Ontario, CAN)