Dec 31, 2012

Happy New Year, poseurs!

Nov 16, 2012

Breaking Up? Not So Hard To Do

This has been floating on the Book of Faces @ the inter-tube and is worthy of a share, wethinks:

Dear Red States,

So you want to secede, do you?  We'll beat you to that punch.

We're ticked off at your Neanderthal attitudes and politics (like "legitimate rape") so we have decided to leave you.

We in New York intend to form our own country and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and the rest of the Northeast.

We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation and especially to the people of the new country, the Enlightened States of America (E.S.A).

To sum up briefly:

You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.

We get stem cell research.

You get Bobby Jindal and Todd Akin. We get Andrew Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand.

We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.

We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.

We get 85 % of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs.

You get Alabama. And Louisiana.

We get two-thirds of the tax revenue.

You now get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 % lower than the Christian Coalition's we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that the E.S.A. will be pro choice and anti-war and we're going to want all our citizens back from Afghanistan at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no convincing purpose.

We wish you success in Afghanistan and possibly Iran as well, but we're not willing to spend our resources in these sorts of pursuits.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the country's fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92% of the nation's fresh fruit, 95% of America's quality wines, 90% of all cheese, 90 % of the high tech industry, most of the US low sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy (Yale, Harvard, etc.) and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Berkeley, U of Chicago, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States you will have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans and their projected health care costs; 92% of all US mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all televangelists; Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite.

38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale; 62% believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws; 44% say that evolution is only a theory; 53% claim that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61% of you crazies believe that you have higher morals then we lefties.

We're taking the good California and Oregon weed, too. You can have the junk they grow in Mexico.


Citizen of the Enlightened States of American

Nov 9, 2012

Be There! Where? Here...

Looks fun...nice seeing this as a way to support a new local business (the lady doing the catering):


Oct 19, 2012

Poker Raid Follow-Up

There is NO truth to the spreading rumor that local law enforcement agencies raided a local game of FISH in their now-familiar guns-drawn mode last night.

The facts on this matter are as follows:

- It was just the little 4yo brother of one of the participating 7yo's, entering the room to show off his crimer-fighter Halloween costume to the older kids.

At least we think that's what happened.  But all bets are off in this town.  Just hit up any of the gentlemen from the Van Dam Street poker game that was recently raided --- and ask if they've gotten any word on when (or IF) they ever get their TV, refrigerator or food back.

Yes, you read that correctly: they even took the food!  Our finest must have a little extra pocket change, given they didn't need to buy lunch a couple times in the past few days!

In other developments, Nanoburgh has learned that the personnel tally on the original incident is as follows:

* 13 Players
* 15 Participating Law Enforcement Officers

Also: they showed up with one of those door-busters, ready to rumble. Fortunately for all involved, the door was wide open and they were able to stroll right in.

OK, we need to run. Our squawk box police scanner is blaring an all hands directive; something about a deck of cards being seen at one of the city's retirement homes.  We're on our way. Full report on News at 6....


Oct 10, 2012

Blues Traveler at Putnam Den??

Tis true: the Grammy winners play a rare small-club date right here in the Spa City on Monday night.  You know Blues Traveler; they're the band with the big guy out front chomping on harmonicas and making glorious noises while he does so. The word is: he's not so big anymore, either.

Tickets are $28, available at the Putnam Den (that joint right behind Uncommon Grounds and across from the library).

Here's a preview:

Now how's that for a Monday night at the Spa'aaaaaaaaaaaa?


It's A Raid: Poker Police on the Prowl

Exclusive! As First Reported Here on Nanoburgh!

Yeah, that's how the brain-dead media approaches the news: it only counts if you were the first to report it. You ever watch reporters dashing out of a courtroom after a verdict is read? It's like a 100-yard Olympic dash. Content or perspective (or accuracy for that mater) doesn't seem to count; it's all about speed. So, we'll play that game today, just for kicks...

Anyways, here's what we got:

- A low-stakes poker game was raided on Monday night in Saratoga.
- The location: the former #2 School building on Van Dam Street.
- Over a dozen individuals were in the middle of their weekly get-together when personnel from several agencies (city, county, other) came barreling in.
- The two hosts were charged with some variation of the "promoting gambling" statute.
- The others were not, but required to give over their name, address and phone numbers and told to basically sit by the tell'y.

So, why has this not been reported in the city paper, or any other outlet for that matter?

The answer is this: the law enforcement agencies are after other (and hopefully bigger) fish in this poker pond. Yes, they are planning more raids in the very near future, and are trying their best to keep this initial move quiet so as not to tip off others. So they have not published these arrests for that reason.

There you have it: in a city awash with unsolved violent crimes and public corruption allegations, our public safety resources are charged with breaking up private poker games.

Isn't that just the nuts?


Oct 3, 2012

Fill That Bowl!

How about it, Saratoga?  Are you ready for your first hookah lounge?

Well, you'd better be! Stay tuned. You heard it here first.

Kinda weird, isn't it? But WTF...


Sep 28, 2012

The Commander Returns!

Hometown hero  --  and rock & roll legend --- Commander Cody returns to The Parting Glass for his annual throwdown on Saturday October 6th at 9PM.

He "ain't never had too much fun", ya know....?

Get advance tix HERE to save a few bucks.

The Saratoga Assessment Office Mess: Ooh Ooh That Smell

We've been tempted to do a long piece on the Saratoga Springs ASSESSOR'S office mess. But, instead, we'll just offer some random bits:

1. We don't quite get Mr John Franck's claim that he could not "fix" the on-the-books error that everyone seems to agree was in place in regards to the setting of assessments on condo properties in the city. Doing so, he claims, would be something called a "selective"  process, which is illegal.

What we end up with, then, is the scenario that caused this big stink fest in the first place: that the only way to get one's condo property assessed at its proper (and lower) level is to get off one's ass and do something about it --  assuming that one knows that is it in error, that is.

Couldn't Mr Frank's office at least made a public announcement or sent a mailer out to everyone effected?

2. The City obviously has the power to subpoena outside (non-employees) individuals in this matter, as witnessed by its handing such paper to gun-slinging blogger John Tighe at one point. Why, then, is Ms Diane Young not being called to the witness stand here? She, after all, is at the heart of the matter on this.

The primary accusation being made by fired employee Mary Zlotnick is that Ms Young was getting preferential treatment from her superiors, thereby tee'ing her up with a nice little blessed sales pitch of  "If you want your condo assessment reduced, you have to hire me or City Hall won't listen to you".  Why is she not being put under oath and asked such questions as "Have you ever written a check or handed cash to any city employee?"

3. There is some thinking that Ms Zlotnick's attorney will run with a "Whistlelower" defense, either here or in a subsequent lawsuit. But Nanoburgh's understanding of the Whistleblower Statue in New York is this: it only applies in matters of public health. Examples: "my company is dumping chemicals into the Hudson" or "my boss lets lab mice loose at night, just for kicks." We're not sure it would apply to Ms Z's benefit; but what the heck do we know?

The Assessment office and process is ripe for corruption in any given town or municipality in the state. The grievance process is optional: most assessment adjustments are made at the whim of officials and their employees in those offices. A flick of a keyboard button and voila: some lucky property owner was just saved $XXX on his or her tax bill. Or voila: a property's value was just raised, making it that much easier for it getting a mortgage.

The system is broken and rotten to the core. It needs to be fixed. Ms Zlotnick is simply making that point in a very public manner --  and at great personal sacrifice.


Sep 22, 2012

If This Doesn't Make You Wonder Where the Hell We're Headed, I Don't Know What Will

No Caption needed

Sep 18, 2012

The Big Reunion x 2

They're back!


They're back!

Joy In Mudville as the Ben Folds Five return after a long absence -- and they team up with the Fraggle Rock gang, who has long been off the radar as well!

Can it get any better? We hereby ask that very question...

PS: the coolest thing about the Ben Folds Five?  A: There's only three guys in the band.

Sep 15, 2012

Thoroughbred Times: Kaput

In one more blow to the horse racing industry, the Thoroughbred Times magazine announced today its Ch 7 bankruptcy, which shuts the business down immediately.

With this once great sport on the verge of going the same way as professional boxing in the proverbial slow motion crash format, I have but one plea:

"Will somebody please hand me the keys to this business? Like: now?"


Sep 5, 2012

Saratogian chain files for bankruptcy

It was just a matter of time, and today that clock's alarm went off.  Here is the Official Spin:

Today Digital First Media announced Journal Register Company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to implement a prompt sale.
We expect the auction and sale process to take about 90 days, and I am pleased to tell you the Company has a signed stalking horse bid for Journal Register Company from 21st CMH Acquisition Co., an affiliate of funds managed by Alden Global Capital LLC.
So why file Chapter 11?
The Company exited the 2009 restructuring with approximately $225 million in debt and with a legacy cost structure, which includes leases, defined benefit pensions and other liabilities that are now unsustainable and threaten the Company’s efforts for a successful digital transformation.
From 2009 through 2011, digital revenue grew 235% and digital audience more than doubled at Journal Register Company. So far this year, digital revenue is up 32.5%. Expenses by year’s end will be down more than 9.7% compared to 2009.
At the same time, as total expenses were down overall, the Company has invested heavily in digital with digital expenses up 151% since 2009. Journal Register Company has and will continue to invest in the future.
But also from 2009 to 2011 Journal Register Company’s print advertising revenue declined 19% and print advertising represents more than half of the of the Company’s revenues. Print advertising for the newspaper industry declined approximately 17% over the same time period, according to the Newspaper Association of America. As well, both print circulation and circulation revenue have also declined over the same time period.
Since 2009, printing facilities have been reduced from 14 to 6; 9 of the 50 owned facilities have been sold and 8 distribution centers have been outsourced.
During the same time period, debt was reduced by 28% with the Company currently servicing in excess of $160 million of debt.
All of the digital initiatives and expense efforts are consistent with the Company’s Digital First strategy and while the Journal Register Company cannot afford to halt its investments in its digital future it can now no longer afford the legacy obligations incurred in the past.
Many of those obligations, such as leases, were entered into in the past when revenues, at their peak, were nearly twice as big as they are today and are no longer sustainable. Revenues in 2005 were about two times bigger than projected 2012 revenues. Defined Benefit Pension underfunding liabilities have grown 52% since 2009.
After a lot of thought, the Board of Directors concluded a Chapter 11 filing was the best course of action.
Journal Register Company’s filing will have no impact on the day-to-day operation of Journal Register Company, Digital First Media or MediaNews Group during the sale process. They will continue to operate their business and roll out new initiatives.
If you have questions just ask – you know how to reach me.
I know this announcement will leave you with questions – ask. Your managers, I and any member of senior leadership at Digital First Media will be available to answer.
And while I get this news may make some of you nervous, don’t let it. Concentrate on the job at hand and we will work through this. This really is the right decision for Journal Register Company.
John Paton
Chief Executive Officer


Sep 4, 2012

A Dumb Question on the Borders Space

OK, maybe there's no such thing as a dumb question (or is it dumb idea). But let's do some soul searching regarding the fate of the former Border Books space on Broadway at the Spa'aaaaaaa.

The Old Tenant: a large retail bookstore, which was the classic example of a 'creative destruction' victim, complete with a business model out of date with the modern mega forces of  global competition and the trend towards the digital delivery of e-books and the gleaming of desired information via the internet.

The Possible New Tenant (as in the one that seems to have the whole community mobilized to do everything it can to convince it to locate on this site): a large retail bookstore.

What am I missing here??????


Aug 15, 2012

Figgs Hit Town for the Big 25

Let's play Fun With Math, shall we?

1.  I'll estimate that I have held at least one conversation with about a quarter-million unique individual human beings over the course of my life.  Yeah, a wild guess, to be sure.  But take your own shot at coming up with this fig. See, I told you that math could be fun!

2. Out of that quarter-million, I'll estimate that the topic of music was part of a conversation with any of them at a clip of approximately 5%.

3. 250,000 x 5% = 12,500 people.

4. Out of that 12,500, two (2) of them told me something to the effect of  "The Figgs are the greatest rock and roll band in history."  Yes, twice I've heard this -- from two different people.

5. So that means 0.16% of my 'musical universe" believes this to be a true statement.  "Heck, that's not even a full one-percent," you might poo-poo. My reply: "Yeah, but there's been millions of bands!"  Think about it, won't you?.

Personally, I have never seen these local Saratoga Springs legends.  But that will change this Saturday night (Aug 18), as the boys return to the city of their youth (and of their first show ever in Geyser Crest) for THE FIGGS 25TH ANNIVERSARY at the Putnam Den. $10 gets you in the door for a look at some loud history.

Here's a Made For MTV Video bty the Figgs form way back in '94. It was filmed at the now-gone E. O'Dwyers bar on the Spring Street Hil in Saratoga Springs.

Aug 13, 2012

Romney Concedes Election

I don't get the why behind Mitt Romney's choice of the Ayn Rand-inspired Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential nominee for the GOP ticket. The spin is that Mr R is "solidifying the Tea Party wing" of his party by tapping one of their own. OK, but:

1.Did he think that the Tea Party crowd was going to go vote for Obama is he had opted for a more moderate voice?

2. This election comes down to the white suburban indie-leaning voter, who for the most part is on the fence and in-play come November. Think soccer moms and their commuting husbands in Tysons Corner, VA for who these folks are. If Romney can go +4% with this demographic in the key swing states; he's in. If not; he's out.

Mr Ryan does nothing to improve his chances here with this math.  If anything, he hurts them.

Game, set, match?


Aug 12, 2012

How to Beat the Ponies

Dear Nanoburgh,

I'm told that you're the ace horse player in this town. So what's the single best handicapping angle you can lay on a gal? I need to score!


Dear Molly,

Did you say "lay on a gal?" Oh, never mind. It must be because I just watched an old Wayne and Garth clip on the Tube of You.  Anyways, here's a good way to meet your needs and make you rich beyond your wildest dreams:

* Wait (it might take forever for it to appear) for a 7f race with a speedy favorite on the rail in the 1-hole.   It can't win. So basically, DUTCH bet everyone else who has a shot.

Note 1: To dutch is to bet multiple horses in the same race to win by spreading your bankroll/budget based on their tote odds. Yeah, this alone would take a whole post to explain -- and we're way to busy here at the 'burgh to do so now! So until you learn that aspect of the game, just weigh your bets more heavily on the horses you like that have the lower odds. The fact that you are tossing a favorite makes the %'s play in your favor in a "cover the takeout" way (another long lesson story needed sometime)

Note 2: There is a physical reason that inside/rail speed can not win from the 7f chute at the Spa. Stand there sometime and look down the track. You'll see how the chute isn't quite lined up right with the main track. It is about 6' too far in and that freaks rail birds out when they have to adjust. Plus, inside speed as a rule is at a disadvantage.

That's all I got. Go to the bank when you see this scenario happen. Then buy me a pretzel.


Aug 8, 2012

10 Signs You May Have An Unhealthy Relationship With Social Media

There is a reason the word "pervasive" is often used right alongside social media. For many of us, the social channels we use to connect with others for personal or professional reasons are a big part of every day. But how much is too much? How do we know that we might be taking our enthusiasm for social media too far? Here's Rohit Bhargava's slightly exaggerated (but mostly true) list of ten signs that you might just have an unhealthy relationship with social media in your life: 1) You receive an audible alert on your phone anytime anything happens. When your mobile device chimes, beeps or chirps anytime someone follows, retweets, shares or comments on something, you are actively sabotaging your own ability to concentrate on anything. 2) Your business card says "guru" and you are NOT speaking about spirituality to large groups in India. I know what you're thinking, but I didn't write this one because I'm Indian... READ THE REST HERE .

Aug 7, 2012

Downtown Movie Theater and a Failure of Saratoga IDA to Invest Wisely

Chefs of the Future: "You Want Butter on That Popcorn?"

Saratoga real estate developer Sonny Bonacio has a plan. In this case, it's a plan for what to do with the former Railroad Avenue Price Chopper --- better known to natives as the Ghetto Chopper. The long-standing supermarket was sacrificed to make way for the newest annex to the city's burgeoning Canyon of Condos in the shadow of the Franklin Square historic district. His surprising idea for the property: build a giant multi-screen movie theater complex on it.

While we hold doubts with the supposed “no negative parking or traffic impact” prediction of two separate studies (someone get us copies) as well as the initial design offering (this is supposed to be a Victorian town), we can appreciate the means in which such a project acts as a counter punch to the long-running trade war waged on the city by the Wilton Suburban Sprawl Machine. For this reason, combined with the project's adherence to the core density mantra of New Urbanist thinking, we would not stand in its way if we had a say in the matter. If Mr Bonacio thinks the numbers work in his favor, then let's get out of his way and let him proceed with putting up his own money to make it happen.

But there lies the catch: a mere week after announcing his grand vision, Mr B stated that he would require $1.2million in assorted tax breaks in order to proceed. The numbers just don't jive otherwise, he claims. Such bait & switch theatrics aside, the question becomes whether or not the Saratoga Industrial Development Agency (IDA) should agree to such concessions, given their role as the approving entity.

That they did, granting the majority of the request. We find ourselves distressed when hearing of that decision.

Bear in mind that this reaction is not coming from the “keep governments out of the markets / don't pick economic winners” perspective of the political right nor is it coming from the “end all corporate welfare” thinking of the left. Economic development entities have a rightful and valued role in community planning, but if (and only if) it assists initiatives that demonstrate the potential to generate clear and significant benefits for the greater good and if (and only if) the private sector is not providing such a solution on its own. The report card in determining the latter is obvious; the report card for determining the former is via an analysis of both its direct and indirect economic benefits. The contention here is that the Price Chopper to movie theater conversion does not qualify under either count.

We already know the “direct” selling points being offered by supporters of the tax breaks. First and foremost, it is argued, a downtown movie theater of this scope will generate impressive new foot traffic, which in turn will generate revenues and sales taxes from the resulting commerce in nearby retail and hospitality businesses. But this is a stretch. Movie-goers tend to be just that: movie-goers, period. The stickiness factor is weak when compared to other attractions, especially live-performance venues. The Schenectady example that is offered as a supporting case study actually proves otherwise in that Proctor's is the dominant traffic-generator there and not the movie complex next door.

Likewise, one must ask if the resulting part-time and low-wage jobs for ticket-takers and butter-toppers is the labor force of the future we should be trying to develop with public investments? Will such jobs break the city's brain-drain and entice young people to return after schooling in search of professions? Not likely.

Our bigger objection is with the lack of substantial “indirect” benefits, or the so-called multiplier effect. Is this helping to establish an industry cluster that is all the rage of the econ-dev world and seen as the magic bullet for localized growth? In other words, will a wellspring of nearby support services sprout up to serve the theater's needs and will additional theaters relocate there soon after? How about a local movie industry; will that arise as a result? This one's even easier to forecast: such goals will never be realized.

Next we consider the concept of local dollars retention. This new enterprise will be operated (if not outright owned) by a national chain, which will drain a good deal of start-up investments, operating cash and net revenues to its out-of-state mother ship. Then there is this stone cold fact: depending on the title, 70-90% of all ticket admissions go to any given film's distributor and producer. Now just how many of those enterprises are located in the city or county's bounds? Such a giant sucking vacuum effect will likely offset all the supposed direct and indirect benefits, if not actually surpass them. Why are local taxpayers subsidizing not only the city's most successful developer but also the Hollywood blockbuster industry?

Good paying full-time jobs. Career professions. Industry clusters. Local enterprise support and acceleration. Local dollar retention. These should be the key qualifiers for any proposed economic development investments made by the public sector on behalf of its funding citizenry. On all five counts, the Railroad Avenue movie theater proposal falls short.

Tax breaks are a true zero-sum game: if one party is given such a benefit, the burden is picked up by all the others --- unless the project has the prospect of delivering an exceptional level of economic activity and/or quality of life benefits back to the community. If they do not – as is the case here – then any request for the concessions should be rejected, It is then up to the private sector entrepreneur to determine whether the project stands on its own merits without that public assistance. That volley would put the ball back in Mr Bonacio's court.

That should have been be the perspective from the Saratoga IDA's office, at least. But it wasn't. That, in turn, calls into question the guiding philosophy and economic development strategy of the organization and its leadership.



Aug 1, 2012

Water World

Today's theme is H2O:

1. Brother Can You Spare A Cup?

The second word in the municipal name of 'Saratoga Springs' is springs. Springs, as in places where that clear colored elixir of life bubbles to the top and spurs the imagination. This joint was built on those scattered examples of such, spread about within the 'burgh's boundaries.

Why, then, can't you sample a gulp at any of the sprouts unless you BYOC: Bring Your Own Cup? Casual passers-by are enticed by signage or fancy pavilions to wander up to these spots for an unplanned visit, but once there .... what? They can take a look, take a sniff, take a picture-- but they can't take a taste because there is no way to do so other than to lick a wet palm.

Can't the city buy a few some paper cup dispensers and attach them to some posts?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know the pushback: some drunk will toss them all over the place to make a mess now and then. But that's what morning clean-up crews are for.

Saratoga's supposed to be a tourist town which celebrates its historic heritage. Let's start doing so. Note to DPW: Get On It.

2. A Waiting Disaster

We ran across fellow troublemaker John Tighe recently and had a quick chat with him and his lovely bride on his current burr in his saddle: SPAC. With that being a topic long of interest to us here at Nanoburgh, we were happy to rip.

Mr T painted an interesting picture, based on his attendance at one of the recent Phish performances:: an intensely hot and humid evening with 30,000 people inside the gates, most of whom were wound up to the max and building up a sweat while grooving to the Green Mountain Boys Made Good. Many of them were into the latter hours of an extended session of celebration that began many hours (or days) ago. And yes, some might have even been under the influence of alcohol or some other mind bending substance. Ya never know. And.....

....... a grand total of two small water fountains to serve this throng and to offer respite from the stifling conditions.

As we concluded, this is a disaster waiting to happen. I didn't even ask what a bottle of water costs in that facility; learning so would likely make my head explode. One of these nights, some dehydrated kid is going to pass out on the lawn (at least they still call it a lawn, don't they) --- and never wake up.

We're tired of the police state commonly called SPAC and the Spa Park during concert season. We're tired of the press conferences announcing the massive uniformed presence. We're tired of the harassment and bullying in these public picnic grounds. We're tired of the post-show arrest reports. We're tired of the wasted expenditures. We're tired of doing all of this under the ruse of 'public safety'.

If the concern here is truly public safety at SPAC, then someone better figure out a way to get the water flowing.


3. Who'd A Thunk?

My pal Richard is an ad agency exec down in Atlanta; a retro Mad Men kinda guy. He even looks the part. Recently, he offered a good response when someone pooh-pooh'd the feasibility of monetizing a kooky idea that was being tossed about the table at a recent burp session.

"Yeah, but tell me this: Twenty years ago, if someone said they were going to bottle drinking water form that tap over there and sell it at $2 a pop..what would you have said?"

Uh huh. Good point.


Jul 12, 2012

Penn Station Monday


Faces full of purpose

Exit from the train

Up the steps they run

A massive human wave

Enters its daytime world

Faces masked from fear

The secrets that they hide

Pretending not to matter

Left behind in Nowhere

Vanquished from the mind

Faces etched with pain

Playing little games

Walking thru the paces

Looking for that miracle

While knowing that it's lost

(Paula Hill)
C 2012

Vulcan Mind Meld

At the TED conference two years back, author Matt Ridley argued that history shows how the engine of human progress has always been driven by the meeting and mating of old ideas to create new ones

It's not about clever people, he said; it's all about collective smarts.

Something says he took both a Sociology and a Jungian Psychology class in college.


Jul 11, 2012

16 Takeaways: Phish @ SPAC 2012

1. Phish, the Band

The label, of course, is that of “the world's greatest/biggest jam band.” But such a tag sells this group short; the reality being that this is not just a great jam band, but also a great rock & roll band as well. Plain and simple. Then we get to the “sum of its parts” equation; here is the epitome of what the word band is all about.

2. You Did, Huh?

I saw them when they played at that joint on Caroline Street way back when.” If every person that uttered that line was actually there, the place would have needed to fit 2,000 people. It didn't. This and the many other local connections make it all very special. It is only appropriate that Phish becomes the first Special Event act to convene a three-night run at the facility.

3. Show Virgins

I ran across a great many Phish first timers, with most of them being locals. The reaction was universal, along the lines of “now I get it,” “simply amazing” or “WTF?” Welcome, where y'all been? Good stuff. The local zen can only benefit.

4. Jon Fishman, Drums

What separates your better jam band drummer from their straight ahead rock counterparts is their jazz sensibilities, hitting various skins all over the place and on different time maps. No better example is out there than this guy; the one in the tutu.

5. Page McConnell, Keyboards

With all due respect to the red head with the big smile, McConnell is the glue holding this band together. His chord meanderings bring visions of Bill Evans, providing the perfect roadmap for any given song's journey to somewhere. Maybe this is really better classified as a jazz band, hmmm?

6. Trey Anastasio, Guitar

One wouldn't likely rank Trey as a top axeman of all time; from a technical perspective at least. But does anyone make the dipsy-twiddle to rock-jam climax transition better than the way he does? It might come down to Trey and Jimmy Herron of Widespread Panic for that honor. Let's call it a draw.

7. Mike Gordon, Bass

When you look up on stage at the four, Gordo becomes someone you think is possessed by an external force, his life form taken over by a spirit intent on using him as a vessel to generate an emotional tsunami among the assembled masses. The funny thing is, such thinking might actually be true. Magically creative bass lines and runs, all night long.

8. Best Line of the Weekend

At the Formula 5 after-party on Saturday night, a pair of young men approached the venue's door for entry. One arrived with a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon (naturally) in tow while his companion was armed with a half empty/half full bottle of Jack Daniels. When greeted by a staff member with a “you gotta be kidding me, right?”, the retort was a beauty: “ Oh, sorry man: I lost track of where we were.”

9. Greatest Comeback Ever?

No; not Phish. We're talking about the aforementioned PBR. As predicted in an earlier post, this was the beer of choice for this crowd. Just ask the DPW street cleaning crews; they can no doubt verify this theory.

As someone who knows a little something about this kind of stuff, I say we're looking at one of the most innovative and successful brand turnarounds in modern consumer marketing. Pabst was something you drank in the 60's and 70's only because it was there in front of you, one of many cheap domestic options of the day with nothing to really differentiate it from the dozens of others. By the 80's, it had disappeared from the national radar screen; I'm not sure if it was even brewed for awhile.

Then somehow in the past decade, it reincarnated as the quaffing favorite of both Jam Band Nation and the urban hipsters. Think about that dynamic. In addition, every blue collar bar seems to have it on tap, usually as the least expensive choice. Likewise, every music club and festival loads up on it as well, and it's the top seller.

Something like this doesn't just happen by accident. We need to know the name of the person who designed and executed this campaign. We have a medal to pin on his or her chest! The Nanoburgh Awards?

10. The Dead Shadow

A very tired argument is the long-running “Dead vs Phish” nonsense. Rooted mostly in the good old days nostalgia of the aging Dead Heads, its general theme is that Phish is nothing more than an inferior v2.0 of the original space cowboys. To this, there are only two replies necessary:

  1. Get there (see #3, above)
  2. After; please reflect on: a) how those long phreak-groove sessions you just heard reminded you of the old gang; and b) how the stop-and-go's and hard blasting crescendos didn't …

11. Economic Whatever

The Idiot Chorus of the Usual Suspects was not to go unheard from this past weekend. Their chant: a demand that the city of Saratoga Springs should somehow be “reimbursed” by somebody (SPAC, Live Nation, Phish, ticket buyers?) for the extra public safety expenses incurred as a result of these three massive concerts and the accompanying horde of followers that encamped locally over that period. How one responds to such nonsense --- or even why? --- are both legitimate questions, but we'll give it a go here:

Talking Point # 1: a convenience store owner having to call his beverage distributor for emergency re-stocks --- three times.

Talking Point #2: a local resident who rented his home out for the three nights – for $3,000.

Talking Point #3: hotels and campgrounds within a 30-mile radius were all sold out – obscene rates and all. One local motel owner boosted his per-nite charge from $120 to $300. They all made similar moves. No one seemed to blink.

Nanoburgh's sister event-production company (398Productions) even got in on the fun, hosting midnight Phish after-parties at the Parting Glass. Here's a look at those numbers:
  • 300+ people walked into the venue on each night, at a time when it would normally have been closed for the evening.
  • The crowds ate and drank – heavily – thereby boosting the venue's coffers nicely, as well as that of their local suppliers.
  • Extra work hours (and income) were therefore generated for the venue's staff
  • Each night also provided an extra pay day for: a band; a sound man; a lighting technician; door and security people and a show producer.

Now take these examples and dare project some semblance of scale across both the city and county, for all economic activity generated by those visitors that came for these three shows. Next, make some sort of estimate of where that newly gained monies are next spent by the people who just received them. Tally all of that up and add it to the mix. Repeat a couple of times. That there is what's called an economic multiplier calculation. Finally, make an estimate of sales tax revenues that end up in the city and county treasuries as a result of many/most of these purchases. Need we go further? Did we break-even here on paying for those extra cops yet?

For sure, this type of an event presents tough challenges to its host city. But so do the Olympics, the Super Bowl or the race course for that matter. But go whine to any other municipal official in New York, and you're sure to get a “now that's a problem I wish we had here” response. From the smart ones, at least.

12. The Economics of Traffic Control

There is one problem preventing the city from taking full advantage of the economic opportunity presented above. It's called traffic policy.

At the end of a SPAC concert, car traffic is often directed AWAY from the city. That's right, most exits result in one being forced to head south for the sake of maximum car flow and a mission of getting as many cars onto the Northway and Rt 50 ASAP. This is a problem if one lives north of SPAC, of course. But it also acts as a serious detriment to encouraging someone to head downtown after the show to drop some green there.

13. Intangible

Saturday's show was broadcast live on XM Radio. That's globally, folks. Now what's that worth to the Goodwill line of the city's Balance Sheet? Any CPAs in the audience?

14. The Emerging Police State

Don't get us started here. The last time we checked, alcohol was a legal commodity in this state. Not to mention the fact that alcohol is allowed in the Spa Park on all non-concert days. And what exactly is the rationale for treating these visitors as if they were an invading army of Huns and turning the place into a de facto war zone? How would this same action play if alcohol was also banned at the horse races? Shush; don't dare give them any ideas. And people are complaining about extra public safety costs (see #11)? This initiative could alternatively be viewed as a glorified make-work project for the law enforcement industry. Oops, sorry: we got started ...

15. Show Poster

Quite possibly the best SPAC poster ever? Mr Rich Kelly at work. Bravo!

16. Best Weekend Moment

At the Friday night after-party featuring The Garcia Project, a pair of tickets to Saturday's Phish show were up for grabs. They were provided by the good folks at Decresente Distributing. The winner was a young man named Safe Korwell-Ure.

Celebrating with the lucky gent, we found an interesting story. He is a new visitor to this country, having somehow landed in Virginia. There, he got caught up with a bunch of Phish heads, who invited him to tag along on the long drive to Saratoga for a weekend at the circus. Along he came, without even an admission ticket nor much of an idea who Phish was, for that matter.

Surprise of all surprises, it ends up that this Garcia Project show was his very first experience in hearing a live rock and roll band, in-person! No kidding. After his good fortune and lucky ticket stub, Phish became his Show #2. To say he was overjoyed would be an understatement. We couldn't have rigged this drawing to come up with a better result.

Jun 27, 2012

The Most Unfair of Professions

A dear pal of mine is a musician of some regional notoriety in the Appalachian mid-south, one of many from that neck of the woods I've run across over the years when dabbling in that hobby-biz of mine.  I don't know what's in the air or water down there in Tennessee that produces such fine and talented human beings (tobacco?), but I can testify that there are fields full of them.  As an added bonus, all  of the female members of this tribe are most beautiful; both inside and out.

Anyway, this particular gal rang me up out of the blue the other day after too-long an absence from my radar screen. After getting updated on the big changes in her life (a new hubby = the luckiest guy in the world), the talk naturally turned to her songbird persona.  To my dismay, I learned that she was pretty much OUT of the business, having basically tossed in the towel.  No more touring, no more recordings, agent, manager, publicist, label, band or road van. Nothing but the occasional solo show (the so called 'chick on a stool') in the local area, rarely venturing more than an hour from her front door to a small gig here or there.  It's no longer a profession; it's back to being a sideshow -- just like it was during her college days twenty years ago.

In this case, we are talking about an artist who at one time was signed to one of the major record labels (back when that meant something), which then went about funding at $50K each her music videos and slotted her as the opening tour act for one of the major stars of our era -- all as a means of boosting her into the stratosphere.  But it's a tough business, with luck and timing and other intangibles having precedent over raw talent as the key qualifiers for success.  Unfortunately, fate was not kind to our dear friend.  The first album didn't sell, the label quibbled over what genre tag she belonged in and things got shaky when talks began on whether they would exercise their option on Album #2. That decision finally got made when industry consolodation reared its ugly head and the label was merged with an even-larger major, and economies of scale kicked in.  You can guess where this story went: offices were closed and rosters chopped.  Our girl was a casualty of both, and suddenly she became a One & Done (album) statistic. For the next ten years, it was the indie route: lower production budgets, small rooms, self-management and dealing with idiots like myself out there as opposed to the bandits (i.e., the  Live Nations and Clear Channels of the world) holding the keys to the mint.

There are no guarantees in the music business, just like there are no guarantees in that larger sphere called life. But in most professions, the cream of the crop rises to the top, at least to some degree.  There is little doubt that a Major League baseball player is a more talented athlete than a pine-rider down in the AA bushes.  Your better sales people make better money than the plugs; the more efficent office clerk is first in line to be office manager, the creator of superior graphic design masterpieces will tend to get the association awards at the end of the year, and on and on.  In general, there is usually some sort of connection between merit and reward.

But in music, all of that tidy logic is tossed out the door like a cat coughing up fur balls. Ace songwriters and crack musicians often play for the proverbial "$100 a man" while the Demi Lovatos, Justin Beibers and Sugarlands out there pocket millions a year. Locally, a shockingly popular cover band earns $3000 per night to play Mustang Sally and other lowest common denominator hits made famous by others. Original creativity goes unrewarded while hype and mass market brainwashing is.  But we shouldn't be surprised: these same people consume their basic goods from WalMart and the mall, absorb network television and their destination for fine dining is the pavement outside a chain restaurant on Gasoline Alley.  Sheep are more easily herded from Point A to Point B than are foxes seems to be a fitting allegory.

As I put in more and more years into the aforementioned music-biz dabbling, the type of conversation as shared above becomes more and more common for me. The system is broken -- for a whole number of causes -- and the money doesn't flow to those most deserving. But if the masses don't care and the deck remains stacked against the Unchosen, it will never change.

Now who wants to hit downtown to shake our booties to some Golden Oldies at a $3 cover?  Order me an ice cold Bud and I'll be right there.


Jun 24, 2012

Random Blah-Blah-Blahs (June)

Long Live

Q: If eMail Marketing is so dead, then why does Twitter send me regular "Here's What's Happening On Twitter" updates ... via email?  As does Facebook with its traffic stat reports ... and Linked In ... and ... and. Hmmm?

Square Peg / Round Hole

While on the Twitter subject: I get it --  and I always got it.  The 'it' being the stream-of-consciousness sharing via this handy dandy infrastructure dreamed up by a couple of dreamers. Then again, Facebook's Wall posting serves the same function, does it not?  But that's for those two behemoths to battle over.

What I don't get ---  or better: what I don't buy ---  is the ultra hyped commercial, promotional and monetization value that Twitter allegedly brings to the table. I've called this bluff myself with my own campaigns, as have others close at hand.  I'm not seeing it.  If anyone out there has a first hand case study that shows otherwise, let's hear about it.

Same with Twitter being the supposed new form of journalism. I'm not buying it. A big reach....

I'm Living in My Own Private Idaho

Speaking of journalism (notice these nice transitions?), I hereby pose this as a contrarian view to the popular wisdom as to what ails the mainstream print news profession:

Contrarian Theory: The inter-tube is NOT the primary driver of people abandoning and neglecting the traditional print news media (i.e., declining readership). Instead, I contend that the #1 factor is that people simply don' give a shit anymore.  This is especially true for local news journalism.

Supporting Argument: Communities continue to lose their deep connectivity and social capital. People now move from 'burgh to 'burgh, and they do it more and more frequently.  One's neighbors are no longer people you went to school with; nor is there one single degree of separation between them and you via common acquaintances. Meanwhile, there is less a likelihood that one will "make new friends" in the new town due to the fact that there are fewer mechanisms for doing so compared to generations past -- ethnic clubs, trade unions, business associations, etc. Strangers live among strangers in today's Anytown, USA.  So when one happens upon a newspaper, it is filled with unknown names and unknown faces involved in activities and organizations of no consequence. One simply can't relate to the stories any more than he or she can relate to the new and temporary community in general.  Many just don't care --  it's as simple as that.  Heck, they don't plan on being here for more than a few more years anyways, so why invest in the Emotional Capital? Without this type of passion, how can a business that specializes in telling locally-centric stories hope to succeed?

Thirty years ago, I could pick up the daily newspaper in my birthtown (The Saratogian) and recognize almost every name mentioned. Today, I don't know any of them.  Who the hell are these people?

A Newspaper Once Operated Here

Speaking of the Saratogian (yee-haw, he does it again), we read of the fact that its Lake Avenue facility has been sold to a developer and the arrangement supposedly gives the paper three years to find a new base of operations to which it moves.   No doubt, the troubled chain that owns the local rag is taking advantage of the bubbly local real estate scene as a means of bandaging its bloody balance sheet.  The old cliche of "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" suddenly comes to mind for some funny reason

Prediction: said rag relocates to a tidy suite of rented work space under a trade deal with some commercial realtor as more and more of its functions are handled by its sister paper down in Troy in a consolidation effort. The current building is soon thereafter demolished to make room for a 38High Rock, Part 2 type of condo mishmash. The Village Idiots then begin their rah-rah about how this is just another example of Saratoga's vibrancy as the metro-NYC crowd ponies up to trade their downstate addresses for life in the foothills. More of the aforementioned strangers arrive to live alongside other strangers and live off the largesse provided to them by their family inheritance, with most of them well past their peak productivity years and perfectly content to schedule their daily lives around their morning strolls to get a Broadway coffee.  The city's brain drain continues, the age demo gets older and the neighborhood around Saratoga Hospital continues to transform from residential to professional as the health care industry cluster there expands to serve this aging Boomer demand.  The air gets stale as the safe and sanitary gentrification elephant continues its slow motion rampage.  Some major magazine ranks Saratoga in the nation's Top 10 Retirement Communities.

Consider also the fact that these new condos butt right up against the Caroline Street nightlife district.  Can't a guy get some sleep in this town?  Now won't that accelerate the movement to tame this chaos?  Commissioner Mathieson will be lionized as he moves to close the bars at 11PM  --- and for an hour during afternoon nap time.

Meanwhile, this once great city finds itself without another physical representation of what it means to feel like being a part of a local community.  So don't be shocked if the same fate awaits the Post Office building up the hill.  Maybe one more coffee shop?

Somebody get the historical plaques made up to place on each site.

Is that Indian for...?

To hear something once can be deemed a fluke.  To hear the same thing twice, one starts to notice. Three times, it becomes a downright movement.

Three times now in the past month, I have heard Saratoga being tagged with a slightly modified handle: Milfatoga.

I can picture our less worldly readers hitting Google right about ... now.

Batting Third

Baseball teams put their biggest slugger into the cleanup spot; number four in the batting order. But the entertainment industry has a different approach. A long running rule for performing artists has been to place the best tune in the set list in the Number Three spot, for some reason.

Interestingly, I notice that local television news broadcasts are following this same method.  The weather segment is what they define as their key eyeball-draw. In a rare viewing of the opening minutes of two different examples recently, I notice that both of them placed the weather tickler story ("It's HOT out there! OMG we're gonna die!") --  right there in the three hole.

Old School - New School

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's approach to economic development seems to be via these regional councils which go about making long wish lists of desired projects and then submits them to a juried awards system which is a bit light on explaining its methodology as well as its over reaching aims and objectives. Conveniently, every region seems to at least get a substantial consolation prize when the dust clears.

So how exactly is this new fangled process fundamentally different than the age old legislature Member Item system?

Cutting to the Chase

Did anyone ever actually play the Mousetrap game instead of just going ahead and building the fancy contraption?  Nah.


"I'm not interested in paying you for your time, I want to pay you for your success."

"Do not confuse activity with accomplishment"

These are two of my guiding principles when dealing with prospective employees or contracted resources offering to get involved in any of my business units in some sort of sales/revenue-generating capacity.

But most of the time it is like speaking in an unknown foreign tongue.  For some reason, everyone thinks their "time" is the key element to this dynamic. "I need to get paid for my time" is a common refrain.  It matters not if that time results in money coming in the door as a direct result, whether they are any good at the needed task or not.  Many even have a rebuttal to my approach, something like "even if I don't make a sale, I am out there promoting your product/company."

The Bottom Line: promotion is for the Marketing Department or ad agency. If one does not have confidence in his or her own ability to "make things happen" and base their financial well-being on their own skills and abilities, then they most likely are in the wrong profession. Like, maybe retail?

Competent sales rep's are the hardest people to find for most organizations. That's because there are very few people out there that are any good at it.  You never know the answer to that question until AFTER you hire someone.

Related Story: a woman recently told me that she would take the reins as our lead sales exec if I would "at least cover her expenses."  I replied that this seemed like a reasonable request and could be done.  My assumption, of course, was that she was referring to the costs directly related to the sales process, such as gas and toll money, the occasional client lunch and postal & copy fees for mailing out our collateral.  Turns out, she was referring to her "living" expenses, namely her mortgage, cell phone, groceries, medical insurance, car payment and so on. Four grand would do it. Be advised, this involves a small little nano-biz that is a part time endeavor for everyone that has ever been involved in it.  I kid you not ...

Not in synch with the local poseurs, but....

I miss the Saratoga Diner on South Broadway, known long ago as the Spa City Diner.  I'll miss it even more when a Red Lobster or Chili's or Hooters takes its place.


Jun 1, 2012

Attention Saratoga Degenerates: Poker (with money!) Hits Town Next Month

We got a little advance notice of something you gambling degenerates in Saratoga (and there's a bunch of you) should be made aware of...

But let me get this one straight: it costs nada / zip / nuttin honey / zero to enter this poker tournament, but it has $1,000 in purse money? WTF, sign us up, bro!

Sunday, July 15th at The Parting Glass.  Full scoop for this baby is RIGHT HERE.

I'll see YOU at the final table!

Here is a story that touches on the 'legality' of this event as well as the means in which business activity is enhanced by a simple loosening of government bureaucracy....

July 15: Free Entry
New Ruling Opens Way for Cash Prize Events and New Businesses

$1,000 Poker Tournament Slated for Parting Glass

(Saratoga Springs) …. After a full day of elimination play, the poker tournament is down to its final table. There, eight stern-faced card sharks are looking to outfox the others in successive rounds of Texas Hold 'Em, with a pot of cash on the line for the top finishers. Finally, the last round is won, a single player has all the chips and the onlookers burst into applause. A champion is crowned.

Where, now, might one envision the above scene unfolding? On late night cable television, possibly? Or maybe a Vegas, Atlantic City or Native American casino? All would be logical options.

Now, how about the possibility of this unfolding locally in a place that bills itself as “Saratoga's Original Irish Pub,” otherwise known far and wide as The Parting Glass? Well, not only is it a possibility, but reality, as that downtown establishment will be hosting the $1,000 DILLIGAF / Parting Glass Open Poker Tournament on Sunday, July 15 at 1PM.

With $400 earmarked for the tournament winner and purse payouts awarded down to the 20th place finisher, the question becomes: how can such a scenario possibly be legal in New York, which is just now starting the long and complicated process of modifying the state constitution to allow poker and other cash card games in racinos and casinos as a legalized form of gambling? The answer lies in what is the player-friendly aspect of the Parting Glass contest: it is absolutely, 100% free to enter.

Using the standard risk /reward dynamic as a means of defining 'gambling' has long raised the issue of whether a Free-To-Play But Real Cash Prizes event is legitimate; a question that has remained unanswered as New York gave conflicting opinions on the matter. But that all changed in November, when the State Liquor Authority issued a Declaratory Ruling that, in essence, authorized such events in licensed premises under its supervision. Take away the risk (entry fees, cover charges, table cash), it stated, then all is legit – even if one is offering prize money.

Although several SLA-licensed venues around the state have since convened tournaments that offer soft prizes (point accumulations leading to a casino trip, etc), the July 15th Saratoga event appears to be the first (in the Capital Region at least) to offer a substantial amount of cold hard cash.

We've been running smaller poker sessions on Wednesday nights for a few months now,” said Linda DiBlasio of The Parting Glass. “But about a month ago, the people that bring music shows in here walked us through the complicated SLA rules and taught us how we could offer cash prizes.”

From there, all that was needed was a tournament sponsor who would help to fund the prize pool in return for the promotional publicity that would come with such a move. Enter the DILLIGAF lifestyle clothing line of Lake George, NY and Miami, FL.

The poker demographic is perfect for our brand of in-your-face t-shirts, hoodies and caps,” related DILLIGAF principal Bill Massry, a Saratoga native. “This Parting Glass gig will help us launch our new poker-themed line of clothing.”

Making all these connections come together was the local music & events company 398Productions, which has since formed a spinoff called the Free 4 All Poker Tour to take this sponsored-tourney concept on the road to venues throughout the state.

A new entertainment option for the city's residents and visitors, a new clothing line introduced and a new company being formed --- all taking place right here in Saratoga Springs.

For full tournament info, rules, purses and entry, visit


May 30, 2012

Lake George Music Series Announced

Fridays at the Lake (Lake George Village) 
Max Creek, Jim Weider highlight 10-show rock/blues series 

Free live music will once again fill the air in Lake George on Friday nights this summer as organizers today announced the lineup for the third annual Fridays at the Lake concert series.

This year's edition, which takes place in the placid lakeside amphitheater setting of Shepard Park in the heart of the Village, serves as an upgrade from previous years as the emphasis shifts from local acts to regional touring artists. Highlighting the schedule are two dates featuring music heavyweights.


The classic and beloved jam band MAX CREEK opens the series on June 15. Recently seen in town celebrating their 41st Anniversary in a fan club takeover of the Fort William Henry Resort, the Connecticut-based group has performed thousands of shows around the globe and recorded over a dozen albums. Their signature boogie-jam style has made them favorites on both the club and festival circuits. Creek Heads are sure to descend on Lake George once again.

Jim Weider - The Master of the Telecaster

July 20th marks the appearance of Jim Weider's Project Percolator. Fronted by the lead guitarist of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legends The Band and the Levon Helm Group – and including former members of Santana, Todd Rundgren's Utopia and Alicia Keys – this quartet brings to the party an instrumental, progressive rock style that has been compared to both Jeff Beck and Roy Buchanan. Attendees will leave knowing why Mr. Weider is dubbed as the Master of the Telecaster by Rolling Stone and others. He even has an amplifier named after him!

Filling-out the ten show lineup is fast-ascending Vermont rockers Twiddle, multiple Metroland Best Of winners Sirsy, the Berkshires all star combo Rev Tor Band, electronica keyboard wizard Jeff Bujak, the buzz worthy Wild Adriatic, Albany favorites Stone Revival Band, a themed Blues Night and a still-unfolding Season Finale celebration on September 7. All shows are free of charge and family-friendly.  The nearby Shepards Cove night club acts as the rain site.  Showtime is 7PM, with most headline acts slated for 8PM. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcomed; alcohol and tobacco are not.

Fridays at the Lake is a production of Dave Ehmann's Improv Records, with assistance from Robert Millis of 398Productions. Financial support is provided by local government entities and the generous and music-loving members of the local business community.

Concert series information and schedule is available at


Fridays At The Lake 
Shepard Park @ Lake George, NY 

June 15: Max Creek
June 29: Jeff Bujak 
July 6: Sirsy
July 20: Jim Weider's Project Percolator
July 27: Twiddle
Aug 3: Rev Tor Band
Aug 10: Wild Adriatic & Closer Still 
Aug 24: Blues Night
Aug 31: Stone Revival Band 
Sept 7: Finale Party: Capital Zen and more (tba) 

(Opening Acts TBA) 

May 17, 2012

Nanoburgh's Springtime Money Beg!

If that Alan Chartok guy can beg for money every two weeks on WAMC, why can't we do the same here at the 'burgh?

The winter version was such a success, let's do it again!

Support indelendent local journalism; donate to a Blogger today! Here or elsewhere ... (although we won't be expecting any $ from the folks at Siro's).

May 8, 2012

Saratoga: Heaven or Hell ? (part 1)

 Forming an opinion about something is all about 'perspective:' where you've been or where you're coming from is the key determinate. So it is when one looks at the current status of any given location which one chooses to live in  --  or is considering such -- in drawing an opinion on how that location rates when compared to others.

The city of Saratoga Springs is no different. Yet one can take note of an interesting divide between two segments when each one voices an opinion on the livability or state-of the Spa City. If one's perspective is that of a transplanted resident, with a lifelong perspective having been formed in the rat hole of New Jersey or Long Island, for example, Saratoga seems like an oasis in the desert, with a small town feel missing from those compared-to environs.

But the general consensus of long time residents -- not to mention those that lived in the city in years past but no longer do so -- is that the town has gone to hell, and is, in fact, starting to resemble those aforementioned rat holes than it is the vision encumbered in their nostalgic memories. 

So, where's the reality? As always, it is somewhere in between the two poles. 

But it is in this spirit of debate that Nanoburgh hereby launches a new feature, one which serves in each edition a specific example of one good thing about the current day Saratoga  and another specific example of one not-so-good thing.  This new feature is billed as:

Gone to Hell vs Slice of Heaven

Gone to Hell: Siro's

After serving for decades as the classy destination restaurant for the track crowd, an ownership change in the 80's brought with it the very bright idea of kicking the property's backyard space into an open-air/post-races hang --- and the party was on. Siro's became the August "see and be seen scene," with everyone in the region and beyond having a story to tell relating to a visit there. There is no doubt that it played a major role in the revitalization of Saratoga's track scene that kicked-in at that very same time frame.

Sure, the overpriced drinks were obscene, but what the hell? We're dealing here with a clientele that just got done tossing wads of $20's at horses galloping in a big circle. This is a celebration of the greatest racing meet in the world, goddamit; and for the dwindling few that still care about such a fact, that is important shit. Siro's supplied the perfect spot for just such rejoicing. There's just something about watching a hammered Wall Street punk slugging down a $400 bottle of champagne while doing the "woulda-coulda- shoulda" recap on his wagering follies that warms the heart. You just can't beat it.

But another ownership change a couple years back has Siro's on the fast train to shitsville. Whenever you hear the word "investment group," one can usually smell trouble; and the whiff here wasn't pleasant; This new group (mostly out-of-towners, of course) includes a couple minor league actor types along with a sprinkling of racing figures and others.

Right off the bat, this spelled trouble. The "we got great news" announcement of this changeover brought with it the remark that the yard's live musical entertainment would be "upgraded" to include "some of the best tribute acts on the east coast." The example of a Billy Joel act was even offered. We kid not.

The first casualty of this dumbing-down the masses philosophy was Saratoga's very own treasure, the legendary Commander Cody. For year, the pioneer of 70's western swing meets rock and roll boogie-woogie had the honor of kicking off the party season with the opening day performance slot. But the guess here is that no one in this new "investment group" even heard of our guy, and the Commander was unceremoniously booted from the lineup. His remarks from the stage at his recent Parting Glass performance, where he lead a crowd chant of "Fuck Siro's," tells us that he's not too happy about it either.

Siro's truly jumped the shark last August, when former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier was dragged into the joint and up on the stage to briefly front his old lounge act, the Knockouts. Just a few months away from his death, Smokin' Joe proceeded to deliver a few croaking sounds before being helped back down. For those of you who think that hearing one more rendition of Mustang Sally will make your head explode, this one might have done the trick.

Add to the mix the "you want your picture taken?" and other assorted hustles that are now a part of the scene, and there should be little question as to why the real party crowd has headed down the block to The Horseshoe in recent years.

But that doesn't concern this new Siro's ownership bunch. Can we say "expansion" or "extending the brand?" Yep, you guess it: they just opened up a NYC Siro's franchise, whereby they will attempt to recreate the Saratoga experience right in the 'hood of those downstate types for a year-round groove.

It's kinda like a tribute act in its own right, huh?

Slice of Heaven: The Parting Glass

Rocco's was where you got your pizza in town. Hell, it was automatic: whenever someone said “let's get a pizza tonight” anywhere within the Saratoga city line, it was an order for whoever was closest to the phone to ring up the joint down on Lake Avenue down near the Fire House and make it happen. But you had to go get it; I don't think they ever had delivery. That was fine, because that gave whoever was charged with pickup duty the chance to catch a quick pop at the bar, where one could always find the City Hall and Saratogian newspaper peeps at their constituent service posts on any given night.

1980 was the year Rocco's switched to the Parting Glass, with a motivated and hard-working family taking over the site. With an Italian food - meets - Irish beer and music mix, the Glass was an immediate hit and a welcome addition to the Spa City's social scene. The two back rooms were opened up and thus was born both a performance space and a large dart room. The locals and the tourists bought into the whole thing.

Somehow, this same family has kept it going all these years later, which is a major accomplishment when considering the wear and tear that is inflicted on the human psyche from being in just such a business. The Italian menu has given way to a more pub grub offering, but it's still good and that's all fine. It IS a pub, ya know? Likewise, the music has expanded a bit from the pure-Irish approach. The list of performers that have graced that stage over the years includes such international big shots as Alison Krauss and Union Station, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Tommy Makem and many more.

Nanoburgh's sister company 398 Productions has long been a supporter of the Parting Glass, having placed a number of shows and business affairs in there over the years. The music section is a gem, with great small-room sound and lights. The staff and management are top notch. We will surely continue that support. It is warming to see how the local business community continues to do the same, with a constant flow of business mixers coming through the doors.

Long may you run....