Daily Archives: January 17, 2017

Repaired and ready: New York venue where a young Bob Dylan played reopens

But just about everything else about a venue that bills itself as the nation’s oldest continuously operating coffeehouse has undergone some major upgrades as part of a $2 million renovation project bankrolled in part by folk music performers themselves. Under a philanthropic partnership with a local developer, the organization turned over its adjacent small parking lot to the builder, who’s constructing a four-story building that will house condos and retail businesses. Among the folk musicians contributing funds: Arlo Guthrie, honorary chairman of the coffeehouse’s fundraising campaign. Locally and regionally known musicians have also pitched in, while other performers — including Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame — contributed vocals for a fundraising video. Yet when the newly installed lighting dims and the night’s performer hits the first chord, Caffe Lena still has the intimate setting that generations of musicians and folk music fans have come to revere. A campaign has raised another $1 million. “It so far it feels really good.” “Now we have a place in line with our reputation for the type of music that happens here,” she said. In return, Bonacio Construction has put $500,000 into the renovation project, including installing an elevator that will make Caffe Lena fully accessible to the disabled. The narrow staircase leading to the second-floor venue also has been replaced, as has the small stage, sound system, kitchen and restrooms. But the old plank floor worn smooth by countless tapping feet is gone, replaced by a new hardwood version. In this 1962 file photo provided by the Joe Alper Photo Collection LLC, Bob Dylan, left, his girlfriend Suze Rotollo center and Lena Spencer gather around a table at her coffeehouse, Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Performances were moved to other nearby venues in Saratoga Springs, the famous resort and thoroughbred racing town 165 miles north of New York City. Volunteers and later the nonprofit group formed in the 1990s have kept her place open for new generations of folk music fans. He left not long after Dylan’s performances, but Lena stayed on, gradually attracting a dedicated following and booking an ever-growing roster of folk music stalwarts, including Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, Don McClean and Guthrie. Caffe Lena is still raising the final $500,000 for the upgrades, scheduled to be completed this spring. For George Ward, a folk musician and longtime Caffe Lena performer and supporter, the face-lift hasn’t erased the venue’s downhome vibe. The same brown wooden shutters bracket the windows and the same exposed brick wall provides background for the corner where he sang and played acoustic guitar during weekend performances in 1961 and ’62. SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. “It had to change just in order to be safe and comfortable,” said Ward, 78. — Bob Dylan would surely still recognize the low-ceilinged room in Caffe Lena where he played a couple of gigs almost 60 years ago. “It’s a legendary place,” said Jeff Place, archivist for Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. The lean years tended to outnumber the flush ones, and by the late 1980s, Spencer was living in a back room at her coffeehouse, displaced from her Saratoga apartment by rising rent. “For singer-songwriters, playing there is like playing Carnegie Hall for classical musicians.”
Caffe Lena recently reopened after being closed for six months for the renovations. Sarah Craig, the coffeehouse’s executive director, said Dylan has been approached for a contribution but “has not yet committed specific support.”
Caffe Lena first opened in May 1960, by Lena Spencer and her husband, Bill, bohemian artists from Massachusetts. Dylan performed twice there early in his career, when the young singer born in Minnesota as Robert Zimmerman was just making his way onto New York City’s folk scene. She died at age 66 in 1989. Seating has been boosted from 85 to about 105, and wine and beer are being served for the first time in the venerable coffeehouse’s history. The renovations were long overdue in a 120-year-old building that wasn’t up to code, Craig said.

Denver’s Gin Doctors announce final show

Catching Weezer, Sum 41, the Cranberries and the Spice Girls under one roof in one night in Denver seems like a ’90s mall rat’s dream. Watching this band grow from a tiny first show house party of 20 people to a 1500-person raging Halloween show a few months ago, we are absolutely humbled by the love and support you have given us over the years. The band will play its farewell show this winter. From massive Halloween shows to rowdy, drink-sloshing UMS sets, the Denver cover band has let our city’s millennials rock out to the music of their teens in public, well beyond their awkward years (for most of us, anyway). But the band was dealt a crushing blow late last year when its co-founder, local singer-songwriter Tyler Depres, died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 34. And for those reasons, among so many others, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making this band one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of the 4 of our lives. Both a farewell to the band and Despres, the show will feature special guest performances (including Jen Korte, who will fill in as the band’s fourth member) and looks to fill out a total of four hours with the rose-tinted mixtape jams of your yesteryear. The band has stayed quiet until today, when it took to Facebook to announce its final farewell: a show at Stoney’s Bar and Grill on March 4 at 8 p.m. The band accompanied the announcement with a message to its fans, excerpted below. James Morrison of Denver’s Gin Doctors playing the 21st Westword Music Showcase Saturday, June 20 2015. It would be, if not for the Gin Doctors. You’ve asked us to play your wedding, you voted us Best Tribute Band 2 years in a row, you’ve stood out in the cold waiting on line for 45 minutes to watch us play. Photo by Evan Semón for The Know. Read the whole thing and get more info on the show via the event’s Facebook page.