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A Night of Magic!
First Night 2017 lives up to it’s Slogan
By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – For the big events, The Saratoga Social leaves nothing in the supply cabinet. And so, armed as always with pen and pad, as usual, it was my pleasure to also take a camera and be the second shooter, supplementing Dev Dinon’s photos with my own take on different venues and stages.
I use an expression often: To bake a good cake, you need to start with the finest ingredients. In that connection, I had some great venues to shoot, including Lake Avenue School, St. Paul's Church, and the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center.
In my preview story, I quoted First Night Technical Director Jayme Albin, who said that Lake Avenue School was the number one place for families and kids of all ages, and it appeared that many took his advice.
The school housed four different stages, wherein you could see a family circus, exotic bird displays, music and dinosaur exhibits and more. Best of all, being in one building, I could actually take off my coat and feel comfortable and dry. Dry was certainly the keyword of the evening. But I knew I better enjoy this feeling because the chances were that I’d be brushing snow off me, often, tonight.
A short jaunt to a place where I had never been - St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. But one look at the stunning main room and I knew I had struck photo backdrop gold. Plus, if any performance group screams: “photo op!” it would be those masters of the ocean wave soundtrack: Big Fez and the Surfmatics! I was mega-familiar with this act, which served me well.
Arriving shortly before the performance, I greeted Fezzer’s John and Don. The three guitarists are wireless, and I knew that they would not be able to resist the center aisle of the church to ‘surf’ and greet the attendees, up close and personal. So I asked drummer John if I could get up on the stage and shoot the hysteria from the performers perspective.
From any angle, the veteran performers are a guaranteed good time, but the juxtaposition of these guys, leopard-skin sports jackets, shades and all, against the solemn setting of St. Paul’s – well, it was no surprise that at first, people didn’t know how to react. Respecting the church, they were sort of sitting on their hands at the beginning… but then, one by one they started to sway, then boogie a little… By the fourth song the place resembled a scene for The Blues Brothers movie than any serene house of worship! Piety be gone! Pass the board wax, MoonDoggie!
Like I said, great ingredients.
And so, having left the temple of beach blanket bingo, I then began a slow migration to put myself in position to perhaps get some fireworks action at midnight. At this point, I wasn’t sure that the precipitation would preclude the blast-off, but you need to be ready nonetheless. Plus, I had to visit one more fave.
And so, shuffling along, my feet never more than three inches off the ground, I made my way to the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center. There, I renewed my devotion to the music of MaryLeigh Roohan. I had written about MaryLeigh a few years back, coinciding with the release of her first CD: Flesh and Bone. At that time, she was already on her way to a great, precocious career. Eventually, she toured the nation. But this is home, and she brought the troops out – people who told me that they had seen her back in the day. MaryLeigh usually has a backing band, but this was a rare solo performance. All I can say is that the magic has not left MaryLeigh -- it has blossomed. She had the audience in the palm of her hand, while the world outside resembled a snow globe.
Approaching midnight, snowflakes as big as Saratoga potato chips. Mass quantities of goopy flakes. Navigating, even just across Broadway, took extreme patience, good timing and a little bit o' magic.... But it all came together - with a BANG!
I found my spot. And I took my shot.
Happy New Year to everyone!
Arthur loves to cook, but rarely bakes. He’d rather concoct something than stick to a rigid recipe.