So you’ve finally made it to college, Class of 2036. Congratulations! Music is a HUGE part of college, right? I mean your parents met at a Grateful Dead show during their freshman year at NYU and they’re the happiest couple you know, right? Skidmore and Saratoga Springs each offer plenty of great opportunities to catch some amazing (and some terrible) music. So which will it be, young Jedi? Check out Skidmore Unofficial’s Official Venue Rundown of the best and worst places to hear music.
Location: On campus, on a path behind Palamountain Lot in the middle of the fucking woods.
Pros: Lots of events, plenty of on-campus talent, a feeling that you’re still in grade school, freshmen girls, etc.
Cons: Hot, smelly, plenty of really bad music to go with the good, a feeling that you’re still in grade school, freshmen girls, etc.
The Word: Plenty went on in this brick-and-mortar moratorium in a time before Grand Master Glotzbach “banned” drinking on campus. What once served as Skidmore’s pub, now acts as a venue for concerts, spoken word events, dances, and general happenings. It’s by far the best place to see your favorite on-campus bands and some cooler, smaller acts as well (LE1F, Turkuaz, Evolfo Doofeht).
Location: 63 Putnam St (a block below Broadway behind Lillian’s and Uncommon Grounds).
Pros: $3 PBR, Pony Club nights, the occasional campus band, great sound, and generally decent vibes.
Cons: $7 shots and general Skidmore-directed extortion (be prepared to pay a $7 cover to see Los Elk play when the club CLEARLY advertised $3).
The Word: Putnam Den has tried these last few years to make themselves a player in the local music scene and have definitely made their mark in Saratoga Springs. They occasionally bring in good acts (Total Slacker, John Brown’s Body, Aaron Carter!) and offer a cool spot for Skidmore kids to hang out. That being said, they do rip off patrons under 21 by charging more than the advertised cover price. Not cool.
The Arthur Zankel Music Center
Location: That majestic-as-fuck building on the end of the Arts Quad past JKB Theatre.
Pros: Truly inspiring musicians and music, free tickets for Skidmore students, and the best classical and jazz music Saratoga Springs sees by far.
Cons: WAY too many old people.
The Word: Seriously Zankel does their shit right. They bring in amazing speakers and performers all the time and charge us NOTHING! Seriously, wanna hang with Cornell West? Larry Wilmore? How about seeing Emmanuel Ax, Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band, Brad Meldhau, Eric Harland, Joshua Redman, Taylor Eigsti, and a bunch of other people you’ve never heard of but every serious musician has? Yeah yeah, I get it, you play guitar and synth in this band with your two friends from home who put out an EP on Soundcloud that’s really revolutionary, and you played a 6:00 PM set at Sullivan’s in the city on a Tuesday. But seriously, if you’re looking for inspiration, go to some Zankel shows.
Location: 47 Phila St (a block south of Broadway above a dank ass chicken shack).
Pros: Historically, the coolest thing in Saratoga except for the brothels that used to be on Broadway (seriously, Bob Dylan loves Caffe Lena), stunning acts (Anais Mitchell, Esperanza Spalding), and an intimate concert-going experience.
Cons: Hot, cramped, and in desperate need of a renovation.
The Word: Caffe Lena is, in all reality, the single most compelling aspect of Saratoga’s brief musical history. It is a musical mecca for the folk Dylan wannabes of our generation (I’m looking at you, douchebag playing a Taylor guitar on the quad), and it’s a great place to get your foot in the door as an up-and-coming singer-songwriter. Make sure to check out their open mics every Thursday, if just to see one of the Redneck Rapper’s prolific spoken word epics. I saw him play a ten minute solo on a sippy straw and a parking sign during my freshman pre-or, and I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be the same.
Location: 108 Avenue of the Pines, in SPA State Park, the site of graduation (FUCK!!!).
Pros: A picturesque slice of nature, a great lawn with cheap GA tickets, the biggest and best venue in Saratoga.
Cons: Only open in the summer and fall, if you don’t like Phish look elsewhere.
The Word: The biggest bands who pass through Saratoga Springs stop at SPAC. The Allman Brothers Band, John Mayer, Bob Dylan, Wilco, and the Dap Kings, Dave Matthews (bro). It’s quite possibly the prettiest venue on the east coast and one of my favorite places to see a show. Get up to Saratoga early or stay late after school to catch a great show in a beautiful setting.
Location: Behind the eyesore that is the Tang.
Pros: The biggest shows on campus.
Cons: Sweat, and then pretty much everything else about it sucks.
The Word: So you’ve finally made it onto the SEC board. Find a better fucking venue, seriously. I haven’t heard worse acoustics since the time I ripped ass in a Laguardia Terminal. But actually, once a semester SEC puts on a massive show with a medium to major artist. Dirty Projectors? Check. Janelle Monae? Absolutely. ACTION BRONSON AND DANNY BROWN??? Oh fuck ya.