LIVE: “Sing in the Streets” Festival @ Caffe Lena (and surroundings), 05/22/2022

Editor’s note: This was co-written by Laura DaPolito and Mike Stampalia, with photos by Jim Gilbert, Dakota Gilbert, Mike Stampalia, and Ralph Renna.

With six acts simultaneously playing 50-minute sets, the choice had to be made. Choose an artist you particularly wanted to hear and settle in for an hour. Or, you can choose an auditory “sample tray” and try to catch a bit of everyone. We chose to do the latter, each of us catching a bit of everyone else and reporting here what we heard.

Russell the Leaf on Broadway (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

For the first set of sets, Mike started on Broadway with Russel the Leaf, the stage name of Evan Marre of Lansingburgh. His self-deprecating sense of humor set the theme for the entire event, when he quipped “you’re in luck, you’re gonna hear a bunch of original material from someone you don’t know at all.” Which is – ironically – kind of what this whole event, and (in many cases) Caffe Lena itself, is all about. Laura found Russel to have a very quiet voice, and the Broadway placement made him hard to hear initially, but his lyrics were worth leaning in to listen to.

From there, head to the library to see Cassandra Kubinski, in one area, eyes closed behind her piano, channeling her own version of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” onto the front porch to the delight of the crowd. When Laura caught up with her later, she was singing some of her original music. She had a Broadway soloist quality to her voice and happily shared applause with a young dancer who “visually performed” her song “Waves.” Kubinski will perform again on June 10 at Caffe Lena, with tickets on sale now.

Cassandra Kubinski on the library deck (Photo by Dakota Gilbert)

A short stroll around the back of the building, and the trio of James Gascoyne, Oona Grady and Dan Berggren enchanted the crowd on the “family stage”. Young children playing around the frog statue enjoyed the music as much as their parents.

It’s time to hit the Caffe itself, and Carolyn Shapiro and her wonderful banjo playing greeted you as soon as you entered the lobby. Probably the most modest artist of the time, she lets her voice and her banjo do the talking.

North and South Dakota on the main stage of Caffe Lena (Photo by Mike Stampalia)

Mike walked up the stairs to the “great hall” and the North and South Dakotas (who call their own music “Y’allternative Bluegrass”) were hosting a clinic with possibly the rowdiest set of the day. Mike was delighted to be greeted by a saxophone blowing right out front as he entered.

After that, it was time to cross the street to Ben & Jerry’s to catch the final two songs from Saratoga’s always-thrilling Hot Club. The two things that always strike me about this outfit are its musicality and its timelessness, and today was no different. Laura started the afternoon there and similarly noticed that time never seems to pass with this group. Clarinetist Jonathan Green, as always, stole the show with his sultry jazzy tone, transporting everyone to the early 1920s. As a gentle breeze crossed his face, there was almost an unrealization of modern automobiles behind us. .

Girl Blue on Broadway (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

The 20-minute set change allowed plenty of time to hydrate and get back to Broadway to settle in for round two. Arielle O’Keefe (who goes by the stage name Girl Blue) kicked things off by immediately showing off her immense talent as a songwriter, with the perfect vocals to match. It’s really hard to walk away from her while she’s performing; you only need to hear about 30 seconds of her to know she’s likely destined for wide national recognition.

But Mike had committed to seeing all the acts, and he came downstairs just in time to hear Jes Hudak talk about how Open Mic parties at Caffe Lena were the catalyst for his music career. With the Caffe’s general manager, Sarah Craig, at the side of the stage, it was a poignant moment. Her song “1-800 Scam Likely” (the title may be wrong) was also a winner.

Jes Hudak at the library terrace (photo by Dakota Gilbert)

Back to the family scene where Karl Bertrand was holding court playing a song that Mike believes is “The Farty King of Wales”, or something. Let him also say that it absolutely delighted the large group of children who were there, as well as their parents. It reminded us of Caffe Lena’s commitment to the new generation of music lovers with their “Folk Club Kids” series and burgeoning music school.

From there it was back to the Caffe itself, where Reese Fulmer had such a large crowd in the lobby that it was hard to get in. .

Reese Fulmer in the lobby of Caffe Lena (Photo by Jim Gilbert)

Fulmer sang some of Laura’s favorite songs, and passers-by on the street stood in awe. A woman asked Laura her name, and when she was told, she wrote it down on scrap paper to remember. “He’s going to be famous,” she remarked.

“He’s already over here,” Laura smiled back. She stayed for her entire set, not wanting to miss a moment of her live performance.

Lost Radio Rounders upstairs at Caffe Lena (Photo by Ralph Renna)

Upstairs, the Lost Radio Rounders held court, doing what they do best – blending timeless, well-acted music with local history, stories and pride. This is the band you want to bring your out of town friends to see. Finally, he was back outside to see the final act, the Bluebillies. Country through and through (in all the right ways), they reminded us that Caffe Lena has grown way beyond its traditional ‘folk only’ roots. Melody Guarino urged us to “listen to more country music – it’s good for you”. In effect.

The first Sing in the Streets festival was, according to these writers, a resounding and gratifying success. Even with the unbearable heat and humidity, it was refreshing to walk around the block and hear so much cool local music. We look forward to next year’s edition!

Dakota Gilbert Photo Gallery

Photo gallery by Jim Gilbert

Mike Stampalia Photo Gallery

Ralph Renna Photo Gallery

About Raymond Lang

Check Also

Moonchild Sanelly achieves international stardom with Phases

When Universal Music Group launched new label Def Jam Africa in 2020 – set up …