Monday, November 21, 2005

Back after a long slumber...

I apologize to any readers for the fact I haven't been able to update consistenly since the 7th. I was having router problems, so I was unable to post.

I wanted to write a blog about Albany shows in hopes that more people will realize what a gem we have here. Valentines (New Scotland Ave) provides the perfect outlet to thse in the punk and hardcore underground scene who want to experiance a show environment that can be rough, cramped, and some great fun. With groups like the Adicts and the Casualties, Valentine's draws local and national bands that are of growing notoriety on the underground scene; and one of the major draws is that in such an intimate setting, one normally has the chance to actually talk to band members before and after they go on to play. Valentine's is not for the weak of heart though, as the crowd can get ready and moshing is allowed.

Northern Lights (Clifton Park) offers a great draw of bands that get frequent radio play. The Dresdan Dolls, CKY, and many others have graced the stage here, and the price of tickets is very reasonable (generally under $15).

However, the Pepsi (South Pearl) and the Palace (North Pearl) offer the biggest shows in terms of the area. The Pepsi recently had the Rolling Stones, and has had bands like Tool, and upcoming shows are the likes of Bon Jovi and Lenny Kravitz. The Palace recently hosted Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish, a Perfect Circle, and also occasionally hosts comedy shows.

Up and coming is the reopening of Proctor's theatre, which will probably be the jewel of the next two years, having confirmed performances of Phantom of the Opera (a play I would recommend to anyone) and the hit play the Producer's. Any Broadway fan will be pleased to be living in the Albany area when these shows start running, although I would not expect tickets to these events to be cheap.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Reporting at it's worst.

For a long time I've been trying to pinpoint exactly what bothers me so much about the reporting on Fox 23 news. However, tonight Fox made it easy to determine exactly why their news show leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth: apparently tomorrow night at 10 PM the reporters for the network will be bringing Albany viewers a story entitled "Zombie Dogs"! The story seems to be about animal testing. Now at least to me, sensational reporting and some amount of professionalism should go hand in hand. But with stories with titles like that- well, let's just say I'll be sticking to Channel 13 for a while.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Albany's Best Hidden Place to Grab a Pint

Well, tonight I'm off to a benefit at the Lodge in East Greenbush instead of hitting up downtown Albany, but one of these Saturdays I need to hit up the Fuse Box; a good friend tells me it's a great club to go to on Saturdays.

Since the benefit I'm attending this evening is very loosely connected to one of the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) in Albany, I thought I'd take a minute to write about the AOH, seeing as how it's one of my favorite places in Albany. It's normally a members-only club, although they definitely have never checked my credentials, and is one of the hangouts for the Irish-Americans in Albany. The AOH (Ontario Street) is a pretty drab building other than the bar, but boasting bingo, cheap beer, and and a very low-key and friendly atmosphere, it's a great place to hang out after a long day of stress at work. The first time I went into the AOH bar, I met half the regulars, and I kept going back. It eventually culminated in my trip to Ireland, as I think I learned more about Irish history in a half hour from the people down here than I would have by reading 3 books on the topic. Although it is an Irish American club, I can say that pretty much anyone would be welcome here. I've brought several friends in the past, and the regulars are only to happy to have new people to talk to. The new hardwood bar has space for about a dozen people to sit, and there are tables directly in front of it for any groups to gather at. When these get crowded, there is also another room that can be opened up to provide more space for customers. I think a Guinness here is around $3, and if you keep your eye out, there are some pretty good bands every few weekends. If you're looking for a more intelligent and talkative crowd than the average Pearl Street bar would boast, AOH is probably the place to check out.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Boozin' and Cruisin', Albany Style

The bars in Albany I've been in are, admittedly, few and far between. Most were in my SUNY ghetto days, when I relied on my older friends to tout me as the Designated Driver so that I could truly experience the Albany Bar scene.

My first bar ever was Sutter's (Western Ave). I have yet to actually drink there, but man, talk about a hoppin' joint! College students crowd around the bar, seeking juicy burgers and beers of all kind, testifying to the popularity of the place. I especially love the fact that you can take all the pickles you want- condiments are more of a "do it yourself" thing there. On a weekend it can, at times, be difficult to find a parking space, although Sutter's boasts one of the bigger parking lots I have seen in Albany so far. The music is of the jukebox variety, which I rather like- it's a good mix when you want a relaxed night. I'm also told that this bar has deals for sports events, although since I haven't been down there during Monday Night Football, I'm not going to swear to that. Overall, this was a really nice place- perfect for a first date if you don't want to go all out, but you still want to have good conversations over some good burgers and brew.

A few months after I moved to Albany, I ventured for the first time to Hughes Tavern (Yates Street). I got in easily, as there was no bouncer at the door, and I have to say that to date this is by far the grungiest bar in Albany I've been in. Underage friends had no problem getting served, and most of the bar was inhabited by men in their mid forties who made lewd comments to me and the girls in my party. I'm not quite sure how the drinks were priced, but however cheap they may have been or may be, this is one place in Albany I will in the future avoid like the plague.

Since turning 21 though, I have had my fair share of good bars. I find Jillian's (North Pearl) to be nice on a weeknight- but that's more out of personal preference than anything else. The bar on the main floor generally has a few regulars and passer-bys who stop in for a drink; service is generally quick. The game floor, which is where I normally go, is often almost bare- one or two people may mill about, leaving you free to enjoy your drink, dinner, and the game of your choice. The food here is alright, but, as it is with alcohol, a bit more pricey than you may want to pay. I would recommend Jillian's for a night out with several friends. There is also a room with billiards on the first floor, as well as a dance floor on the second.

About two weeks ago my mother brought me to Waterworks (Central Ave), a gay bar which I found that, while a little crowded, was a great place to just hang out and chat (at least if you are a bi girl- I'm not sure how a straight man would fare, but I'm certain if he chatted with the right people, he'd have just as much fun as I did!). The second floor boasts dance music and a nice floor, where you can easily get down and get your groove on- there is also a bar, and nice-looking shirtless men walking around with $2 test tube shots.
The first floor is more of your normal Albany bar atmosphere, with karaoke and another bar. There are plenty tables to sit at, and the staff down here was exceptionally friendly. I found Waterworks to be pretty fun- any shot straight up or a mixed drink was a bit more than I'd pay for in my local bar, but I would certainly go back again.

The true gem of Albany that I have found so far is probably only for the more adventurous and openminded though. Billy Jack's Bar (Central Ave, across from Waterworks) houses some of the best Friday night entertainment I have seen in the area. Every Friday, Miss Carmie Hope, Drag Queen Extraordinare, graces us with her presence at this bar. Now, it's basically your normal karaoke, except Carmie doesn't just host; she actually sings, and beautifully, at that. The drinks are moderately priced but be careful if you are planning on driving later; the bartenders are extremely generous with alcohol in mixed drinks. Billy Jack's can get a little crowded, but with no cover charge, and very good entertainment, I would have to rate this as my best find so far.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween, Albany Style

Well, even though I've been back in Albany for a little over two years, I experienced the "joy" of my first Halloween in Albany. Being freshly 21, what do you think was my chosen destination?

Nightmare on Pearl Street. Big mistake for a first-timer.

I left my house, located in the cozy town of East Greenbush, to head for Nightmare at about 9:30 PM Saturday. Radio ads and various internet hype made it seem like the place to be for all the Saturday night Pre-Halloween festivities. Well, everyone else seemed to think that too.

As the idea of a short, defenseless girl like me walking alone to Pearl Street through back alleys and unpopulated streets accounts was unsettling to me, I drove around the immediate vicinity of Pearl Street for about 45 minutes before giving up and parking down in front of Union Station (I am also excessively lazy, especially when wearing an extra small corset and stilletos, which was most likely another driving force). However, about a minute after getting out of my car, an unkempt looking man came up to me to ask for change. He said it was for beer though, and being honest, I gave him $2 instead of the $1 he was asking for. Hell, it was money I would have spent on booze myself anyways.

So, zoom ahead 10 minutes. I am in Jillians, and the place is packed by the likes of the Doublemint Gum girls, Michael Jackson (with the mannequin of small child attached to his crotch), Professor Chaos, and a few dozen pimps. Pushing my way through the sweaty group of fellow costumed drunkards, I am finally at the bar, albeit the smell of spilled beer now clings to my costume.

After some time I order a drink from Andy, Albany's best bartender, which I quickly consume and head to the dance floor that has been made between the restaurant and billiards area of the main floor. A cover band soon begins to play; God forbid, of course, we have a band that plays something other than the few of the top 40 they can cover. The most annoying thing was, I never did see any one dance in the area that was cleared. Probably because the band SUCKED.

So, because I can't walk around much without bumping into someone else, and the music is too loud to start a good conversation, I went downstairs to the game room to buy a game card. After a few games of pinball, I gave up and went back upstairs to the main room. I was promptly approached by a seemingly intoxicated man in his late 40s who thought he was complimenting my breasts when he said "Wow, your tits look great in that." The hand descended, and I turned around and fled. Wonderful. Just what I needed.

At that point, the environment was just too reminiscent of certain bars in Ireland I'd been, so I grabbed my coat from the coat check and flew out the door back to my car, this time unhassled by bums and strong in my resolve that the next time I'm in Albany for Halloween, I'll pass on Pearl Street and throw my own party. At least then there will be room for the drunk people to dance.