As I mentioned in the introduction to my “5 Most Memorable Music Moments In SPAC History” story, I’ve written a lot of lists throughout the years. For awhile, I thought lists were all I’d ever write for the rest of my career. Traffic giant BuzzFeed, for whom I’ve never written, was at the epicenter of the craze, and from there, it fanned out to every single one of my freelance clients. They all wanted something in list form. So I tried to be as creative as possible. There was “10 Scientific Reasons Why You Should Play The Guitar,” which I did for Men’s Health. I had to rewrite it twice (my editor was tough but fair), but it eventually reached thousands of interested readers and got picked up by a number of other websites. There was “10 Exotic ‘Indiana Jones’ Locations You Can Visit Today,” which I did for Condé Nast Traveler and was picked up by The Huffington Post and Fox News. (The list was read and enjoyed by the current owner of RealClearLife.com and helped get me a full-time job there.) And there was my personal favorite, “James Bond’s Top 5 Rides,” about the coolest vehicles to have appeared in the British spy’s films, which published in the pages of Penthouse (sorry, you’ll have to buy the back issue for the evidence).
Only after I started writing for saratoga living did I have the chance to pen lists about Saratoga Springs, and let me tell you: This city’s ripe for list-making. That led me to put together “The Pride Of Saratoga,” which included a few of my former classmates; “Saratoga Goes Hollywood,” which focused on films that had a strong Saratoga connection; and “5 Iconic Hollywood Horses,” which actually included eight equine actors on it.
Which brings me to my latest Spa City-themed list: the “10 Best Songs By Saratoga Bands To Blast On Labor Day Weekend.” (I’m being pretty loose in my definition of “Saratoga band” here.) I wanted to celebrate the two greatest aspects of Labor Day: (1) You get Monday off to do whatever you want (so you’ll likely be out late on Sunday); and (2) You should pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve been putting in of late (this holiday celebrates all us working stiffs). Since 1884, it’s been a national holiday, and we’ve been reaping the rewards of this free day ever since. Take some time to reflect this weekend—and rock out!
The Figgs – “The Bar”
If ever there was a call-to-arms for the non-teetotalers of the world—who will likely be out in number Sunday night—it would be The Figgs’ “The Bar.” The band, which was originally based in Saratoga Springs—all of its members have since disbursed throughout the East Coast—cut this track on their final album of the Guy Lyons Era, The Figgs Couldn’t Get High…, from back in 1998 (Lyons started out as the band’s original skinsman in the late ’80s and went on to become one of its two guitarists and three lead singers). A sample lyric: “Facedown on the table and inside I’m seeing stars…they’re gonna have to drag me from the bar.” (A word of advice: Don’t be that person this weekend, or you might wind up on the local police blotter.)
Jes Hudak – “National Holiday”
Long before Sara Bareilles busted out on the piano pop scene, Jes was churning out gems on the stages of Saratoga (she was a mainstay at Caffè Lena and put out at least one indie record while we were all in high school). She’s been bouncing back and forth between New York City and Los Angeles in recent years, and just wound up on the West Coast again. She has a nice catalog on Spotify, and the one I’ve chosen for this list is the aptly titled “National Holiday” from the same-named EP, which bestows the compliment, “You’re a national holiday…today and every day,” on some special someone. (Yes, you are!)
Lifecoach – “A Thousand Names”
I’ve known lead singer/bassist Ryan Finger since nursery school, and I used to go over to his house and play loud guitar music all the time in the ’90s. (We were both fans of Nirvana, Primus and the like.) The Labor Day connection is a nice one: Ryan’s a Brooklyn transplant and has gone out of his way to help Brooklynites get safely from point A to point B at night via his Brooklyn BIKE Patrol. In other words, he’s laboring when most are fast asleep—for a good cause. The organization has been endorsed by everyone from the Brooklyn Borough President to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Kudos to Ryan for keeping the streets of Brooklyn safe—and kicking major ass in his power-punk band, Lifecoach. This track is from their 2016 EP, Coach or Die.
Sawyer Fredericks – “Gasoline”
Look, this song is definitely not about the stuff that you fill up your K-car with at Cumberland Farms—but it’s what got it on this list. Because it made me think of all the options for Labor Day weekend (I’ll be celebrating in Saratoga at my 20th high school reunion). You might decide to fill ‘er up to enjoy your three-day weekend in The Hamptons or Cooperstown, or simply, to go on a long drive to crank Sawyer’s latest album, Hide Your Ghost. And well, you can’t argue with a guy who’s won The Voice. Pump it up!
Phantogram – “Celebrating Nothing”
Some curmudgeons out there in Capital-land might be thinking on Monday: “Labor Day, shmaber-day.” Because they have to work. Those folks will be telling themselves they’re fine in celebrating nothing—to paraphrase the first line of this delightfully Nine Inch Nails-y track from Phantogram’s 2014 album, Voices. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that Phantogram neither wrote this song with Labor Day, nor any national holiday in mind. But that doesn’t keep it off of this list.
Train – “50 Ways To Say Goodbye”
At least for Saratogians, Labor Day weekend isn’t only about celebrating all the hard work you’ve put in this year, it’s about tipping our caps to all the friendly people who’ve made the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course possible. (Here’s looking at you, traffic guy, coming off Exit 14, who smiles and waves at all the passing cars.) Unfortunately, the last day of the season is on Monday, September 3, so here are at least 50 ways to say goodbye, courtesy of pop band Train—which at the time, featured Saratogian Scott Underwood on drums. (That’s him as the deli-counter guy in the music video above.) A big shout-out to Underwood for coming into the saratoga living offices earlier this summer to pick up a copy of our 20th anniversary issue, in which he’s featured, and snap a photo with you-know-who! Made my summer.
Lughead – “Whatever Makes You Happy”
I recently rediscovered this band and track when I fell down a rabbit-hole of Capital Region music memories from my youth in the alt-rock/grungy ’90s. These guys hailed from nearby Albany, and though there’s choice little about the band’s history online—it turns out that lead singer and guitarist, Nick Farradino, was a popular local bartender and Boston Red Sox fan, so he’s good people in my book—I remember blasting this track on WEQX as I made my way to high school two decades ago. Yes, the beginning of September means “back to school” for all you kids (and teachers) out there in Saratoga. But now you have an awesome new track to rock out to on your…what do kids listen to music on these days anyway?
Dryer – “Desperate Annie’s”
If you happen to find yourself in Saratoga this Labor Day Sunday doing a pub crawl, you’ll probably be stopping at Desperate Annie’s, a popular hangout for locals and Skidmore College students. (Skiddies are coming back to town soon, too, enforce, if they aren’t already here.) Back in the day, DA’s, as it’s known to the faithful, had the greatest jukebox in town, and you could find a number of Figgs records on it. (I’m pretty sure that’s long gone.) Another band that might’ve been on that jukebox? Dryer, who paid tribute to the bar in song—and just so happens to feature saratoga living‘s own Subscriptions Manager, Rachael Rieck. So be sure to kick out the jams with this one this weekend.
Fixer – “Down Without It”
I grew up playing touch-football in my neighbor’s side yard with bassist/backing vocalist Jason Brown—whose dad, Joel, is the Distinguished Artist-in-Residence and guitar teacher at Skidmore—and I never, in a million years, thought he’d end up in a hard rock band. (He wasn’t half bad at touch-football either!) This track was one of the fruits of Fixer’s labor, so to speak. And while the band split up in ’09 (Brown now runs local music studio Starling Studios), the evidence is still on YouTube of past glories. And it got me thinking: Just imagine what life would be like without Labor Day. You’d be down without it.
Kansas Smitty’s House Band – “Big Bad Shake”
The best-named guy I know, Giacomo Smith, who makes a living playing jazz in London, England, and co-owns a jazz bar there, is one of the founding members of Kansas Smitty’s House Band. (He also made my “Pride Of Saratoga” list, and he just played a gig in town to close out Travers weekend.) Now, say, you want to go out dancing in Downtown Saratoga this weekend—but don’t want to pay for all the drinks you’re going to consume that night—grab a six-pack or bottle of tequila, crank this one up to 11 and make that dance party happen in your own living room. Who knows? Maybe the neighbors won’t complain. Maybe they’ll join you.