Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems as though major recording artists have been announcing their future touring plans way, way in advance of when they used to. Case in point: This past July, it was “leaked” that popular Americana band The Lumineers would be playing the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in June 2020. That’s right, we learned of the show nearly a year before it would take place.
Theoretically, this cushion provides the band with more than enough time to sell out the venue; and if they were, say, bundling their new album, III, with tickets purchased (I’m just guessing here), that would certainly give a bump to the album’s sales numbers and potentially, help their standing on the Billboard charts. With heavy local airplay for the band’s singles “Gloria” and “Life in the City,” it’s kept the buzz hot for Lumineers tickets, and as far as I can tell, the inside of SPAC’s amphitheater is completely sold out at this point, with just lawn tickets still available.
That said, knowing about the show nearly a year in advance doesn’t make me any less excited for it—or a number of other top-shelf concerts happening next year that have been teased early on. In our humble opinion, here are the 10 most anticipated upcoming rock shows (so far) in Saratoga, the Capital Region and within (reasonable) driving distance of here.
Jesse Malin at Colony in Woodstock, NY – Thursday, February 20
Just 1.5 hours from Saratoga Springs is the famed hippie enclave of Woodstock, NY, which despite the name, isn’t where the historic 1969 festival took place. It is, however, a quaint little town with wonderful restaurants and window shopping options—and a handful of music venues that welcome in top national acts. Not familiar with Jesse Malin? The New York City troubadour’s been an underground favorite since releasing 2002’s critically acclaimed The Fine Art of Self Destruction. (Many moons ago, I went on my first date with my future wife to a Malin show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.) Malin’s latest, Sunset Kids, was one of 2019’s most underrated gems. It’s worth more than a few mid-work-day spins on Spotify. Get tickets here.
Fitz and the Tantrums at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park – Wednesday, February 26
Los Angeles neo-soul band Fitz and the Tantrums first broke onto the indie scene with 2010’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces and not surprisingly, soon found their way onto mainstream radio with 2013’s bumping “Out of My League.” Then they dropped the A-bomb earworm that is “HandClap” in 2016, and all bets were off. They’ll be swinging through Clifton Park’s Upstate Concert Hall on their “All The Feels Winter Tour 2020.” Make sure to grab a ticket or two before they sell out. You can get them here.
Roseanne Cash at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga – Wednesday, February 29
Anybody else excited about the opening of Saratoga’s new year-round events space, Universal Preservation Hall (or as the cool kids call it, UPH)? Yeah, I figured as much. Imagine my glee when I learned that they’d nabbed Grammy-winning country-folk artist Roseanne Cash to break the place in (if you’re wondering, she’s the late Johnny Cash’s eldest daughter). She’ll be supporting her 14th studio album, She Remembers Everything. Grab tickets here.
Josh Ritter at Bethesda Episcopal Church in Saratoga – Thursday, March 12, 2020
A friend of mine recently saw Josh Ritter, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation in the middle of the concert. Ritter’s latest album, Fever Breaks, which came out earlier this year, has been on a bunch of year-end best-of lists and for good reason: It’s a master-class in songwriting, and was produced by fellow Americana musician and Grammy darling Jason Isbell, who performs on the record along with his wife, Amanda Shires (she of all-woman supergroup The Highwomen). Ritter’s actually been releasing records since the late ’90s, and his earlier stuff deserves multiple spins, too (especially, 2006’s The Animal Years). He’ll be appearing in a Caffè Lena-sponsored event at Saratoga’s Bethesda Episcopal. Take me to church! Get tickets here.
Kurt Vile at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock – Monday, April 13, 2020
If you happened to catch Kurt Vile’s show this past July at Skyloft in Albany, you would’ve been treated to a lengthy set by the musician, featuring all of his stoner rock “greatest hits.” (You’ve more than likely come across “Pretty Pimpin’” or “Loading Zones” [see above] on alternative rock radio.) Vile is returning to the area—or at least the general vicinity—this April to play a set at the revered Levon Helm Studios, the one-time recording studio and farm/home of The Band’s late drummer-singer Levon Helm. Unfortunately, the show’s sold out, but one can almost guarantee that there’ll be “miracles” turning up on the secondary market soon. Don’t, um, fret.
Alison Krauss at The Palace Theatre in Albany – Saturday, May 2
Whether you discovered Alison Krauss via the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack or were simply a massive fan of the bluegrass star before that, I think we can all agree that there are few voices out there in music-ville that are sweeter than hers. (I once got into an argument with a friend about whose voice was naturally better, Krauss’ or Adele’s; my money was on Krauss, and I still think I’m right.) Whether she’s insinuating her voice with Robert Plant’s (of Led Zeppelin fame) or those of her own virtuoso backing band, Union Station, what you get from Krauss is nothing short of a treasure chest of Americana. At the Palace, she’ll be supporting her two-year-old album, Windy City, that debuted at No.1 on Billboard‘s Country and Bluegrass album charts. Or maybe even a new, as-yet-released album. I guess we’ll have to see. Get tickets here.
Tanya Tucker at The Egg in Albany – Friday, May 22
Tanya Tucker’s big comeback album, her first in 17 years, While I’m Livin’, which was co-produced by angel-voiced Brandi Carlile and Shooter “Son of Waylon” Jennings, has received four Grammy nominations, including Song Of The Year. Long before she was having her latest moment in the sun, Tucker was a veritable country hit-making machine, charting with classics such as “Delta Dawn” and “Soon.” Seemingly anything that Carlile touches these days turns to gold, so I’m bullish on Tucker’s chances for a golden gramophone or four. Get tickets while they’re still available here.
The Lumineers at SPAC in Saratoga – Saturday, June 6
My wife complains that The Lumineers are one trick ponies, naming an excessive number of their songs after girls. She’s not wrong, but the majority of them—”Ophelia,” “Cleopatra,” “Angela,” “Gloria,” “Donna,” “Elouise” and “Darlene”—are massively catchy songs, which end up worming their way into your ear, one way or another. And that doesn’t even include their first major radio hit, “Ho Hey,” or their latest single, “Living in the City.” They’ll be touring in support of their third album, the aptly titled III. And if you haven’t gotten tickets to their SPAC show yet, shame on you. Get lawn tickets here.
Alanis Morissette with Garbage and Liz Phair at SPAC in Saratoga – Wednesday, July 8
With the #MeToo Movement in full effect, a Jagged Little Pill musical on Broadway and retro everything still in in the rock world, it’s a better time than any to revisit Alanis Morissette’s female-empowerment home run that was 1995’s Jagged Little Pill, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this coming year (despite what Jezebel thinks). Plus, you can’t go wrong with her supporting acts: Garbage, fronted by Scottish firebrand Shirley Manson, released a number of hit songs throughout the ’90s (the band also features producer Butch Vig on drums, he who produced Nirvana’s groundbreaking Nevermind); and insanely underrated indie rocker Liz Phair, whose back catalog is nothing short of an American (feminist) treasure. Get tickets here.
The Avett Brothers at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown – Thursday, July 23 + Friday, July 24
North Carolina’s Avett Brothers, who’ve been releasing albums since the early aughts, but really saw their star rise when producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin sat in the control room for their 2009 album I And Love And You, are returning for a twofer at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown July 23-24. As luck would have it, that also happens to be Hall of Fame Induction weekend, meaning there’s a high probability that baseball greats could be wandering around the farm-like music venue or nearby towns. (Have your autograph book or ballpoint and baseball at the ready!) Trust me: I’ve seen these guys live more than once—at Ommegang, too—and they put on a killer show. Don’t miss out. Get tickets here.