Caffè Lena Preparing For A Star-Studded Summer Season With Judy Collins, Béla Fleck And More

Lena's Executive Director Sarah Craig talks with 'saratoga living' about the the performance space's amazing summer schedule.

Joan Soriano and his Bachata band performing at Caffè Lena. (Joseph Deuel)

Anyone who’s passed through Saratoga Springs surely knows about Caffè Lena. Founded in 1960, the intimate performance space and cafe is hallowed ground for many musicians. It’s one of the first venues where a young Bob Dylan played back in 1961 (before Dylan even had an album). Since then, Saratoga’s most famous small venue has helped launch the careers of other well-known acts including Boston-based folk quartet Darlingside and Sawyer Fredericks, who won Season 8 of The Voice. And Lena isn’t slowing down anytime soon. saratoga living got to chat with its Executive Director Sarah Craig about what to expect this summer.

What shows are you really excited about this summer?
I’m profoundly honored to have a few people coming who haven’t played in such an intimate room in many, many years, including Judy Collins, Doc Severinsen, Fred Hersch, Béla Fleck and others. With the history in the walls of this amazing little performance space, those will be memorable experiences for both the audience and the artists.

Who are some of the dream musicians you’d love to bring to the venue?
I’ll admit that I feel in my bones that Bob Dylan is supposed to come back here someday. Aside from Bob, I’ve had my eye on David Grisman, Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens and Gillian Welch. But I also have my eye on newcomers that nobody’s heard of, who I can’t wait to introduce to our amazing audience.

How long has Lena been partnering with SPAC, and how has that affected your ability to bring in new artists?
Our partnership with SPAC started a couple of years ago. I reached out to SPAC’s President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol to welcome her to town, and we ended up drinking coffee and spinning all sorts of dreams. We connect on many levels. We’ve presented SPAC’s world-class jazz and classical artists in the unparalleled intimacy of the Caffè, and we’ve presented Caffè Lena’s exciting roots and indie artists on the lawn at SPAC. We each have unique strengths.

What’s been your biggest success story at the Caffè?
My proudest moments are seeing unknown artists I supported become in-demand festival headliners and concert hall acts. But the most famous person I’ve ever booked is Judy Collins, and I’m grateful to our audience for buying all the tickets in less than two days. I can’t wait to experience an amazing evening with that beautiful lady.


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