If you grew up in Saratoga Springs, chances are that you grew up on concerts at SPAC. Whether you climbed the fence to sneak into The Grateful Dead circa 1985, had your first beer at Bon Jovi circa 2003, or met a Tinder crush at Matchbox 20 circa 2014, memories of a SPAC concert stick with you. And the thing about growing up on concerts at SPAC? You don’t outgrow them.
“This will be my 25th year going to Dave Matthews with my mother,” Piper Boutique owner Alessandra Bange-Hall says. “She took me to my first Dave show when I was 12—she drove me and my friends. And then every year, even when I could drive, my mom always went to the show with us. My friends, the same friends that I’ve gone with year after year after year, are like, ‘Is Clare going this year?’ It’s so funny.”
Of course, perennial Saratoga favorite DMB is just one of 34 pop, rock and country concerts Live Nation is presenting at Saratoga’s historic outdoor amphitheater this summer—the most in more than two decades. And, following a concert-less 2020 and dialed-back 2021, Capital Region music-lovers are here for it. This past spring, when it seemed like a new concert was announced every other day—The Lumineers, Jason Aldean, Chris Stapleton, Sting—group chats from Glens Falls to Glenmont and beyond were blowing up. “Everyone is talking about the SPAC schedule,” Bange-Hall says. “The lineup is amazing. I think it’s going to knock it out of the park.”
As is evidenced by Bange-Hall’s quarter-century DMB streak, for most concert-goers, it doesn’t matter how many times they’ve seen an act at SPAC before. Bands like Dead & Company, Goo Goo Dolls and, until this year, Phish, come to Saratoga as consistently as horse racing’s top trainers, and the crowds don’t stop showing up to see them. Another favorite act returning to SPAC this year is country superstar Luke Bryan, who, in 2019, welcomed members of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department on stage to film a CBS special called Lip Sync to the Rescue. The deputies performed a choreographed dance to “Knockin’ Boots,” while Bryan provided vocals from out of view. “It was one of the greatest experiences for the deputies,” says Sheriff Michael Zurlo, who helped coordinate the rehearsals and performance but shied away from performing himself. “Everybody’s a fan of Luke, and a lot of our people are going to go again to his concert.”
Other locals want more than just a ticket to a 2022 show—they want actual face time with the stars. “The dream is to interview a member of Steely Dan, be it front man Donald Fagen or a member of the touring company,” says Niskayuna native and Syracuse resident Michael Held, who co-hosts Time Out Of Mind, a podcast that’s working its way through The Dan’s entire discography—a whole 50 years’ worth—dedicating each episode to the study of a different song. “And you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be recording an episode about their SPAC performance.” (For those younger SPAC fans who may be unfamiliar with Steely Dan, Held’s co-host, Saratogian Ryan Burke, describes the band’s on-stage presence this way: “Imagine if DaBaby, Slipknot and Hootie and the Blowfish shared the stage for 90 minutes. It’s a lot like that.”)
Latham-based financial planner Tim Graney’s also got his eye on more than tickets for an upcoming show. His daughter Erin is getting married at the Hall of Springs on July 2, and is hoping for a special guest appearance at the reception. “We’ve got to get Josh Groban to sing a song at their wedding,” he says. (The “You Raise Me Up” crooner is playing a show right next door that very night.) “It would be awesome.”
So whether you’re a longtime deadhead who’s holding on to that 1985 magic vis-à-vis John Mayer; have recently been binge-listening to America’s next top bluegrass banjo-er Billy Strings; or are a Morgan Wallen superfan ready to turn it up down, up down, up down, this summer’s Live Nation season is going to be one you tell your kids about. Or, if you’re Clare Bange-Hall, one you’ll bring your kid to, once again.