Saratoga Summer Music Preview: ‘saratoga living’ Just Made You The Greatest Live Mixtape Ever

These are all the top rock, country, Americana and hip-hop shows you need to be going to this July, August and September.

Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band has been a mainstay at SPAC for decades.

When I was growing up here, summer in Saratoga Springs meant three things: tourists, the races and concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). Because I had nothing in common with the high-rollers—and wasn’t much of a horseplayer—what really did it for me was going to SPAC to see all the acts I’d only read about in Rolling Stone or heard on 102.7 WEQX. I saved a lot of my ticket stubs, so I know that I went to see the H.O.R.D.E. Festival (I was a huge Barenaked Ladies fan at the time), Tom Petty (#RIP), Neil Young (Silver & Gold tour), the Steve Miller Band (multiple times), a double-bill featuring Beck and Ben Folds Five (I may’ve inhaled for the first time later that night), John Mellencamp (I actually went for the opening band, Son Volt), Counting Crows and countless others. And, yes, if you’re wondering, I broke my (Saratoga) maiden—that’s a horse racing term; look it up—seeing the Dave Matthews Band several times throughout the years. As much as I enjoyed going to SPAC shows, I also patronized a number of other local venues. Below, we’ve assembled the ultimate summer music preview featuring as many venues (and musical genres) as we could muster. Music is in our DNA. Enjoy.

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS
Colony, Woodstock, NY • July 5

PARADOX SAINTS
(Album Release Party) Putnam Place, Saratoga • July 7

BIG DADDY KANE
“Alive At Five” at Jennings Landing, Albany • July 12

Courtney Barnett
Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett. (Pooneh Ghana)

COURTNEY BARNETT
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), North Adams, MA • July 12
Grammy-nominated Aussie indie rocker Courtney Barnett is coming to nearby North Adams, MA (one-and-a-half hours southeast of Saratoga). In the last three years, Barnett’s released a trio of critically acclaimed albums, including her most recent one, Tell Me How You Really Feel, which came out in May. You don’t want to miss this one, mate.

SPIN DOCTORS
“Schenectady County SummerNight,” Schenectady • July 13

DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
SPAC, Saratoga • July 13-14

I’d be remiss not to put DMB—or simply “Dave,” to superfans—on this Saratoga summer music preview. If you want to experience what it’s like to grow up in the Spa City, buy a ticket to one of these shows, pregame way too hard before going and annoy the family next to you by singing all of the songs you know at the top of your lungs. Then you’ll crash…into bed, baby.

OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW
Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown • July 14

M. WARD
Bearsville Theater, Woodstock • July 14

Jason Aldean
Jason Aldean was recently named the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year. (Miller Mobley)

JASON ALDEAN
SPAC, Saratoga Springs • July 15

This guy’s a true survivor. Aldean was the artist caught in the crossfire at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, when a mentally ill gunman opened fire over the crowd, killing nearly 60 people and wounding more than 500. The 2018 recipient of the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year, Aldean is sure to put on a great show.

TAB BENOIT
Cohoes Music Hall, Cohoes • July 20

AMANDA SHIRES
The Egg, Albany • July 25

An Americana gem, fiddler and singer-songwriter Shires is one of the brightest young stars out there today, and man, can she belt it out. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s married to the President-elect of the genre, Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive-By Truckers, who’s now become a Grammy mainstay as a solo artist. The happy couple performed together earlier this year at Albany’s Palace Theatre. Shires’ new album, To The Sunset, will be released on August 3.

BERMUDA TRIANGLE FEATURING BRITTANY HOWARD (OF ALABAMA SHAKES)
Colony, Woodstock • July 25

JANET JACKSON
SPAC, Saratoga • July 26

All wardrobe malfunctions aside, I’ve been a part of the rhythm nation for most of my life—and I can tell you, it feels pretty good. Fifty-two-year-old Janet—sister to the late King of Pop, and a recent mom—doesn’t tour all that often in our neck of the woods, so this’ll be a rare treat for Saratogians. I’m going to guess that she’ll be hitting her hits hard, including “Nasty” and the previously hat-tipped “Rhythm Nation,” all while wearing some sort of bondage gear and looking incredible. She’s still supporting her most recent album, Unbreakable, which came out (astonishingly) three years ago.

KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND & BETH HART BAND
Palace Theatre, Albany • July 27

John Fogerty
John Fogerty’s been on the Vegas residency circuit of late, but will be taking a break from Sin City and rolling into SPAC on July 29. (Myriam Santos)

JOHN FOGERTY
SPAC, Saratoga • July 29

As a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival in the ’60s and ’70s, Fogerty scored nine Top 10 singles, including “Proud Mary” and “Fortunate Son.” As a solo artist, he busted the charts again in ’85, with comeback album Centerfield, penning one of the greatest baseball-referencing songs of all time in its title track. He’s been working the Vegas residency circuit of late, so the fact that he’s coming to the Northeast is a pretty big deal. I’ll be there singing the wrong “Bad Moon Rising” chorus lyric—subbing in “bathroom on the right” for “bad moon on the rise”—just as Fogerty’s been known to do during his live shows. (I’ve heard it with my own two ears; he even points to “the right.”)

SYLVAN ESSO
Upstate Concert Hall, Clifton Park • July 30

RUBBLEBUCKET
“Rockin’ On The River” in Riverfront Park, Troy • August 1 

Slayer
Heavy metal powerhouse Slayer is playing at the TU Center in August. (Martin Jausller)

SLAYER
Times Union Center, Albany • August 1

I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of saratoga living’s readership has never strapped on headphones and turned a Slayer record up to 11. But area metal-heads need an outlet too, and this is the Grammy-winning band’s farewell tour. Don’t bang your head against the wall for missing out, just bang your head.

SIR SLY
“Alive At Five”, at Jennings Landing, Albany • August 2

BLONDIE
MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA • August 3

SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS
The Egg, Albany • August 4

NEW YORK PLAYERS
Putnam Place, Saratoga • August 10

ADIRONDACK INDEPENDENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL
Various Locations, Lake George • September 1-2

Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne will be bringing his solo act to the Palace in September.

DAVID BYRNE
Palace Theatre, Albany • September 9

As the lead singer/guitarist and co-songwriter for the new wave band Talking Heads, Byrne penned a number of radio classics, including “Psycho Killer,” “Burning Down The House” and “Once In A Lifetime.” As a solo artist, Byrne’s been a mainstay on the avant-garde scene—and has won a Golden Globe, an Oscar and a Grammy for his work. He’ll be swinging through Albany on a tour supporting his 2018 album, American Utopia.

RINGO STARR & HIS ALL STARR BAND
SPAC, Saratoga • September 14

The closest a Beatle has come to Saratoga in recent years is Albany, when Paul McCartney played the Times Union Center in 2014. That’ll change this September, when Fab Four drummer Ringo Starr rolls into SPAC with his All Starr Band, which features supporting players such as two-time Rock Hall of Fame inductee Gregg Rolie (Journey, Santana) and Colin Hay (Men At Work). There’s nothing like a little help from your friends.

GINUWINE
Vapor at Saratoga Casino Hotel, Saratoga • September 27

THE WEEPIES
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy • September 29

Will Levith
Will Levith

Will Levith is the Director of Content for saratogaliving.com and the Executive Editor for saratoga living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others.

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