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Matlock shows depth in show at The Linda
Daily Gazette (Fri, Mar 15, 2013)

ALBANY -- For those only aware of Glen Matlock's involvement in The Sex Pistols, Friday night at The Linda was a crash course in the rest of the songwriter's career.

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ALBANY -- For those only aware of Glen Matlock's involvement in The Sex Pistols, Friday night at The Linda was a crash course in the rest of the songwriter's career.

The affable founding bassist of Britain's most famous punk band tore through his back catalog before a crowd filling maybe half the venue, putting his songwriting skills on full display for an hourplus acoustic set.

Early on, Matlock stated he was going to treat the show like a wedding, playing "something old, something new, something borrowed and something bluesy," and that he did, sandwiching most of his 2010 album with his latest band, the Philistines, "Born Running," in between songs from his band after The Sex Pistols, The Rich Kids, a few covers and of course, a few Pistols classics for good measure.

He started off with the new, including "Somewhere, Somehow" from "Born Running" and "Different World," both of which set the relaxed-yet-energetic tone that the rest of the evening would follow. The Rich Kids' "Burning Sounds" was an early highlight, with Matlock explaining that the song was one of the first he wrote after leaving The Pistols in 1977.

Speaking of that group, Matlock couldn't leave the audience hanging for too long, throwing a bone with "God Save the Queen," which he began by having the audience clap out a simple rockabilly beat. His gruff voice, less nasally and caustic than Pistols belter Johnny Rotten, helped bring out the song's buried melodicism and anthemic qualities.

Matlock's muscular playing and singing throughout the evening made up for the lack of a band on these songs -- acoustic singer-songwriter showcase this most certainly was not. His "bluesy" number came with "Ambition," a song originally recorded during his stint with Iggy Pop in the 1970s.

"He didn't do a very good job of it," Matlock proclaimed, before recasting the song as a shuffle. The "borrowed" portion included a snarling version of "Dead End Street" -- by Matlock's heroes, The Kinks -- which received some of the biggest applause of the evening.

Other highlights included audience shout-alongs "Yeah, Right!" and "Hard Work," with Matlock creating a call and response on the songs' choruses. The poignant drug addiction paean "On Something" offered perhaps the most alarmingly candid moment of the evening late in the set, only to be bested by "Born Running" and main set closer "Pretty Vacant," one of the first songs Matlock wrote for The Pistols.

New York Dolls founding guitarist Sylvain Sylvain played it sloppy and loose for his opening set, keeping the crowd entertained just as much with his humorous asides and false stops and starts as with the tunes he played. Of course, this was in keeping with the Dolls' fast and sloppy style, and the minor hiccups and raunchy jokes that interrupted nearly every song only enhanced the performance.

Sylvain tore through songs from throughout his career, leaving room for pointed covers from Bo Diddley ("Pills" ) and Velvet Underground ("Femme Fatale," which featured Sylvain playing his acoustic through a wah-wah pedal). Best of all was the Dolls classic "Trash," which was teased early in the show and played in all its glory to close out the set, once again inspiring a fullthroated sing-along.

Sylvain later joined Matlock for a raucous encore that seemed to be made up on the spot, much to the audience's rowdy excitement.

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Milo Greene at The Linda in Albany
Waynes Word 2 (Sun, Feb 17, 2013)

One of the blessings of life in this area, as I've said many times before on this blog, is the listener-supporter public radio station WEXT, 97.7 FM. If it weren't for them, I would not have been likely to venture to Central Avenue in Albany to finally visit the converted bank, now music hall, dubbed "The Linda" one cold February Saturday night recently, to see the California-based band MILO GREENE. It was a revelation and a pleasure for my wife and I, and I am now hooked on yet another group after seeing their live act.

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One of the blessings of life in this area, as I've said many times before on this blog, is the listener-supporter public radio station WEXT, 97.7 FM. If it weren't for them, I would not have been likely to venture to Central Avenue in Albany to finally visit the converted bank, now music hall, dubbed "The Linda" one cold February Saturday night recently, to see the California-based band MILO GREENE. It was a revelation and a pleasure for my wife and I, and I am now hooked on yet another group after seeing their live act.

Like most of the audience (I'm guessing), I knew them only from one song played prominently on WEXT, which is a haunting, jangly harmonic song called "1957"-- and that title is still a mystery to me. They were described as a "Folk-Pop" aggregation from LA, which is and was a gross understatement, but then attempts to categorize music are always a bit hazy. Local writer Brian McElhiney also helped pique our interest with a Thursday preview my wife picked up on in The Daily Gazette (a fine Schenectady newspaper, for those of you outside our immediate area), so thanks to him as well.

After a great and enthusiastically received warm-up set by solo artist (for this show at least) MaryLeigh Roohan, the headliners came out and launched into a torrent of intertwining guitars, rhythm, and drum-thunder which bore no resemblance to the adjective "folk". The closest "folk-pop" reference I could come up with days later was maybe The Byrds, circa 1966, but then then David Crosby, Chris Hilllman, Roger McGuinn, Gene Clarke and the rest did not have a female singer like Marlana Sheetz to balance their male rock energy either.

The group was touted as being thoroughly democratic-- no leader, or four leaders, depending on how you looked at it-- and everyone but the drummer (the excellent Curtis Marrero) took a turn at the front-and-center mike, and they interchanged instruments on a regular basis to prove their versatility, and create a variety of sound tapestries.

Robbie Arnett was seemingly the spaciest rocker of the bunch to start with as he strummed an acoustic with ferocity and roamed the stage, wearing mismatched print shirt and slacks that looked like rummage sale pickups. I would've thought he was the northern Cali guy of the bunch at first, but no, he was the L.A. representative. To his left on the stage was superb guitarist Andrew Heringer, with a close-cropped reddish-brown beard and hair, a neater look than the dark-haired leftover-hippie style that Arnett wore so well. The tallest member with long black bangs swept to one side was Graham Fink, who started out on bass and later played guitar quite emphatically as well, and seemed like the anchor of the group, while the lovely blonde Ms. Sheetz started out somewhat in the background on keyboards, picked up a guitar now and then along with percussive devices, and slowly moved more into focus after the boys got their rock groove going on the long instrumental opener. From the barrage of sound which with they began, I would've called the music "Psychedelic Funk" more than any form of folk, which was too tame a phrase for the power they exhibited right off the bat.

The song titles were not really announced as they started out, and only later, after acquiring the vinyl debut album did I put together what some of them were, but it didn't matter much while we listened; it was an enchanting sequence. On the second song Graham Fink caught my attention with an Edge-y guitar (like U-2-ish, I mean) and I never did figure out what that tune was. The third selection featured wicked harmonies as they sang a line "Maybe when we're older/ Can I still come over??" and that turned out to be entitled "Silent Way." Marlana stepped forward to sing lead at the start of a great tune called "What's The Matter?" which repeated that questioning line and then the lyrics:
"All your love is never good enough/ All your love is lost on me..." which caught my ear, and as it accelerated with intense, twining guitars into a frenzy at the end I recall Graham
Fink really taking over the vocal lead with full-throttle, reaming the chorus-- "WHATZ THE MATTER!! WHATZ THE MATTER!!", and inspiring a rousing reaction at the climax.

I might have the order wrong here but my scribbled notes-in-the-dark indicate a phrase with the words "olive branch" in the next song, with the chorus line: "I will never run, I will never run you away" and the liner notes tell me that was called "Son My Son", for whatever that's worth. My wife and I had been talking earlier in the day about where the peace-making significance of "olive branches" had originated, so I thought that was a sweet detail of synchronicity.

The following tune was another harmonic beauty, more of a ballad, called "Don't You Give Up on Me"-- which on the album features the female voice but in concert was a group vocal that gave us chills-- a song about hanging together in a relationship through thick and thin, apparently: "I'll dig our own little hole/ and put the walls around us/ and call it our home/ 'cause you're all I got/ and time won't stop." Nice.

Then they took a breath and performed a cover by a guy I didn't know named Sufjan Stevens, called "Chicago." Again, great guitars, and something I have to hear again on YouTube if I can, as apparently it's a common thread in their performances.

Another piece that started out ballad-like and evolved into what I likened to a Band-of-Horses vibe was noted as the last tune on their album-- "Autumn Tree." I was really starting to love Andrew Heringer's guitar work and high-quality vocals by this time-- if there was a star of the group it was him, for me, but there was no ego involved on his part at all-- they truly seemed a democratic bunch.

One of the supreme moments was the last tune they played before the encore-- a rousing vocal and instrumental extravaganza that I noted seemed to start with an electronic clave kind of sound as Marlana chanted something to the effect of: "As Years Go By..." which is from the tune called "Perfectly Aligned" on the CD and album, which then, if I'm not too confused, segued into a longer jam which then later featured all the singers aligning to wail:

"And even if your heart stops/ I'll be there to hold you up,/Even as the world turns/ I'll be there to watch the fire burn/ I slipped softly through/ All I've waited for my dear is you..." It was amazing, an uplifting ending, and I discovered later the last tune was called "Cutty Love." The lyrics from the album notes end like this, a cryptic Valentine's Day poem if there was one:

"All your doubts will fade away/Questions bred by years at bay/ I can be an answer to it all"

But what I remember was all four of them up front singing, led by Fink, who looked large enough to do so, on top of the thundering cascade, repeating over and over again:

"EVEN IF YOUR HEART STOPS, I'LL BE THERE TO HOLD YOU UP!" and I could not think of a more soul-rending testimonial to rock'n'roll love than that.

We all took some deep breaths and I looked around at the clapping, cheering crowd at that point-- noting that it was one of the most well-balanced in terms of age that I'd ever seen, other than at a Dave Matthews' concert at SPAC. There were many bearded and grey audience members, as old or older than me, and also college kids, 20 and 30-somethings, couples and groups of young fans, everything in between, and an even mix of males and females. Somehow, that was gratifying to me, as a testimonial to the egalitarian reach of WEXT, who had had Laura from the "Hello, Pretty City" show introduce MaryLeigh Roohan, and Chris Wienk-- one of the founding masterminds of -- introduce Milo Greene themselves.

When the band exited to the rear out a door that led to the parking lot, I recall thinking-- geezus, they're from California, they're going to freeze out there, and fortunately, they hustled back inside and played two or three more songs. The first was a Wilco tune about late-night drinking and subsequent hangovers, I believe, and had a real country feel. There may have been one other in between, but by then everyone was hanging on for the big closer, the most familiar tune they had save for last: and when they finally broke into the gorgeous opening stanza of "1957" :

"Your house that sits behind me/ is covered in... ivy green.../ the windows that we watch from/ are old and chipping at the beam..." it seemed everyone in the crowd wanted to harmonize with the enchanting chorus: "TAKES ME AWAY...TAKES ME AWAY...TAKES ME AWAY..."

and when the simple songlines continue-- (with Marlana and Robbie so earnest in mutual alignment, Andrew and Graham behind...) "the scent you wear moves in lines from/your apartment in-to mine.../ You act like you don't know me/ My God you tempt my anxious mind..." and then the series of ascending ahhh/ ahhh/ ahh/ ahs-- it became almost rapturous.

The "Takes-Me-Away" chorus returns again, till they sing a line we have all felt about SOMEBODY we were dangerously in love with in our youth-- "Would it be much better/ if I knew/ NOTHING about you??" a few times through, the tension mounts, and they take it out with a group harmonic chant: "I'LL GO I'LL GO I'LL GO I... I'LL GO I'LL GO I'LL GO I...I"LL GO I'LL GO I'LL GO I!" and then it abruptly stops, and they put down their instruments, and you know it is over, there is no more, and yet you want to hear it again. That is what good tunes are made of. Whew.


In listening to the vinyl version of their self-titled debut album which came out in 2012, I realize that the folk-pop (or cinematic-pop, as they prefer to call it) label is actually appropriate for the recording, although the concert was really pure rock. The vocals of Ms. Marlana are featured on the album more than they were in concert, and frankly she was subdued that evening compared to the more dynamic alpha males, but that was fine. The tunes are short and to the point on the vinyl, and they improvised upon and extended them out nicely with some jams. The short instrumental tunes on the recording, which are just interludes, really, like "Orpheus", "Wooden Antlers" and "Moddison"-- which was the name of their short film-- are vehicles for stretching out live as well. While the album has been stuck on my turntable for a week afterwards, it does not capture how good the concert was, just hints at it. I would see this group again in a heartbeat, and for $15. per ticket it was one of the best bargains of the year.

I spent some time on their website and was shocked how little they promote themselves individually-- no pictures with names, no brief bios, no traces of who wrote which tune or who is featured on any of them-- it is all a collective, inter-mixed with no pretentiousness or ego whatsoever. Even on the liner notes, all tunes are written by Milo Greene, their fictitious group moniker. I commend them on that, and how well they make it work.

Knowing their talent level, I guess I wasn't surprised to see that they had already been featured on The David Letterman Show (t.v. debut last July), The Tonight Show with Leno, and Conan O'Brien's Show, though I will forgive them for the latter, since I can't stand him. If it weren't for YouTube I wouldn't know any of that as I just don't stay up and watch late night TV.

My wife told their equipment manager, whom I had freed from the back of their traveling van--as we walked out to the frigid parking lot and heard him yelling inside!-- that we thought we'd be seeing them on Saturday Night Live someday soon-- and he is the one who gifted us the copy of the vinyl. Thanks to that dude, too. The only problem with vinyl is that you can't listen to it in the car on the way home, so I'll be looking for that CD soon. Check out this band if you haven't already. A couple hundred people in the packed Theater that night know what I'm talking about, right?

Thanks again to Chris Wienk and the WEXT staff, and the great hosts at The Linda, a dynamite place to see music, for introducing us to this band. Even though I'm writing this for a website promoting Saratoga Springs, NY-- keep in mind that we are all part of the Capital District in upstate NY, and Albany's music scene is well-worth a 30-40 minute ride on certain specific occasions!

PS-- For those of you reading this in the first week it is posted, WEXT will be featuring an interview with the bandmembers of Milo Greene, and presumably a few live studio songs, on Friday, Feb. 22nd, 2013, at NOON, during the beginning of Chris Wienk's time slot--check it out!

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Tift Merritt @ The Linda, 2/1/13
Times Union (Fri, Feb 1, 2013)

ALBANY - Tift Merritt might as well get herself an apartment in the Capital Region. She tours through area frequently enough that it might make financial sense, and she's certainly made friends in the area.

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ALBANY - Tift Merritt might as well get herself an apartment in the Capital Region. She tours through area frequently enough that it might make financial sense, and she's certainly made friends in the area.

Merritt played to an SRO crowd at The Linda Friday night, delivering a set rife with heaven and always tinged with genuine southern soul.

Her most recent album, "Traveling Alone," drew critical acclaim for its marriage of gentle twang, beautiful singing and literate songs. All of that was on display at The Linda, and Merritt and her crack band included plenty of numbers from the disc in the show.

The title track, strummed in an open tuning, was hypnotic; "Too Soon To Go," one of four encores, sounded like an outtake from Lucinda William's "Essence;" and "Small Talk Relations " seemed to startle even Merritt with its grandeur.

The singer didn't skimp on back catalog either.

"Mixtape" strutted; "Good Hearted Man" and "Stray Paper" harkened back to 2004's R&B masterstroke "Tambourine;" and the solo "Another Country" was poignant, with Merritt discussing how she almost gave up music in 2007.

The 38-year-old singer, who celebrated her birthday last month, jumped easily from guitar to piano throughout the night. On the six-string she has a mean right hand, and the songs are structured implicitly around her groove.

Drummer Noah Levy and bassist Jay Brown (who's been by Merritt's side for 15 years now) held down the bottom, but multi-instrumentalist Eric Heywood tore of the top. Heywood could sublet from Merritt -- he's been to town before with Richard Buckner, Alejandro Escovedo, The Pretenders, Ray LaMontagne and likely others.

His steel guitar sturm und drang on "Drifted Apart" was a step beyond fantastic, merging picked notes, held notes, string scratches and Ebow sustain in a shimmering whole. Wow.

Merritt has chosen to bring Boston's David Wax Museum along for the ride in February, and the trio mesmerized The Linda with its mashup of Mexican roots and singer/songwriter insight.

It's not everyday you see one man thumping a wooden box and another wailing away on an eight-string jarana jarocha while a woman beats - literally - the jawbone of an ass. If it sounds like novelty, it's not.

"Yes, Maria, Yes" was thrilling, and "La Guacamaya" another traditional Veracruzan song, was even better.

For "Let Me Rest," the three gathered around a single microphone, drawing the audience in so close that it might have forgotten that Merritt was the headliner.

But no, she was backstage getting ready for the show -- and likely looking at apartment listings in East Greenbush, so she'd have someplace to crash after playing Club Helsinki Hudson next month.


When: 8 p.m. Friday.

Where: The Linda, 339 Central Avenue, Albany

Length: David Wax Museum, 40 minutes; Tift Merritt, 95 minutes

Highlights: A duo reading by Merritt and Eric Heywood of Tom Waits' "Train Song," a little shaky, but quite the surprise.

Upcoming: The band Milo Greene is at The Linda on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Michael Eck is a freelance writer from Albany and a frequent contributor to the Times Union.

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The Jon Herington Band at The Linda, 9/1/12 (Sat, Sep 1, 2012)

ALBANY - When you mention the name Jon Herington to people, their reactions basically fall into one of two camps. The first camp usually responds with a resounding, "Who?" The second camp was at WAMC-FM's Performing Arts Studio (The Linda) on Saturday night.

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ALBANY - When you mention the name Jon Herington to people, their reactions basically fall into one of two camps. The first camp usually responds with a resounding, "Who?" The second camp was at WAMC-FM's Performing Arts Studio (The Linda) on Saturday night.

While Herington is hardly a household name, he's earned a reputation as a dazzling, versatile sideman, recording and/or touring with a wide range of musicians from folk singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky to jazz vocalist Madeleine Peyroux. And oh yeah, then there's his relationship as the lead guitarist for Steely Dan for the past twelve years and counting.
Clearly most of the folks at The Linda were in attendance because of his Steely Dan connection, and Herrington was fully aware of it, but since the turn of the century, he's also been quietly churning out a handful of fine and varied albums as a bandleader. His most recent disc, "Time On My Hands," was released a month ago, and so naturally, he was leaning heavily on his new repertoire on Saturday night.
Not much of Herington's original material has a direct link to the polished-to-perfection jazz-pop of Steely Dan. And, in fact, he leaned most heavily on music that was deeply rooted in blues and soul, kicking off the evening with the blues-soaked "Caroline Yes," the new album's title track and a heavy-riffing blues-rocker "I'll Fix Your Wagon" (which managed to name-check both Rod McKuen and Baudelaire).
"Thirteen Feet of Rain" was written after Hurricane Katrina, but was certainly just as timely - and potent - on Saturday. He also offered the broken-hearted, Tom Petty-esque ballad, "Turn Time Around," and the wry country twanger with a south-of-the-border flair, "She Reminded Me of You" with spoken verses about drinking and cheating. But his best offering of the night was the decidedly strange "Sweet Ginny Rose," which somehow fused together such unlikely elements as a droning Indian sitar sound (conjured from his iPhone), Herington's Joe Walsh-like delivery and a bold, tribal Bo Diddley beat, supplied by drummer Frank Pagano and bassist Dennis Espantman.
Herington liberally peppered his set with covers, too, dipping into the songbags of such bluesmen as Jimmy Reed ("Baby What You Want Me to Do"), Elmore James ("It Hurts Me, Too") and Eric Von Schmidt ("Baby Let Me Follow You Down").
And, yes, for his last two encores, Herington rewarded the crowd with what they came for - a bit of Steely Dan. The somewhat obscure "Pearl of the Quarter" was an excellent selection, but "Chain Lightning" was near letter-perfect - no easy task for a lean trio - with sharp three-part vocal harmonies and plenty of room for Herington to finally stretch out his jazz chops.

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Chris Smither at The Linda, (Sat, Aug 11, 2012)


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ALBANY - Sitting all alone at centerstage accompanied only by his exquisite acoustic guitar fingerpicking and the steady thump of his left foot pounding on his stomp board, veteran singer-songwriter Chris Smither transformed the WAMC Performing Arts Studio (aka, The Linda) into an intimate coffeehouse with a quietly dazzling 95-minute performance on Saturday evening.
At heart, the 67-year-old Smither is a bluesman, and he proved it by displaying his command over a wide range of styles - from the ragtime of the opening "Open Up" to the slow blues churn of "What It Might Have Been," from the jaunty romp of "Make Room for Me" to the shimmering slide through the traditional "Sittin' On Top of the World" for his encore.
But while most great bluesmen sing about such time-honored topics as guns and gambling, whiskey and unfaithful women, Smither throws out the well-worn cliches to take a considerably more philosophical approach to his lyrics.
The first words out of his mouth on Saturday night rather neatly offered a summation of what was to come throughout the rest of his concert: "I don't think for pleasure, it's just hard not to do/My thinking is a measure of how much I need a clue/I'm still flying blind, hopin' I might find/A way to stop my thinkin' and open up my mind."
Whether it was the Zen introspection of "What It Might Have Been" or the fatalistic resignation of "On the Edge" - which poetically informed us, "We're dancing on the edge of the stage, it won't be long before we fall/The dance is the thing, the fall just brings us the news/That we don't get no curtain call" - Smither laid undisputed claim to the crown of Philospher King of the Blues.
Smither wasn't all about Deep Thoughts, however, and the near capacity crowd broke out into frequent laughter at his consistantly clever wordplay. While Smither's sense of humor ranges from wry to pitch black, he nailed the crowd's collective funnybone with "Origin of Species," a riotous debate over intelligent design versus evolution, as well as "Surprise, Surprise," a talking blues variant that tackled the ongoing financial crisis - name-checking freshly anointed Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan in the process. He also elicited more than a few chuckles with a swamp-soaked rendition of Dave Carter's "Crocodile Man," which skittered atop his snapping, crackling guitar lines.
Funny and philosophical - a mighty rare combination for a bluesman.

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Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - LIVE: Guy Davis @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 1/17/14

Guy Davis prefaced his lightning-fast opening number at The Linda by saying, "I've stolen so much, this song doesn't even have a title!" And even if he hadn't name-checked Charlie Patton and Blind Willie McTell after it was all over, the SRO crowd could easily hear about 100 years of the blues coursing through Davis' acoustic 12-string guitar, right down to the off-time beat that recalled Robert Johnson's original version of "Crossroads." But as Davis says he tells his students, "It's okay to steal music - but once you steal it, you have to earn it!" Read More

Sun, Oct 6, 2013 - LIVE: Syd Straw at WAMC-FM’s Performing Arts Studio

ALBANY - It's been more than 20 years since singer-songwriter Syd Straw graced an Albany stage, but those shows at the now long-defunct QE2 still burn brightly in the memories of more than a few who were there back then. Read More

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