Happy 518 Day!

Once again, today is May 18, or, 518 Day. The 518 is a huge region of New York State, an area code established in 1947 and covering 24 counties.

518 day

The 518 area code extends from the Mohawk Valley just west of Utica, to the Vermont and Massachusetts borders, and north to Canada, and includes Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Glens Falls, Plattsburgh and the entire North Country, Saranac Lake and the entire High Peaks region, plus Schoharie, Catskill, Hunter and Caroga Lake. A huge area of the state, and combined with the new 838 area code, covers more than 2 million New Yorkers!

Among this wide swath of the state is a great deal of music, from bands to venues, festivals to promoters, concert series and figures in the scene, the 518 has a rich amount of music, so much that we thought a great way to celebrate 518 Day (May 18), was to come up with a list of Five Hundred Eighteen things that make the 518 a great place for music. 

But we wanted to keep this digestible, and in working with our friends at 518scene.com, we came up with at least a start – 51.8 (rounded up to 52) music venues, bands, promoters, series and more, that make the 518 so great. We started in May 2023 with our list and that of 518scene, and for 2024, we’ve got 52 more things that make the 518 great.

Read our list below and 518scene’s list for 2024 here.

1. 518 Day of Giving

Let’s start with a great way to give back – 518 Day of Giving is the first online, regional fundraiser of its kind on May 18, 2024. The day intends to harness the power of community to connect nonprofit organizations with new and existing donors, while raising funds and awareness for the nonprofit community. Collectively, participating nonprofits hope to raise $518,000 to continue to provide vital supports and services throughout the Capital Region and beyond. Donate to a variety of organizations here.

2. The Erie Canal Song

You likely learned this in grade school if you grew up anywhere near the Mohawk or Hudson Rivers. Originally titled “Low Bridge, Everybody Down,” the song by Thomas S. Allen recounts the history of the Erie Canal, and was first published in 1913 when the New York Barge Canal replaced the Erie Canal. While the sheet music cover shows a boy on a mule ducking down to pass under a bridge, the reference to “low bridge” in the song actually refers to travelers who would typically ride on top of the boats and need to lower their heads to allow for safe passage. Taking a geographic trip from Buffalo to Albany, the final lyrics of the song are “Low bridge, everybody down, Low bridge, I’ve got the finest mule in town. She’s a perfect, perfect lady, and she blushes like a gal. If she hears you sing about her and the Erie Canal.”

Stay tuned for a full history on the song this summer, ahead of next year’s Bicentennial of the Erie Canal’s opening!

3. Jive Hive Live

Located in Albany, Jive Hive Live is an intimate, state of the art, private space built for live recording and video livestream productions.  Their mission is to provide a resource of both people and “things” that will enable talented musicians, artists and other creatives to share their work with “the world” in a professional manner typically out of reach.  The goal is to build a self sustaining community that is “better together” vs the typical “zero sum game” environment.

4. Jazz on Jay

If you like jazz, then Jay Street in Schenectady is the place to be Thursday’s from 12-130pm at the corner of Jay Street and State Street for free outdoor concerts and enjoy some of the best live jazz acts in the 518.

jazz on jay

5. WEQX

Founded in November 1984 by Brooks Brown as an independent radio station, WEQX may be stationed in Vermont at Mount Equinox (hence the call sign EQX), but the broadcast reach hits much of the 518, and as far east as New Hampshire. EQX is a sponsor of numerous live music events and presents a variety of concerts in the Capital Region. Entering their 40th year, WEQX is a true independent radio station, highlighting artists from across the 518 and New England with shows such as EQXposure, Going Underground, Jam n’ Toast and many more.

6. Starlite Music Theatre

Here’s a throwback for folks in Colonie. The Starlite Music Theatre was a theatre in the round, seating 3,000 attendees around a center stage, originally opening in 1958. Designed for theater as well as live music and comedy, the venue hosted the lives of Rodney Dangerfield, Three Dog Night, George Carlin, “Weird Al” Yankovic, B.B. King, The Beach Boys, Gallagher and many more. The located was closed in the early 2000s and demolished in 2012, making way for what was to be the headquarters of Ayco, but seems to be an open lot currently.

photo by Sara Ayers

7. Sawyer Fredericks

An Americana singer-songwriter from Glen in Montgomery County, Sawyer Fredericks, began playing local farmers markets, open mics, and iconic New York venues at the age of 13. With his deep, beyond-his-years original lyrics and melodies, soulful vocals, and powerful live performances, Sawyer seemed an unlikely match for reality tv, but he won over audiences to win season 8 of NBC’s The Voice. He continues to perform around the Capital Region and elsewhere.

8. Skyway Collective

The Skyway Collective started in the summer of 2023 as an idea to utilize Albany’s newly built Skyway. The idea: get together some DJ’s, decks, and speakers, and have a pop-up hang. Word quickly got out about the Monday night weekly pop-up dubbed Minimal Monday’s, gaining a social media stamp of approval from Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and the idea started to blossom into a community. With its swift growth and high demand, Steve Mink (SM INK), Connor Heid (Cauzee), Kellen Hagen and Devan Collins (DRC) began discussing where to go from there, and during one Monday night brainstorm on the skyway, “The Skyway Collective“ was born. The Collective has since evolved into its own production company with its signature “Skyway sound” system which the team utilizes to host club events and hold residencies around the capital district. As The Collective will soon be celebrate their 1st anniversary in June, they continue to make strides build the house/techno scene in upstate NY.

9. Washington Park Lakehouse

Located in Albany’s Washington Park, this Spanish Revival structure was designed by Albany architect J. Russell White and has been a feature of the park for many years, although not part of the original scope of the park, which opened in 1873. The interior of the lakehouse is detailed and has terrazzo floors and wrought-iron chandeliers. The outdoor amphitheater area is used for live music during the annual Tulip Festival, and hosts Park Playhouse theatrical performances during the summer. The Lake House is situated on 90 acres of rolling urban parkland, and the landscape architecture was inspired by Fredrick Law Olmsted.

10. Bogies

A staple of the Albany club scene in the 1990s and opened in the mid-1970s, Bogies was a beloved hole in the wall venue located at 297 Ontario Street that closed its doors for good in 2015, after ample efforts to revive the dive. Small, packed for shows, Bogies was THE place for underground music in Albany throughout its tenure and featured bands such as State Champs, Blink 182, PVRIS, Black Flag, Ice Nine Kills, The Replacements and dozens of metal bands in its latter years, plus other bands so briefly tenured, they’re lost to history. RIP Bogies.

11. The Eddies

The Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards Show and the Hall of Fame was created in 2019 by Sal Prizio and Jim Murphy of Proctors Theatre, to shine a light on the incredible talent of the local music scene, both past and present. Hundreds of individuals, groups and companies working in the artistic, technical, managerial, media and support areas of the Capital Region music industry are nominated every year, with an annual award show, typically in April. The Eddies are a part of Proctors Collaborative.

12. Dad Fest

Dad Fest is the City of Albany’s celebration of all the fantastic fathers out there, featuring a Classic Car Show, great food, music and vendors. Dad Fest is a chance for the whole family to kick back and enjoy an early summer afternoon at one of the Capital Region’s most picturesque parks. You don’t have to be a dad to enjoy Dad Fest as this event offers a little fun for everyone. 

13. Eastbound Jesus

Eastbound Jesus was formed almost in 2010 in Greenwich, NY, a group of friends who clicked when writing music. They slowly picked up shows, dubbed their genre ‘Northern Rock’ and proceeded from there. The band has an intense local following in the 518, with packed shows across the region.

14. WAMC

WAMC/Northeast Public Radio is a regional public radio network serving parts of seven northeastern states, stretching across the 518 of New York, as well as the 315 and points south, they also cover events and news as far as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Stations and translators are in twenty-nine locations throughout the region, with offices and studios in Albany broadcasting 24 hours a day with a wide variety of publicly funded programming. NYS Music is a proud sponsor of WAMC.

15. Universal Preservation Hall

Located at 25 Washington Street in Saratoga Springs, Universal Preservation Hall (UPH) is a year-round arts and community events venue managed by Proctors Collaborative. With seating up to 700, this venue is one of the few ‘theatres in the round’ still in existence. The building opened February 29, 2020 after being restored to be a performance hall and rental venue, and despite the timing, it was a success starting with an exhibit of Rock n Roll pinball machines, as well as concerts and the Capital Region Music Music Hall of Fame induction each year.

A view of Universal Preservation Hall is seen during the media tour and ribbon cutting of the new concert hall in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (Jenn March, Special to the Times Union)

16. Washington County Fair

Located in Greenwich, what has come to be called the Washington County Fair was first held in 1890 and named the “Morganza Fair” serving as many fairs did, to exhibit and sell sheep and cattle. Now, more than 130 years later, the annual event offers the full Washington County experience including live entertainment, 4-H displays, foods you can only find at the fair, and your favorite fair rides. Get your tickets here.

17. Lake George Art Project Wednesdays in the Park

The Lake George Art Project sponsors a Wednesday evening concert series in Shepards Park, and for 2024 they’ll be held on July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and August 7, 14, 21, and 28 with a special Saturday show on June 29. This year’s lineup features The E-block, Angelina Valente and many others. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the night by the Queen of American Lakes!

    18. Blind Owl Band

    Based in Saranac Lake, The Blind Owl Band is a bluegrass/country/folk-rock band that formed in 2011 and includes Arthur Buezo (guitar, vocals), Christian Cardiello (bass), James Ford (banjo, vocals), and Eric Munley, (mandolin, vocals), who is now the proprietor of the Waterhole. The group met while studying at Paul Smith’s College and trace their name to an incident while performing at Paul Smith’s, when a saw-whet owl flew into a window. The owl got up and stared at the band for a moment before flying away, and with a saw-whet owl nicknamed a ‘blind owl’, the name stuck. Blind Owl Band now perform intermittently around the state, but bring a feisty sound and crowd with them in each performance.

    19. Albany Civic Theatre

    With an intent to provide education and training in acting, directing, writing, speech, staging, producing, reviewing, and other aspects of the dramatic arts, Albany Civic Theatre has a unique role in the 518, as they aim to encourage and foster community interest and participation in the dramatic arts through the non-profit sponsorship of plays, lectures, publications, workshops, study groups, drama libraries and related activities. Check out their upcoming season here.

    20. Ophelia’s on Broadway

    Replacing Parish Public House in Albany is Ophelia’s on Broadway, which boasts a return-to-roots feel, including an homage to Red Square (the name prior to Parish), a fresh menu and a perfect location for late night shows or continuing the party after Alive at 5 this summer.

    21. WEXT

    The Capital District has a great listener-supported roots and rock radio station in WEXT, with an eclectic, unique and diverse lineup of music. 97.7 FM and 106.1 WEXT from WMHT Educational Telecommunications with a goal to provide listeners with a unique listening experience with music that knows no boundary of genre. WEXT focuses on emerging artists, plus classic songs that regular radio has forgotten and especially music from the Local 518.

    22. Park Theater Foundation

    The Park Theater Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in the Glens Falls community by providing a venue for quality and affordable entertainment and educational opportunities in the performing arts. NYS Music is a proud sponsor of the Park Theater Foundation.

    23. Glass Pony

    Self-described as a high-energy psychedelic groove circus, Glass Pony has been turning heads and becoming a staple of the 518 since 2018. The four-piece band comprised of Chanda Dewey (drums), Eddie Hotaling (guitar, lead vocals), Jeff Picarazzi (bass), and Greg Pittz (lead guitar) combine for a continually unique and entertaining experience. Glass Pony live performances incorporate danceable grooves, interesting set lists, and creative and compelling improvisation with a wide variety of influences from 60’s and 70’s rock, 80’s post-punk and 90’s jamband. Catch them soon – check out their upcoming shows here.

    24. John Brown song

    Songs are often measured by their ability to stand the test of time. “John Brown’s Body” is one of those songs that has held up even into the present day. Although the tune has gone by many names and many iterations over the centuries, the hymn turned revolutionary anthem retains its status as one of the most memorable songs of the Civil War. Read more on the history of this Civil War era song from Ryan Bieber here.

    25. SingleCut North Clifton Park

    With a tap room in Astoria, as well as in Clifton Park, the delicious beer from SingleCut Tap Room features music from a variety of bands, with food trucks located outside for full enjoyment of tasty brews and music made right in the 518. Check out upcoming events here.

    26. Blotto

    What more can be said about arguably the biggest band to come from Albany? Blotto combined new wave and soul with R&B and comedic themes, and sported pseudonyms on recordings and on stage. You’d hear them on Dr. Demento‘s radio show in the early 80s, and the band was featured on MTV on the first day of broadcast, with the video for “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” becoming infamous, rated by some as the worst music of all time, but featuring numerous locations across the 518 – watch for yourself and see how many you can spot!

    Ed note: new area code 838 is popping up in the 518, and we welcome a challenge to find Eight Hundred Thirty Eight things that make this region the best for music, but let’s take this one area code at a time.

    Comments are closed.