Listen Here: Eighth Step Set to Reopen in Proctor's
By Glenn Weiser
Metroland, May 3, 2007

Eighth Step Set to Reopen in Proctorís

The Eighth Step, Albanyís longtime acoustic music venue that in recent years had been operating without a permanent location, will reopen this autumn in Proctorís GE Theatre in Schenectady, Proctorís announced in an April 19 press release.

Margie Rosenkranz, the Eighth Stepís director, said in a phone interview, ďIím excited about this not only for the obvious opportunity for the Step, but Iím excited also because Proctorís is so supportive of the independent arts.Ē

The fall schedule lists the Sheila Jordan Jazz Trio on Oct. 6; a 40th-anniversary concert on Oct. 20; Woodstock 1969 opener Richie Havens on Dec. 8; and many others.

Founded in 1967, the Eighth Step is the nationís oldest nonprofit folk coffeehouse (Caffe Lena, the other old local bastion of acoustic music, opened in 1960 but did not become a nonprofit until 1990 following the passing of its founder, Lena Spencer). In its heyday at the First Presbyterian Church (at Willett and State streets in Albany), the Step presented folk music, country blues, old-time Appalachian, bluegrass, Celtic, singer-songwriters, womenís music, and more (disclosure: I was a regular Step performer and Webmaster of their site). Marquee performers included Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Ani DiFranco, and John Gorka.

But in 2000, the church asked the Step to vacate its home of more than 30 years, and the coffeehouse spent its next two seasons in the Cohoes Music Hall. Hard times dogged the establishment again in 2003 when they lost a turf battle with a theater group vying for the same space, and had to leave.

For the next few years, the Eighth Step was at low ebb, presenting infrequent shows at local colleges, Albanyís Steamer No. 10 Theatre, and also the state education building as it looked for a permanent location. Now the Step will give concerts under Proctorís auspices in the 425-seat GE Theatre in the Proctorís Arcade, and also offer smaller shows at Upstairs at 440, a 120-seat venue in a former Oddfellows Hall at nearby 440 State St. (both sites currently are under construction). The Step will have full autonomy in its choice of programming, and will continue to feature, among other acts, politically edgy performers other venues might shy away from.

Sarah Craig, manager of Caffe Lena, welcomed the Stepís reemergence, saying, ďIt takes a strong network of good presenters to keep a healthy folk scene alive.Ē

Tickets will be sold not only through the Proctorís box office, but also the Stepís longstanding ticket outlets: the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza; the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, Market Block Books in Troy, the Open Door in Schenectady, the Green Grocer in Clifton Park, and Celtic Treasures in Saratoga Springs. The Eighth Stepís current Web address is www.eighthstep.org, and the phone number is 434-1703.

Index of Metroland Articles by Glenn Weiser    ©2007 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.  

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