As a six-year resident of Ontario County and the Finger Lakes, I often marvel at the things I do right here at home that make me feel like I’m on vacation. On the top of that list is going to one of the Smith Club Series Concerts, a special ongoing project of The Smith Center for the Arts in Geneva.
The Smith, as everyone around here calls it, is a celebrated historic theater in downtown Geneva with 1,400 seats. The Smith Club Series aims for more intimate shows, so the concert planners book smaller venues in and around Geneva, sometimes capping ticket sales at 75 or 100.
These concerts are really special; my husband and I make a point to attend as many as we can.
For example, last night, we fell in love with Wisewater, the young and energetic yet sophisticated Nashville country trio who played at Billsboro Winery.
About 80 of us sat on stools and folding chairs inside an old barn that has been converted into a rustic and charming tasting room. Of course, everyone was sipping Billsboro wine (I love the Kashong White this time of year), and before the show and during intermission, we took our glasses to the patio where we could admire a full moon shining over Seneca Lake. The spring air was warm, the atmosphere warmer, and we got to mingle with the musicians after the show.
A full moon also graced the early May show two years ago with Peter Mulvey at Lacey Magruder Winery & Brew Bar. Coincidence? I think not. Another great Club Series event at Billsboro was last August’s Stray Birds concert, where we sat outside under the stars and were able to savor pizza made in the winery’s outdoor brick oven.
A totally different experience was hearing the Wood Brothers play at Club 86 Party House. Built in 1947 as the swankiest nightclub in the Finger Lakes, Club 86 showcased such jazz greats a Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Nat King Cole. The plush dinner club seating, chandelier and dance floor still make this an especially sophisticated locale, and during intermission you can peruse the old photographs of the icons who performed here decades.
The Smith Club Series has two shows coming up this month that should not be missed.
Red Molly is an all-female vocal trio who blend bluegrass, folk, and other rootsy genres with honeyed harmonies. This show will be one of the group's last as the members take a break to pursue other endeavors. Red Molly plays 8 p.m. May 8 at Club 86, 86 Avenue E, Geneva. Tickets are $20, $22 at the door.
Powerhouse singer/songwriter/bassist Amy LaVere, a frequent guest on NPR’s Mountain Stage and World Café, will be performing with guitarist Will Sexton 8 p.m. May 15 at The Cracker Factory, 35 Lehigh St., Geneva. The Cracker Factory is a renovated industrial building that sports a chic urban luster and makes everyone feel hip. Tickets are $15, $18 at the door.
Advance tickets for both shows can be purchased here. Or call the box office at (315) 781-5483.
Of course, The Smith, at 82 Seneca St., is a must-experience venue as well. Built in 1894, it boasts Romanesque architecture with Art Deco and Baroque motifs added in later years. The acoustics are excellent.
Coming up at The Smith are Lucinda Williams, at 7:30 pm June 16 ($35 general admission), and Dar Williams 8 p.m. June 19 ($18 general admission, $20 day of show).
I hope to see you at these shows.