Tuesday concert series does it right

Mid’s Park in downtown Lake Placid will be jam-packed Tuesday evening as 1990s favorite Rusted Root plays a free concert, starting at 7 o’clock.

It’s certainly exciting to hear people talk to excitedly about seeing this popular act, but it’s also great to see Songs at Mirror Lake host its most famous act yet.

This is far from a one-off. This free, Tuesday night concert series has been built up wisely and sustainably over the last seven years. It’ll keep hopping all summer long, and probably for many years to come.

People love live music, and they want more of it here. That’s pretty much a constant, whether you ask locals or visitors.

This area is blessed with a whole bunch of talented and tasteful local musicians and bands, and while they will always tell you there could be more venues to play, opportunities to see local music have grown over the years: from bars to restaurants to festivals.

As for national-level performers, many attempts have been made over the years to bring them here. Some have worked better than others.

The Lake Placid Olympic Center hosted concerts on and off for roughly 25 years, but the drugs, alcohol and overall hippie lifestyle that came with many of those shows – especially the Grateful Dead and Phish – prompted a strong backlash among many locals. The reaction to the Snoe.down festival, hosted by moe. in 2006 and ’07, put the kibosh on concerts there; none has been held since.

Even without that factor, staging big shows is a challenge because it’s hard to get people up here to pay much money for tickets. Local concert organizers have lost a lot of money trying to make it happen.

In 2003, the Songs at the Lake music festival in Lake Placid had an incredibly star-studded lineup of Americana legends – country, blues, folk, etc. – but tickets sold poorly, especially when it rained. It was a washout in more ways than one.

Faced with that setback, Songs at the Lake organizers didn’t give up. Instead, they went back to small-scale basics. In 2006 they launched Songs at Mirror Lake, a series of free concerts on weekday evenings in Mid’s Park, tucked between Mirror Lake and Main Street in the heart of downtown.

They’ve done a good job of overcoming the obstacles. Instead of charging attendees, it’s free, paid for with help from the Uihlein Foundation and local sponsors, which organizers have avidly pursued. Promotion has been strong throughout the region, especially in the neighboring communities that will supply much of the crowd. After all, for the tourist from afar, this is just something extra and fun to do, but for someone in Saranac Lake or even Plattsburgh, it’s a reason to come to Lake Placid and make an evening of it.

Meanwhile, organizers have gotten plenty of buy-in from the community and made it clear that these are family-friendly events, averting criticism.

It’s obvious that the organizers of Songs at Mirror Lake are simply in it for the music, just like the audience is. They’ve put in a lot of work to share that with us all, and we’re very grateful.

We’ve enjoyed seeing some great shows there, from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to the Carolina Chocolate Drops, surrounded by all our friends. The lesser-known acts, too, are chosen with taste. On subsequent Tuesdays this summer, check out Amy Helm (daughter of Levon), Lukas Nelson (son of Willie), local jam band Lucid, Syracuse reggae act Morning Sun & the Essentials, and soulsters Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds. We doubt you’ll be disappointed, and there’s a good chance they’ll blow you away.

Songs at Mirror Lake isn’t the only local group bringing good music here – Hobofest and First Night Saranac Lake do it, too – but given that this week is perhaps the group’s high-water mark so far, we want to give them special appreciation.