MALTA — Shane Spillenger, the man behind Sugar Productions, has weathered the storm of 2020 with his peers.
The Nanola owner, whose restaurant is known for its Cajun-Creole vibe, has been somewhat hibernating with other promoters in the area. It’s been over a year since a “real show,” with music, a huge crowd and plenty of drinks to wet the whistle, took place. After a summer of shows on Nanola’s patio, Spillenger’s day planner is starting to show some holds for later 2021.
“I’m finding a lot of bands are still wanting to do outdoor shows for the summer,” Spillenger said. “But I have holds in for shows into the winter and it’s nice to see these opportunities start to come back.”
Spillenger took on a huge piece of the pie when shutdowns first happened. While many venues were forced to lay off stagehands and production staff, Spillenger made it a point to keep his people employed. Even though Nanola shows weren’t necessarily helping Sugar break even, Spillenger said the importance of giving his people something to work toward far outweighed the financial risk it took. Despite the restrictions, Nanola was able to host live music on its patio during the warmer months two to four times a week.
“A lot of people forget the people behind the scenes who make these shows possible because you never really see them,” Spillenger said. “While many artists and promoters were able to pivot, these guys were forced to come to a screeching halt. I really wanted to make sure my people were cared for and kept busy because going into that level of hiatus wouldn’t be productive for anyone, both financially and mentally.”
Nanola is hosting Ryan Dempsey of Twiddle on April 2. The show sold out as quick as it went live, which sent Spillenger back to Dempsey to see if he can add on an extra night. He is looking to get another tent for the restaurant so live music can once again grace the patio this summer.
Spillenger also has his hands in other projects concerning Capital District music. He’s working to bring back Pearlpalooza in some in-person capacity. While the show was entirely virtual last year, the goal for 2021 is to bring back one large stage and have smaller bands outfitting the bars along the strip, bringing traffic into locally owned establishments and eliminating some of the crowding at the central point.
Spillenger is also working with Upstate Concert Hall as it makes its big move to the old Capital Repertory Theatre. The promoter said the team hopes to be moved in by June, but the size of the crowds is still in question. Being that the venue can host 1,500 people in normal times, Spillenger said the restrictions allow a show of about 500 people. Although the number would still bring in a robust crowd, Spillenger said other restrictions on gatherings, including those on weddings, might influence the amount of people allowed; many indoor places are only permitted to hold 100 people.
“The cities and counties want to do something, even though restrictions are still out there,” Spillenger said. “It’s just a matter of semantics and making sure everything is legal.”
Overall, the responsibility of keeping Nanola open is what’s kept Spillenger going during the pandemic. Nanola has absorbed an old pizza shop behind the restaurant, which will serve as a recording and rehearsal studio for the area. The first rehearsal in Bijou Creative Studio took place last week and Spillenger is excited to see how the space will contribute to the scene.
“There is a whole world of people whose lives were completely thrown into chaos when this first happened,” Spillenger concluded. “I wanted to do my part to make sure there were some resources.”