Interview: Shane Spillenger Talks Art of Promotion, PearlPalooza and More

Interview: Shane Spillenger Talks Art of Promotion, PearlPalooza and More

Photos: Frankie Cavone

The Spillenger name has been one of the household names in the restaurant/entertainment industry in the Capital Region for decades. In 2023, Shane Spillenger is continuing the legacy by bringing refreshing live events to the area and continuing to innovate the events that already exist.

Spillenger is a man with many hats and one of those being a successful restaurant/venue owner right in the Malta area. Nanola for over a decade has hosted hundreds of incredible acts big and small while providing some of the best Cajun food in the area. Another hat Spillenger wears is event promotion. One of the biggest contributions he has helped make to the Capital Region is PearlPalooza, an annual street festival that takes place in Downtown Albany, NY attracting thousands of people each year. The event is especially important to our area due to the absence of Lark Fest. Not only has Shane been able to provide a similar experience, he and his team at Sugar Productions along with many others have managed to be original in the way the present PearlPalooza.

This year, Spillenger decided to embark on a brand new concept. Recently he combined the Immersive Van Gogh experience with live music creating a new way to experience live music. He plans to continue bringing live performances to the space in Schenectady, NY and has a “Silent Disc-Gogh” set to take place March 24th. Sugar Productions also has a camping festival called Circus of the Dead which will be taking over the Washington County Fairgrounds June 16-18th. We wanted to chat with Spillenger about the legacy he has built upon and all the exciting upcoming events. Read the full interview below:

Photo: Tammie Eller


How did the Van Gogh concert series come about? It has to be one of the most unique concert experiences in the Capital Region in a long time!

I have always liked Van Gogh and was eager to get to one of these exhibits. I toured the Schenectady location with my son and it only took about 10 seconds in the immersive space for my mind to start going. My son had a blast and I knew with the right acts we could create something really special and unique for people. I didn’t even think it was a possibility until I learned of an old friend Tiffany Albert Scaringe from Putnam Den and before that Red Square was the General Manager.

When you are in the process of planning to promote a show, what are some of the key things that you keep in mind or strive to achieve?

I want the venue and the acts I work with to be happy and want to work with me again but first and foremost the attendees’ experience has to be extraordinary. Even before the Van Gogh adding visuals to shows or themes was something we had started doing. Something to set us apart from the other promoters. My business partner Kenny Martin was a major push on this. Too many venues/promoters want to cram as many people in a space and sometimes for some shows that’s the vibe you want. The Armory gives an incredible ambiance on its own, adding the Van Gogh Art exhibit and incredible acts we are hitting the point we want. We also are discussing adding more to future shows. Its really cool because this is the first time anyone has done this at a Van Gogh Exhibit in the whole world. Im hoping the attendees have an extraordinary experience.

The trait of bringing people together seems to be in your genes. What have some been the best pieces of advice that you have received from your Dad about the art of promoting?

Quality, he hated when things were half assed, the sound was off, or the lights were wrong. Worst the act has given up or just doesnt get it. Oh and if you knew him and he experienced this he would let you know lol.

Looking back what have been some of your favorite memories of putting on events in the Capital Region.

Pearl Palooza is my baby. so pretty much everyone of those, Bringing Twiddle to the Palace Theater after promoting them for years(First show at Jillian’s to about 20 people), Schenectady Summer Night with the Spin Drs and we went against Dave Matthews Band and we had about 50k people that felt crazy and Spin Drs didn’t stress me out like other Summer Night acts, Naughty by Nature at Alive at 5 doing Hip Hop Hooray with the Mayor, White Denim at Nanola . The countless festivals I have either catered or helped promote they are a marathon and the club shows starting at Jillian’s, The Bayou/The Hollow, Putnam Den/Putnam Place, Jupiter Hall was an amazing club I had as my playground, Upstate Concert Hall to now Empire Live Albany,

Who are some of your inspirations who helped show you the ropes and open your eyes to what was possible in the world of promoting?

My Father, Greg Bell, Ted Etoll, and Stanley Levinstone. They all offered incredibly different advice at different times of my promoting career that helped me kind of be well rounded enough to work with everyone. (although I think we all butt heads from time to time, it’s the business). Jeff Morad and I are the bestest friends and meeting record reps with him also gave me an incredibly different view and sometimes the extra juice to get the acts to come to Albany as well.

One of the ways my father inspired me besides ya know his life is he gave me Bill Graham’s biography which had me spinning out. At one point I remember Greg Bell at a show after I quoted it one too many times telling me to put that damn book down lol. Recently Peter Shapiro’s book gave me a lot of that same fire and it was a lot cooler because I had worked with a lot of the acts he had so it was more relatable.

PearlPalooza has become the most successful if not one of the most successful street events in Albany, NY. It’s events like yours that get people out of the suburbs and back into the city showing people how good of a time it is on pearl street. What keeps you guys not only going but pushing the boundaries each and every single year?

The crowd every year. Not gonna lie, I have had a couple that were a struggle and wondered why I’m doing it until that day every single time I step on stage………Oh yeaaaaaa!

Reflecting on what you have done is incredible! Looking 10 years ahead, what are some of your biggest goals you’d like to accomplish.

I just always want to keep growing. Because of my restaurant background ill be helping other promoters at there festivals a lot more which is a cool little niche ive gotten myself into. Nanola will be at Memorial Meltdown, ADK Fest, Circus of the Dead, and most recently we just got asked to help with Rye Bread and there new location with a stellar line up. I love the Palace and would love to have more acts at that level and beyond. I was a very very very small partner in a hip hop show at the MVP Arena a few years ago be cool to do something there some day. I would say other markets too but I have this irrational love for Albany and the Capital Region that keeps me here. I have sooooooo much faith in Empire Live with the 2 rooms. When they opened and after building Jillian’s and Jupiter Hall and then losing them I told them I want this to be the club ill be doing shows at for the rest of my life. And hey The Hollow is family, my father built the stage and bar there and Nanola so I need to keep occupying them. Oh and during covid we built a rehearsal space and studio called The Bijou (after my fathers first place) and it keeps gaining traction!


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