A week ago Saturday night, the rains came and driving was a slog through a dark night looking around the corners of hugh snow banks deposited by a month of snowstorms. For those who braved the weather, the Chestnut Street Revue in Franklin, Massachusetts offered ample rewards, as about 25 musicians gathered in various combinations and played a wide variety of music at a fundraising event for the First Universalist Society of Franklin (FUSF). My own group, B4 (short for Basement Blues and Beer Band) arrived at about 6:30 and we played a sound check. The sound guys wanted us to turn down the guitars, so we worked out compromises and mostly went with the levels they suggested.
The program started at about 7:40. The first set featured a well-known local group, Critical Mass, which features vocal ensembles backed by a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, with a mix of electric and acoustic guitars. My favorite tune of their set was a fine version of the Traveling Wilburys song End of the Line, which featured vocalist Alec Danz who channeled the spirit of Roy Orbision's rockabilly tenor on the choruses. This set also featured several smaller groups. Amazing teenage violinist Tom Lazinski played, accompanied by his equally talented mother Michelle Kelley on piano, and they offered a jazzy rendition of a standard which alternated between slow and fast tempos. Another highlight of the set was the work of vocalist Kay Kelly Hardt who sang an original, backed up by a subset of the band Victims of Gravity, and then cavorted through a humorous tune about young love at the local Starbucks, accompanying herself on piano.
Our band, B4, led off the second set. We normally field a lineup of 2-3 guitarists, keyboard, bass and drums, but on this night, we were joined by vocalist extraordinaire Pamela McIntyre and her son Seth, a fine saxophonist. We led off with Stormy Monday. Our version owed a bit to the Allman Brothers, but with Pam on vocals, the song went to lot of different places, as she built up tension over the course of the song and then closed out with a powerful last verse. Along the way, Dave Kassay and I added in guitar solos and Seth added his own jazz-inflected spin on the song. Here's what the group looked like with Pamela upfront on vocals:
After that, we changed tempos and played If I Die Sudden from John Mellencamp, which started out slow, then built up lots of energy. Our bassist, Chris Sternadore, belted out the vocals on this one, joined by harmonies on the final verse. The lyrics were rather ironic considering the setting -- a church meetinghouse -- as Chris assured all of us that if worst came to worst, he wouldn't need a preacher around as he parted from this world.
On the following song, Pamela rejoined us and we played a Canned Heat style blues called I Pity the Fool. The song is built around a repeated groove, which started with sparse instrumentation, and then filled in as we went along. On this song, I pulled out my metal slide and offered up a slide guitar solo on the third verse. Pam once again brought the music up to a crescendo to take us out and guitarist Dave Kassay finished it with a cool bluesy turnaround.
For our fourth and final song, we moved away from the blues and kicked off our rendition of Bob Seger's Fire Down Below. The song began with a kick on the snare from our drummer Richard Fields, triggering a series of high bent notes from guitarist Roger Bouchard. Our keyboard player, Larry Rapisarda, came in with a raucous lead vocal and the band settled into a classic rock and roll groove. I had a lot of fun with this song, since I got to add in the Chuck Berry style double vibrato notes on the choruses and then played a more free form in the middle. Toward the end, Larry yelled out the title one more time, then Roger offered a faux ending with a 4 bar lick. As the notes echoed, Larry counted off 1, 2, 3, 4 and I jumped in to play a few more licks, taking it out with a two bar bent note turnaround ala Keith Richards. Here's one more photo of the band:
After this, B4 got to sit down, but the music kept on coming as several more musicians played. Highlights included an intense version of Cause We've Ended as Lovers from the remarkable guitarist Dan Feerick, backed by a subset of his band Victims of Gravity. Shortly after that, the rest of the Victims of Gravity came on the stage and finished the show with several tunes, including a full-throated rendition of a J Geils medley. You can see several clips from VIG's set at the following link on You Tube.
After that, most of the musicians gathered one more time on the stage and we did a quick version of Twist and Shout. So ended a fine evening of rock and blues. For many, the fun continued with parties afterward, but my wife and I headed home so that I could sleep a bit before heading off way too early the next morning for a business trip to Nashville. I heard lots of music down there too, but that's a tale for another time. The next time there's live music in your area, go out and take a listen. I suspect you'll be glad you did.