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Amy Helm and her BAND burn down THE house in Patchogue!

3/29/14 16:11 Home…

It’s my son’s birthday and he has some friends over for a party.  It gives me time to jot down a few sentences into this blog and I hope not to bore you with a report of the weather (it’s raining) or a public display of displeasure or the assorted bitch session.  No, this is another report of another musical event as well as a description of yet another impressive theater on Long island.  The Patchogue Theater hosted its fifth annual folk festival last Saturday.   The seats in the balcony were very comfortable, lots of leg room and for $20 the price was right for this family man.  The theater opened in 1923 as per the web site and had vaudeville shows as well as, “the best in burlesque.” The theater has a grand lobby with a bar off to the left.  I expected to have my ticket scanned, but my friend Jeff and I walked up to the entrance to the balcony and handed our tickets to an usher who didn’t rip them, instead he waved his hand and smiled.  Up we went.  As it turned out everyone who worked were volunteers.   Under a large hanging chandelier the orchestra looked sparsely attended.  It was Jeff’s idea to move down and only after Caroline Doctorow opened.  She had Russ Seeger on guitar and violin.  Their set was crisp and I was impressed with the various songs she performed as well as a Seeger original.  That man can play guitar and as a local artist I hope to see more of his performances.  Like Caroline we are lucky to have these national talents in our area.  Second on the bill was Amy Helm who I saw performing with Ollabelle as an opening act for her father Levon Helm at Central Park Summer Stage a few years ago.  Her and her band (The Handsome Strangers) walked onto the stage and she looked confident and smiled to the cheers from the audience.  Dan Littleton took a seat and in simpler terms, kicked ass.  They opened with Roll the Stone and Jeff and I were blown away.  Now, I wouldn’t classify Amy Helm as folk, instead she’s a hard edged blues which shredded any resemblance to an acoustic performance.  Think of a voice that belts out like a Janis Joplin, but a naturally attractive woman with curly summer blonde hair. On lead guitar was the incredible Dan Littleton, Brooklyn’s own Byron Issacs on bass, and I apologize I did not get the drummer’s name.  From what I learned, this is a new band for her.  During one song of the set, the three of them (Amy, Dan and Byron) came down off the stage to sing a spiritual song a capella.  “Let’s see how the acoustics sound,” Amy said.  They filled the room with their perfect harmony.  To some disappointed fans there were no songs from The Band in her set, but I will stand corrected if you heard something different.  I assumed we’d hear The Weight?  Look for her first solo album which is expected to be released soon.  Amy said she appreciated opening and always admired Suzanne Vega, but honestly the brimming energy left the room when Helm walked off the stage.   Vega came out with her top hat and Gerry Leonard who stunned us with his guitar playing.  For all you guitarists check out his blog…the room filled with various sounds which emanated from various electronics through tapping on pedals and his fingertips.  I’ve always appreciated Vega’s clear voice which sounds as perfect as when I first heard her… thirty years ago…longer?  She played her hits, Luka, Left of Center as well as songs off her new album which I bought after the show.  The songs are spiritual in nature and I listened to her interview on  I had waited in a short line to have it signed and have to tell you…Suzanne Vega is not the warmest of sorts, actually appeared bothered and signed the album without asking who I was.  She noticed my t-shirt and mentioned seeing or knowing Levon, her voices was a monotone cool drone. But wait, most artists would personalize the album or CD or book.  Who should I make this out to?  It was as if she waved me off after her scribble - off you go… fan who paid… $20.00 for my LP.   At least a thanks?  Nothing.  In direct contrast was Amy Helm and her band who were approachable and down to earth.  Amy saw the Levon Helm T-Shirt I wore and smiled.  Jeff and I had some dialogue with Dan and Byron and eventually moved to Amy.  She asked who I was and the three of us discussed the Midnight Rambles at the barn as well as our children.  She was very warm and I hope to see her full set in the future.

Thank you for reading this.   


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