Billed as “The Reviewers at The Egg,” the tenth anniversary celebration of the American Roots and Branches concert series featured several of the Capital Region’s music and entertainment journalists and their bands. Now they get to see what it feels like to have all their hard work analyzed and boiled down to three or four paragraphs. This would have been the perfect opportunity to get even for any of the things they may have written about other artists, but unfortunately (fortunately?), the evening was quite enjoyable.
The evening, which also served as a fundraiser for The Egg, began with a reception in the foyer of the Hart Theater featuring the photographic talents of Martin Benjamin (Metroland) and Andrzej Pilarczyk (Nippertown.com) on display. Many of their photos were taken at The Egg concerts with such acts as Steve Earle and Hot Tuna’s Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen, who appeared together not too long ago. One of my favorites was Benjamin’s retrospective shot of David Byrne with one side being a very young photo and the other, a more recent shot of his Egg performance. He also featured some non-Egg shows as well, including some great shots of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and other luminaries. Although some of my shots have appeared in Nippertown, there is no comparison to these two talents.
The musical portion of the evening started off with drummer Tim Coakley (Daily Gazette) and the band Clarinet Marmalade. The foot-tapping sound of riverboat jazz was a nice way to begin the night. With Coakley keeping a steady beat, the rest of the band was able to their turn on solo after solo. Bandleader Skip Parsons on clarinet and soprano sax, Woody Strobeck on trombone and Rick Skrika on piano ran through about a half dozen tunes.
Next up was Glenn Weiser (Metroland) and his trio shifting gears to some old time mountain music. Although the tunes were played expertly, what brought it to the next level was Weiser substituting harmonica on pieces normally known for fiddle. Ron Gordon (banjo, mandolin) and David Danks (upright bass, guitar) filled out the band nicely.
The third band on the bill was what has become one of my favorite acts in the area, Ramlin Jug Stompers. The line-up featured Mister Eck (Times Union, Nippertown), Wild Bill (Nippertown, Times Union), Bowtie (Nippertown) and Cousin Clyde. This band, as their website says, plays “78 RPM music for the 21st century.” They combine great sounding old-timey tunes and harmonies with an easy repartee with the audience – with a few one-liners thrown in for good measure. Even their original songs fit well in this era.
The closer for the evening was David Malachowski (Times Union, Daily Freeman) and his Acoustic Woodstock Allstars. All three of the earlier bands’ styles were from the early part of the 20th century and before. The Allstars were a much more modern, blues-based, rock band, albeit, acoustically. Vocal duties were shared between David and Katrin Roush of Boston, with David filling in some fiery solos. The rhythm came from bassist Jerry Marotta and drummer Gary Burke.
Between each act, photographs of Pilarczyk and Benjamin, along with others by Albert Brooks (AlbanyJazz.com) and Joe Putrock (Metroland), were projected onto the giant screen behind the stage. It was especially interesting when the photographers had been at the same shows. Each had a unique look, even though they were shot from the same location. For budding photographers – such as myself and Lindsay Malachowski (both of Nippertown) – it was both inspiring and a great opportunity to learn, as we ran around the auditorium looking for different shots. My only disappointment was that neither Putrock nor Brooks were in attendance at the show.
The emcee duties were handled quite nicely by The Egg’s executive director Peter Lesser, whose stories about each photographer and reviewer added to the show. Although the audience was not as large as it could have been – especially since this was a benefit to help The Egg – it was quite appreciative, applauding for all the performers and photographers enthusiastically. The only complaint I can come up with is the brevity of each set. Bowtie summed up the feelings of the whole audience, I believe, when he asked the sound crew if they could do one more song. But in a pre-show conversation I had with Benjamin, he said that Dylan always felt that the performer should leave the audience wanting more.
The Egg will be hosting more of these type of shows to help offset the shrinking state assistance. I can’t wait.
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
With additional photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk and Lindsay Malachowski