LIVE: Dustin Mele Memorial Concert @ Revolution Hall, 3/4/17
Review by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Vito Ciccarelli
It felt like a virtual reality show of my life as a music journalist. No! That’s wrong. The fourth annual Dustin Mele Memorial Concert at Troy’s Revolution Hall last Saturday was more than virtual reality. It was heightened reality. It was as if I could relive the last half-century as a local music journalist and get it right this time. It’s as if Troy’s Godfather of Rock Joe Mele had produced a living memoir of the Local 518 scene and presented it as a six-hour Disney feature movie.
There was the moment Chris Busone did “Superstition” – not the Stevie Wonder soulful version, but the 1973 Beck, Bogart and Appice stoked, rock-till-you-drop, fire-breathing frontal attack that had people dancing so fast they Moshed with a capital M.
Or when Trish Anderson nailed “It Hurts,” Tom Hambridge’s song made famous by Susan Tedeschi. Anderson told the story about doing the number on the recent Delbert McClinton cruise, when someone yelled from the audience, “Who wrote that song?” And Tom Hambridge, Buddy Guy’s best ever producer and songwriter, spoke up from the crowd and said, “I did” and complimented Trish on her version.
Another high point of the night occurred when Joe Mele’s band Emerald City made the thousands of times they’ve done their sets of ’70s pop-rock hits seem like they were just dress rehearsals for this one climactic version. Multi-instrumentalist Gary Tash telegraphed levels to the sound board man like the studio veteran he is. Bass player Ed Powers was so pumped he appeared to levitate out of his body. Gary Brooks had the “keys” to the highway. Dave Costa was the ultimate foil to Mele’s guitar, and drummer Chris Garebedian held down the bottom.
All in honor of lead guitarist Joe Mele’s son, Dustin, this fourth annual homage enveloped all in attendance, an inspiration overcoming the deep hurts that can spiral into suicide, as so eloquently stated by Congressman Paul Tonko who, in his fourth consecutive annual appearance, embraced Joe Mele. How can a set be better than perfect? When it comes from so deep in your heart that your soul rises into a call and response levitation where group fuses with individual and your being feels like it has penetrated the center of the universe.
Kyle Bourgault, a sheriff by day, donned his cowboy hat and channeled Dickey Betts, while Joe Mele took the guitar into another realm on the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man,” sandwiched between Bourgault originals as good as anything by Jason Aldean or Brad Paisley.
With his band Killer B, keyboardist Tony Perrino morphed decades of studio experience into a run that presented Trish Anderson and Chris Busone like diamonds in a ring setting that sparkled. With guitarists Matt Hatfield and Tom Murphy, bass player Lucas Ruedy and drummer Todd Hanhurst, Killer B – as in Hammond B3 – helped cement Perrino’s legacy that includes studio production with the Allman Brothers’ Dangerous Dan Toller and Dickey Betts.
The Ernie Williams Tribute Band – featuring triple threat guitar runs by Jeremy Walz, Mark Emanatian and Joe Mele – had the late Ernie Williams’ wife Kathy smiling like I hadn’t seen her smile since I presented Ernie with a birthday cake on the Palace Theatre stage decades ago. That prop almost burned down the landmark venue with all the lighted candles torqueing off the cake top.
There was Lori Friday and Kenny Hohman of Super 400 doing a rare duo gig and dancing with their daughter in her stocking feet. Joanna Palladino did a B-52’s style ’60s send-up called Off the Record with Bill Harrison on guitar. Jack Casey with Bob Resnick and Luke McNamee on sax opened the show setting the bar high for the six-hour extravaganza.
Embraced by Congressman Paul Tonko who spoke eloquently of the need for suicide prevention aid, Joe Mele was ubiquitous. He played flawless lead guitar with Emerald City, the Ernie Williams Tribute Band and the Kyle Bourgault Band. He sat in with Killer B. And he stage-managed the whole event. Watching him was like seeing Errol Flynn effortlessly light a cigarette in a wind storm. Wife Jenn ran around camera in hand grinning from ear to ear while Vito Ciccarelli and I played around on mics between sets like toddlers in swimming pool.
There were thousands of stories on that stage Saturday night. I know. I’ve written many of them over almost 50 years of chronicling a scene laced in wonder, tragedy and everything in between. To see it all play out with everyone wearing their hearts on their sleeves was a thrill that never gets old. You owe it to yourself to be there next year. Mark March 10 on your 2018 calendar.
NOTE: If you were unable to attend but would still like to donate, checks can also be mailed to: Dustin Mele Memorial Fund, c/o Pioneer Bank, 712 Hoosick Rd, Troy, NY 12180.