LIVE: Side Show Gypsy @ Henry’s on the Green, 1/18/19
Review and photographs by Amy Modesti
Some folks say that the idea of love and relationships in our daily life is like being involved in a circus. Among its up and downs, through its many obstacles, being able to juggle those two things is like balancing yourself along a tight rope, making sure that you make it safely to the other side without falling to the ground among the clowns and animals. Love and relationships need to be balanced in a healthy and safe manner. Otherwise, love will end in heartbreak.
“This is our first night out live. We only did a few rehearsals. What this show is all about… We’re going to be doing an album in a couple months. We’re growing as a band and on stage,” explained Marcus Ruggiero, bandleader, guitarist and lead vocalist of the new band, Side Show Gypsy, after singing his original song, “Rusty Chains,” at Henry’s on the Green (located on the grounds of the Ballston Spa Country Club). Ruggiero’s stellar line-up – featuring Joe Mele (electric guitar), Sonny Speed (piano), James “Jimmy” Cappello (bass) and Ed Kinum (percussion, filling in for Brian Melick) – brings each of Ruggiero’s original songs to life in a way that communicated the emotions one feels when being involved in a relationship and trying to find that right balance.
“This is the beginning of a show. That’s the very beginning. We have a lot more. A lot more ideas to make this show really awesome. And it’s not just a concert. It’s actually going to be a show. That’s the whole plan,” said Ruggiero during the middle of his song, “There’s a Girl That I Need to Go See About,” from of his album, Shed Some Light. The debut spectacle was, indeed, unique, both as a musical act and as a stage performance, assisted by creative director Mark Shear, who brought an ambience that made you feel like you were watching a group of gypsies and circus artists performing their songs outdoors.
The stage set design for the concert certainly added a magical element to the show. Small suitcases containing little hearts, flowers, musical records, and small musical gear were placed near the small, spherical lights and ferns left on the floor. Loose musical instruments that were near their cases were spread along the front area of the stage. Along the back wall was an old record player adorned with a mask that Ruggiero wore during his first two songs. Alongside it was an album of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, symbolizing the trials of love that one experiences in their life. And amidst the colored lights and smoke, Ruggiero would often take a break in toss small bags of caramel popcorn out to the crowd in homage to the gypsy/circus performer that he portrayed.
Prior to the show, I wasn’t familiar with Ruggiero’s music. Thankfully, my friend and local photographer, Evan Lauber, played me some of his recordings on the way to the show, where I was to assist Lauber with photography and videography. Through that opportunity, I was able to get to know who Ruggiero was as a singer and songwriter. Although it was new territory for me, surprisingly, I had found the show and the music to be quite enjoyable, both in its artistry and its musical style.
Ruggiero, portraying the masked gypsy in his first two songs, was able to channel the eerie feeling of going through the highs and lows of love. His original songs were performed both solo and with the full ensemble, and Ruggiero channeled his inner gypsy and was able to drive the soul and character into every song he performed. The interplay with his bandmates only added to the captivating impact of the music.
One highlight of the show was when Ruggiero dedicated his performanceof “Pop Hungry Goddess” to Lauber. In 1999, Lauber encouraged Ruggiero to finish writing the song which Ruggiero at first hated. The song is about a girl who loves music. Ruggiero also thanked Lauber for assisting him with the video and photo shoot of their debut show. Other dedications were made that evening, including one to Paul Pleplowsky, who had first supported Ruggiero at his show at Valentine’s Music Hall in 1996 and has been a supporter of his music ever since.
Side Show Gypsy’s debut show was deemed a success, and the band – slated to record a live album within a few months – will be playing their second show at the Dizzy Chicken in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, February 24. Come out and see what Side Show Gypsy is all about.