Levon Helm Tribute @ Brooklyn Bowl, June 5
Words: Scott Bernstein
Last Monday night Brooklyn Bowl hosted a wonderful heartfelt tribute to Levon Helm that perfectly captured the essence of The Band drummer’s 60+ year career. Put together by Noah Chernin, Pete Costello and Adam Geringer-Dunn, the marathon show featured musicians from many genres, showing the wide range of performers who Helm influenced and even saw the unannounced addition of Levon Helm Band members Jim Weider, Byron Isaacs and Brian Mitchell to the bill. The members of Bustle In Your Hedgerow – Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, Scott Metzger and Dave Dreiwitz – were an inspired choice to serve as house band and were the MVPs on a night filled with fantastic performances.
[All Photos by Jeremy Gordon]
The evening was filled with many highlights and not in the places many would’ve guessed leading into the show. Scott Metzger is known for his guitar playing, but not for his voice. However, his gruff and gritty vocals were spot on for the Ophelia opener. Backed by his Bustle band mates, a trio of female singers and a horn section, Ophelia got the night off to a rollicking start. Diamond Doves were also stars of this show as the band, who regularly performs with Elvis Perkins, brought the night to a crescendo with rambunctious takes on Don’t Do It, sung by Jonah Smith, and Up On Cripple Creek.
Set: Ophelia* (sung by Scott Metzger), Slippin & Slidin’ (sung by Kelli Scarr), Goin’ Back To Memphis (sung by Dreiwitz), Ain’t No More Cane(sung by Ryan Miller of Guster, Luke Rathborne and Matthew Houck), Look Out Cleveland (sung by Matthew Houck and Tom Hamilton), Jemima Surrender (sung by Craig Finn), Yazoo Street Scandal (sung by Craig Finn), When I Paint My Masterpiece (sung by Chris Harford), Evangeline (sung by Kim Krans), Whispering Pines (sung by Nicole Atkins), Dirt Farmer (sung by Grayson Capps), Don’t Ya Tell Henry (sung by Tom Hamilton), Don’t Do It* (sung by Jonah Smith), Up On Cripple Creek (sung by Diamond Doves), W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (sung by Sam Cohen), Rag Mama Rag (sung by Sam Cohen), The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down* (sung by Ian Felice), King Harvest (sung by Kelli Scarr), Anna Lee (sung by Kelli Scarr, Leah Siegel and more), Calvary, Long Black Veil (sung by Adam Schatz w/ Diamond Doves), I Ain’t Got No Home (sung by Diamond Doves), Mystery Train* (sung by Jim Keller and Byron Isaacs), I Don’t Want To Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes* (sung by Luke Rathborne), Deep Elem Blues* (sung by Nate Martinez), The Shape I’m In (sung by Brian Mitchell), I Shall Be Released (sung by Nicole Atkins, Ian Felice and Ryan Miller), The Weight (sung by many)
* – w/ horn section
Towards the beginning of the show guitarist Jim Weider of Levon’s band came out and wound up performing on nearly a dozen tunes by the time the night was over. Weider’s LHB band mates Brian Mitchell and Byron Isaacs also had big roles in the show on piano and bass respectively. Singers shuffled in and out with The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn putting his heart and soul into fine versions of Jemima Surrender and Yazoo Street Surrender, folk artist Grayson Capps delivering a poignant take on Dirt Farmer, Jim Keller and Byron Isaacs’ bluesy Mystery Train dirge and Mitchell’s gritty The Shape I’m In.
Here’s a full gallery of Jeremy Gordon’s photos…
While Ian Felice’s version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down was far from conventional, his spin on the tune lead to one of the most memorable moments in a show filled with them as nearly everyone at Brooklyn Bowl was screaming the lyrics along with the Felice Brothers front man. We must also note promoter/musician Adam Schatz’s stunning vocal delivery on I Ain’t Got No Home, a Woody Guthrie tune The Band and Bob Dylan performed for a Woody tribute at Carnegie Hall in 1968. Most vocal performances had an edge to them, which in some cases would mean they were pitchy, but HT fave Nicole Atkins gorgeous rendition of Whispering Pines was a lesson in dynamics and perfect pitch. Naturally, The Weight closed the show with a gang bang as nearly every performer made their way out to cap off the evening. Proceeds went towards the effort to save Helm’s band/studio by keeping it in his family.