We were playing a special tribute concert to the memory of Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and as a tribute to the music of The Band, in general. Each of us had pretty direct connections to Levon and the other Band members, and had either played with them or produced them or simply known them in one capacity or another. It was put together by an old friend of mine, “Professor Louie”, who has a band called the Crowmatix, and he is someone who actually worked as one of the main engineers on my first Toolin’ Around album project back in late ’89 and 1990, and who I had never actually heard none played with purely on a musical basis! I also was re-united with a friend of mine and fellow player, the violinist Larry Packer, who I think had last performed with me with Happy and Artie Traum back in the early ‘70s! It took all this time for us to be back together playing, and we “gelled” as if not a single day had passed!
I got to sing several of my favorite Band tunes, as well as doing an instrumental version of “The Weight”, which of course, is one of the most famous Band songs of all time. The wonderful feeling was also knowing that I had just done an album with Levon Helm, called Toolin’ Around Woodstock, which was such a monumental experience for me, and to then be playing a tribute to him was almost too emotional to handle! I even got to sing “Sweet little 16” as an encore, because that was one of the “surprise” tunes Levon ending singing on my album, along with “Crying Time.”
Certainly the most rewarding part of it all was how the true die-hard fans really came out in big numbers, and it’s so great to see how there is such a wonderful and supportive group of people who still love to come out and hear this brand of incredible music. We had NO rehearsal, just a short “sound check”, and we all simply had the most incredible and spontaneous time together! This kind of onstage enjoyment really becomes something that the audience feels, and it sure was like that last night! I sold a ton of cds (especially the one with Levon, of course!) after the show, and met with the fans. There were also some old students of mine who surprised me by showing up, and they had a real lessons in watching me and others, and how we can just use our ears and our hearts to make a show really work. When it’s ”do or die” up there on that stage, that’s how you really learn, and THAT’S the “school” of music and life I really went to! What a night!!