Rockin’ Hoboken’s 90th Birthday Party for Pete Seeger, Thursday, June 4

As I mentioned recently, I was invited to be part of an all-star concert in celebration of the great Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday. Geri Fallo got some of Hoboken’s top musicians (and me) together to put on the tribute show, which kicks off the town’s Thursday-night summer concert series.

Everyone picked out one or two of their favorite Pete songs, and most of us rehearsed with the Demolition String Band backing us up. Rehearsals sounded great… the night of the show, however, was something else entirely. For starters, it was drizzling, and when I got to Pier A I found Elena and Boo huddled in their car, with no one else around. Concern was expressed.

But lo, Tom Sweeney rolled up shortly in a red “short bus,” which apparently has replaced his familiar white van. He and his sound guy (I didn’t catch his name, but he knew what he was doing) set up the gear in a tearing hurry, only to rip it down again and move it into the gazebo at the end of the pier when Geri showed up, frowning the weather.

Meanwhile, I jawed a bit with Ray Korona, who told a couple of Pete Seeger stories and did a dead-on impression (“Y’know, if we all held hands in a circle around the globe… three-fourths of us would drown”) and with Clarence Ferrari, fiddle player, dad, and all-around nice guy. We sat at the end of the pier and watched the Clearwater, Pete’s famous sloop, motor in and tie up next to the Waterfront Museum.

Before long, the gear was set up in a dry place, and most if not all of the musicians were in place.

The lineup went something like this:
The All-Hoboken Youth Chorus – This Little Light of Mine
The All-Hoboken Youth Chorus – We Shall Overcome
Kate Jacobs and the chorus’ conductors did a fantastic job, leading a group of over 100 kids from every school in Hoboken in two great sing-alongs.
Ray Korona – Toys for Peace (a song he wrote with Pete!)
Jon & Deena (of The Cucumbers) – Kisses Sweeter than Wine
I have been a fan of the Cucumbers for years, and we’ve gotten to the point where we say “hey” at these functions. They have been doing “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” as a gorgeous duet for just about ever.
Dave Lambert – Inch By Inch (The Garden Song)
I pretty much ripped off Arlo Guthrie for this version (I’ve been aping Arlo since I first heard – and memorized – “Alice’s Restaurant” in high school). I can’t come close to his performance, so click here for the real thing. It was fun to see folks in the audience singing along, even the rare anti-garden verse. There were some true folk fans in the crowd!
Dave Lambert – Turn! Turn! Turn!
I got to welcome the Demolition String Band back to the stage – Elena Skye and Boo Reiners on guitars and vocals, Dave Post on stand-up bass, and Clarence Ferrari on fiddle. What a treat to be able to share the stage with this gang; they are, as I introduced them, true keepers of the musical faith in the strongest tradition of Pete Seeger and his ilk. We launched into the Byrds arrangement of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” with me on my Danelectro 12-string and Elena and Boo backing me up with rich, rich harmonies. Thank goodness they’d brought music stands – Pete Seeger songs tend to have lots of verses. When we got to the solo, I liked what I heard coming from Clarence and his fiddle so much that I gave him a nod and he launched right in; I picked up the solo in the 12-string for the 2nd half. Every now and then I am privy to those moments of musical telepathy, when two players can wordlessly go somewhere together. Playing with folks like the Demolition String Band, who have music rolling through their veins, makes moments like that much more likely!
Kate Jacobs – Goodnight Irene
Kate has such a sweet, simple voice, it’s actually hard to describe. She’s not a belter or a warbler, she just sings clearly and cleanly, with an incredible emotional impact. The entire audience joined in on harmonies, to glorious effect.
Abbe Rivers – Mary Don’t you Weep
Abbe Rivers – Jacob’s Ladder
Abbe is a wonderful counterpoint to Kate Jacobs: bold, brassy, and no-holds-barred. We all rocked along to her two songs, swaying to the full drunken-gospel feel.

Unfortunately, I had to take off at this point. But here’s what I missed (sadly):
Gene D. Plumber – Joe Hill
Gene D. Plumber (with his daughter and special guest Perry Robinson) – Guantanamera
Boo Rieners – Talking Union
Boo Reiners – Michael Row Your Boat Ashore
Elena Skye – Little Boxes
Elena Skye – Which Side Are You On?
Eddie Fogarty – John Henry
Annalee Van Kleeck – Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (She couldn’t make it, see her comment to this blog)
Dave Calamoneri – Bring ’em Home
group finale – If I had a Hammer & This Land is Your Land

I can only imagine that the rest of the night was as magical! I sent some thank-you notes afterwards, and got nice replies from Boo and Elena. Next up, I have a Woody Guthrie project in mind that they’d be perfect for; watch this space for details!

Here’s a photo of the night from my cell phone:

Dave Post, Clarence Ferrari, Elena Skye, Boo Reiners (seated), and Abbe Rivers
Dave Post, Clarence Ferrari, Elena Skye, Boo Reiners (seated), and Abbe Rivers

-- Weather When Posted --

  • Temperature: 62°F;
  • Humidity: 93%;
  • Heat Index: 62°F;
  • Wind Chill: 62°F;
  • Pressure: 29.99 in.;

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