Last year the town threw a magical birthday celebration for a true Hudson River hero, Pete Seeger. I was honored to be a part of it. Even better, Geri Fallo asked me back to join everyone in a reprise this year!
The amazing members of the Demolition String Band (Boo Reiners, Elena Skye, Clarence Ferrari and Skip on bass) put the show together and served as the MCs and “house band” for the night. Just as last year, rehearsing with Elena and Boo was a treat and a half. Even better, as we were running through “Turn, Turn, Turn,” local guitarist Julio Fernandez (you may know him from a little jazz combo called Spiro Gyra) was hanging around, and accepted our invitation to join in. He harmonized and we even threw in an extra slot for a guitar solo for him. All of a sudden I was a member of a supergroup!
I tried to remain cool on the outside, but I gotta say I was positively giddy inside. I was so cool I even offered to buy a round for everyone (rehearsal was at the Shannon Lounge, a classic pub in the true Hoboken tradition). No one took me up on it, but Julio did let me buy him a bottle of water and we sat and gabbed for a bit at the bar, where we were soon joined by Abbe Rivers on her way to rehearse her numbers. I love Hoboken, have I mentioned this lately?
Last year’s event was marred by drizzle, and the weather threatened to turn ugly again this year, but as of this writing we still haven’t seen a drop of the predicted downpour. Sinatra Park was bathed in a gorgeous sunset as we all gathered to perform.
Here’s the line-up from this year’s event:
- The Hoboken Youth Choir did “If I Had A Hammer,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “This Land is Your Land.” Kate Jacobs, youth wrangler, asked me to stand by and play some guitar chords to keep everyone in the same key, which I was happy to do. Little did I know that Boo would join in on mandolin, along with Skip, the Demolition String Band’s stand-up bass player. It was a regular hootenanny.
- Then it was my turn! I did “The Garden Song (Inch by Inch),” throwing in a little talkin’ blues cribbed from some classic Arlo Guthrie bits but also containing some of my own original insights. If Pete Seeger can make a speech during a song, the by gum so can I. Then the rest of the band came up, along with Julio, for “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The extra guitar and fiddle solos made the song last longer, but it was still over far too quickly for me.
- Jon & Deena of The Cucumbers did “Kisses Sweeter than Wine.” I cornered them later and invited them to the Gordys show on June 24 (we’re covering one of their songs!)
- Boo Reiners and the Demolition String Band led the crowd in singing “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.”
- Abbe Rivers melted some faces with her powerhouse renditions of “Mary Don’t You Weep” and “Jacob’s Ladder.”
- Kate Jacobs, again in delightful counterpoint to Abbe, led the crowd in “Goodnight Irene,” one of my favorites.
- Elena Skye told us about the times she’d met Pete Seeger, then picked up her banjo and did “Union Maid” and “Little Boxes” with the Demolition String Band.
- Tom Vincent, former mayoral candidate, did a jazzy “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”
- Eddie Fogerty ripped into “John Henry.”
- Martha Fraiser played dulcimer and harmonized with her dad on the country classic “Get Along Cindy.”
- I finally got to hear Annalee Van Kleeck sing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and WOW.
- Gene D. Plumber did his classic rendition of “Joe Hill” and gave a shout out to union workers who gave us the greatest gifts of all: the 8-hour work day and the weekend!
- Julio Fernandez led the crowd in a soulful “Guantanamera.” Earlier that day, talking with Julio, I found out he’d been born in Cuba and was sent to live with an aunt in Hoboken when he was 6. The man should write a book. I’d read it.
- Dave Calamoneri channeled his inner Steve Earle for a sweltering “Bring ’em Home.”
- The it was time for the big “This Land is Your Land” ensemble number. There were plenty of singers and guitarists on stage, so I grabbed my harmonica and threw that in instead, which was kinda cool, I thought.
-- Weather When Posted --
- Temperature: 57°F;
- Humidity: 93%;
- Heat Index: 57°F;
- Wind Chill: 56°F;
- Pressure: 29.95 in.;