Having seen the Butterfield Blues Band at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival the week before (see review), several of us did what any sane music fan would: we drove to Woodstock, NY, to see them again. They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, but, as I said, I’m sane, so I expected the same great show and the band delivered, big time.
The Bearsville Theater, a scant two miles from the center of Woodstock, looks like a big barn and the interior boasts that same woodsy feel. Designed by Albert Grossman (who managed Bob Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin and others), you can bet the Bearsville has the best sound system this side of Carnegie Hall. The bar, a substantial separate area with a view of the stage, had room for a few more folks when the Butterfield Blues Band took over, but the hall itself was SRO, knee deep in cognoscenti primed to hear the late Paul Butterfield covered by a band as good as the original.
The intrepid and ubiquitous Jimmy Vivino, a former Woodstock resident, is a bandmember’s bandleader, a guy who has a knack for bringing musicians together, pairing them with music and making them sound like they’ve played together for years. (Sometimes they do.) Every so often the audience got a glimpse of how new this band is, as when Vivino, back to the band, said to the crowd, “I just want to let you know we’re going from the five in A.” He ragged on harpist Steve Guyger, badgering him to sit upstage and then to walk into the crowd. It may sound like theatrics, but Vivino was right: he hushed the band while Guyger, alternately purring like a kitten and roaring like a hellcat, reminded us the feeling and tone a master can get out of a harmonica.
With Paul Butterfield’s son Gabe on drums, the sextet plowed through “Walkin’Blues” and “Catfish Blues” —like they was ridin’ a slow freight, Sugar. The second set, Chris Parker’s horns stepped in to crank it up another notch, and the night concluded with “Buried Alive in the Blues,” which Butterfield sang, but which was written by Chicagoan Nick Gravenites for Albert Grossman’s Janis Joplin. Full circle on a great night.