In the beginning there was The Band, arguably the most influential ensemble the U.S. has ever produced. The music community mourned their disbanding in 1976, but was later able to hear some of the songs played by three or four of the original five members in the group’s second incarnation during the late ’80s and early ’90s, and by the Levon Helm Band, until the legendary drummer’s death in 2012. But now there is the Weight, five musicians who over the years have worked and played extensively with members of the original unit.
“What’s nice about this band is that everybody has a reverence for The Band’s material and each of us has a really strong connection to those guys,” said fiery guitarist Jim Weider, also a charter member of the reformed Band in the ’80s.
Weider played with The Band for 15 years, and was also in the Levon Helm Band for a good portion of its ten-year run, both at Helm’s barn/studio in Woodstock and on tour. Drummer Randy Ciarlante played alongside Helm in The Band’s second incarnation for a decade. Multi-instrumentalist Marty Grebb was asked by Garth Hudson to join the reformed Band as a replacement for Richard Manuel, who died in 1986. That didn’t pan out, but longtime Woodstock resident Grebb wrote songs with Manuel and played in both Rick Danko and Garth Hudson’s bands. Bassist Byron Isaacs and keyboard/accordion player Brian Mitchell were both longtime members of the Levon Helm Band. In addition to their instrumental virtuosity, all five of the Weight’s members sing.
The Weight sticks exclusively to The Band’s material, but they have dusted off and shined up songs that were rarely, if ever, performed by the original group.
“We start with Big Pink and go right through to Northern Lights – Southern Cross,” Weider said. “There is such a treasure chest of fantastic tunes—songs like ‘Look Out Cleveland’ and ‘Forbidden Fruit’—tunes that we never really did, even when I was with The Band. I like bringing them out because I know that people remember them and it’s a pleasant surprise. And fun for us! At every show we try to do something different.”
– Kay Cordtz
The Weight will be touring the northeast for the next few months, including a pre-New Year’s Ramble at Levon Helm’s barn and studio in Woodstock on December 27. For their complete tour schedule, click here.