Concert review: Pete Seeger tribute night (3/30/2014)

Last night I went to the Pete Seeger tribute night (which was also a benefit concert for Clearwater) at Passim in Cambridge. I hope everyone who reads my blog is already familiar with Seeger’s work – he was incredibly influential in the realm of music and political activism. Just about every story I hear about him makes me respect him just a little bit more. If you’re not familiar with him, do yourself a favor and look into his incredible legacy, which spans from WWII to the Occupy movement.

I bought a ticket to the tribute concert on a whim before they’d posted any performer’s names, so the whole concert was pretty much a mystery to me. It ended up consisting of eight acts that I’d never heard of before: Laura Cortese, Billy Wylder, Alastair Moock, Scott Alarik, Ryan Alvanos, Catie Curtis, Audrey Ryan, and Lloyd Thayer. I really and truly had no idea what to expect other than a vague assumption that it would be folky and involve Pete Seeger’s music. In the end I was very pleasantly surprised at the high quality of music across the board.

The first two acts turned out to be my favorites of the night: Laura Cortese and Billy Wylder. Laura started us off with a beautiful Seeger singalong (“This Little Light of Mine,” if I’m remembering correctly) and then performed one of her own songs, “Heel to Toe,” which was a pop-bluegrass number. She is a talented performer with a really lovely voice, and started off the night on a very positive note. Here’s a video of her performing “Heel to Toe”:

Billy Wylder (a band, not a person) was the second act, and they were great too – starting out with a Seeger-associated tune again, “Guantanamera,” before moving on to one of their own, called “Voice in the Lupines.” You can hear the studio version of this song below.

My other musical favorites of the night were the ones organized by Alastair Moock and Catie Curtis, where they got a bunch of the singers and musicians on stage to lead the audience in song: “If I Had A Hammer,” “Goodnight Irene,” and “This Land Is Your Land.” It just feels good to sing with a room full of strangers – it must tap into some kind of primal social bonding experience. It was also really fun (and enlightening) to hear all of the musicians’ stories about Pete Seeger – how they knew him, what influences he’d had on them, and lots of fun stories. I particularly liked Lloyd Thayer’s comments on Seeger vs. Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival (“Who brings an AXE to a folk festival!?”) and Scott Alarik’s story about Seeger getting inducted into the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame.

Overall it was a very pleasant way to spend a cold and rainy Sunday night in Cambridge, and it kind of made me feel like I should attend more folk music performances. I’m sure Pete Seeger would approve. 😉

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3 Responses to Concert review: Pete Seeger tribute night (3/30/2014)

  1. This concert sounds wonderful. Wish I could have been there. Pete Seeger was a personal hero of mine. Always fighting for social justice his entire life through his music and his deeds. This sound like a fitting tribute to him in Cambridge – Cynthia Brown

  2. marco says:

    Can you tell more about the axe comment? Always found that a fascinating story.

    • Sarah V. says:

      Can’t remember exactly what he said now – just talking about how he was skeptical that it happened that way… because who on earth would carry around an axe at a folk festival, and that someone who went to Harvard would probably be smart enough to know how to unplug an amp instead of cutting the cord with an axe… 😉

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