If February’s great, sold-out tribute to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at Bay Street Theater seemed like it might have been giving British rock music a little too much airtime, then this Saturday, March 21, Bay Street is fixing to even the score for the U.S.A.
Two heavy-duty bands will take Bay Street’s stage to showcase both the music of Bob Dylan and that of The Band—two archetypal acts that define, in many ways, the American sound in rock music.
Local faves the HooDoo Loungers will be on hand to offer their take on The Band’s classic material as well as some lesser-known gems. The Loungers will be accompanied on a few numbers by a full horn section—after all, it wouldn’t really sound like The Band without some horns thrown in. Holding up the Dylan part of the evening is local band The Complete Unknowns, who are widely hailed for their personalized renditions of material from many different periods of Dylan’s six-decade career.
According to Joe Lauro, the bass player for the HooDoo Loungers, his band has been looking forward to this event for months. “For several of the guys in the HooDoos,” Lauro says, “The Band stands out among the best and most original of the groups to come out of the late ’60s. The opportunity to really study, learn and perform some of their classic tunes has been a real joy.” The HooDoo Loungers usually focus on New Orleans-style R&B, and so taking on The Band’s music has brought a welcome change of pace.
After a winter hiatus, The Complete Unknowns are also pumped for the show. As they are named after a Dylan lyric, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Complete Unknowns are Dylan specialists. “Our band came together seven years ago agreeing that Dylan’s music needs to be played live,” says Michael Weiskopf, co-founder and singer/guitarist for the band. “This isn’t a nostalgia act. It’s brilliant music, and it really represents the New American Songbook.”
For those who sat through the Beatles/Stones face-off in February itching to root for the home team, here’s your chance. In the ’60s, Dylan, and later The Band, became a part of America’s musical answer to the Beatles and the Stones—a way of reviving an American sound after the original rock and roll had been expertly appropriated by a bunch of Brits. Of course, it’s dicey to make general statements identifying a musical sound as distinctly “American”—some would hold that Dylan’s music resists any classification, and others might point out that most of the members of The Band were, in fact, Canadian.
But it remains true that, starting around 1964-65, Bob Dylan, until then a preternaturally gifted Woody Guthrie acolyte, evolved an original sound that married his deep knowledge of American folk idioms and styles to the instrumentation of the electric blues. Similarly, in the late ’60s The Band, which had started as a blues band and had played as Dylan’s backing band, dug deep into American rural music to coin a style of country-tinged rock that sounds as if it might have sprung fully-formed from the hardscrabble soil of Arkansas. In their genius, both Dylan and The Band came up with sounds that just couldn’t be faked by Brits, no matter how talented. Lord knows the Stones tried.
This isn’t why the HooDoo Loungers or The Complete Unknowns are doing the show—they’re doing it because it’s just great music and great fun. Who can resist getting up and shakin’ what they’ve got when that low, funky quack-quack-quack of The Band’s “Cripple Creek” starts going, and who can help but sing along to “Blowing in the Wind?” The fact that it’s all a great revenge for the British Invasion is just icing on the cake.
Bob Dylan & The Band: A Tribute, is Saturday, March 21, at 8 p.m. Bay Street Theater, 1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor. Tickets are $25. Visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500.