Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks are coming back to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) on March 24 for another night of stomping, rockabilly-tinged rock, tender ballads and expert showmanship. In what we hope will become an annual tradition, the band is bringing its barroom spirit to the more formal, 425-seat WHBPAC, and bringing a few special guests to help.
“Jeff Allegue, guitarist from New Life Crisis will join us,” says Gene Casey. “He’s incredible. And Andy Burton will be with us.” Keyboardist Burton—who was a regular with the Lone Sharks in their earlier years—will be fresh off of Cyndi Lauper’s tour. Altogether, Casey says there will be eight musicians in on the act on March 24.
Casey’s known and loved on the East End for his ability to channel the sound and feel of rock’s early heroes. It’s a sound, called rockabilly, that Casey’s been enthralled by since he first became aware of it.
“It wasn’t easy to find,” says Casey. Like a lot of fans of his generation, Casey first heard rockabilly on Beatles records. “In the ’70s, the original rockabilly records were out of print or hard to find in America,” he remembers. “I spent a lot of time trying to find them, and spent a lot of money on imports.” Casey is now one of the foremost exponents of the sound, singing faithful covers of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and getting just the right sound out of his hollow-body Gretsch electric.
This year’s WHBPAC show, however, will focus mostly on Casey’s original songs and will include a quieter, acoustic portion. Expect to hear some of Casey’s more heartfelt material, like “It Should Rain” or “Don’t Leave Her Lonely”—Casey’s written quite a few of this kind of song.
“The singer-songwriter part is definitely in me,” he says. “I like the simple ballads, in the kind of stark, Johnny Cash style.” This part of Casey’s catalog will benefit from a simpler, acoustic presentation.
Of course, Casey’s written plenty of great rockers as well. His “Bad Baby” is a classic, and his slyly suggestive “I Love What I Do” promises to be a concert highlight. There’s no dance floor at WHBPAC, but people usually find a way to shake when they want to.
Keeping it all together at Westhampton will be Casey’s core band, the Lone Sharks. There’s a reason they’re one of the tightest bands around here—the Lone Sharks have had quite some time to put their act together. “It’s been 30 years since our first gig,” says Casey, conveying in his voice a mixture of pride and disbelief. But time does fly when you’re playing rock and roll, and Lone Sharks have done a lot of that. “We started out playing at Burke’s Road House in North Sea, and at the Corner Bar in Sag Harbor.” But Casey says it was the year-round gig playing every Thursday at the Wild Rose Café in Bridgehampton—a run that started in 1994 and lasted until around 2002—that solidified the band. “We had a deal with the owner—they let us stay there all night. After the gig we would jam until 5 in the morning.”
In the years since then, Casey moved to the North Fork—he’s now living in Southold—and the band tends to play up there more than in the Hamptons. “We don’t play nearly as much on the South Fork as we used to,” says Casey. It isn’t clear whether this is due to proximity, or whether it’s that the roadhouse-style venues that the Lone Sharks tend to play have all but vanished in the Hamptons. Whatever the case may be, Casey’s looking forward to reconnecting with the South Fork audience with the show at WHBPAC. “It’ll be a party,” he says. With Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, it always is.
Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks play WHBPAC Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. 631-288-1500, whbpac.org