Friday, October 07, 2005

A Regular Sunday, Regular As Things Go

by Thomas Dimopoulos

LAKE GEORGE, NY - It was a regular Sunday afternoon, regular as things go in the neighborhoods of the Northeast during autumn.

The sidewalks were being covered by a gentle blanket of leaves falling in the lazy breeze
and, from the curb, you could see clear through the front windows of a house, into the living room, and see armchairs aimed at television sets where Eli Manning was throwing
a football into the end zone at Giants Stadium.

Outside the window and on the sidewalk, a boy peddled by on a bicycle, hands jammed
under the handlebars, and a helmet-less head that exposed a scalp full of hair that danced
in the wind as he glided down the street. A regular Sunday, regular as things go.

A few miles away, in less time than it took for the boy to pedal his bicycle the length of
the street, or for the Giants to complete their next set of downs, a boat flipped over on
Lake George. Twenty of its passengers were dying.

They called themselves the Trenton Travelers, and were among a group of senior-age
tourists enjoying the autumn New England scenery. A number of them were enlistment
age at the time of World War II, middle aged when The Beatles landed in America.

They were retired chemists and automakers and newspaper carriers, former schoolteachers and survivors of breast cancer. They were grandparents and great-grandparents who had already devoted a lifetime to work and were out to enjoy some of what life's recreation had
to offer.

They spent $1,649 for the seven-night trip into the New England fall on a journey that
began Tuesday, Sept. 27. On the sixth day, they came to historic Lake George, 32 miles long, named 250 years earlier in honor of King George II.

It was a clear and sunny day, reminiscent of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.
They were to spend Sunday night after the cruise enjoying dinner at the Georgian Resort
on Canada Street. Instead, the tables waited, vacant.

They would have gotten up the next day for a hearty breakfast, then headed south for a
tour of Saratoga Springs on a Monday morning that at first seemed pretty regular,
as regular things go.

What the Trenton Travelers would have seen Monday in the Spa City was the bright orange clothes of the workers tearing up the sidewalk on the east side of Broadway.
They would have seen the billows of smoke rising above the buildings.
They would have heard the artillery of the worker's jackhammers.

They would have been told all about the city's fabled Victorian past. They would have been shown the west side of Broadway, across from the park, where the Grand Union Hotel used to be, and directed to the corner where a Borders Books and Music stands today that,
for many years, was the site of the massive United States Hotel.

You can imagine that probably a few of them would have scoffed, while others smiled
at the girl wearing high brown boots and a short-short skirt waiting at the Broadway
crosswalk for the traffic light to change.

Instead, Monday brought a parade of ambulance chasers disguised as news media.
They were busy adding a new name to a seemingly never-ending list of places where
tragedy has struck: Aruba, New Orleans and now, Lake George.

In cyberspace, some posted hopeful prayers in remembrance of the families of those that died. Others shared once-happy memories about visiting the popular tourist spot now tinged with layers of melancholy. And at least one Michigan-based legal team promoted themselves as Boating Accident Lawyers and created a Web site to attract potential clients.

Deep within tragedies, there are also stories of heroes that emerge. Lake George resident Gisella Root and her husband, who rescued eight people by pulling them onto their boat, and South Glens Falls jewelry store owner Mounir Rahal, who pulled six from the water,
are some of them.

Sunday will bring more football games and more fallen leaves.
People, somewhere, will wake with heavy hearts.
It will bring, as well, more boys riding bicycles, their hands jammed under handlebars
and their hair dancing in the wind as they go gliding down their neighborhood streets,
pretty regular, as regular as things go.

published in The Saratogian

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Down in Flames: The General Slocum Disaster

By Thomas Dimopoulos

Edwin Weaver bunked down for the night alongside some of his shipmates
aboard the General Slocum on a Tuesday evening in June 1904,
just as the paddle-wheel excursion steamer sat tied to the 50th Street
dock in New York Harbor.

The 28-year-old Troy man served as second pilot on the 250-foot vessel
that boasted three passenger decks and was made almost entirely of wood.
Weaver was a long way from his 12th Street home in the Collar City.

The crew and deck hands rested in preparation for the following
morning’s excursion with the St. Mark’s German Lutheran Church group,
headed for its annual Long Island picnic.

The sun came up over the East River on the morning of Wednesday, June
15. On the Lower East Side neighborhood nicknamed “Little Germany,”
mothers gathered up their children for the annual outing.

The heavily populated German district ran from the Bowery to the East
River and sprawled north all the way to 14th Street.

At 8 a.m., the church pastor waited at the Third Street pier in
Manhattan to welcome each of the passengers as they boarded the ship.
there were 1,358 of them. More than 1,200 were women and children.

What they couldn’t have known as they were greeted by the Rev. George
Hass and boarded the vessel, was that for the most of them, it would be
the last time they would ever set foot on land.

At 9:30 a.m., the ship left the pier and steamed north, up the East
River, following the route between the East Side of Manhattan and
western Queens. The voyage would pass the series of small islands:
Blackwells (today’s renamed Roosevelt Island), Ward’s Island and
Randall’s Island. It would pass the narrow straits of Hell Gate,
originally named by the Dutch generations earlier, for its peril to
ships with its heavy currents and dangerous, jagged rock that critically
damaged a British frigate a century earlier resulting in 70 deaths.

As the Slocum steamed north, a band performed on the promenade deck
playing upbeat music to match the sunny june morning. The ship’s three
decks were filled with passengers. The very young were cradled in their
mother’s arms, while the other children played games on the deck below.

A half-hour into the journey came the ominous cries of “Fire!”

Smoke billowed onto the deck. The blaze climbed the staircase, from
below, the source a forward cabin beneath the main deck that served as a
lamp room, storing the dangerous combination of barrels filled with oil
and packing hay.

Many of the crew members were inexperienced, hired on as inexpensive
labor. They spotted the fire, but failed to immediately notify the
captain, attempting instead to extinguish the flames on their own. They
grabbed fire hoses, but their inferior quality caused them to burst

As the ship crossed the entrance to Hell Gate, bystanders on the Queens
shore looked on horrified as smoke billowed from the ship. They pointed
frantically, attempting to alert the passengers as the flames began to
engulf the front side of the ship. Panic followed.

Mothers screamed for their young as they ran from the flames and
gathered toward the back side of the ship. Life preservers were grabbed,
but those tore apart, the rotted insides crumbling in their hands. The
ship’s lifeboats were lowered from their holdings.

Among the panic, Capt. William Van Schaick decided to speed the ship
ahead instead of docking on adjacent land. The wind fanned the flames as
the ship steamed between the Queens and Manhattan shorelines, its fiery
bow pointed at the shore of North Brother Island.

Most of the passengers, many dressed in their Sunday best, could not
swim. Mothers clung to their youngest amid the smoke and flames and when
the fire tore at their clothes, many dropped their babies overboard,
then leapt into the water after them.

The fiery nose of the ship hit the shore and part of the deck collapsed
trapping a number of passengers underneath.

The ones who escaped ran to the rear of the ship, but it was only a
temporary respite. They were faced with the choice of either jumping, or
facing the flames.

“Between 400 and 500 Dead,” read the headline of The Daily Saratogian on
June 15, 1904. The story described a horrid scene. The captain, after
swimming safely ashore, was arrested along with the First Pilot and the
Second Pilot — Edwin Weaver of Troy. Through the night, the body count
rose. “The magnitude of yesterday’s story of death,” read the following
day’s edition of The Daily Saratogian, “has been growing with every
passing hour.”

It also reported the scene in the aftermath: “Almost 250
feet from the New York Shore of the place known as Hunt’s Point, the
upper part of a paddle box, two smoke stacks, a scorched flagstaff and
some twisted and bent ironwork mark where lie the remnants of the
ill-fated steamboat, It is a temporary and hideous monument.”

Capt. Van Schaik spent three years in prison following the Slocum
disaster, which was the worst New York City tragedy until Sept. 11,
The tally of the dead was 1,021.
More than 60 bodies remained unidentified and for those, a procession of horse-drawn hearses carried them to their final resting place at the
Lutheran Cemetery in Queens.

The German settlement of the Lower East Side of Manhattan was devastated
and its remaining residents relocated to other areas as the downtown
neighborhood known as “Little Germany” was forever gone.
Thousands of miles away, James Joyce would note the tragedy
in the pages of his book, “Ulysses.”

A year after the disaster a monument was unveiled at the Lutheran
Cemetery site. The Slocum’s youngest survivor, Adella Liebnow – who was
6-months-old when the ship went down – was part of the cemetery. She
lived to be the oldest survivor of the tragedy, passing away two months
after her 100th birthday in January, 2004.

Published in The Saratogian on the 100th anniversary
of the General Slocum tragedy, June, 2004.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Coal Palace Kings; Beer, Swagger & Loud Guitars

ALBANY - Even the birds have the good sense to go south for the winter.
Howe Glassman did otherwise. He flew north.

‘I was born in Miami and moved to Schenectady,’ says Glassman, one of the unsung
heroes of the greater Capital Region music scene of the past 20 years.
When Glassman came north, he brought along an insatiable hunger for rock ‘n’ roll.

‘I first got involved in the local music scene writing for Buzz magazine,’ he says.
This was in 1985. Glassman recalls the long-gone regional ‘zine’ that covered area bands.
Albany clubgoers remember him for his early ‘90s band, The Dugans. Band veterans
recall Glassman for the supportive role he played in getting groups booked into venues
like Albany’s rock halls Bogie’s and Valentine’s.

In between, there was the formation of the local record label - Kranepool - named after Glassman’s inexplicable fascination with New York Mets’ former first baseman.
The label issued its 17th release in 2004 as it marks its decade anniversary.

‘We’ll be celebrating 10 years of losing money,’ Glassman laughs.
The adjustment from a rock ‘n’ roll youth to adulthood is a transition Glassman
shares with other longtime area musicians-turned-family men, like singer-songwriter
Michael Eck, guitarist Rob Skane and ARC front man Jack Nemier.

Settling into adulthood is no reason to give up the guitar, the studio or the stage.
If anything, there is a larger extended family with whom to share the musical journey.
‘I have a wife and a daughter now,’ says Glassman. “Thankfully, she loves music.’

For the past seven years, Glassman has been the chief songwriter of the Coal Palace Kings, additionally sharing vocal and guitar duties with co-guitarist Larry Winchester. Bass player
Jeff Sohn and drummer Don Ackerman round out the quartet.

The band first came together after Glassman placed an ad seeking like-minded musicians
who were into Hank Williams, the Clash and Husker Dü. In their own words, they say,
‘we sing about sin, salvation and vans.’ A four-song demo, recorded with the help of The Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara, led to a single.

The band issued its debut release, ‘Pine Away,’ in 1997.
Two years later, the follow-up CD, ‘Everyone’s Got Drinking Stories,’ was supported with
a relentless touring schedule that took the group’s road-weary van up and down the
East Coast and through the Southern states, gathering new fans with driving guitars, Americana-style roots and punk aesthetics.

Radio airplay came from places as diverse as Australia and Yugoslavia, and local acclaim
came from regional music publications that handed over awards for ‘Best Roots Rock Band,’ ‘Best Alt-Country Band’ and ‘Best Band To Get Drunk To.’
Throughout, Glassman stayed true to his musical inspiration, mixing parts of
the tumbleweed sweetness of the Long Ryders,
the nervous electricity of Neil Young and the maniacal frenzy of The Replacements.

The band’s 2002 release, ‘Upstate CD,’ expanded the band’s audience, picking up college
radio station airplay throughout North America, as well as on independent stations in
Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands.

In 2003, the band recorded its performance at the Garden Grill on Albany’s South End.
‘It’s three hours of music whittled down to the best 50 minutes,’ Glassman says of the
band’s fourth full-length effort.

“Live at the Garden Grill” captures the hometown band in its most complimentary environment: live, loud and on stage.

CPK “Live” swings with all the barroom swagger of an electric-tinged hillbilly.
It is filled with the haunting lullabies of the song “Stoneytown,” and laden with the catchy, hook-driven tunes of “Northampton” and “That’s What Dreams (Were Made For).”

And just like a good barkeep who knows how to keep the party going, just when you’ve
think you’ve had one too many sudsy sing-alongs, the band motors into a punk-driven pile-driver like “Bend in the River,” laced with raunchy, Rockpile-like riffs, courtesy
of guitarists Glassman and Larry Winchester.

This band jams onstage and “Live” delivers oodles of fun, beer-soaked magic celebrating
love going good, lamenting love gone bad and holding dear to heart those endlessly wistful garage band dreams of traveling across the country - just for once - in a decent automobile.

And while he remains optimistic about the power of music, Glassman says he is less than enthused by what he once thought could become a major musical ‘scene’ in the Capital Region.

‘I hate to say it, but back in the day, you wouldn’t think twice about going out to go see some great new indie band in a club. Today, people (are more likely) to go out in droves to free concerts, like those at Washington Park or at the (Empire State) Plaza.
But they’re not as likely to go to a club if they have to pay to go,’ he says.

The support of local music by the people who live in the community has long been a major sticking point to many, dating to the era of clubs like Bogie’s, the QE2 and Mother Earth’s
Café - all gone today.

‘You can’t really blame people, though,’ Glassman says.
‘Besides a few college radio outlets, new music is not getting played on the radio, so people aren’t getting to hear much of what is out there.’
While the Coal Palace Kings are fortunate to have a hardcore contingent of fans that
follow them from show to show, Glassman says a lot of the band’s attention these days
goes into building on its international fan base, something with which the group
has had some success.

As for any fanciful rock star dreams, Glassman says he doesn’t think much about those ideological visions of superstardom.

‘I stopped worrying about getting ‘The Big Record Deal’ years ago,’ he says.
He concentrates his energies instead on creating in the studio and on the stage with
his music, and on enjoying his family life.

His life has gotten easier without the stress of searching for ‘the record deal,’ he says.

‘Of course now, a couple of record labels have been coming out and sniffing around,’
laughing at the irony.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
originally published in The Saratogian, 2003-2004.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Torey Targets Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Torey Adler was sitting in a coffeehouse on Broadway one afternoon before a gig. He recalled the first time he came here.

'The local scene was much different in 1991,' said Torey, as in Torey and The Roughs,
a musical trio that includes bass player Tony Markellis and drummer Zak Trojano.
'I had a very pop-oriented sensibility when I first came here and I didn't know anything
about the area (musically).'

It was Skidmore College that originally brought him to the region. In short order,
both his days and nights were filled with learning experiences.

'Caffè Lena was where I learned about songwriting and about music that works one-on-one,'
he said, fidgeting with a burgundy twine strung with miniature Tibetan carvings
that is slung around his wrist.

'I started learning about artists like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly and that led me to
the blues players - guys like Robert Johnson, Son House and Skip James.

'I started seeing the continuum from the blues through the Rolling Stones and realizing that it wasn't wholly independent from Bob Dylan-type of songwriting.
It was all drawn from the same vein,' Torey said.

'You can call it blues; you can call it soul, but you know it when you hear it. It's like Duke Ellington said: 'There's only two kinds of music - the good music and the other kind.'
I started tapping into the good music when I was up here.'

Torey was born in New York City, 'in the dead-center of Manhattan.' He grew up, put out
an album called 'Freedom Highway,' and then hit the road.

'I went out to San Francisco for six years with this half-baked notion of 'Let me see
if I can make it in the music business.' I ended up being a lead guitar player for
a number of different bands,' he said.

Those included stints with The Counting Crows and Sheryl Crow's band, appearances
in support of legends like Chuck Berry and shows at hallowed rock 'n' roll palaces
like The Fillmore Theatre.

'It was great, and I played some big shows with some major figures. But after six years out there, I realized I was missing certain elements of the music scene back in Saratoga,'
Torey said.
'I started thinking about what my role should be. I realized that what I do best
is writing songs and communicating my (musical) vision.'

He returned to the East Coast last year with a handful of tracks that were started in
San Francisco. Torey headed to Boston to record with friend and drummer Mike Migliozzi,
then returned to Saratoga Springs, where bass player Tony Markellis got involved.

'Tony was excited enough to offer some bass playing, and I wasn't going to turn a musician
of that caliber down. Tony brought it up to where I realized that it wasn't just a side project,
it became a record,' Torey said.

The result was the 10-song CD, 'Earthed,' that captures Torey the songwriter and
Torey the musician. He is a savvy stylist on the six-string, the music coiling
around his acoustic anthems and swings to countrified rhythms,
all the while tinged with the hint of a bluesy sorrow
or bursting in an outright celebration of grooves.

With just the right amount of road weariness to a voice that is both calm and lyrically
frenetic, the words spill from his mouth to fit the tumbling pace:

'A rhythm like a rain dance puts him in a trance,
his sunglasses reflect the light/
there's a ghost of an old juke joint in Mississippi,
rising up in California tonight.

He wears his influences on his sleeve, running the gamut of 20th century music,
particularly onstage.

'You'll hear it all in a show. We'll do a Johnny Cash cover, and we'll do a Ramones' song;
We'll do another by Otis Redding. Most of the songs are originals, but you know,
we mix it up.'

He says it's about being knowledgeable about musical culture.

'It's important to me to understand where it comes from. I want to create a new music
that moves people. If you're cooking the stew, you need to know what goes into the stew
- you can't just throw things at it.

'Music didn't just come into being with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin,' he says.
'I love those bands, but that's not where music started.'

It is, ironically, where Torey first caught the music bug, when his parents took the
then- 8-year-old to see the Rolling Stones tour film 'Let's Spend the Night Together'
in the early 1980s.

'Then I pretty much spent the next 10 years trying to get a guitar to sound like
Keith Richards',' he laughs.

Early ill-fated attempts included stringing rubber bands over a wooden board and
strumming away on a small, child-sized classical guitar. One day it dawned on him.

'I realized what I needed was an electric guitar.
It was then that I started understanding about things like distortion and
about using tube amps.'

With his own music, he feels that he is straddling both sides of the acoustic/electric fence.

‘I feel that I am reconciling myself as both a songwriter and guitar player and really
showcasing the guitar. I'm speaking to people with that medium and with this band
it all feels like it all comes together,' he says.

But as far as any warring factions between acoustic and electric players, he says:
'It's just machinery. I think people are more drawn to performers on the folk circuit
because they're writing intelligent songs and crafting them well.

You don't get a pre-fab artist on the folk stage that's lip-syncing their stuff,' he said,
laughing at the image he conjured. 'It's somebody up there actually playing songs.
Their performances are real.

'I want to wake people up a little bit. I want to put on a show that people can't treat
as background music.

Among his long-term goals is to become a catalyst on the Saratoga scene that he feels
should be at least as well known as musical communities in Austin, Texas; Seattle;
and San Francisco.

'There are some really great acts in town, and I want the talent here to become visible throughout the world,' Torey said.

He has seen the other side of the musical continent. For him, he eventually realized
the Freedom Highway leads to Saratoga Springs.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
originally published in The Saratogian, March, 2004.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Kick Out The (Hometown) Jams

The Figgs,Palais.”
The eighth full-length release from the mates who grew up as high school buddies in
Saratoga Springs is a 25-song double-CD that features punched-up guitars and catchy pop tonics while conjuring images of Carnaby Street swingers and mop-top jubilees.
After spending nearly a generation together touring the globe, the trio is back
waving the D.I.Y. banner, and self-releasing the work which cuts a pattern from the cloth of 20th century Brit-inspired pop, and lands in the seam somewhere between The Kinks and
the Jam.

The Sixfifteens deliver a contemporary buzz with their CD debut,
Let’s Not Think About It," a seven song journey clocking in at just over 30 minutes.
The Saratoga quartet joined forces in 2002 and include the vocalizing of Bob Carlton
and the smash-the-hell-out-of-the drum kit frenzy of Joel Lilley, both
veterans of defunct area favorites Dryer.
The Sixfifteens offer sinister guitar licks and harrowing layers of rhythmic intensity
in a porridge of pop angst and catchy pop waves, reminiscent of bands like
Wedding Present and Mission of Burma.

Babylon” is the third album issued by Albany-based musician Bryan Thomas, and a
departure from his previous efforts.
There is a haunting intimacy to the work, recorded live during a single Joycean day in 2003. This is acoustic music laced with snatches of biblical prose.
Much of the material was written during angst-filled times for Thomas in early 2003,
with the U.S. invasion of Iraq on his TV and the songwriter preparing for the birth of his
first child.
The sparse sound is augmented by the delicate bass strokes of the Kamikaze Hearts’
Bob Buckley, while fellow band mate Matt Loiacono drops beat riffs across the sonic landscape.

Blackcat Elliot’s none-song blast, “Threads Tearing from the Inside,” revs up the rock with glitter-infused power chords ala the early NY Dolls.
Just when you thought rock ‘n’ roll was dead, an old friend like Blackcat Elliot shows up to remind you just how fun the endless party can be.

Seemingly every ear that has caught Bob Warren's song "The Silver Fox", yearns for another listen. That particular tune, written about the songwriter's father, plus a dozen others can be heard on Warren's brand new CD, 'Clear Connection.'
The veteran songwriter's muse is a field filled with cross-country rambles and shadowy psychological escapades.
Warren's tight, emotionally poetic ballads stir and inspire, like the creative morsels they are, sifted from the hallowed ground of Woody's dustbowls and blown north and delivered to your doorstep.
"Clear Connection" delivers with an all-star cast, to boot. Guest performers include Trey Anastasio(PHISH), Richard Bell(THE BAND), and local musical geniuses Michael Jerling,
Tony Markellis, Tim Wechgelaer and Rosanne Raneri.
The photographs of image-catcher Emma Dodge Hanson grace the cover, and David Greenberger, of Duplex Planet fame, pitches in with book design duties.

Small Axe, 'Ride to the Bottom'
Thirteen pop tunes power from the glitter-prose of vocalist Jimbo Burton - somewhere on
the morose side of T. Rex's Marc Bolan - while fellow Saratoga Springs High School alum
D.J. Miller pumps metal-driven riffs through a wailing guitar.
Small Axe is pure pop for metal heads, a three-piece blow-out inside a wind tunnel.

Mark Tolstrup, 'That's the Way I Heard It'
From the opening sounds of Mark Tolstrup's fingers sliding across the fret board
of his National Steel guitar, “That’s the Way I Heard It,” is a feast for Delta-style
Tolstrup revisits Blind Boy Fuller's 'Walking My Trouble Away,' covers a trio of
Robert Johnson tunes, and adds a pair of self-penned originals that fit right in with the
bluesy ragtime experience.
Even Tolstrup's cover of Dylan's 'Meet Me in the Morning' is south of the folkie-protester's normal form - this is a heavy brooding Zimmerman, in all its depth, churned through the metallic resonator of Tolstrup's guitar.
The 10-song CD was recorded live at Caffè Lena and at the band's Levon Helm's Woodstock studio. Accompanists Dave Sokol paints a neat bass bottom with his tuba and Peter Davis riffs along on the high end of his clarinet.

Classically trained violinist Mike Grutka hasn’t let textbook study drown his muse. In the multi-instrumentalist’s second release, “Reach," Grutka acts as guide for an enjoyable splurgeof rhythmic tunes, cranked through a dirty and distorted tubular amp like the great garage anthems of the modern age.
Grutka has the rare ability of being able to blend world music influences – from subtle
rasta beats to hints of riffs from Zimbabwe inspired guitars – and churns it through the
musical machine in a way that makes it all his own. All this and a singing voice that sounds, uncannily, like Michael Stipe.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, 2003-2004

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Listen up, blokes: Four hip malchiks do Liverpool

‘Crazy, baby.’
The air is electric with nutty hipsterisms and the images of mohair sweaters, stretch pants and girls in black eyeliner wrapping themselves up in alligator coats.

‘We gawt a special request for this next noom-bah,’ the one called ‘John’ says into a
microphone at stage left. A few feet away, ‘George’ and ‘Paul,’ wearing matching grey
collarless suits, look out at the crowd.

‘Snoogle up to soombody ya luv. Or at least, someboody ya won’t get into troooble with,’
John says and, with a downward strum of his wrist across guitar, leads the four hip moptops into a Liverpudlian serenade: ‘Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you/ tomorrow I’ll miss you...’

At any moment, you’d expect Murray the K to materialize in front of Ringo’s drum kit
and shout: ‘Hey, what’s happening, baby?’
Dig: What makes this Carnaby Street scene straight outta Sixteen magazine so crazy ab-so-lute-ly is the realization that this fab foursome - collectively known as The Brits -
are tapping their Cuban heels to the frenzied ‘60s beat for the new millenium.

‘When I was four years old, I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show,’ says Tom Raider,
who plays John Lennon in the band that ranges in age from their mid-20s to mid-40s.
‘For me, the love of the Beatles was always there.’ Raider started putting together the idea
for a Beatles tribute band in the late 1990s. His goal was to present the Fab Four
to audiences in a precise re-creation of both sound and vision, calling for authentic detailing
in musical instruments, clothes and Beatle ‘attitude.’

The research was massive, Raider says.
He was assisted by Beatle hounds around the world, including several cast members
of the play ‘Beatlemania.’ The vintage instruments are authentic, down to the screws
that hold together the pickups of ‘John’s’ trademark black jet glo Rickenbacker,
George’s vintage 1960s Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar and Paul’s left-handed
Hofner bass and Vox-100 amp.

There are 15 guitars in all, capturing the Beatles’ sound in all stages of their career.
Even the clothes are custom made, from the grey collarless suits of the early Beatle days
of ‘Love Me Do,’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’ to the black
‘Ed Sullivan’ suits of ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ the black pants and turtleneck look of the
‘Help’ era and the colorful psychedelia of ‘Yellow Submarine.’ ‘

I wanted to have a level of quality that people would appreciate going to see and hear,’
says Raider, who cashed in his mail-order business and used his own money to finance
the group. The investment, so far, has been in excess of $40,000.

Putting together the right combination of musicians was equally difficult, but two years ago, Raider knew he was on the right track.

‘When ‘George Harrison’ (guitarist Alex Wozniuk) came to audition, it just jelled,’
Raider says. The guitarist’s brother, Tim Wozniuk, is the Brits’ Ringo, and Paul is played
by John Hepburn.

‘We all had the same idea and figured instead of just playing some Beatles tunes wearing
blue jeans and T-shirts, we said ‘let’s really go for it.’ The band was born the day ‘George Harrison’ joined in February 2001 and, by August, we were doing our first gigs,’ Raider says.

There have been high-profile appearances at the Albany Institute of History & Art -
introducing the institute’s Beatles photo exhibition in 2002 - as well as performances at universities, music festivals and places like Turning Stone Casino.

For Raider, the Beatles are a timeless entity.
‘The rhythm and the melody have to be there for the younger audiences,’ Raider says.
‘For the fans who remember the Beatles, you need to have accuracy in clothing, equipment
and mannerisms - right down to the musicians’ movements and how the band is positioned
on the stage.’
He thinks the emotional payoff is well worth the preparation.

‘I consider it a privilege and an honor to do what I do,’ says The Brits' Raider.
‘Especially when we’re playing and you can really feel the music triggering such happy
feelings in people.’

by Thomas Dimopoulos
published in The Saratogian, Nov. 2003