LIVE: Wizapalooza @ Albany Hibernian Hall, 2/26/11

“It’s like a who’s-was of the Albany music scene.”

Yes, last Saturday was something of an Oldtimers’ Day on the Nippertown scene, as family and friends packed into the Albany Hibernian Hall to celebrate the life of John Wisniewski, a longtime music fan, artist and bartender extraordinaire, who passed away earlier in the month.

And the musicians came out of the woodwork to play in honor of John and to help raise funds to pay the medical and hospital bills that he left behind.

Folding Sky and the Erin Harkes Band both whipped up some fierce blues rock. The Doc Scanlon Hot 4 swung on the jazz tip, while Ramblin Jug Stompers (with some help from the Students’ Larry Blanche and the Reverberators’ Marty McDermott) went down-home and acoustic.

Things really started to rev up and rock out, however, with Franklin Micare’s mid-day set, which included a riotous take on “I Want Candy.” Guitarist-vocalist Bert Pagano led his current band, the Big Idea, through a batch of tunes culled from the songbags of John Hiatt and Boz Scaggs, before being joined by assorted alumni of such vintage fave Nippertown bands as Plus 24 and Downtime.

“When we did this song 30 years ago, it was kind of funny. Now it’s just prescient,” explained keyboardist-vocalist Al Quaglieri, leading the all-star aggregation in a funky romp through Jimmy Mack & the Heart Attack’s “Cardiac Party.” The band – trumpeter John Hines, saxman Cliff Lyons, bassist Ed Tourge and drummer Bob Hallek, in addition to Pagano and Quaglieri – pumped out the funk, while the crowd sang along with the chorus, “Do the dance, do the heart attack dance.”

Pompadoured Johnny Rabb and the Jailhouse Rockers kept the dance floor hopping with an army of special guests – including Scotty Mac, John Tichy, Dave Maswick and Alison Jacobs, to name a few – and a songbag of red-hot rockabilly and garage rockin’.

And capping off the day-long celebration some eight hours after it started, bassist-vocalist Dave Macks and guitarist-vocalist Bernie Mulleda fired up the looong awaited reunion of the Stomplistics. They stomped their way through a blast of mighty, mighty, sweat-inducing funk that included their own classics “Bo Diddley Is a State Worker” and “15 & Gone,” as well as such nuggets as Van Morrison’s “Caravan” and the New Orleans Mardi Gras standard “Iko Iko,” with help from the Hines-Lyons horn section and such special guests as Ralph Spillinger and Tom Lindsay. And though the Stomps hadn’t played together since the ’80s, they sounded as thoroughly dynamic as ever.

The whole day was one big long jam session as special guests jumped on and off the stage, but the Iron Man Award goes to mega-talented saxophonist Cliff Lyons, who played with no fewer than five different bands throughout the bash.

It was one, big party. A gathering of old friends. And John would have loved it…

See more video from Wizapalooza here.

Video by Tom Lindsay

Painting of John Wisniewski by Kevin McKrell
A Painting of John Wisniewski by Kevin McKrell
  1. Rose says

    I am so disappointed that I did not attend! I remember John as a really nice man at the bar at Pauly’s when I would get off from waitressing on Lark Street and I’d be meeting friends late on the weekend to hear great music. But dammit the weather truly kept me away! I was shoveling all by my lonesome and too bushed to move. I am so happy the party went on. I am so sorry for his family’s loss.

  2. Andrzej Pilarczyk says

    If only John really knew how much he was loved by patrons and musician’s alike. Maybe he heard you all up there…

  3. Sue says

    Beautiful sentiment Andrzej

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