LIVE: Tommy Stinson’s Benefit for the Tools For Timkatec Program in Haiti @ Club Helsinki, 4/10/12
Review by Tim Livingston
Photographs by Kirsten Ferguson You can see more of Kirsten’s photos from the show here.
Tommy Stinson threw a party and nearly half of Hudson showed up.
Now a resident of the Columbia County river town, Tommy called on his new community to come out and help him raise funds for the Timkatec Schools in Haiti, which teach orphaned Haitian kids the necessary skills to work on rebuilding their country amidst devastation and poverty. And Tommy’s new community responded big-time. A huge crowd was on hand at Club Helsinki – on a Tuesday night none-the-less – to take part in a silent auction and enjoy a cavalcade of artists who donated their time to perform at the event. A lot of folks from all walks of life coming together in their community to help others who have literally nothing. The event in a word: Success!
I guess it has to be mentioned to those not familiar that Tommy, starting at the age of 13, was the bass player with arguably the best rock & roll band of the ’80s, the Replacements, and currently holds down the bottom on tour with Guns N’ Roses. But those accomplishments, as impressive as they are, sell Tommy short, as he has also had a stellar, if somewhat underground, solo career with his post-Mats bands – Bash & Pop and Perfect – as well as two solo albums under his own name, the most recent being the newly released “One Man Mutiny.” But more on that later…
On Tuesday night Tommy was the host with the most. Bounding tirelessly around the venue, talking to everyone, MC’ing between bands, starting up random dance parties on the floor and continuing to make the case for his cause and the silent auction items on hand (including a dinner cooked by Tommy in your home followed by a private performance; bass lessons from him; a Big Star album from Tommy’s personal collection autographed by Jody Stephens; tickets to upcoming Club Helsinki shows; and various artwork, services and products donated by area businesses and individuals).
As far as the evening’s musical happenings, the show started off with the Hudson-based riot grrrl duo the Troublemakers stirring things up with some garagey sounds, and then continued on one-band-after-another showcasing Hudson Valley regional talent, encompassing all styles of music, including Pocatello, Jody Rael and Dan Wall. More like a big party with bands than a proper concert, things really began to heat up when Haitian transplant Azouke led his group through a set of inspiring reggae that brought on the first full-fledged dancing of the night, instigated by Stinson and Hudson rap star Young Paris.
Following Azouke’s set came the first of three headliners, Milwaukee’s Trapper Schoepp & the Shades. The very young guitarist/songwriter led his cool rock & roll band through a rollicking set of roots-soaked, garage-influenced, heartland sagas mostly culled from their new album “Run, Engine, Run.” Great songs and strong musicianship nailed all together with the powerhouse beat of drummer Jon Phillip (who also manned the drum throne later for Tommy). Think Uncle Tupelo and yes, the Replacements. Watch for these guys – well worth checking out!
Next up was a rare live performance from folk troubadour Elvis Perkins. Starting out solo with a couple of melancholy tunes reminiscent of perhaps Leonard Cohen, the classically trained, yet rock & roll-bred Perkins really took flight when his band, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, joined him on stage. Skilled musicianship driven by a haunting B3 organ sound, the band started with an Easter hymn, at first a cappella. Then they kicked in full throttle. Sounding like vintage “Highway 61 Revisited”-era Dylan, the band soared through a short set of Perkins’ songs, culminating in the rousing “Doomsday,” which featured both a marching bass drum and trombone. Perkins said the band had not played together in a long, long time, but who could tell? They played like a well-oiled machine.
Finally it was time for the main event as the man himself Tommy Stinson and band took over the stage. Trading in his sideman bass for a Telecaster guitar and the frontman role, Tommy was the true embodiment of the term rock & roll. Doing this virtually his entire life, he lives and breathes it. One has to think that – considering his longtime sideman role and the fact that his solo albums, although critically acclaimed never reached any kind of mass appeal – he is not in it for the money, but his energy and conviction was contagious.
He played it really loose with a tight knit band that included the aforementioned Jon Phillip pounding on the drums, Tommy’s wife Emily Jane Roberts on lush background vocals (she also sang a bit with Trapper Schoepp & the Shades) and special guest, Tommy’s uncle-in-law Chip Roberts on some blistering slide guitar. Stinson drew primarily from his most recent solo album “One Man Mutiny,” a record that follows his passion for staggering power-pop-infected rock & roll, but with a bit more Americana flavoring.
It really was a party for Tommy, as he and Emily were both fired up, talking to the crowd, thanking the people of their community for coming together, joking, and both of them just having a great time along with everyone else in the crowd. Although he played it loose, casual and off-the-cuff, the band was super-tight and rockin’, his new material fitting in nicely alongside his already solid cult legacy. Highlights included (but were not limited to): “Don’t Deserve You,” “Zero to Stupid” and “It’s A Drag.”
Keeping to the community theme, he brought up special guests Hudson-based hip-hop supernova Young Paris along with his sister (and sometime musical partner), the sultry-voiced and stunningly beautiful Lady Moon. If it wasn’t for the fact that Stinson is such a legend, and that I love his blend of pop/rock so much, these two may have very nearly stolen the entire show. Blasting into the ground-shaking “Pet the Lights,” Young “Gun” Paris put the crowd into a dance frenzy. Both Paris’ and Lady Moon’s stage presences were intoxicating, and they really rocked it, all while the band locked into a killer groove. It was one of those moments that had to be experienced first-hand, as I can not describe the energy in the room at that moment.
Coming back for an encore Tommy continued to to raise money right from the stage by “live” auctioning the bottle-cap vest off his back (hidden under his jacket throughout the show), as well as the guitar that he was then playing (a donated Flying V) to the highest bidder!
He then launched into a couple of tunes from his early solo Bash & Pop days, including the brilliant “Friday Night is Killing Me,” a number that I rank with the all-time great rock & roll songs. Just filled with glorious power-pop hooks and Stones/Faces swagger, this tune literally makes hairs stand on end. It was capped off when Emily, though seemingly exhausted from the long day (and long days leading up this event, I am sure) perfectly hit the ending “Friiidaaay Niiiiight…” vocal refrains, capturing the studio magic of this blissful song live.
It was late into the night when Tommy’s band started and early in the morning when they finished, but it was well worth the wait for those who stuck it out to the end. It was a long night, but one that got better and better as it went on. I am sure there were a lot of heavy heads, but light hearts heading to work the next morning. I for one loved it, but Tuesday Night is Killing Me!
One side note, interesting to perhaps only me: I can’t even tell you how many bands and performers I know from Albany who claim the Replacements as one of their major influences, and yet I did not see one of them there. Other than a photographer and writer from another area arts & entertainment mag (OK, it was Metroland), I did not see one person I know from Albany at the show?!? No one! What’s up with that? Too long a drive on a Tuesday night? Rock & roll hearts grown old? Obviously, I don’t know everyone who resides in the Capital city so I am sure there were Albanians there (and cheers to you) but no one from the “scene” that I know of! If you couldn’t make it, do yourself a favor and give back to the artist that you claim has given so much to you. Donate something to Timkatec.