LIVE: Soul Serenade @ Powers Park, Troy, 8/8/2020

Break on through to the other side with every breath we take

Five months and three days!

That’s how long it’s been since I last heard music live. It’s been that long since most of the members of Soul Serenade had played in front of a breathing audience. Guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Walz apologized for sounding rusty. I told him “rusty” is good for an Allman Brothers tribute band.

soul senerade
Photo by Stephanie Bartik

Truth be told, the Allman Brothers never sounded so good to me. And I’ve been going to Allman Brothers concerts since 1971. Don McLean was wrong. “The day the music died” wasn’t decades ago when he drove his Chevy to the levee and the levee was dry. It was Friday, the 13th, an unlucky day in March when we first got a hint that the big C was going to change our lives. Covid-19 would replace cancer as society’s worst health nightmare. 

Like quicksand, it’s taken the world down, forcing us to make life and death decisions over whether or not to do things we used to take for granted, like breathing. And going to a free concert in a bucolic park with our folding chairs positioned six feet apart!

Saturday’s concert was this year’s first salvo in the annual Powers Park concert series in Lansingburgh. Vito Ciccarelli had started the series in 2004. The shows usually begin in July, but this year shows in 518 – and around the world –  have been cancelled one by one like falling dominoes since that fateful Friday, the 13th in March.

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Photo by Stephanie Bartik

Who would have imagined five months ago that people would pay more than $100 a person to see a streamed concert by Garth Brooks at drive-in theaters around the country? (I know! Don’t answer THAT question!) Who would have thought that my new favorite Allman Brothers experience would be delivered by a local band in a neighborhood park?

I remember meeting Gregg Allman backstage with my dear friend and mentor Bill Nowlin of Rounder Records in Gloucester, Massachusetts almost a decade ago. I swear Saturday night, August 8, 2020 in North Troy trumps that meeting with Gregg in my memory banks.

Is it possible that a band of regional musicians most of whom I’ve been listening to for decades – many of whom I presented as President of the Northeast Blues Society – could sound better than southern rock’s legacy act? It’s impossible for me to answer that question. My critical faculties have been short circuited by the horrors of the pandemic. Like a heroin addict getting his first fix in five months, I bathed in the sounds of “Whipping Post,” “Midnight Rider” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” 

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Photo by Stephanie Bartik

What must it have felt like for Josh Bloomfield to sing the lyrics:

Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,
Like I been tied to the whippin’ post.
Tied to the whippin’ post, tied to the whippin’ post.
Good Lord, I feel like I’m dyin’.

The proceeds of the 50/50 rally went to Josh whose every breath is a gift as he fights cancer. He was the catalyst for the city opening up Powers Park for this show. Councilman Jim Gulli and Vito Ciccarelli went to the city begging them to let them open the series for a myriad of reasons. Vito has been Troy’s magic man, their champion of music for years. He proudly announced from the stage that Rensselaer County was the only Capital Region county to be presenting a full slate of socially distanced live concerts in towns throughout the county. Powers Park is the premier attraction of the county’s summer concert calendar. 

This concert was a test of the new normal. I frankly was amazed at how well everyone obeyed the social distancing requirements and the orders to wear masks.

At the end of the show, Josh thanked the crowd of about 200. “It’s been a good night, a damned good night. You’ve been awesome to me my whole life. Thank you.”

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Photo by Stephanie Bartik

 The band encored with Gov.t Mule’s “Soul Shine,” written by Warren Haynes, who advanced the Allman Brothers from being an oldies band to maintaining their legacy position in rock for most of the last few decades of their existence.

Music is a healer, and the Capital Region’s music legacy lives in the face of our year of discontent thanks to people like Vito, Josh and the other musicians who make me feel like my years of chronicling its vibrant heart have not been in vain. 

Vito Ciccarelli and Joe Schepis
Photo by Stephanie Bartik

Upcoming Powers Park shows: August 15 The Refrigerators – Dance Party, August 22nd Mike& The Monsters – Classic Rock Night, August 29th Beatin’ The Odds, September 5 Legend – Rock Anthem Night and September 12th Whiskey Highway – Country Night.

1 Comment
  1. Anthony Donofrio says

    I enjoyed your article and Steph’s photos, of course. I commented to Stephanie how tough it is to cover the Allman Brothers and this band did a great job of it. I hope Josh beats his cancer. Take care.

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