Play it Forward 3 (Music Aid Northwest) @ The Neptune on 1/20/13
Another Play it Forward (Mach III) is now in the books. Unlike the two previously successful PIF shows, which were held in a club setting (the defunct Big Daddy's in Woodinville), this year's event moved uptown to the Neptune Theatre in Seattle and was surely the most ambitious yet with more of a concert feel this time around.
Like Play it Forward I and II, this event was hosted by Music Aid Northwest and the lineup was stacked, featuring performances from local rock icons as well as emerging artists who graciously donated their time and talents for what turned out to be a brilliant celebration of art, music education and community.
A musical treasure trove...
It is a well-known fact that the Pacific Northwest has an abundance of musical riches and history. Garage band rockers like The Sonics have influenced contemporary artists such as The Black Keys, Jack White and a host of others. Ask any young guitarist who has inspired them and almost every single one will tell you that the late and great Jimi Hendrix is on the top of their list.
This past December, Seattle’s own Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same day, former Garfield High alum, Quincy Jones was also chosen to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Hall this April.
Of course, Seattle music is synonymous with the genre of grunge but the Northwest offers so much more in terms musical styles.
Seattle’s hipster and "indie street-cred" cannot be denied, but what sometimes gets overlooked is the fact that there are several music veterans that make their home in the Northwest (when not out on the road for several months out of the year), who have made a significant impact on a massive scale over the course of several decades.
Several decades back, a twenty-year-old session drummer and current Northwest resident named Alan White sat in a room with John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band and played on iconic numbers such as Imagine and Instant Karma. Since then, White has recorded and performed with the legendary prog-rock outfit Yes for almost five decades and played with several other rock luminaries.
Harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar (WAR) practically re-invented the instrument with his unique tones and melodies. The late Reggae legend Bob Marley used one of Oskar’s melody lines for the revolutionary anthem, Get Up Stand Up.
Another world-class harmonica player and vocalist John Popper lives in the Northwest fronts Blues Traveler, was championed by David Letterman several times before they band even had their first hit song back in 1994. Popper and the band celebrated their 25-year anniversary in 2012 and continue to tour and delight huge crowds across the globe.
Randy Hansen has been doing his Hendrix tribute for several decades and is by consensus the best at doing Jimi aside from the man himself. Don't take my word for it...ask the Hendrix family.
And unless you have been living under a rock or in a cave with no internet...well... you know all about what Heart means to the Seattle music scene and rock world as a whole.
Read all about Heart's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction here.
White, Oskar and Popper, along with a younger generation of cats like: Jake Nannery, Blake Noble, Cody Beebe and The Crooks and a twelve-year-old guitar phenom named Caspian Coberly wowed the Neptune crowd and helped bridge musical generation gaps in the process.
Seattle Wave Radio Jammin’ Challenge winner Jake Nannery (guitar, vocals & trombone) and his Wooden Nickel Brass Band (Mike West on drums & Ramon Salumbides on standup bass) kicked off the show with New Orleans funk inspired performance and brought a portion of the crowd to their feet with a spirited delivery.
Blake Noble, who relocated from the Land Down Under over six months ago, has been winning over Northwest music lovers since his arrival. He surely gained some new fans at PIF3 with some stunning acoustic guitar work, combined with his the Australian didgeridoo (a wooden trumpet-like drone pipe.) (See video below)
Noble’s performance was a fine compliment to the show and provided nice musical segues in-between set changes.
Roots rockers Cody Beebe and The Crooks (Cody Beebe on guitar and lead vocals, Eric Miller on bass / vocals, Aaron Myers on keys / vocals, Joe Catron on percussion & Chris Green on drums) stepped up next and rocked the room with their gritty and up-tempo sound. The band is in the process of finishing up the sophomore effort to be released later this year.
After Noble performed another number, Tsunami, Heart by Heart, featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and founding members from Heart (Roger Fisher on guitar, Steve Fossen on bass and Michael Derosier on drums) along with guitarists Randy Hansen, Andy Baldwin, keyboardist Eric Robert (Geoffrey Castle / Vicci Martinez) and lead vocalist Somar Macek took fans down musical memory lane by treating them to a healthy portion of some Heart classics.
Blake Noble came out again and performed the Bundjalung, which gave him the opportunity to turn his guitar into a drum, showcasing his percussion skills.
Alan White with his band White (Robyn Noto on lead vocals, Steve Boyce on bass / vocals, Jon Sindleman on keyboards / vocals) & Karl Haug on guitar) performed several rock classics along with multi-instrumentalist Lynn Sorensen (Bad Company), drummer Jeff Kathan, Caspian Coberly, (who possesses the musical soul and technical proficiency of someone four times his age) and the incomparable Geoffrey Castle (See complete set list below).
There were too many musical highlights to mention but seeing two of the greatest harmonica players in the world, Lee Oskar and John Popper do their thing together again was nothing short of spectacular. Oskar and Popper had an all out jam party out on stage while performing the WAR classic Lowrider. As if that wasn’t enough, the band launched into Blues Traveler's Carolina Blues, featuring Popper on lead vocals. Popper and Oskar traded harmonica solos back and forth while the band was locked right into the pocket.
For the finale, all of the participating artists came back out on stage for a rousing version of One Way Out from The Allman Brothers, ending the show with a celebratory tone.
I have had the pleasure of covering all of the established artists that participated in PIF 3 over the course of the last few years at various events, in many different settings. I am rarely star struck but I am always in awe of their craft and artistry. This past Sunday it was all on full display once again.
Seeing emerging artists that I have covered in the past such as Cody Beebe and the Crooks and Blake Noble share the stage with classic artists that I have previously covered was a pretty delicious treat. Many of the rock veterans have established an incredible body of work and done extraordinary things in their careers, thus leaving an indelible footprint in the community.
Shows like this help inspire many present generations, as well as help raise funds for music education for generations to come. Music education has many benefits in helping one reach their full artistic or human potential. Music breaks down social, religious and political barriers. Music creates community and is the universal communication medium.
Moreover, music also makes life a lot more magical. it is the gift that keeps on giving...The artists that participated this past Sunday know this, and that is why they keep showing up year after year, giving back and playing it forward.
After the show I caught up with Music Aid Northwest President Bob Tomberg to get his thoughts on Play it Forward 3...
Examiner.com: The last two Play it Forward shows were very successful but held in a club venue on the Eastside. How did having this year's event in Seattle at The Neptune change the dynamic of the show?
Tomberg: This was a huge leap for us. To move to one of downtown Seattle’s premier venues was part of our dream. We have to remember, our mission is to support music education in Washington, so we need to be prudent in planning our fund raising events. I think we took a gigantic step from a club environment to a concert venue. The energy was magical. Our concert was just that, a concert. The artists loved it, the audience loved it, and we raised some money for music education. It is where we should be, but we needed to take the necessary steps to get here. I am absolutely ecstatic about planning next years event.
Examiner.com: It was great to see some younger and emerging artists on the bill this year playing alongside some of the established artists that regularly play events for Music Aid Northwest. It seemed to add a different kind of energy and spirit to the show. What do you think?
Tomberg: I think Blake Noble’s quote described it best: “ When you move from one side of the planet to the other and you end up playing with some of the best musicians ever” I just have to “thank you for allowing me to be part of your music community” The established rock stars of our region are absolutely incredibly nice people and welcome anyone with musical talent to play with them. The synergy between the established rock starts and the up and coming stars was amazing! I think they both really enjoyed the camaraderie.
Examiner.com: You seemed pretty excited about how the show went and are already looking to next year. What would you like to see for Play it Forward 4?
Tomberg: I don’t think any of us are ever done learning. We learned a lot putting on this show and we can always do better. Though the vibe of Sunday night was amazing, and the possibility of recreating that seems possible, we want to include other artists as well. The musicians we count on every year are amazing and have played on the biggest stages of the world, but there are others. We want them to join us. We want the members of Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, The presidents of the United States, and even Dave Matthews to join us. To be part of our show once a year that celebrates music education and shares the talents of Washington’s finest with the community. I am always humbled by watching musicians with common success stories become absolutely giddy about playing with others of similar success and share their joy with others approaching their status.
Examiner.com: How much in terms of funds were raised this year from Play it Forward III?
Tomberg: Our accounting is not done for this event so I don’t have a number to give you yet. We are excited that we made the leap to a larger concert venue and we did make money to donate to music education. I just don’t know how much yet. I should have that number by next week.
Performers and Set list...
MC: Mark Christopher
Jake Nannery and the Wooden Nickel Brass Band
1. Bottom of it All
2. The Debt
3. Patient Maggie
Around The World
Cody Beebe and The Crooks
1. Other Side of The Fence
2. The Heat
3. Til You Run Away
4. Perfect Day
Heart by Heart
1. Cook With Fire
2. Straight On
3. Magic Man
4. Bebe Le Strange
6. Mistral Wind
7. Crazy on You
White (Feat. Alan White and special guests)
1. Tomorrow Never Knows
2. Changes (Yes cover)
3. Mighty Love
4. Farwell to Inwood (Feat. Geoffrey Castle)
5. Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix cover - Feat. Randy Hansen)
6. Tie Your Mother Down (Queen cover)
7. Layla (Derek and The Dominos cover - Feat. Lynn Sorensen on lead vocals)
8. Back in Black (AC / DC Cover - Feat. Lynn Sorensen. Jeff Kathan (drums) & John Popper
Lee Oskar (WAR / The Lowrider Band) and John Popper (Blues Traveler)
Roundabout (Yes cover)
Finale – One Way Out (Allman Brothers Band cover)
To learn more about Music Aid Northwest, please visit: http://www.musicaidnorthwest.org/
For more Seattle music coverage visit seattlemusicinsider.com