The British Invade (Sort Of) at Strathmore
Cool and hip may not be the first things you think about when you think of the Music Center at Strathmore.
After all, the gorgeous, nearly 2,000-seat acoustic paradise is a haven for classical music fans and performers, from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to the likes of Joshua Bell and Yitzhak Perlman. Rockers come — there’s been nights where you can catch the still-there Beach Boys or Jerry Lee Lewis — but full-scale rock-a-mania isn’t usually on the menu.
Except in the summer, except in August. That’s when Strathmore hosts its annual tribute concert, produced by Bandhouse Gigs, the major local musician group that often showcases (and assists) local artists, of which there is an abundance.
The tribute concert, held every year now for seven years, is an occasion for gifted local musicians, young and new, veteran and seasoned, famous or not, to pay tribute to the rock and roll and pop giants of old. This year — specifically, tonight and tomorrow — the causes for tribute and celebration is the British Invasion, that sudden outburst of British musicians whose work and personas hit our shores in the middle and late 1960s, from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, to posters and hit-tine stars like Tom Jones, Petula Clark and the incomparable Dusty Springfield.
This year marks the first time — due to popular demand — that the tribute concert has expanded to two days, and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate that turn of events.
“We sold out last year’s concert so that a lot of people actually couldn’t come,” Ronnie Newmyer, a veteran local musician and spokesperson for Bandhouse Gigs, said. “Although, just so you know, we have a CD that from last year’s concert that will be sold at [this year’s] concert. I think things have just gotten bigger and bigger every year, so this represents an opportunity to honor some really terrific performers, bands and singers. This is what the tribute concert is always all about — you can see the influence these performers have had on present-day musicians.”
Past tributes have included — as performed specifically in the concert hall where proceedings moved from free outdoor concerts — Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the spectacularly triumphant Woodstock concert of last year.
Actually, the concerts, which in and of themselves are always a parade of great music and songs — just run the Dylan canon through your head sometime— do something else, which may transcend the individual tributes. All of the songs — with some exceptions —are performed by local musicians. Some of them are nationally well known — Jon Carroll and Bill Danoff who came up with half a reunion of their Starland Vocal Band (“Afternoon Delight”) last year, for instance — but others are legends in specific arenas of, say, acoustic folk music circles. All of them perform regularly in the region, and many have recorded with major labels. After witnessing the last three tributes I can say all of them are gifted, professional musicians, many of them revealing themselves to be up-and-comers, including The Craving Dogs, newcomer Margot MacDonald or the gravelly voiced Patty Reese, who practically channeled Janis Joplin in last year’s Woodstock Concert.
“It’s a great showcase, it sure is,” Newmyer said. “I think it really shows off the local music scene, the people in it, how talented they are.”
Some of the performers, like MacDonald, have been Artists in Residence at Strathmore, a yearly program there for new and talented musicians and artists. Others have performed both locally and around the country, sometimes top billed, sometimes opening for other acts. They’ve been at the Birchmere and often at Jammin’ Java in Virginia.
The British Invasion Concert is a good way to have your eyes and ears opened to just what’s been going on around here musically. The music features, besides The Beatles and Stones and Jones and Clark and Springfield, the work of Peter and Gordon, The Who, The Hollies, The Kings, The Animals, the Zombies and many others. “These were people who wrote and recorded great individual songs, they practically perfected the genre,” Newmyer said. “The big bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin, with the long guitar work and numbers came right after when we got into Woodstock and everything that happened.”
Reese will be handling (perhaps uncharacteristically) the stylings of Petula “Downtown” Clark. Other artists include Carroll, Julia Nixon, The Hall Monitors, Tone Rangers, MacDonald, Last Train Home, 5 Doctors, The Lofgren Brothers, Billy Coulter, Marti Brom, David Kitchens, Tom Lepson, Jeff Watson and Brian Simms, to name a few among a total of over 60 performers.
They’ll be doing such hits as “You Really Got Me,” “She Loves You,” “Needles and Pins,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Satisfaction,” “Doo Wah Diddy,” “She’s Not There,” “To Sir With Love,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “We Gotta Get Outta This Place,” “Go Now” and a personal favorite, “Ferry Across the Mercy,” as well as a Herman’s Hermits Medley.
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m., with tickets ranging from $19 to $22. For information go to www.strathmore.org.