Friday, August 23, 2019

Roger Silverberg

Organizing my thoughts for this one is going to be a little like trying to reign in a rope tornado with my hands, but I'll give it a shot. (I was going to say "give it a whirl", but that's beneath even me.)

We'll start with Roger. Roger Silverberg, aka "The Silver Bird" (I don't remember who gave him that nickname, but I've always liked it --Roger's had silver hair since I first met him, and I have to grudgingly admit he wears it better than I do) is a local Long Island musician I first met about 15 years ago (or maybe more). I might have met him first at one of Dave Isaacs' open mics, and he got involved with the LIMC, and the scene around The Pisces Cafe shortly thereafter.

I haven't seen Roger perform in more than a decade -- as I've related previously in this blog, fatherhood took up most of my spare time in this last decade -- but now that my children are both young adults, I've been taking something of a grand reunion tour, and catching up with various LIMC musicians and bands when I can. (I'm pretty sure the last time I saw him play was at the Conklin Barn a little while after his Sketches & Footprints album came out, although I did run into him once at a Deborah Lombardi show at a little coffee house in Patchogue Village maybe five or six years ago.)

Cut to Todd Evans -- Todd and I have been looking for a local music show to meet up at for awhile. And I'm 99% sure that Todd is also the person who first told me about The Michael Braceland Art Gallery. Somewhere along the way, he mentioned either playing at, or seeing a show at, a little place near me, "right near the McDonald's" in Patchogue. Now I've been up and down Route 101 about a million times since moving to Patchogue 20 years ago (and I and my family have almost personally kept that particular McDonald's in business), and I never saw anything resembling a music venue anywhere near that area.

But after further discussion, I realized where it must be. Down the block from Mickey D's (as the kids seem to like to call it), and across the street from the Lowe's, is a tiny little shopping area. I'm not even sure it's big enough to be called a strip mall. There's a hero place in the front, closest to the street, and a pizza place (or maybe the hero place and the pizza place are attached? I think they're two separate stores, but I could be wrong), and there's a little beer distributor (that never has the kind of beer I'm looking for) that's also kind of a bodega, and even serves as a kind of half-ass Fed-Ex (as I found out when I had my work laptop crashed and I had to Fed-Ex it back upstate to my boss to have him reload all of the programs onto it last October -- they weren't able to help). And although I never noticed it before, in between the pizza shop and the beer distributor is an art gallery, which also hosts live music and poetry nights and all kinds of interesting things. This is the Michael Braceland Art Gallery.

(As an aside -- which you know I love to do -- Patchogue has always seems to have some atypical music venues. When The Slant was still playing, for awhile we booked monthly gigs at a venue that was alternately called Harry's Bruncheonette and The Rooster Cafe. Harry, the proprietor, was a lovely man who was a recovering alcoholic, and much of his clientele were people who must have known him from AA Meetings. And like many recovering alcoholics, they replaced their drinking addiction with an addiction that made their lives more manageable -- smoking. I've never seen so many heavy smokers in one tiny brunch place. Patchogue also features a delicatessen a little further west on Montauk highway that covers up the deli shelves on weekend nights and hosts live bands. It's an arts-loving community.)

So bringing it all together, a few weeks ago, I got an email from Roger saying that his band, The Roger Silverberg Trio, would be playing at the Michael Braceland Art Gallery on Thursday night, August 22. I immediately put it on my calendar, and finally, about a week or so ago, remembered to contact Todd. (He was already aware of it, and planning on going. The so-and-so always knows about shows before I do.)

My plans were thrown a little up in the air earlier in the week. My daughter, who works for a pet grooming place, was scheduled to go into a special training program somewhere in Huntington sometime this summer. I knew that she might need me to drive some or all of the time she was doing her training. But she's the kind of a person who probably should have been a spy instead of an animal groomer. Because no one could ever torture information out of her. I've been asking her for months about when the training was starting, how many days a week, what hours, etc. No luck. Even the psycho dentist from The Marathon Man couldn't have made her tell. So suddenly this week, she popped in on and woke me (after four hours sleep) to tell me she'd need me to drive her on Wednesday. And for awhile, there was a question as to whether she'd also need me to pick her up from her training on Thursday night. But it all ended OK, as she got a ride from a friend who's training with her, and I got to go to the show.

I arrived early, just loving the idea of going out for music at a place like five minutes from my house. I've been enjoying seeing shows at The Patchogue Theatre and 89 North lately. But this place makes going to those venues seem like driving up to Syracuse. (OK, I'm totally exaggerating, but you know what I mean.)

I entered the gallery to find a fairly intimate room with a few rows of chairs set up in kind of a semi-circle around the performing area. Roger and his band were setting up. So after saying hello, I started talking to Michael about the place. It was nicely lit, and understandably festooned with paintings and other works of art hanging off of the walls. (I stole that word "festooned" from Michael. I didn't think I'd ever heard the word before when I heard him say it, but when I got home and saw it written, it looked more familiar.) I couldn't see the paintings that well -- I'll have to check them out at a later date -- but I liked what I saw, which was a lot of nature (tree) paintings with some pretty vibrant colors.

As we talked, and the band warmed up, a number of familiar faces walked in, including Hank Stone (who had come home from a weekend up in the Woodstock area), Todd, and Bob Westcott (who had also spent last weekend up at Woodstock).

A short while later, Roger and his band started playing. The band consisted of Roger on lead vocals, fluctuating between guitar and keyboard; Steve Blatt on bass; and Steve Cafarelli on drums and backing vocals.

They played two full sets. They did a nice job musically, and I have to say that the sets themselves were very well constructed. They mixed older songs with stuff from Roger's most recent album (2016's The Old Dog), plus a single from last year ("Build Your Own Road"), a few covers (of Dylan and The Hollies), and some new material, most of which I think they just recorded recently, presumably for an upcoming album. They also did one of Steve Cafferelli's songs, which I think was called "Another Heartbreak Coming Down", that was also quite good.

Roger has always been a fine songwriter, and it was crystal clear that he was enjoying himself, playing in such a nice venue where all the attention was focused on the music. A few songs that I especially enjoyed hearing were "I Wait for April" (which was my favorite song off of his first album), a new song called "Remembering Walter Becker" (which led Hank to suggest that he and Roger should do a tribute to dead rock stars album together, as Hank has several songs that fit into that category), "Feet Don't Fry" from Sketches, and "My Number One" from The Old Dog. The clear highlight of the night, though, was the band's rendition of Roger's song "The Sound of Rain" near the end of the second set, which occurred just as the rain was falling outside of the gallery. (I know that Michael was recording with his phone, and he stepped outside for just a moment midway through so the rain appeared in the shot as the song played. Hopefully he'll post it on his Facebook page.) The concert ended appropriately, with the band playing the title track from the album, "The Old Dog".

The show also featured some delights that were non-musical in nature. At some point during near the end of the first set, Todd disappeared for a moment and came back with a delicious bag of piping hot zeppoles from the pizza parlor next door, which he was kind enough to pass down the row. I suggested that the band change its name to "Led Zeppole" to commemorate the moment, but the idea seemed to be a nonstarter. But just like the coincidence with the rain that happened later, just as the zeppoles were being passed around, Roger and the band were performing "Love in the Kitchen". Then later in the night, a woman whom I didn't know (but most of the others did) came in with a box of oatmeal cookies that she had Hank distribute around the room. All of this food just made me want to slap Bryan Ferry all over again!

So all told, it was a very satisfying night. It was fun to see Roger playing again after all of this time. And to hear him in such a pleasant setting with good company and even some tasty desserts, and so close to my house -- well let me put it this way: This was the first show of a musical trifecta I'm seeing this weekend. And The Alarm and Santana are going to have to do some serious work to catch up -- the bar has been set pretty high.