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Published: 2012/06/05
by James McManus

Members of The Hold Steady, Felice Brothers, Guster, Levon Helm Band and More Join Marco Benevento, Dave Dreiwitz, Scott Metzger and Joe Russo at Levon Tribute

After a weekend of Levon Helm tributes at Mountain Jam in the Catskills, an esteemed assembly of musicians brought the ongoing memorial into the city for a celebration of The Band drummer’s life at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl. Spearheaded by keyboardist Marco Benevento, Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz, RANA guitarist Scott Metzger and Furthur drummer Joe Russo, who have become familiar faces around the Bowl with their Led Zeppelin cover project Bustle In Your Hedgerow, the evening was billed as “A Benefit to Save The Barn,” referring to Helm’s famous home and recording studio in Woodstock, NY. The quartet assumed the role of house band for the night, with their guests contributing vocals or extra instrumentation on various Band and Levon-associated songs.

Metzger kicked off the night singing the soulful “Ophelia,” adding a horn section to capture for the song’s signature swing. Vocalist Kelli Scarr stepped up to sing the next offering, a rendition of the Little Richard classic “Slippin’ & Slidin’” as commonly covered by The Band, and from then on the guest appearances just kept coming. Guster singer Ryan Miller and singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, best known as Phosphorescent, joined forces on the traditional work song “Ain’t No More Cane,” another of The Band’s favorite covers. Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler took the stage later to play “Jemima Surrender” off The Band’s 1969 self-titled LP and “Yahoo Street Scandal” from Bob Dylan and The Band’s famous The Basement Tapes.

Aside from all the Band covers, some performers contributed songs from Levon’s personal catalog, like singer/acoustic guitarist Grayson Capps who played the title track off Helm’s 2007 album Dirt Farmer. Elvis Perkins’ backing group Diamond Doves took the stage for crowd favorite “Up On Cripple Creek,” then yielded the spotlight to Yellowbirds’ Sam Cohen for “W.S. Walcott’s Medicine Show” and “Rag Mama Rag” before returning later with surprise guests—and Levon Helm Band members—Jim Weider, Brian Mitchell,and Byron Isaacs to play the classic “Long Black Veil,” the Isaacs-penned “Calvalry” from Dirt Farmer and “Ain’t Got No Home.”

The evening reached its emotional peak towards its end, with the stage getting more crowded and each song turning into a collaborative effort amongst the whole group. Leah Siegel, Jonah Smith and Mitchell shared vocal duties on a spirited “Shape I’m In,” followed by another joint effort between Nichole Atkins, The Felice Brothers’ Ian Felice and Ryan Miller on the solemn “I Shall Be Released.” Miller also brought Sam Champion singer/guitarist Noah Chernin—who organized the event behind the scenes—onstage to join the sing-along.

The night ended with all of the night’s featured guests crowding onstage for a moving group sing-along to “The Weight,” with the audience and performers alike joining in to show their appreciation and respect for Levon and his music. A few VIPS also joined the evening’s cast onstage for the group closer, including Chernin, event co-organizer and longtime Brooklyn Bowl staff member Peter Costello and NASCAR star Jeff Gordon.

Here’s a look at last night’s setlist and lead vocalists

Ophelia (Scott Metzger)
Slippin & Slidin’ (Kelli Scarr)
Goin’ Back To Memphis (Dave Dreiwitz)
Ain’t No More Cane (Ryan Miller of Guster, Luke Rathborne and Phosphorescent)
Look Out Cleveland (Phosphorescent)
Jemima Surrender (Craig Finn, Tad Kubler on guitar)
Yazoo Street Scandal (Craig Finn, Tad Kubler on guitar)
When I Paint My Masterpiece (Chris Harford)
Evangeline (Kopecky Family Band)
Whispering Pines (Nicole Atkins, Kelli Scarr)
Dirt Farmer (Grayson Capps)
Don’t Ya Tell Henry (Tom Hamilton of American Babies)
Don’t Do It (Diamond Doves, Leah Siegel)
Up On Cripple Creek (Diamond Doves)
W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (Sam Cohen)
Rag Mama Rag (Sam Cohen)
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Ian Felice)
King Harvest (Kelli Scarr)
Anna Lee (Kelli Scarr)
Long Black Veil (Diamond Doves, Jim Weider, Brian Mitchell and Byron Isaacs)
Calvary (Diamond Doves, Jim Weider, Brian Mitchell and Byron Isaacs)
I Ain’t Got No Home (Diamond Doves, Jim Weider, Brian Mitchell and Byron Isaacs)
Mystery Train (Jim Keller, Byron Isaacs)
I Don’t Want To Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes (Luke Rathborne)
Deep Elem Blues (Nate Martinez)
The Shape I’m In (Leah Siegel, Jonah Smith and Brian Mitchell)
I Shall Be Released (sung by Nicole Atkins, Ian Felice and Ryan Miller),
The Weight (Ensemble)

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