Boogie for the State – Online

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of John and Mike working on a new tune for this show. Check them out along with the other great artists we’ve been missing all year at a boogie for the State Theater!

Local musicians boogie for State Theatre fundraiser

By  Parker Schug

"Boogie for the State" is the name of this year
“Boogie for the State” is the name of this year’s virtual Boogie Shakedown concert and fundraiser for the State Theatre.

The annual Boogie Shakedown celebration is typically held during a chilly Ithaca Memorial Day weekend. However, this year, Boogie Shakedown is becoming Boogie for the State, a virtual event to celebrate local music and raise money for The State Theatre of Ithaca.

The Shakedown will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 and will showcase performances from over 10 local bands. Since 1998, Boogie Shakedown has been a backyard get-together for Ithaca musicians and their families. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, live performances have mostly been put on pause. The State Theatre has adapted to a virtual setting to maintain the tradition. The concert, which will be streamed on Facebook and YouTube, is free to watch, but donations will be encouraged throughout the event.

Viewers can expect performances from artists who have graced the Boogie Shakedown stage in the past, like Plastic Nebraska, Maddy Walsh & The Blind Spots, Sim Redmond Band, Johnny Dowd, Mary Lorson and Billy Cote of Madder Rose, Common Railers, The Small Kings, The Rungs, Janet Batch, The Sutras and Don Bazley and The Moles.

Brian Fiorello, manager of Plastic Nebraska, said it is important to keep the spirit of local music alive amid the pandemic.

“This area is big with original local music and music festivals, so [Boogie Shakedown] was kind of the first gathering of people, and you started to get that first taste of music and a little mini music festival,” Fiorello said.

Many in-person festivals in Ithaca last year were canceled or shifted to virtual programming because of the pandemic, including Ithaca Festival, Porchfest and the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance.

Maddy Walsh, lead singer of Maddy Walsh & The Blind Spots, said that for performers, this is an opportunity to reunite — even if it is over a screen.

“I remember when we first started playing, there were a few musicians who had babies, and now there’s this whole other part of the party,” Walsh said. “There’s a bunch of kids running around, and they all know each other from having been at this party for years and years.”

The State Theatre opened in 1928 and is located in Downtown Ithaca. It is the last historic theater in Tompkins County.

Doug Levine, executive director at the State Theatre, said many live event venues are struggling amid the pandemic. Nearly 90% of independent concert venues are at risk of closing their doors due to the pandemic, according to a June report from the National Independent Venue Association.

Boogie for the State is not the theater’s first effort to keep itself afloat. In November, the theater launched the Save Your Seat campaign. Supporters had the opportunity to purchase a customized plaque to be placed on one of the theater’s seats. With 1,600 seats in the theater, the goal was to raise $160,000 to cover the deficit from not hosting a show since March 2020. The theater also held a virtual concert as part of this effort Dec. 1. The State Theatre announced that it met its goal Dec. 30.

Prior to the pandemic, students from Ithaca College would attend concerts at local music venues like the State Theatre and The Haunt, located near the Ithaca Farmers Market. However, the local music scene has changed rapidly over the previous year. The Haunt was sold last year, and the demolition of the building began the week of Feb. 22.

Junior Brooke Bernhardt attended a Walk the Moon concert at the State Theatre in 2019 and said she would be sad if the theater had to close.

“It’s a beautiful old-fashioned theater and a nice concert space,” Bernhardt said. “I’d hate to see a space like that shut down.”

In an effort to make Boogie for the State run smoothly, each performer pre-recorded their performances. All of the performances will be edited together for the livestream.

“One thing that we learned is with true live streaming, there’s a lot of risk and a lot of stress involved because so much can go wrong, but when you have people recording them in advance, you get the good take,” Levine said. “Then you can put it all together, and the way we stream it out, we kind of ensure that it’s a smooth, good stream, so there’s no buffering, there’s no hiccups.”

Walsh said she is looking forward to not only participating in the concert but also watching other performances.

“We’re happy to submit a musical contribution from ourselves, but I love tuning into the other bands, and that’s sort of the joy of this particular festival, party, is that musicians get to watch other musicians bring their stuff to the stage,” Walsh said. “To see them and hear them again will be a total joy.”

BAND ORDER for Boogie for The State – A Virtual Shakedown!

Common Railers

Plastic Nebraska

Mike Ryan

The Rungs

JoJo

The Small Kings

Janet Batch

The Don Bazley Project

Johnny Dowd Trio

The Moles

Maddy & Suave

Mary Lorson and Billy Coté

Sim Redmond Band

Johnny Dowd’s Musical Journey

 

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Johnny Dowd’s Musical Journey

  • By Bill Chaisson

Johnny Dowd found the title for his new album, Execute American Folklore, by accident. He ran Google Translate on what turned out to be a negative review in Dutch and found himself accused of “executing American folklore.” He was delighted.

“Finally someone has given me the phrase for what I’ve been doing for 25 years,” he said as he rolled a cigarette between sips of coffee on the steps of the former Felicia’s Atomic Lounge. “Well, OK, I’ve been doing it a little longer than that.”

Dowd famously came late to the life of a professional musician. He describes having an epiphany at age 35. The Army veteran was still living as if he was still 19 while watching his friends get married and buy houses. “I knew I didn’t want to do that,” he said, “but I was washing dishes for a living, and I knew I didn’t want to do that. And I thought, ‘Music; I’ve always loved music since I was 9 years old.’ I didn’t see anything about it that I couldn’t do. I knew musicians; they weren’t that smart. So I started the same way other people start when they’re 15, but way late. I’m only 30 in musical years.”

Although he claims to have no natural musical ability, in his mid-30s Dowd learned to play guitar and then he began writing songs. By many people’s estimate: awesome songs. His band Neon Baptist was one of the three bands to appear at the State Theatre in 1991 in a fundraiser that would inaugurate the Grassroots Festival. This past year Dowd released a double live CD of archival Neon Baptist shows.

His first solo album, The Wrong Side of Memphis, was released in 1998. “I got in at the top of the alt-country thing,” Dowd said. “Europe was paying crazy money; the big rock clubs were subsidized by the government back then. But now it’s just like the States.” Dowd doesn’t think his career would get off the ground if he were trying to start it now.

“[In the ‘90s] low-fi was big,” he said, “and my first record was unintentionally low-fi. I had it on cassette and played it for my friends. They said it was great, so I just put it in the mail, sent it out to the music magazines, and got all kinds of hits.” The copy he mailed to Billboard resulted in a positive review.

“I was super-lucky,” said Dowd. “There was like a two-month window. We went to South by Southwest and signed two record deals. It’s just been a slow decline from there. It’s what I’ve got on some other artists around here: it’s easier to go down.”

In terms of remuneration, you can’t argue with the man, but in terms of the music, fans of Dowd will undoubtedly disagree with his assessment. He has put out an average of about an album per year, and they have been restlessly exploratory. In addition to new collections of original music, he has turned out compilations, tributes, and live albums. And they are no longer low-fi.

Where once he sat down with an acoustic guitar, he now programs a drum machine and then adds all the rest. “Then I find some lyrics that I’ve already written or write some new ones,” he said. “It has become more of a hip-hop thing: words over beats. I find a beat that I like and a bass line, and then just build it out. I may try 10 or 15 permutations of a line before I get it right.”

Dowd has departed from his album per year average this year. In addition to Execute American Folklore, which was funded with an IndiGoGo campaign, and the Neon Baptist live release, he has recorded “a 30-minute instrumental, Bitches Brew type of thing. A friend in California is mixing it now. It should be ready by Christmas.”

Released first in Europe and available at johnnydowd.com, Execute American Folklore came out on Mother Jinx Records on Sept. 9 in the U.S. There will be a record-release party at the Rongovian Embassy on Saturday, Oct. 1. at 9 p.m. Jennie Stearns and Park Doing will open the show. • 

 – Original Article