Review and photos by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – There wasn’t quite as much emphasis on bass as one may have expected from an event titled “Home Bass: Four Strings, Four Hearts,” a concert to benefit the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which is building affordable passive solar townhouses in this quiet but needful river town. But there was plenty of love and community spirit, onstage and off, at the standing-room-only affair that took place at Club Helsinki Hudson on Sunday, January 27, 2013, and featured performances by such top names in rock – all of whom now call Hudson home — as Tommy Stinson, Meshell Ndegeocello, Melora Creager and Melissa Auf der Maur, who sits on the local board of Habitat and who organized the very well-run, well-managed night of entertainment.
These sorts of one-off programs can be hit-or-miss, and in the end it really doesn’t matter, as the main point is to raise money for a worthy cause. But in fact, those attending Sunday night’s show saw a fantastic concert featuring a wealth of local talent, which also included guest turns on vocals by local innkeeper Dini Lamot of Human Sexual Response, Tim Livingston of the Last Conspirators, and Cathy Grier, the self-styled NYC Subway Girl, who performed a brief warm-up set accompanied by bassist Daniel Kleederman.
In fact, all the sets were brief, and that was part of the secret about what made this evening work so well. There was no self-indulgence or self-congratulatory behavior onstage; rather, the musicians took the opportunity to share with their neighbors brief sets comprised mostly of new material, with a few choice
cover songs thrown in for good measure and entertainment value. Everything moved along with a minimum of fuss; set changeovers were quick and efficient (kudos to the remarkable Helsinki crew); and there wasn’t an excess of fumbling or dead air – just the right amount of intervals, peaks and valleys, and tributes to the good work that Habitat volunteers are doing here in Hudson.
A highlight of the evening that will be long-remembered by all was a duet by Auf der Maur – the former bassist for Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, who now plays under her own name when not curating the multidisciplinary events at Basilica Hudson, which she co-owns with several family members – and Stinson — the former bassist for the Replacements and hired hand for Guns ‘n’ Roses and Soul Asylum – on the Lee Hazlewood number, “Summer Wine,” made famous in his duet version with Nancy Sinatra. The tune afforded the opportunity to showcase Auf der Maur’s vocals at her best – on her own material, she is a goth-rock growler whose voice recalls Grace Slick, but here, she showed her softer, sweeter side, which was very pleasing.
There was a lot of such mixing and matching throughout the evening, with Meshell Ndegeocello – in her wizard-of-electronics-guise – sitting in with Auf der Maur on a number, and with “the three Ms” joining together at the end for a rousing finale of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” which Auf der Maur rightly pegged as a brutal and devastating anti-war protest song.
In her own set, Ndegeocello, accompanied by guitarist Joe Moore – emphasized her sweeter side on several ballads played on piano and keyboards, hardly touching on the funk and R&B that took her to the top of the charts early in her career. Melora Creager performed in a trio with her Rasputina bandmates, Daniel DeJesus on cello and vocals and Zaneta Sykes on percussion – and the full complement of two cellos and drums boosted the gothic-folk effectiveness of her madrigal-meets-metal material, which included the group’s trademark cover of Heart’s “Barracuda,” as well as Pink Floyd’s dreamy “Wish You Were Here.”
Stinson – playing acoustic guitar rather than bass for the evening – stuck mostly to his country- and roots-rock guise, although he ended his set with one of his signature Keith Richards-style barnburners familiar to fans of his Bash & Pop-era work. His set kicked off with the Porter Wagoner hit, “Green, Green Grass of Home”; performance artist C. Ryder Cooley sat in with his band on musical saw; and the aforementioned Lamot joined Stinson for a duet on a Ryan Adams song.
And backed by her trio from Canada, Auf der Maur – in what she said was her first performance in 15 months, since giving birth to a daughter who was in the crowd, seeing her mother perform for the first time ever (and apparently clapping along) – mined her steamy goth-rock vein, while making room for “Summer Wine” with Stinson.
All in all, it was a great show, a testament to the incredible community spirit held by the residents of this tiny city undergoing a slow but steady revival after years of stagnation, and to the incredible talent pool that has chosen to make Hudson its home.