Yesterday I attended a show. I attend a lot of shows, but this one was very special. So special, that I hopped in my car and drove almost two hours to get there. After too much time on the less-than-scenic NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. I turned off the beaten path and had a lovely ride down winding roads lined with trees and rocky outcroppings. I was in the Ramapo mountains travelling through Ringwood State Park in Passaic County, NJ.
New Jersey gets bad rap nationally, but people need to know that the moniker “The Garden State” ain’t for nothin’. For all of the derelict urban centers, these beautiful natural spaces still exist statewide, and Live @ Drew’s is a venue smack-dab in the middle of one. As far as house concerts go Drew Eckmann is the master. His home overlooks a beautiful lake and there is ample deck space to enjoy the view before and after a show there. Guests bring food and drink to share, and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. This is not a place to stand in the corner by yourself, but a place to meet other musicians and music lovers and forge new friendships. The great room where the concerts happen is spacious, and there is a surprisingly good sound system. Drew has been hosting these shows since 1997, and his guests aren’t just new upcoming bands, like some other living room shows. Drew draws the cream of the crop. Graham Parker, Willie Nile, Jesse Malin, Alejandro Escovedo…these are just a few of the big names that have played Drew’s. Most more than once.
Showtime…The night opens with a solo performance from Dina Regine playing solo. She apologizes for not having her usual 9-piece band, but there is no need. The songs hold up with just her voice, a guitar, and a little bit of saxophone provided by Danny Ray. She tries out some new songs from her upcoming album “Astoria”, and I know I can’t wait to hear the finished product.
After a short break, the headliner Don DiLego and the Touristas take the stage. Don’s band has a revolving door of incredibly talented touring musicians who join the regular suspects. Tonight they include Derek Cruz on guitar, Scott Campbell on drums, Blaine O’Brien on pedal steel, Danny Ray on saxophone, and Brian Karp on bass. It did not take this band long to get the crowd warmed up. There was singing, and dancing, and foot stomping. Some old songs, some new songs, and some inspired covers. Drew joined in by singing a rousing version of “Pinball Wizard” to the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues”. Who knew?
The show ended with an electrifying cover of “Band on the Run” that had everyone on their feet. Don let everyone take a run and there was a blistering guitar solo from Derek. Afterwards everyone retired to the deck to cool off, wind down, and have some good conversation. This is music up close and personal. Some of the other acts scheduled to perform later this year: The Blasters, The Connection, Palmyra Delran and many more. I know it is definitely worth my time to make this trek again soon.
I’ll continue with conversation with Don in an upcoming show. We’ll play some of his music and then talk about his label Velvet Elk. Until then…Go see some live music!
Written by Kim Olin/Photos – Kim Olin