STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
It has been nearly 40 years since the original lineup of The Band played their “Last Waltz” at San Francisco’s Wonderland Arena.
Decades later, The THE BAND Band, featuring Gary Solomon (bass, vocals), Jack Kraft (keyboards, accordion, vocals), Vinny Nicosia (drums, vocals), Mike Corbin (guitar, vocals) and Josh Radin (guitar, mandolin, vocals) is keeping The Band’s music alive in what they describe as “authentic, true-to-form renditions of their extraordinary repertoire.”
Conceived in 2007 by fellow musicians and Band enthusiasts Gary Solomon and Jack Kraft, The THE BAND Band began innocently as an excuse to get the friends together to play songs by their favorite group.
“I was at ‘The Last Waltz,’” recalls Gary Solomon from his home in Stony Point, NY. “I was 19 years old, and I just happened to be in San Francisco. I heard about it and went to the concert. It was amazing. When that happens to you, it kind of gets into your blood.”
“Jack and I started playing in some bands back in the early 1980s — rock bands, weddings bands,” adds Solomon. “I was a young teenager when I got into The Band and started covering their songs in my early rock ‘n’ roll bands. Both Jack and I saw them a couple of times before we knew each other, so it was kind of in our DNA. When we would get together and hang out, we would play around with Band songs just because that was what we loved.”
“One day Jack said to me, ‘Why don’t we get a guitar player and a drummer and let’s learn these songs and play them really, really well, like The Band, just for fun,” says Solomon. “And I said, ‘Sure, that sounds great!’ We found a guitar player friend of ours, who we knew was a fan of The Band. And we had a drummer friend of ours. So we built the framework for it and set the model of the standard for it. We made sure that we had it the way it needed to be — playing the music like it was played on the records.”
With less than a year under their belt, The THE BAND Band made a gutsy move by playing on The Band’s home turf in Woodstock, NY.
“We took it very seriously from the beginning,” recalls Solomon. “There’s a coffee house or a bar in Woodstock, The Band’s adopted musical home. We ride into town and people are saying, ‘You guys better be good to come into Woodstock and call yourselves ‘The THE BAND Band.’ To me, it was like riding into Liverpool and calling yourselves “The Beatles.” We thought, ‘We think we can do this.’ We realized there’s something here for us that nobody else is doing.”
“There were a bunch of old timers sitting right in front of us with their arms folded and looking at us,” adds Solomon. “We started playing and, after a couple of songs, they were moving and tapping their feet and clapping their hands and that kind of built up. We got to a high point where we whipped the crowd into a frenzy and we were like, ‘If you can do that in Woodstock to a lot of doubting Thomases …’ We knew we still had a long way to go and a lot to learn, but it felt like people really love this music. People really want it. They haven’t heard this stuff live in years.”
Eight years into their journey, The THE BAND Band is rapidly making a name for themselves as the premier tribute group featuring the music of The Band. Offering an unforgettable show including the classics “The Weight,” “Up On Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” The THE BAND Band also delves into a broad range of deep cuts from the classic albums “Music From Big Pink,” “The Brown Album” and “Stage Fright,” among others.
By delivering music with the passion and commitment The Band was known for, the group hopes that fans will experience the intensity and excitement of what it was like to witness one of The Band’s legendary concerts.
“This really grew organically. We never thought for a minute that we were actually going to take this out on the road,” says Solomon. “It’s intoxicating when you can play a full room and people just love it! All of us are in our late 50s or early 60s and we’ve been playing a long time and it’s nice to have something that, if you take it seriously musically, can actually get you somewhere. You can play great original music and struggle your whole life to get it heard.”
“It’s our highest compliment when people say, ‘You know, when I close my eyes it sounds like The Band,’” adds Solomon. “I’m under no illusions. A tribute band is a tribute band. It’s The Band that you are honoring that created it and they had the personalities and the stories that went with it too.
We are paying tribute to great music, and we’re doing it well enough that people keep coming out.”