Tag Archive | "local bands"

Last Party for Merry Maker Vivian Walsh

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Vivian Walsh.

Vivian Walsh of Vivian and the Merry Makers Steel Drum Band died last Thursday.

By Kathryn G. Menu

After 40 years of bringing island music to East End audiences, Vivian Walsh, the frontman and founder of Vivian and The Merry Makers Steel Drum Band, died last Thursday morning at Southampton Hospital. The 76 year-old Sag Harbor resident had been battling pancreatic cancer.

As news of Mr. Walsh’s death spread through the community, a Facebook page dedicated to the band and created by Mr. Walsh’s friend Willow Keller became a virtual memorial to the singer and steel drum player. Scores of people, from the East End and beyond, logged on to share memories, and offer their condolences to a man known for his music, his straw hat, Hawaiian shirt, and stage presence.

“We will miss this gentle soul with a big heart, who made this world a happier place,” wrote Sag Harbor resident and friend Chris Tice last Thursday, after announcing the news of Mr. Walsh’s death.

“I will always love and miss you Vivian Walsh,” wrote longtime friend Mariah Kelly. “You’ve been a big part of my life for 47 years. I will miss our Sunday chats. Rest in Paradise, you sweet, kind soul.”

“You will surely be missed, your booming voice, boisterous laugh and twinkling eyes,” wrote Sag Harbor resident Melissa Ann Mitchell.

Mr. Walsh was born on December 3, 1937, on the Caribbean island of Dominica. According to his goddaughter, Debra George, already an accomplished steel drum player, Mr. Walsh moved to the East End in the mid-1960s, and quickly began booking gigs for his steel drum band. Over the next 40 years, Vivian and the Merry Makers became synonymous with outdoor summer traditions, whether it be Montauk’s Blessing of the Fleet, or outdoor concerts at Southampton’s Agwam Park and Sag Harbor’s Marine Park.

Merry Maker drummer Jerome Liggon has played with the band for 21 years. He met Mr. Walsh when his band played the Westhampton Beach Village Green. Mr. Liggon, a drummer with the band Déjà Vu at the time, reached out to Mr. Walsh and the next week the gregarious bandleader called him and asked him to join the Merry Makers.

“What impressed me so much about Vivian is how everyone gravitated toward him,” said Mr. Liggon. “I learned stage presence from him. You don’t realize the impact someone has had sometimes until that person is gone when it is someone that great.”

Ms. George said the family had originally planned for a small gathering of friends and family at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor last Sunday, but after posting an announcement on Facebook, over 100 people turned out for the event, which morphed into an impromptu concert.

“I could not believe the turnout,” said Ms. George. “We had more than 100 people come and the band rocked it out. It was exactly what he would have wanted.”

Mr. Walsh is survived by twin daughters, Valencia and Valantine Walsh, as well as four grandchildren. In planning a final farewell for Mr. Walsh, Ms. George said the family will likely hold an event this May or June, ideally in Sag Harbor. Mr. Walsh’s cremated remains, she said, would be floated out to sea at the memorial, which she hopes will feature several bands.

And that will include he Merry Makers, according to Mr. Liggon.

“The last time I was with Vivian when he was coherent he communicated to me that he wanted the Merry Makers to continue on,” he said. “We have to find a new steel drummer, but I think we can come up with something. I believe we already have someone who can sing. Scott Hopson is a second generation Merry Maker and is up for it.”

“I know I wouldn’t want to be the steel drummer who has to follow Vivian’s act,” Mr. Liggon laughed. “No, no, no, thank you.”

“To me, the perfect way to celebrate Vivian would be to do something in Sag Harbor,” he added. “Sag Harbor was his home and he loved that village.”

Earthreal Live at 230 Down in Southampton

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By Tessa Raebeck

An original band of local South Fork musicians, Earthreal, will play 230 Down in Southampton, the underground music venue with a full game room, beers on tap and no cover charge. Earthreal delivers a “brand new sound that combines elements of rock, reggae, funk and jam with powerful vocal melodies to create a textural and progressive sonic experience,” according to drummer Tyler Armstrong of East Hampton. Southampton natives Tom Price, Danny Zikeli and Erin Simmons join Mr. Armstrong.

Earthreal will play on Saturday, March 15 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 230 Down, 230 Elm Street in Southampton. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook page.

Chasing the Beast: Local Band The Montauk Project to Release First Full-Length Album

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The Montauk Project, Chris Wood, Mark Schiavoni, Jasper Conroy and Jack Marshall, performs at Swallow East in Montauk on Friday, February 28. Photo by Ian Cooke.

The Montauk Project, Chris Wood, Mark Schiavoni, Jasper Conroy and Jack Marshall, performs at Swallow East in Montauk on Friday, February 28. Photo by Ian Cooke.

By Tessa Raebeck

Despite the hype surrounding Montauk as an ever-growing tourist/hipster destination and the tendency of audiences and critics alike to judge a band by its members’ hair length rather than its sound, The Montauk Project remains dedicated to one thing first and foremost: making good music.

Started as a jam band by three friends, with a few local gigs and a Facebook page, The Montauk Project has grown steadily in the three years since; this month, the homegrown band is purchasing its first tour van, releasing its first full-length album and performing at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, one of the world’s largest music festivals.

The group formed in early 2011 when longtime friends Jasper Conroy, Matty Liot and Mark Schiavoni started jamming at Mr. Conroy’s house, a bungalow overflowing with instruments, surfboards and local vagabonds just a few blocks from Ditch Plains beach in Montauk. Chris Wood joined shortly thereafter and, when Mr. Liot left the group in 2012, The Montauk Project solidified its current line-up: Mr. Wood on bass, Mr. Conroy on drums, Mr. Schiavoni on vocals and Jack Marshall on electric guitar.

The band is decidedly homegrown. As they drive to Mr. Conroy’s house to practice, the band members can see the Montauk radar tower, where the conspiracy theorists say the government conducted secret time-travel experiments as part of the “Montauk Project.” Mr. Schiavoni, of Sag Harbor, and Mr. Conroy have been playing music together since high school. Mr. Marshall is the grandson of John Marshall, the namesake of East Hampton’s elementary school and “a local icon,” as Mr. Schiavoni puts it. Mr. Wood grew up playing in Montauk on his father’s fishing boat, the Sylvia S, which was docked nearby when the band performed at Swallow East last Friday.

After Mr. Marshall, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, joined last year, The Montauk Project continued its evolution from a jam band to a heavier, more cohesive sound, although its sound remains in constant development.

“We still jump around a lot with our sound,” Mr. Marshall said before the show Friday. “We definitely kind of have more of an idea of what we want to do, but at the same time, we’re still kind of venturing.”

“Still developing,” adds Mr. Schiavoni, as Mr. Marshall says a song they recently wrote surprised the band with its natural departure from their other music. Having yet to decide on a name, the group simply calls the song, which they premiered on Friday, “New Jam.”

The Montauk Project will release its first full-length album, “Belly of the Beast,” on March 25. Unable to pinpoint a specific genre, the band created its own term for The Montauk Project sound: “beach grunge.”

“We have sort of this ’90s nostalgia thing, but it’s not so depressing. We don’t do heroin, you know, it’s not like we’re Nirvana,” explained Mr. Schiavoni. “So, the beach, I think, adds a little light. We’re not grunge ’cause we really aren’t grunge—Jack [Marshall] showered today. He smells like shampoo, he smells great right now.”

“Very pleasant,” added Mr. Wood.

The Montauk Project's Mark Schiavoni. Photo by Ian Cooke.

The Montauk Project’s Mark Schiavoni. Photo by Ian Cooke.

Although The Montauk Project doesn’t clearly fit into a specific genre, “our sound from the beginning to the end of a set is pretty collected, it’s solid, there’s consistency,” Mr. Schiavoni said.

“It’s boring,” the front man said of albums that have a song followed by another just like it, “and I think in a generation where everyone has what I call IPod ADD—where you have to listen to shuffle, people can’t listen to an album—I think it’s very important to have diversity in your album and in your set.”

“I think when you listen to the majority of legendary rock bands that you think about, like Led Zeppelin or even more recently, the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers, they all have that kind of thing,” added Mr. Marshall. “If you listen to different albums from any of those guys, they jump around—but they can get away with it because when you listen to any of their songs, you don’t have to question, is that this band? You know.”

The Montauk Project was invited to perform at SXSW—the largest music festival of its kind in the world—on March 12 and was able to raise enough money at the concert Friday to help the guys purchase their first tour van, which will take them to Austin.

“Everything is a new experience,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “In a way, out here, it’s definitely more comfortable. So when we go to an unfamiliar place, you never know who’s listening, so you kind of have to stay on your feet. It can be a little more unnerving. But then again, you never know who’s listening in Montauk…. So it almost doesn’t matter, you have to play on your feet wherever you are.”

“We’re also going to the biggest music festival in the world, so it’s every single major player in every music department is there, so you can get more exposure,” added Mr. Conroy.

From answering questions to crafting their songs, the group works as a collective. The creative process usually begins with an idea from one member that is then filled out by the rest in collaboration. “The Beast,” the title track to the new album, begins with the lyrics, “Fortune tells if a man is well, but the rage in his eyes shows his other self. But keep it clean, your destiny, as you go out to sea to chase the beast.”

“We have a pretty nice bond with each other where we can all kind of feel out, all right, you’re doing this, and then we all kind of seem—after a couple tries—to get something right away. It’s kind of cool to me, to have a good connection with everybody and so you [can] jump on something.”

“Yeah,” agreed Mr. Wood. “It’s like an unspoken connection. You just kind of start grooving out of nowhere and it just works.”

The Montauk Project will perform at The Stephen Talkhouse, 161 Main Street in Amagansett, on Saturday, March 8, at 8 p.m. For more information and upcoming shows, visit their website.

Local Band on the Brink: The Montauk Project at 230 Elm

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The Montauk Project at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City (Photo by Ian Cooke).

The Montauk Project at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City (Photo by Ian Cooke).

By Tessa Raebeck

On the brink of releasing their first full-length album, The Montauk Project returns home this Saturday, February 15 with a concert at 230 Down in Southampton.

Since forming three years ago, the local, all-original rock band has been busy making a name for itself, playing frequent gigs on the East End, up-island and in New York City.

With the long hair of rock and roll and the laid back attitude of local surfers, the four band members are all East End natives in their mid-twenties. Sag Harbor’s Mark Schiavoni plays vocals and guitar, Jasper Conroy of Montauk is on the drums and adds vocals and bass player Chris Wood and lead guitar/vocalist Jack Marshall both come from East Hampton.

Mark Schiavoni of the Montauk Project (Photo by Ian Cooke).

Mark Schiavoni of the Montauk Project (Photo by Ian Cooke).

According to the band’s bio on the music site ReverbNation, The Montauk Project’s music “sounds like the beating wings of an immortal hummingbird flying through a war in heaven. Powerful, loud, eclectic, rock and roll.” Their musical influences include The Black Keys, Stone Temple Pilots and Blind Melon.

On March 25, the Montauk Project will unveil their first full-length album, “Belly of the Beast,” which will feature 10 original songs recorded at their home studio in Montauk, including the already released tracks “The Beast” and “Black as Night.”

The Montauk Project will perform Saturday, February 15 at 8 p.m. at 230 Down, located at 230 Elm Street in Southampton. For more information, visit themontaukprojectmusic.com.