Derek Gentile: Backstage and on stage at Guitar Jam



It is always a little hectic backstage at The Colonial Theatre on the night of a show. At least on the night of the shows of which I'm in charge.

So. This was my backstage experience at Guitar Jam V last Saturday. It's The Eagle's annual concert featuring local musicians.

I got to the theater at about 3 p.m., and Steve Ide and the BTUs were just finishing up their sound check. At the Colonial, as at many places, the sound check is in reverse order of how the lineup will go on. Which means that after Ide, Bobby Sweet and his band, Robin O'Herin and Arthur Holmes and his band would sound check, in that order.

I went out into the audience to hear how it sounded from their point of view. The verdict: Pretty darn good.

The other three sound checks went off without much incident. Which is about normal. Sound check is just what it means: The artists will play various songs to gauge how loud their instruments and microphones are. It doesn't hurt that the Colonial technical staff is really incredibly professional.

Things wound up at about 5:30. I found myself talking to Abe Guthrie, keyboard player for Sweet's band, and son of Arlo, grandson of Woody. We talked about track and field. Abe's daughter, Serena, is a member of the Wahconah track team and one of the top discus throwers in the county.

I'm the Guitar Jam master of ceremonies; I throw on a suitcoat and announce the acts. I always get right on and get right off to open the show. As I've told many people, no one paid any money to see me.

The Arthur Holmes Blues Band was on first. I was somewhat concerned early in soundcheck: Drummer Bridget Wnukowski was wearing curlers while she played. Was this some kind of new age costume accessory?

No. Bridget ran out of time at home, and kept them in during soundcheck. Whew.

Arthur is the nicest guy in the world, but on stage, he takes no prisoners. The highlight was an amazing version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."

From Arthur, we went to Robin O'Herin, an extraordinary blues singer. There was some trepidation on my part that following Arthur would be an issue.

But Robin delivered a beautiful, virtuoso set, thus making Tim Farkas, my boss and the guy who finalized the order of the acts, look like a genius.

After intermission, we came back to a set by the most aptly named musician in the Berkshires, Bobby Sweet. Sweet has a tremendous band, great material and a very relaxed stage presence. He is also one of the most affable guys on the local music scene, probably because he's so good.

"Welcome to Guitarmageddon," he told the audience. And I thought, man, that might be a better name than Guitar Jam!

Ide and the BTUs finished up. Ide and fellow guitarists Bobby MacVeety and Rob Putnam are all great musicians. Putnam plays bass, but on Saturday, he and Ide switched instruments for a song and Rob Putnam, mild-manned school administrator for Central Berkshire Regional, tore the joint up.

The finale sounded a bit jumbled during soundcheck. This used to bother me. It doesn't anymore. Usually what happens is that the artists sort of work out the framework, and then kick it out during the real show.

That's what happened, folks. In large part, because the artists are very generous with each other. Ide and Sweet made sure everyone got a little solo turn. I can't tell you how many times Steve Ide told me Saturday, "Don't worry, this'll be great." Steve, I will never question you again.


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