Towne Crier hosts Hot Rize
By Kevin E. Foley
A few hundred friends of Jim Lovell and Nancy Montgomery, supporters of the Philipstown Depot Theater in Garrison and lovers of bluegrass music came together Monday night (Nov. 11) for a benefit concert at the Towne Crier in Beacon.
The occasion was the appearance of the nationally renowned band Hot Rize, about to begin a national tour in support of a new album. The band’s appearance was also in support of member Nick Forster’s desire to honor the memory of his childhood friend Jim Lovell, who died in the December 2013 Metro-North train derailment at Spuyten Duyvil. The Depot Theatre was the beneficiary of Lovell’s time and energy for many years, and much of the concert’s ticket sales went to bolster its finances.
Hot Rize kept the evening upbeat, to say the least, with original songs from the new album as well as selections from bluegrass classics. The band displayed individual instrumental virtuosity on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and bass, along with a variety of vocal harmony combinations that excited the appreciative audience throughout the evening.
“My best friend was born a week older than me … we were best friends so much so that on our first day at Garrison Union Free School for kindergarten and the end of the day I actually kissed him goodbye and told him, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’” Foster poignantly said as he addressed the crowd midway through the concert. He then jokingly revealed how he was teased by a busload of older kids but that he didn’t care.
Forster went on to describe other childhood milestones for him and Lovell, such as their mutual attraction for their second-grade teacher, or the fact that Lovell mastered the playing of the A-minor chord on the guitar before Forster, which spurred the now professional musician to work harder at his music.
Although he acknowledged he has long been away from the area, Forster, host of the long-running radio program eTown, based in Boulder, Colorado, fell easily into further reminiscences of Garrison, the Depot Theatre, his musical inspiration Pete Seeger and the birth of a new form of environmental awareness that began with the struggle against building a power plant on Storm King mountain.
He told an amusing anecdote about an incident in the late 1960s when construction workers sought to disrupt an anti-power-plant concert by Seeger and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic held at the bandstand on the Cold Spring dock. The playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” was the key to disarming the confrontation, according to Forster.
Ultimately it was the music that underscored the gathering’s purpose. And looking over at his son Hudson, you could see Jim Lovell’s smiling face.
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