Words by Corinne Casella | Photos by Jeremy Gordon
On Sunday, November 8th, City Winery was enlivened in an instrumental chorus, creating a celebration of music in its purest form. Guitar Mash’s 4th annual Benefit Jam brought musicians of all ages and levels of expertise together to play with some of music’s key players. Audience members were supplied with loaner instruments, tools, guidance, lyrics and chords. With more guitars than anyone is likely to ever to see in one place again, attendees were treated to a setlist inspired by genre-spanning masters of their respective crafts.
Imagine learning to play slide guitar with Jerry Douglas, or having Jackie Greene advising you that even the simplest of chords can be made fierce with the right attitude. Memories in the making like these set Guitar Mash apart.
Mark Stewart, the creative genius and music director of Guitar Mash, made the afternoon into a lesson of learning how to find one’s inner spark. Stewart led off the event in a fresh way, with a ‘no guitar moment,’ distributing wooden coffee stirrers for the audience to use as jaw harps, driving home the fact that communal music can be created in any form.
“Making music is different from listening to music, and provides a completely different connection to music, a connection to one’s own creative power; a connection to fellow humans. And it’s fun! Guitar Mash provides this connection not only for guitarists, but for anyone with a voice,” stated Rebecca Weller, founder of Guitar Mash.
Weller, former producer of Midsummer Night Swing at Lincoln Center, was inspired to create an event that would bring music back to its social roots. “I was on the board of Church Street School for Music & Art and in 2010 had the thought of doing a communal sing-along/play-along to celebrate their 20th anniversary. That experience, along with the desire to create something that would keep my own teen engaged in music, inspired me to create Guitar Mash. And truth be told… the real root of creating what I sometimes call a “movement” is likely the moment I saw Pete Seeger and his banjo at the South Street Seaport in the early 70s, leading an ocean of voices surrounding him in song.”
Guitar Mash allows the line between performer and fan to dissolve into a modern day campfire jam, where everyone is made equal in the eyes of music. Other notable performances included guitar prodigy Brandon Niederauer, aka Taz, a young man who at 12 has already played with some of the industry’s leading power players. It’s one thing to hear someone called a prodigy, it’s quite another to hear them tear up ‘Back in Black’ with the talent and stage presence most musicians twice his age could only dream of. Soul and funk artist Binky Griptite, of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, performed a stirring version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here.’ Singer/songwriter and Brooklyn-native Sonya Kitchell lent her talents on PJ Harvey’s ‘This is Love,’ proving that women musicians can rock just as hard, if not sometimes harder than their male counterparts.
Not to be outdone, Bill Kirchen, dubbed a “Titan of the Telecaster” by Guitar Player Magazine, took the audience through a journey of the best rock licks of the last century, in perfect rendition. South African bassist and Paul Simon collaborator, Bakithi Kumalo got young and old into the groove while performing ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.’ All artists came together on stage for a rousing encore of Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode,’ creating a collaborative chemistry that took the place to a higher vibrational level.
Despite its intimacy, the event featured much more than stellar performances. An open bar and full buffet was provided by various vendors including but not limited to Brooklyn Roasting Company, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish. The silent auction contained an impressive range of acoustic and electric guitars, like a Fender Squier signed by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, provided by D’Angelico Guitars. Other items up for auction included custom pedals, speakers, excursions, concert tickets and music lessons. Proceeds of the event support Guitar Mash Teens, giving young musicians of diverse backgrounds a chance to play together in a supportive space.
In a society where parents struggle to connect to their children offline, Guitar Mash offered a one-of-a-kind family experience. Aside from taking the occasional picture, the kids in attendance were phone free, instruments in hand bonding with their elders. Parents helping their children with chords, kids dancing in their seats to music created long before they were born, helped cement an unparalleled bonding experience. The Teen Acoustic Project and The Lower Eastside Girls Club took the stage to perform a few Tom Petty hits, bridging the generational gap in ways only music can. No attendee could deny the palpable magic in the air, cementing that music is much more than an industry of cool, it is born from an intrinsic human need.
TheWaster.com | NYC