Words by Corinne Casella | Photos by Mark Dershowitz
On Sunday, November 17th, Guitar Mash presented their 8th annual Urban Campfire jam at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge (LPR). Musicians of all ages and expertise came together to play with some of the industry’s most talented artists. Directed by Guitar Mash Artistic Director Mark Stewart (guitarist for Paul Simon) this year’s event featured John Sebastian, Dion, Jimmy Vivino, Scott Sharrard, Sammy Brue, Tash Neal, Amythyst Kiah, Abbie Gardner and Brandon “Taz” Niederauer.
This was the first year at LPR and the ‘campfire,’ felt more communal and intimate than ever before. “I look forward to the day every year because the music made in the room can only be made together. By all of us,” stated Stewart. Kicking off the afternoon, Stewart led the audience dubbed as the ‘big band’ in rousing versions of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What’s Its Worth and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Next Scott Sharrard, formerly of the Gregg Allman Band and soon to be the newest member of Little Feat, took the stage with former London Souls guitarist Tash Neal. The duo played an incredibly soulful “Hey Jude,” in the style of Wilson Pickett and a fast-driving version of Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working.” Next Abbie Gardner took the stage with her Dobro guitar and showcased her signature slide guitar skills on Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go,” as well as Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken.”
Guitar Mash continues to bridge the generational gap with the power of music. Newcomers Amythyst Kiah and Sammy Brue demonstrated this perfectly with their unique renditions of old favorites. “We owe everything to [those] American pioneers,” stated Kiah. Kiah, whose raw and powerful vocals lent depth to the Indigo Girl’s “Closer to Fine,” and Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” as interpreted on string banjo.
Sammy Brue took the stage in a state of wonderment, “We’re literally at church right now.” Brue, who has been hailed as an “Americana prodigy,” by Rolling Stone, did an especially impressive version of Blind Melon’s “No Rain,” and Rusted Root’s “Send Me on My Way.” Another highlight from the younger set included Brandon “Taz” Niederauer and fellow Guitar Mash Teen Co-Chairs Evie Dolan and Chloe Hennessee leading the rest of the Teens and the audience in a splendid mash up of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me.”
The highlight of the event came at the end when Dion and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian, accompanied by Jimmy Vivino, led an enthusiastic crowd in renditions of their respective hits “Do You Believe in Magic” and “The Wanderer.” The event concluded with all artists on stage for energetic renditions of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” and “Johnny Be Goode,” featuring a stunning solo by Dan Rosengard on keys.
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