Words by Corinne Casella | Photos by Mark Dershowitz

On Sunday, November 18th, Guitar Mash presented their 7th annual Urban Campfire jam at New York’s City Winery. 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 (music director for Paul Simon) and hosted by WFUV’s Corny O’Connell, this year’s event ‘Songs for Change,’ featured Ani DiFranco, Marc Ribot, Jimmy Vivino, Kat Edmonson, Biodun Kuti, Toshi Reagon, and Fernandito Ferrer.

The magic of Guitar Mash’s ‘campfire jams,’ is their ability to break down barriers and connect people through the power of song.

“At Guitar Mash, there’s no exclusivity. There’s no ‘I’m the performer, you’re the audience.’ WE are the thing. We are genuinely all in the same room. The thing we create together is unique because of this quality. And it is always fresh and new to both the seasoned performers on stage and the ‘big band’ (formerly known as ‘the audience’). It is nothing less than equality manifest in sound,” says Mark Stewart.

Kicking off the afternoon, attendees had the opportunity to participate in the popular Musical Speed Dating, which featured lightning rounds of mini master classes with Guitar Mash artist alumni including David Broza, Delicate Steve, and Kaki King. Audience members were supplied with chord coaches, Fishman tuners, complimentary Hint beverages, as well as lyrics and chords. Open bar and full buffet was provided by various vendors including Zucker’s Bagels & Smoked Fish, Magnolia Bakery and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The impressive silent auction featured Taylor’s flagship guitar 814CE that included a private lesson with Stewart, as well as weekend getaway in Nashville.

Celebrity chef, Tom Colicchio, took the stage first with a rousing version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi.’ Other notable performances included a powerful performance from singer and activist Ani DiFranco with Woody Guthrie’s ‘Deportee,’ a quintessential protest song. Another standout moment was a emotionally stirring bilingual duet of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ performed by Stewart and Fernandito Ferrer. Ferrer made the song his own with his striking tenor range and percussive guitar-playing.

Not to be outdone, Toshi Reagon reinvented Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus,’ with arguably the most passionate performance of the afternoon. Her powerful voice and fervent delivery made for a goose bump inducing performance. An unexpected treat came from longtime career musician Marc Ribot, with his invigorating cover of ‘Bella Ciao,’ a traditional folk song that embodied the Italian anti-fascist resistance. Nigerian bassist and Paul Simon collaborator, Biodun Kuti, got the crowd singing while performing Simon’s ‘Kodachrome.’

While Jimmy Vivino, bandleader for Conan O’Brien’s house band, got young and old jamming out to Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven.’ Kat Edmonson lent her timeless voice for a heart-rending performance of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World.’ Also featured was a special performance by James Soren and Joey Farber, performing ‘Back Home,’ winner of the MY NYC Song Teen songwriting contest.

The continuing magic of Guitar Mash is and has always been the ability to connect generations of music lovers through songs of togetherness. Which was perfectly illustrated for the last song, when all the artists joined Stewart on stage for an impassioned rendition of Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land.’

TheWaster.com | New York City