By Ernest Barteldes
Recently Renata and I attended a concert at Staten Island’s Historic Richmond Town’s Tavern, which hosts a series of acoustic shows throughout the winter and early spring – and by acoustic it means that there is no amplification at all – the musicians play without microphones or any kind of electronic resources. In fact, the venue itself has no electricity or running water – it is like a time capsule into the 19th Century.
The tavern serves no food – they have a limited menu that includes wine, ale and cider (including heated mulled wine – a favorite when days are cold. Incidentally, they have no restrooms on premises, so patrons have to utilize the facilities in Historic Richmond Town’s main building about a block away. Heat is provided by a wood-burning stove placed in the middle of the room – the place gets so cozy that I was quite comfortable in a T-shirt.
The band we saw was Allergic to B’s, a folk-inspired acoustic quartet led by multi-instrumentalist Gary J. Moore and his wife Joan (ukulele). The music they play is a mix of originals and personal takes on covers of The Beatles, Billy Joel, Tom Waits and an assortment of New Orleans-influenced Gospel songs. Gary wanders around the room either playing guitar, dobro or mandolin, often singing lead with his time-weathered, bluesy voice. He often introduces the songs with stories about how certain songs move them and how the original tunes come to life.
I have sat in with the band once – their bass player Al Sklar and percussionist Joanne Gleich (also a married couple) were out of town and they had a short gig at The Bay Street Café (formerly known as Cargo Café – many patrons still call it by its old name), so I subbed for a set of New Orleans music on Mardi Gras. They are avid Beatles fans, and during the one rehearsal we had at their apartment we jammed on a lot on around their canon, including George Harrison’s version of Harold Arlen’s “Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea,” the song that partly motivated me to learn how to play the uke.
It was very interesting to hear the band in a completely acoustic setting. Sklar brought in a u-bass (a ukulele with bass strings), a marvelous instrument that sounds like an upright bass and has a rich, earthy tone. In fact, I have seen that instrument used by touring musicians, and I am compelled to get one due to the convenience and its incredible sound. Joan Moore a very strong voice and when they do three-part harmonies you feel how their chemistry is strong. At a time when most musicians use numerous embellishments to enhance their sound (even Brian May uses multiple effects on his acoustic side project with Kerry Ellis), it is refreshing to hear a band that relies on talent alone – and what a great set it was.
Learn more about the band https://www.facebook.com/pages/Allergic-To-Bs/110701282323461
Learn more about the Tavern http://www.historicrichmondtown.org/tavern-concerts