It’s a beautiful day; 68 degrees under a cloudless sky as the doors open at 89 North in Patchogue, NY for the day’s event: The Matthew Dower Memorial Fund Presents: For Penny: Part I. Bands from across Long Island have gathered here today to perform in honor of the recently fallen REVEL 9 guitarist, Matthew Dower, and to raise money for a fund being established for his 2 year old daughter, Penny. The original idea of putting on a concert to raise money has now ballooned into several benefit shows across the Northeast, including three on Long Island alone, but today is the first one, and now it’s show time.
Andy and Christian from the Queens-based band, Off The Turnpike, volunteered to warm up the audience with a few gently coaxing unplugged selections from their typically explosive rock shows. The scaled down version of “Uncertainty” shows a nice contrast to the typical OTTPK
sound and highlights the depth of the band’s true musical aptitude. Closing with a terrific new song, “Blaming”, made me ready for their next full-on rock show, but definitely set the right vibe for the gathering crowd as the amps switched on for the next act.
Practically the poster children for post-grunge, Nirvana-esque rock, The Lost delivered exactly as promised, even sprinkling in a few Nirvana covers along the way, and I swear if you closed your eyes, you’d think that lead singer, Jay Cahill, was actually channeling the master Seattle songwriter’s voice right through the microphone. Not to be solely remembered for their covers, the band executed a flawless version of their own “Just Here”, which looks to be the big hit on their upcoming release.
Up next is a band that the honoree of the night, Matt himself, played with for years prior to joining Revel 9; Cosmo’s Moon. On the backs of Trish Valentino’s soaring vocals and Mark Valentino’s cutting guitars, the Moon delivered yet another crushingly huge set, full of melody and riffs that filled every inch of the venue. Clearly an emotional performance for the band, ample time was dedicated to reflecting on their time with Matt, and their gratitude towards the show’s coordinators, the other bands on the bill and the audience. A thunderous rendition of “Thousand Yard Stare” was a definite highlight of the afternoon.
Clearly road-tested and battle-ready, Finespun heads to the stage. A perennial local favorite, the band betrays no one’s expectations and delivers the exact kind of set that has earned them fans not only here at home, but across the country as well. The rock-heavy set included fantastic performances of “Never Had a Choice” and “4 Walls, 1 Window” and a touching few moments where lead vocalist, Oren Barak, addressed the crowd chuckling to himself that he wanted to tell some “good Matt stories” but they were all inappropriate for some of the younger attendees. A nice reminder that those memories stay with us long after everything else is gone.
REVEL 9, the island based, hard-rock act which Matt, the evening’s honoree, had been a part of for the past few years takes to the stage next. The band has not replaced him for the duration of the benefit concert series, so instead they churn out slightly changed up renditions of standard R9 tunes. The band even opted to cover an old Gee Davey song, “LOLing”, as a nod to members of band’s own street team, who delighted the audience (and the band) with great displays of cheering, “air fingers” and even some synchronized ‘dancing’ – for lack of a better word. Although lead singer, DJ Pearlman, broke between songs to thank and acknowledge the efforts of everyone in the room for “making the evening a success”, he offered only a subtle dedication directly to Matt before performing the band’s signature piece, “All I’ve Become”. A raucous, arena-rock-ending version of “San Jose” brought the set to a close.
Just off an intense summer of performing, I Ignite, with their warped tour-flavored AltRock/Hardcore mix, take the stage next. Their staging alone is impressive, but only serves as a backdrop for the very tight, very rehearsed, very good, band. “Loud and fast” would be the best way to describe the show as the band barrels through song after song, all rock for sure, but with definite ADTR flavorings… (which TOTALLY works for me). Pausing towards the end of the set to offer some kind words about our evening’s honoree, lead singer, Eddie Raccioppi, made it clear that us all being there together in that room, that night, was what Matt was all about. And it was totally the right way to remember him. A stunning version of “Without You” capped the show just as hard as it had started.
The four-piece local cover band, Ninjas Need Money, did a fantastic job of winding down the evening’s music. With a sweet selection of standard covers on tap, the audience clearly enjoyed serenading themselves to a few classic Foo Fighters tunes and the obligatory Fall Out Boy anthem, “Sugar, We’re Going Down”. As the night drew to a close and the band said “Goodnight!” the Ninjas finally gave in to the insistent chants of “One More Song!” and left the audience cheering and singing along. Even though I didn’t get my Slayer request, it was still a perfect end to the evening.
The benefit’s organizers said the show, and the evening as a whole, was a huge success. A strong showing of support from friends and families from across the local music scene had the venue buzzing with good will and good vibes. According to DJ from REVEL 9, and one of the show’s organizers, “This was a fantastic way to get these shows started. Now I can’t wait for the November shows!”
The Matthew Dower Memorial Fund Presents… concert series is currently scheduled to run through January 2013 including 2 shows in November; at The Room in Brookfield, CT on the 10th and at Mulcahy’s in Wantagh, NY on the 15th. Additional information can be found at www.revel9.com/forpenny.