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Playing their way back

Musicians, many of whose homes and businesses were flooded by Irene, perform for recovery aid

September 14, 2011
By JESSICA COLLIER - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID - Performers and supporters gathered for a night of healing, community and music Tuesday at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

The goal was to raise money to help people whose homes and livelihoods were washed out when Tropical Storm Irene ripped through the area Aug. 28.

"It's amazing how much the music really does set the tone for healing," said Paul Varga, WSLP's morning show host, who co-emceed the show.

Article Photos

People dance as Lake Placid-based band Jim closes out a fundraiser for those impacted by Tropical Storm Irene at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts Tuesday night.
(Enterprise photos — Jessica Collier)

The evening was highlighted by contrasts. Eleven acts of various musical types that wouldn't normally play at the same time came together, and radio rivals Rock 105 DJ Pat McAvoy joined Varga to host the event. Stan Oliva and Larry Stone illustrated that unity by playing a song called "All in This Together," which Oliva said he wrote while inspired by how people of all different types were coming together in the wake of Irene to help out one another, and even to take care of workers coming in to help from outside the area.

"I'm so proud of the people of Keene," said Oliva, who lives there.

The acts showed a wide variety of musical talent in the region, ranging from Martha Gallagher telling stories and playing her harp to the Group of Saxophones, which is exactly what it sounds like, to full, electrified bands like the Stoneground Express and the popular, elusive Jim.

Some musicians played music that was relevant to the situation, like when Back Porch Society opened up the night with a cover of "When the Levee Breaks," and when Monsterbuck played a song about theme park designer Arto Monaco and his Land of Makebelieve, the remnants of which in Upper Jay were washed away by the storm.

"All we have left is this song," said Chris Kowanko, the band's keyboard and guitar player.

Other performers kept their songs more playful, like the saxophone group's rendition of "The Pink Panther" theme.

Gallagher played a song with her husband Dennis about water, reminding people that it's not always bad. They live in Keene on the East Branch of the AuSable River, which flooded severely.

"Even though water has caused so much destruction," Gallagher said, "it's good to remember that water is life in our world."

Gallagher told the Enterprise earlier Tuesday she's thinking about putting together a recording, if she can find an underwriter, that she can sell while on her national tours to benefit the local recovery efforts.

"People everywhere are always concerned about people that have hard times," Gallagher said.

Many of the people performing Tuesday were hit by the storm personally. The Recovery Lounge in Upper Jay, where Monsterbuck brothers Byron and Scott Renderer run both their upholstery business and a performance center, had its basement wiped out by flooding.

Back Porch Society's Russ Cook told the audience about how the Keene Valley home where he, his wife and their two young children live was flooded.

"The past two weeks ... have definitely been pretty difficult," Cook told the crowd.

Brad Hurlburt, who is the second musician in the duet of the Back Porch Society and close friends with Cook, told the Enterprise many of Cook's friends showed up the morning after the flood to help him deal with the house.

"Russ was just sitting outside of his house eating cereal with this really distraught look on his face," Hurlburt said. "Mud was just oozing out of the house."

Cook and his family have been staying at the home of Keene Central School Superintendent Cynthia Johnston while he gets his home back together, Hurlburt said.

Gallagher told the Enterprise earlier Tuesday that she was in Syracuse, one day away from returning home from a national tour, when she started to hear reports of the damage.

"I wasn't sure my house would be here when I got back, because I live along the AuSable," Gallagher said. "It's here, but it sustained major damage."

The foundation under the back wing of her house was entirely washed away, and a 10-foot-deep hole was left underneath, she said.

"We're just trying to rebuild and repair and get ready for the winter," Gallagher said.

Luckily, she said, her instruments were spared, and she was glad she could put her talents to use Tuesday to help people who had flood damage, since she doesn't know anything about construction.

Gordy Sheer, an Olympic silver medalist who now works for USA Luge, was the main organizer for the benefit. He said he had the idea because he books bands for USA Luge's annual I Love Barbecue Fest, "so it's something that I was comfortable with.

"It seemed like something we could do if we could find a venue, and the LPCA was kind enough to provide that venue for us," Sheer said.

Sheer is a drummer himself who plays with Heidi Little, one of the acts that performed Tuesday night. His bass player was talking after band practice one night about his fiancee's family's home being damaged in the storm, Sheer said.

"That was kind of where the idea sparked," he said.

Organizers estimated that by the time all the different donation pots were counted up, there would be about $7,000, all of which is set to be distributed to the Town of Jay Irene Relief Fund and the Keene Flood Recovery Fund.

The neighboring Desperados restaurant donated 10 percent of all its Tuesday night drink sales to the recovery funds as well.

The LPCA event was one of several opportunities to help out. McAvoy encouraged guests to attend another fundraiser that will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 tonight at the Whiteface Lodge's Kanu restaurant in Lake Placid.

"It's going to be a really terrific evening," McAvoy said.

Several performers Tuesday also suggested that people who want to help can volunteer to come to the storm-torn areas and do some physical labor putting the towns back together.

Those unable to attend any events but interested in supporting neighbors in need can do so by visiting or by mailing donation checks to the Town of Jay Irene Relief Fund, PO Box 730, AuSable Forks, NY 12912.



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