10 New England musicians share their most memorable gigs

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

To coincide with our 10th anniversary, Limelight Magazine has decided to post 10 memorable gigs shared with us by 10 local musicians from New England.

From left, The Voice’s Melanie Martinez and Sarah Barrios.
From left, The Voice’s Melanie Martinez and Sarah Barrios. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Sarah Barrios

“About a year ago I was given the amazing opportunity to open up for The Voice’s incredibly talented Melanie Martinez at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT. I had been following Melanie’s music career and had covered her songs at my own shows, so to be able to share the same stage with her and speak with her was so amazing. I played to 1,200 people and I remember hearing the roar of the crowd as I took my first steps onto the stage and it was insanely epic and so crazy to hear people singing along to my originals as well. I will honestly never be able to forget the feeling, the energy of the crowd that night and how at home Melanie made me feel whilst I was there. It was truly a night to remember.”

Emil Belisle (of Impending Reflections)

“The most memorable gig for Impending Reflections requires a little background into the band to put it into perspective. I (Emil Belisle) am the lead vocalist but have been a drummer for most of my musical career. Also in the band is Dave Taillon, lead guitarist, who has been my musical brother dating back to the mid 80’s. Other members of the band include our sons. I have turned the sticks over to my son, our drummer, Ryan Belisle. Jonathan Taillon, guitarist, is Dave’s son.  At the time on bass was Scott, a close friend of our kids and we consider him family. So you see, we really are a family band.

A few years ago the kids were in a band with Scott at the time and they asked Dave and I if we would jam with them one day. They deemed a generation jam. I don’t think any of us thought it would go beyond this but things clicked. It was in complete mutual agreement that maybe we should attempt to write a few songs and see what happens. What started off as just a jam, turned into Impending Reflections. An organic journey that keeps on getting better!

Our very first gig as a band was very special and memorable for us. Considering we never even thought of playing out when this started. We couldn’t have imagined how special it would actually be until that night we finished our set at The Spot Underground in Providence, RI. To be on stage with my son behind the drums, then to look across at Dave who I haven’t shared a stage with in years and see him playing alongside his son. Well, those are memories no one can ever take away. A feeling that is difficult to put into words and never gets old. It is simply priceless. The night started with a feeling of nerves because we didn’t know how our music would go over with the increasing number of those in attendance that night, including the promoter that gave us the opportunity. You see, our material is different because we are blending multi generations of influences. The crowd at first was looking at us like, what the heck are these two older guys doing with three young guns. Once we hit the stage and put our hearts and souls into the performance, the night got even more special!

The crowd instantly started becoming engaged right from the start and feeding off our energy. They were so supportive and cheering us on during and after every song. Hearing people that we have never met shout ‘That is what I’m talking about’ just continued to raise the energy level. You could feel something special was happening. It was clicking on all cylinders and we were all feeling it! After our set, so many came up to us with several compliments, including the promoter who said ‘You guys are a headlining act’.  It was such a humbling experience for all of us. We are the type of band that sincerely appreciates our fans and give it everything we’ve got for them on stage.”

Paul Horton

“This dates back to 1992. I was in a band called Wafflehouse and we were living in the Mad River Valley in VT. Sugarbush resort had the Ben & Jerry’s ‘One Heart-One World’ Festival going on. We were not a big enough act to secure a spot at the festival but we were booked in town that weekend at a local spot called the Mad Mountain Tavern (now the Local Smokehouse). It was a busy weekend and the place was packed. About halfway through our set, we noticed that Rocking Dopsie and a few of members the Zydeco Twisters had come into the bar. We did a few more tunes and then Dopsie Jr. came up and wanted to sit in. He came up and sang ‘Ride Sally Ride’ and another blues tune. Dopsie Sr. was only 60 but he wasn’t in great health so he watched from the bar. Inspired by the guest appearance, we continued with an original blues tune that we just called ‘the blues.’ After we finished the song, I saw Dopsie get up from the bar and make his way over to the stage. I was hoping he wanted to sit in too. He motioned for me to come to the side of the stage and when I came over he leaned in and said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that you sing pretty damn good for a white boy’ and then he and his entourage walked out of the bar. [It was] such an honor to perform in the presence of such a legend. Dopsie passed away just over a year later. The blues song we performed for him was from then on called ‘white boy blues’.”

The Myst in the Patriot Ledger (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
The Myst who were featured in The Patriot Ledger (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

John MacFee

“From 1968-1971, I was a guitar player in a garage band named The Myst based out of East Weymouth. We had gone through a series of Battle of the Bands sponsored by the local Jaycees. Somehow, we had made it to the Mass State Finals held at Ridge Arena in Braintree, Mass. We rehearsed everything with a stop watch because you gained/lost points depending on how timely you were getting on or off stage. We worked our butts off picking the best songs to showcase our broad range of material. I even played trumpet on ‘Love Theme’ from Romeo and Juliet which was a popular movie in 1970. We bought matching white tuxedos and white shoes. As I recall, twenty bands were scheduled for the semi-final round and the top four would be in the ultimate final round. We were positive we’d never make the finals but just the thought of playing that venue with huge Sunn amps just blew us away! While we’re waiting for the judges decisions, we did our own judging and picked the four bands we thought would be the judges pick. We were right on three out of four. When they announced The Myst as one of the top four, I turned around to see my Mother running full-tilt boogie toward me and picked me up in a big bear hug! My Mother was deaf in one ear and not really a fan of rock and roll and I never ever saw her run anywhere in my life but for that one moment I was a big rock star!

We, as a band, were thrilled but we were also in a bit of a jam. We were so sure we’d never make the finals, we had nothing prepared! We hurriedly put together as best a set list as we could and gave it our best shot. Needless to say, we only made it to fourth place. I wasn’t quite seventeen at the time. Kenny and Tigue were fifteen, Skip and Jeff were fourteen. I never really stopped playing. Took some breaks here and there but I’m still at it today. I switched to bass many years ago and played with a lot of different bands over the years. I played a lot of bar gigs, weddings, parties, festivals, you name it. Still, nothing has quite topped that one day in May 1970.”

Hailey Magee 

“My most memorable gig was The Power of Disbelief Concert at lilypad in March 2016. The show was organized by Emerging Boston Area Singer-Songwriters (EBASS) to raise awareness about the gender disparity in the Cambridge music scene. At the time, women only made 16% percent of all performers on Cambridge stages! The line-up featured four stellar local female artists. The house was packed, everyone there supported the cause, and by performing, I knew I was becoming a part of the social movement to make Boston’s music scene more welcoming to all people. It was absolutely amazing.”

Brian McKenzie

“I was playing with my old alt-metal band from Providence, Kilgore Smudge, on a stretch of the Vans Snow-Core tour in 1996 with Sublime and Dancehall Crashers. There were two gigs. One was in Salt Lake City and one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Well, we were much too heavy and a complete mismatch for this bill and the first night they HATED us! We were getting stuff thrown at us on stage and I would play a chord, pick up a plastic bottle, huck it back into the crowd, play another chord, kick a rolled up ball of trash, and so on. I was actually having fun with it, ha! The second night, was the complete opposite. The crowd went nuts during our set. Huge mosh pit, crowd surfing, the works. There was a line of kids waiting for autographs from us while Sublime was playing their set. It was completely crazy. Lots can happen in 48 hours!”

Jennifer Mitchell (of Jennifer Mitchell Band)

“We played a private party over the summer for a graduation shortly after learning of the passing of Prince. All of us being Prince fans, we decided to add ‘Purple Rain’ to our cover list. We were playing with the weather that day and we knew it was possible we might not play because of rain. We decided to go with it anyway. As we were going through our day, the weather got worse and we decided to end it with ‘Purple Rain’. As we started to play, the sky opened up and it poured like I’ve never seen it. Everyone under the tents cheered us on so we kept going. We played through the whole song, through rain, thunder etc. It was an epic moment and I felt a perfect tribute to Prince.

Moment of Clarity

“The most memorable gig for us would have to be the Foxwoods Battle of the Bands Finals – 2016. The process to get to the finals was grueling as over 100 local New England bands entered and only 20 were chosen to compete. After one round of initial battles and a second semi-final round, the 20 bands were pared down to five and Moment of Clarity was one of those five bands.

The day of the finals, we were treated like true rock stars. All band members and personnel were given lanyards with laminated stage passes. The Foxwoods stage crew met us at the talent entrance and proceeded to move all of our gear to the venue, load it on stage, and assist with any necessary setup. The stage manager told us ‘we don’t care if you are Beyonce or Moment of Clarity; we will take good care of you.’ The audio crew took their time and made sure that everything needed by every member of the band was in the monitors and nothing was forgotten, like our Octapad seconds before show time.

The entertainment staff was amazing and provided us with a ‘green room’, refreshments, snacks, social media coverage and encouragement as we were the youngest performers in the finals.

Finally, taking to the outdoor stage as the final band to perform and seeing over 500 people in the crowd, that was an amazing sensation. Here we were playing at a venue where national acts perform and then to see the crowd rocking out to our music and one of our original songs. It was a moment we will all remember for a very long time.”

Christopher Ruiz (of A Simple Complex)

“Our most memorable gig has to be our CD release party in 2013 for What Lies Ahead: Left Behind Vol. 3. The local music scene in New England is so talented and diverse, we wanted to celebrate more than what we were, so at this particular show, we brought in musicians from around the area to rock with us! Skilled singers like Tajoura Davis, Steve Archambault (Craving Lucy) and Adam Fithian (Prospect Hill) joined our frontwoman Jess [Sierra] in singing one of our tracks, and in turn we performed a cover of one of their band’s songs. We ended the night with a cover of ‘Killing in the Name Of.’ It was a show we can never forget!”

Allison Sigrist (of Gunpowder Gelatine)

“We were asked to play a set at a LARP (Live Action Role Play) event in central Mass. The venue appeared to be a former summer camp which had been converted into a facility for all sorts of LARP events. They host Renaissance Faires and Pirate weekends, etc. This particular weekend was a kind of open-to-all and there was entertainment all afternoon.

First, we enter the main hall where we’re going to be playing and there’s a huge embroidered tapestry with a unicorn on it straight out of a medieval castle hanging at the back of the stage. When we started to play our set was in the early afternoon, our audience consisted of about six people sitting 20 feet away on couches, wearing a variety of cosplay type outfits. We did our thing and packed up. On our way out, I peeked back into the hall. There was now a magician wearing a kilt performing to a packed house. At least we got paid!”

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One thought on “10 New England musicians share their most memorable gigs”

  1. One of my favorite things is aspiring musicians that perform in different places. Local bars are such a great place to practice, perform, and be found! I think that there is such a cool vibe there when people from the town perform in their local bar.

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