• 149 WESTCHESTER AVENUE, PORT CHESTER, NY 10573-4549 · (914) 937-4126

  • May 21st, 2018

    reCAP :: The Englishtown Project :: 2018.05.18 :: Garcia’s at The Cap

    Words by Ryan Hall
    Photos by Rob Schmidt

    Friday, May 18, 2018 was one of the heaviest news days in recent memory. From the horrifying school shooting in Texas, to the bus crash near the Lincoln Tunnel, and the deadly plane crash in Cuba – I couldn’t help but think, ‘What’s next?’ And not in a good way. And even after the unfortunate postponement of the Blackberry Smoke show at The Cap, Garcia’s was the site of one of the coolest things I’ve seen since I’ve become a New Yorker.

    I moved to Port Chester from Alabama a little over a year ago. And as I started to get to know the locals and I shared how much live music moves me (and I even wrote a novel about this – with an important scene set at The Capitol Theatre) there was one refrain I kept hearing. “Check out The Cap, boss. Lots of killer acts come through The Cap.” I always thought ‘boss’ was a Southern thing, but I digress. Last August I saw Donald Fagen and the Nightflyers play The Capitol Theatre. And during their set, they pulled out a sick cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” And when Fagen’s killer band started up with the first chords of that great song, the crowd ate it up with a knife and fork. This got me to start digging into The Cap’s history. There I learned about its deep connection with the Dead and how much they loved playing there. I mean, the club is called Garcia’s for cryin’ out loud! (Keep in mind, I haven’t been here long.)

    Let’s get back to what I saw last Friday night… Garcia’s welcomed a band called The Englishtown Project on Friday night. Their name and music pay tribute to one of the most legendary shows in Grateful Dead history. On September 3, 1977, the band headlined a show for better than 100 thousand fans at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ – which is better than double what their seating capacity was. Before I get into why what I saw was so beautiful, I’d love to single the band members for a moment. Mike Falzarano handled much of the lead vocals as well as some really cool rhythm guitar work. Klyph Black took lead vocals on a few songs as well as owning the low end with his bass. Mark Mercier brought a little Chuck Leavell with his fine keyboard work. Alan Lerner is certainly a Mickey Hart disciple on the drums. As a guitar aficionado, I was quite taken by the lead work of Rob Wolfson. So much of Jerry’s soul poured from his hot pink Strat. And Tom Circosta was quite impressive with his lead and rhythm guitar work. He also plays a mean slide guitar – something quite important to me and my new book. And they also had guest vocals by Clare Maloney. Who just Thursday night took the stage at Carnegie Hall! When they said she played Carnegie, someone in the crowd yelled out “How’d she get there?” Like the old saying goes – lots of practice.

    Their first set was a mixture of old school blues and classic rock. I was quite taken by their take on Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” and the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See.” The latter featuring Maloney on lead vocals.
    After their set break, it was an hour of Dead classics. And there’s where things really took off. And there’s where things really took a beautiful turn. My favorites of the Dead portion of their program were by far the Englishtown Project’s take on “Mississippi Uptown Toodeloo” and a rousing rendition of “Not Fade Away.” The latter featured some phenomenal guitar work. Here’s the punchline to this whole story. After the heaviness that was the Friday news day, I saw something so incredibly beautiful. Men and women ranging in age from their 20s all the way to one gentleman who I suspect was north of 70 – were all having a blast! We were all dancing, feeling the soul of the music coming from the stage, and putting our troubles behind us.

    That’s what music does better than any artform known to the human race. Even if you can’t understand the words being sung, music is a reflection of the human spirit. And the human spirit is universal. Thank you to The Englishtown Project for helping me to put a day that was a 15 on the bizarro-meter behind me. And thank you Garcia’s for consistently being one of the real hidden gems of the NYC metro music scene.