The concept of musicians banding together for a common social cause is deeply rooted in the Woodstock area, so the idea of a fundraiser for a non-profit dedicated to anti-fracking efforts in New York seems a perfect fit. This Sunday, March 10 the Bearsville Theater will host “We Shall Not Be Moved: An Evening of Spirituals to Benefit Frack Action.”
Founded in 2010, Frack Action is essentially a four-person-led operation with thousands of volunteers across the state. Woodstock resident and artist manager Liz Penta is co-producing the benefit show with WDST, in part because she has become intimately familiar with the hard work and dedication of those at the heart of Frack Action.
“I’ve seen how effective they are,” said Penta. “And because I know them personally, I’ve seen how they work day after day. They run on a shoestring, as most non-profits do. And they’re so bright and really together, but they’re also always in crisis mode. It’s a team of four people, and they’re always in need of funding.”
When the idea of a benefit concert was broached, Frack Action suggested Medeski, Martin & Wood, whom Penta manages; but the whole group wasn’t available in that particular timeframe. This opened up the show to a whole new angle that appealed to Penta: “I thought it would be far more interesting, from my point of view, to do something that involved the community on a deeper level,” she said. “All of the musicians that were invited are local. This is an incredibly rich area for talent. We’re so fortunate.”
The roster is deep: Amy Helm, Ben Perowsky, Bethany Yarrow, Dave Dreiwitz, Don Byron, Elizabeth Mitchell & Dan Littleton, Gail Ann Dorsey, Jack DeJohnette, Jeremy Bernstein, Jerry Marotta, John Medeski, Larry Grenadier, Marco Benevento, Natalie Merchant, Rachael Yamagata, Rufus Cappadocia, Simi Stone and Tracy Bonham are all confirmed to appear, and it’s conceivable there will be other guest performers on the night as well. Tapping into the history of folk and protest music, the theme of the evening will be spirituals.
“I didn’t just want to do a concert with these artists doing their material, though that would have been great,” Penta said. “I really wanted to have a focus, and I thought the idea of spirituals – so much of that grew from slavery, and that’s a strong theme: rising above, coming together and breaking through. ‘We shall not be moved.’ We can do this, stand strong together and fight for what we believe in. And I just love this music.”
“I don’t think it’s a mystery that gospel and spiritual music has been a big part of my life and inspiration,” added John Medeski, renowned keyboardist for Medeski Martin & Wood, who has performed with the Blind Boys of Alabama and produced the Campbell Brothers. In addition to raising money and awareness, Medeski sees the benefit as a way “to re-inspire and show support for these people on a level that’s personal, philosophical and spiritual. Music has that power.”
At the show, there will also be a silent auction of goods and services donated by local merchants. The roster of donations is continuously growing, with contributions from Woodstock Yoga, River Rock Spa, Eric Tischler Acupuncture, Sorella Clothing, Cucina, Sunflower Natural Foods Market and Tivoli Sailing Company already in the mix. “By involving local artisans and everyone else, it has really come together with some amazing donations,” Penta said. “I hope people will come to the event prepared to support even further by buying some of these items; all of that money goes to Frack Action.”
Medeski hopes that the benefit will make a difference for a worthy cause. “As soon as I had the epiphany about what fracking was, I’ve been doing what I can to help ban it in New York State,” he said. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of these activists – the people working for these different organizations – and seen how they’ve sacrificed and given up their lives for the past four years: sleeping on people’s couches, not sleeping for days on end when stuff is hitting the fan, trying to keep on top of everything that’s going on. They’re hanging on by a thread – although it’s a strong thread, because it has a lot of support. For me, it seems like a great chance for us to contribute a little something to them to help them keep going a little longer. Knowing them, I know the money is all going to go for good things.”
The doors open and the silent auction begins at 6 p.m., with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $65 for front row reserved, $45 for Golden Circle reserved on the floor and balcony, $35 reserved and $25 general admission.
We Shall Not Be Moved: An Evening of Spirituals to Benefit Frack Action, Sunday, March 10, 6 p.m. auction, 7:30 p.m. show, $65/$45/$35/$25, Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street, Woodstock; (845) 679-4406, www.bearsvilletheater.com, www.frackaction.com.