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'Tommy' benefit in Shelburne Falls canceled

  • On Friday, Feb. 14, at 9 p.m., at the Arts Block in Greenfield, Trailer Park will play a benefit show for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Franklin County. Based on past shows, the dance floor will get a workout.

    On Friday, Feb. 14, at 9 p.m., at the Arts Block in Greenfield, Trailer Park will play a benefit show for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Franklin County. Based on past shows, the dance floor will get a workout.

  • Taylor’s Bartender Shoot-out Sunday<br/>Taylor’s Tavern in Greenfield will host its annual Bartender Shoot-out Sunday. A lively and festive affair, the shoot-out pits teams of bartenders against each other and raises money for a worthy cause. This year the beneficiary is Dakin Pioneer Humane Society. Pictured is Ron Gaida during the 2010 shoot-out. See “Clubs.” Recorder file photo/Peter MacDonald

    Taylor’s Bartender Shoot-out Sunday
    Taylor’s Tavern in Greenfield will host its annual Bartender Shoot-out Sunday. A lively and festive affair, the shoot-out pits teams of bartenders against each other and raises money for a worthy cause. This year the beneficiary is Dakin Pioneer Humane Society. Pictured is Ron Gaida during the 2010 shoot-out. See “Clubs.” Recorder file photo/Peter MacDonald

  • On Friday, Feb. 14, at 9 p.m., at the Arts Block in Greenfield, Trailer Park will play a benefit show for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Franklin County. Based on past shows, the dance floor will get a workout.
  • Taylor’s Bartender Shoot-out Sunday<br/>Taylor’s Tavern in Greenfield will host its annual Bartender Shoot-out Sunday. A lively and festive affair, the shoot-out pits teams of bartenders against each other and raises money for a worthy cause. This year the beneficiary is Dakin Pioneer Humane Society. Pictured is Ron Gaida during the 2010 shoot-out. See “Clubs.” Recorder file photo/Peter MacDonald

Editor's Note: This concert was canceled late Friday. Here is the notice we got from the Memorial Hall Association:

Saturday Feb 15 TOMMY Benefit for a new screen at Memorial Hall by Who Are You has been canceled
Anyone who has purchased a ticket can receive a refund from the outlet where they bought their ticket.
At present there are no plans to reschedule the show.

What follows is the story as it appeared in Thursday's Arts & Entertainment section:

When “Tommy” was released by the British rock band The Who in 1969, it broke new ground. It was a two-record album — and the very first recording to be billed as a “rock opera.” Tommy was initially banned by the BBC and by certain American radio stations because of some controversial content. But the album was also recognized by others as a masterpiece and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 for its historical, artistic and significant value. It has inspired a movie and a Broadway musical. It has also sold at least 20 million copies and is still selling.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m., the band Who Are You will perform a tribute concert of “Tommy,” along with The Who’s greatest hits in the Memorial Hall Theatre. The 2 1/ 2-hour show is a multimedia presentation.

Tickets are on sale now at Mocha Maya’s and Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls and at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield. Proceeds from the $20 ticket sales will be used to replace Memorial Hall’s very old film screen — which is now literally held together with awning tape.

“Who Are You” tribute band founder Garrett Lechowski has been listening to Tommy since before he was born.

“My mother was pregnant with me when she first purchased the record in the summer of 1969 — and she played it a lot,” said Lechowski, who plays guitar and sings the Pete Townsend vocals for performances. “For me, there’s definitely a reaction to (the album) whenever I hear it. It transcends the moment.”

Lechowski got his first guitar at the age of 8 and was playing gigs by age 14. When Lechowski was 12, his mother took him to see his first rock concert, featuring The Who and The Clash, at a large outdoor football stadium in Buffalo, N.Y. “There was a record 89,000 in attendance,” he recalled.

Lechowski played guitar in different bands throughout college, then stopped performing to build his professional career. He became a psychotherapist, specializing in substance abuse and addictions. After not playing music for several years, “I thought, why should I stop doing it if it makes me happy?” he said. “I have a stressful day job, so this is a great stress reliever. And it’s very fun.”

From the very beginning, Lechowski wanted the band to play only music made famous by The Who “and nothing else.”

“I started thinking about doing this in 2009, (because) The Who had been my favorite band. At the time, I wasn’t sure what type of musicians I would find,” said Lechowski. But he searched for band members and within two weeks, the group was formed.

“We started playing out in the summer of 2010 and we’ve been billing out of the Northeast since then,” he said.

Their first Tommy concert was performed this September, in Albany, N.Y. “We pretty much do the entire album, but have rearranged some of the music, chronologically,” said Lechowski. “We also do an hour’s worth of The Who’s greatest hits. As with Tommy, we’ve been blessed with standing-room-only in some shows.”

Lechowski said the band tries to reproduce the sound of The Who’s live Tommy performances between 1969 to 1970. “On Tommy, we walk the line between the album and the live performance,” he explained. “We pride ourselves, as a band, as being able to reproduce this music very accurately, although we don’t look like The Who.”

Most of the Who Are You band members live in Berkshire County. Besides playing guitar, Lechowski also does keyboard and edits the video components that are shown on the screen during band performances. Other band members are Craig Simmons, who takes on the “Roger Daltrey” singing parts, drummer John Kieman, and Vincent Lane of Albany, N.Y.

Lechowski said the visual elements flashed on screen during the performance are by Dun Riddell, a Berkshire artist, who created a series of paintings that help tie the Tommy story together. Besides creating the artwork for the performance, Riddell is also touring with the group as their projectionist.

The story told in the album, “Tommy,” begins with an overture in which a British army captain goes missing and his widow gives birth to their son, Tommy. When the missing captain returns home years later and finds his wife with another man, he kills the man — traumatizing his young son, who witnessed the murder. “You didn’t hear it, you didn’t see it, you won’t say nothing ...” says the menacing refrain of a song, apparently sung by the parents, to shut the boy up. No wonder he ends up as “that deaf, dumb and blind kid.” Years later, a doctor determines his disabilities are psychological and the shattering of a mirror that Tommy stares into shocks him back to his senses. In the time between the murder and the psychological awakening, Tommy has a miserable childhood, but locked up within him springs a belief in something greater, something that transcends ordinary listening and seeing.

Lechowski says he fell in love with Memorial Hall as soon as he saw the 119-year-old theater. When he learned that the screen was in such bad condition, he offered to use the performance to help raise money for a new movie screen.

“It’s in horrible shape,” said theater manager Fred DeVecca, who is also coordinator for Pothole Pictures. According to DeVecca, former Pothole Pictures coordinator Andrew Baker “salvaged” the used movie screen from the Academy of Music in Northampton in 1995, when Pothole Pictures was started. DeVecca said Baker paid $200 for it and it has been used for the past 20 years, although it has been patched from behind with duct tape.

“Last year, after a movie, the whole top of the screen had ripped,” said DeVecca. “The next day, four or five volunteers came in to fix it. Roger King (of King Awning) gave us awning tape to use. We repaired it, but it’s very delicate.”

“People say they can see very bright spots and dull spots on the screen,” he added. “It’s very fragile.”

DeVecca said movie projectionist Jim Neeley has been pricing new screens, which range from $5,000 to $6,000.

Now that high-definition, live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera are shown in Memorial Hall, as well as classic movies through Pothole Pictures, a good quality screen would be a real asset.

Tickets will also be available at the door, or by calling the band at: 413-652-1554.

More information and videos are available online at:

www.whoareyouusa.com

Staff reporter Diane Broncaccio has worked at The Recorder since 1988. Her beat includes west county. She can be reached at: dbronc@recorder.com or: 413-772-0261, ext. 277.

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