Column: The many incarnations of Josh Horton

I’ve known Josh Horton since he was knee-high to a horseshoe crab, and over that time he’s reinvented himself at least once a decade.

He was, originally, the big brother of one of our daughter’s best friends. And over the ensuing years he’s had incarnations as a Coast Guardsman, tugboat captain, traveling troubadour/singer-songwriter, Southold Town (surprise!) supervisor, banker, real estate executive, concert promoter and, most recently, rock & roll star.

It was in this latter capacity that Josh and his new band, Corky Laing and The Memory Thieves, made their debut this past Friday night at the Miami (Florida) Music Festival. And due to a fortunate coincidence of time and place, the former Joan Giger Walker and I were in the house for their performance.

The setting was Charcoal Studios, a photo and film studio in downtown Miami’s warehouse district, an area where, at that particular time of night, one would be well advised to be accompanied by an armed bodyguard.

That, and the lateness of the hour ­— coming up on 11 p.m., well past our 60-something bedtimes — may have contributed to the relatively sparse turnout. But there was another, more significant factor, I think: competition. The Miami Music Festival featured several hundred bands and performers appearing at 45 different venues over three days. So at every hour there were at least a dozen other shows going on around the city. Not even the presence of the big names in The Memory Thieves — drummer Corky Laing of Mountain and guitarist Eric Schenkman of The Spin Doctors — could draw a decent crowd.

It is only a slight exaggeration to suggest that there were as many folks from the North Fork in the crowd as there were from Miami. In addition to Josh and his wife, Yvonne Lieblein, there were the Gustavsons; former Greenport elementary school principal Paul Read and his wife, Luise; Sarah Sherwood of Shelter Island; Jack and Kelly Reardon of Greenport and Floyd Memorial librarian Joe Cortale and his wife, Jane.

I don’t know if band members were disappointed by the small turnout — I’d estimate the audience at significantly fewer than 50 people — but before the Thieves went on stage Josh told me he’d had a “blowout argument with the producer of the show.” That did not seem to affect the band’s enthusiasm, however, as they rocked the house for more than an hour to an appreciative audience, with Josh leading the charge as the band’s lead singer.

He has all the moves, and his stage presence is reminiscent of U2’s lead singer, Bono, complete with the shades, basic black ensemble and sinewy choreography.

Corky Laing pushed the beat, firing his drumsticks into the audience from time to time, as is his wont. To my surprise, at least, Eric Schenkman, who played a blistering lead guitar at a Spin Doctors show earlier in the evening, moved over to bass guitar for the second show.

As Josh later explained, the Thieves’ regular bassist, Malcolm Bruce, had been recruited at the last moment to fill in on the band opening for touring guitar hero Joe Satriani. The fourth and final member of the Thieves, lead guitarist Matt Read, was recruited from Josh’s regular band, Big Suga, which also accounted for the presence of Ma and Pa Read in the audience.

And at the end of their performance, the Thieves were joined on stage by Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens, who also appeared at the NoFo Music Festival organized by Josh this past summer at Peconic Bay Vineyards in Cutchogue. Say what you will of Josh Horton, the lad knows how to network.

All in all, the Miami Music Fest gig was a suitable warm-up for The Memory Thieves’ Saturday, Nov. 27, show at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City. That night they will perform a tribute to the late rock legend Jimi Hendrix, who was born on that date in 1942.

So, for the time being at least, Josh Horton’s latest incarnation will remain true to the wisdom he says was handed down by his mother, Gail, and his late father, Dave: that “music and art are where we go to feed our souls, nurture emotion, express everything … And if just one person is moved by something we’ve created, it’s a gift to cherish.”

Still, when I asked him recently if his budding career as a rock & roll performer will supplant his current position as senior managing director of Corcoran Real Estate’s North Fork office, Josh responded: “I have a day job and a career that is very important to me and I am not looking to quit.”