Local music lovers will gather at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue between 2 and 7 p.m. today to kick-off the 2012 NOFO Rock & Folk Fest concert series and pay tribute to Levon Helm, a musician whose influence has left an indelible fingerprint in the fabric of American music as the voice of The Band.
The Dirt Farmer band, comprised of core members of the Levon Helm Band, will headline the music festival, which will also include performances by Long Island band Miles to Dayton and the North Fork folk duo The Second Hands.
“Levon, for all of us, stood for good music made for all the right reasons,” musician Larry Campbell said of his former bandmate. “I think there’s so much going on in music now that has the wrong motivation; that’s just out there for riches and for fame and the music is secondary. For Levon, and for all of us involved in this thing, those rewards are secondary because the music is the reward. Money and fame goes away but the joy of making great music never does. That’s success right there.”
Mr. Helm’s daughter, Amy, also played and sang with the Levon Helm Band before her father’s death in April and performs with The Dirt Farmer Band this afternoon in order to “keep it going” in his memory.
“We’re certainly paying tribute to him and carrying on what we were all about as a unit with his influence,” Mr. Campbell said. “That’s what we want to keep going, because it’s been a profound one for all of us, including him. He told me more than once that this was the best band he’d ever played with.”
Mr. Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s, resulting in damaged vocal cords that initially left one of American music’s most distinctive voices speechless. He would slowly reinvent himself as a vocalist, singing more and more at the musical gatherings he often held at his Woodstock home.
“The first time I heard Levon sing again was at B.B. King’s in New York and it was like finding out the Beatles had gotten back together,” Mr. Campbell said of Mr. Helm’s vocal comeback.
Tickets to today’s event are $25 for anyone 17 and over and is free for all those under 16. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the continuation of the iconic musical gatherings Mr. Helms founded, The Midnight Rambles.
For more of our interview with Larry Campbell, pick up this week’s issue of The Suffolk Times.