For music lovers young and old, we’re lucky. It’s easy to se any of your favorite bands live, because eventually they will stop in New York City on their huge world-wide-sold-out-farewell-reunion-10-year-anniversary-CD-release-tour at Madison Square Garden or Webster Hall.
Mahopac’s proximity to one of the most musical cities in the world is great and all, but it also makes it easy to get lost in this atmosphere of stadium shows and Ticket Master sales, and forget how great it feels to be with good company, listening to your friend strum his or her guitar in your backyard around a campfire.
This summer, Gus Wieland and Brian Conigliaro, the duo that is Two Guitars, and solo acoustic musicians Cassandra Frake and Brett Randell, brought that campfire feeling and sound to local venues in Mahopac. Listening to and seeing each musician was exactly like hanging out in the woods under the stars with friends and the feeling of home. Each local act brought something different to the fire, and we’re not just talking marshmallows and graham crackers.
First up was Two Guitars at The Northwood Inn. The pair run the Putnam Music Center in town, and waved to faces they recognized in the crowd at the woodsy tucked away venue. They are also responsible for nurturing the creative seedlings of so many young Mahopac musicians, including the two they would be performing alongside that night.
“The great part is that is that it really is without borders, there is no age differentiation or anything, we are just musicians. We gather up the new people and we want to hear what they’re doing and they want to hear what we’re doing, it just works. It’s a great balance, it’s about the music,” Gus said.
Demonstrating amazing skill and unique sound, Two Guitars seemed to effortlessly interlace community and familiarity into their lyrics and chords. Staying true to their name, the band is made up of the two on acoustic guitar with Brian as the lead vocals. Brian’s smoky voice filled the room as he strummed this hearty folk sounding chords, while Gus’s fingers see,ed to effortlessly run up and down the neck of the guitar, twanging and tweaking in perfect harmony. They continued the performance this way, playing cover songs and original songs, even one they had only rehearsed just once, a secret the audience would never have guessed had they not joked about it.
Brett Randell stopped in to play a few songs before his performance at the Brooklyn Coffee House, including one with his former teacher Brian, who thought seeing his pupils — both Brett and Cassandra — perform original music was “just totally cool,” he said, without getting “syrupy” about seeing the musicians develop. “It’s like the next generation, I just love to see it. Some people toy with it, like they’re taking tennis lessons and French and flute and horseback riding lessons, you know it’s just something you try, and then there’s other people you can just tell as a teacher from the get go that they have this passion.”
After a short break, Gus introduced Cassandra, also a local singer songwriter, who served as the refreshing water to cool down the flames of the previous two acts. Standing tall and graceful with guitar in hand, the smiling read head played her bubbly music about love, nature, grass stains, a morning cup of joe and sticky orange lemonade as she bopped and swayed with her melodies.
Just a short way down Route 6, Brett continued performing to a packed Brooklyn Coffee House, playing some of his set inside, then moving the crowd outside where a damp and smoggy night seemed to serve as the perfect backdrop for his sound. Brett was stopping in his hometown on his seven week “Austin to Boston Tour,” where he is in the process of traveling the country playing shows at venues in between the rhyming cities. His brother Cory joined him for the first three and a half weeks, enhancing his brother’s sound with croons from his mellow saxophone.
Brett’s material off of his new album “Glow,” had an edgy sound, full of spooky and seductive minor chords and jazzy sultry vocals. Where Cassandra’s music involved the dreamy side of love, Brett’s is more about passion and desire, whether it’s about finding love or leaving it. But the real gem of the evening came from one of his older songs called “Home.” This piece is different from most of his songs because it has a lullaby like sound, which served as a break from his heavy strumming. In this song he asks the question; “What did we used to do when we had all the time in the world?” and for a split second a feeling of longing for childhood seemed to overwhelm the crowd.
“It’s about whatever anyone calls home,” he said, which definitely had more meaning that night since the traveling musician, who now resides in Austin, Tex., was performing in the place he grew up and for the people that have supported him his whole life.
They’re your neighbors, classmates and teachers and they’re all making music right here in town.