Thursday, August 7, 2014

Halibut Point Rocks

This is the story of how rocker Willie "Loco" Alexander played Halibut Point State Park a few years back. I wish I'd been there.
John Ratti photo
Park Interpreter John Ratti set it up. He'd heard Willie at 'The Rat' (Rathskellar) in Boston's Kenmore Square in the Seventies. Now Willie was back living in Gloucester. John felt he would add "a certain amount of provenance" to the Park's concert series, "a legitimacy, hopefully, because of his enormous and significant musical history. Willie to me is just the greatest."

John Ratti photo
Willie was pleased to be asked. "You're open to the elements. It seems more conductive. Maybe that's the magic part of it. And there's birds. You can play along with them. They can play along with you. It's the world-famous seagull opera, here in Gloucester, always."

"We had complete freedom. It was great. You see families. You get to play for babies. You get to play for senior citizens. You get to play for whoever shows up. It's always good to win the kids over, because they can either take you or leave you."

"Sometimes that will inspire you, to get 'em going, to see the smiles on their faces or a kid dancing, or a person tapping their feet. To me, that's why you do it. You're doing it for communication. When you get that chance, make the most of it."

John Ratti photo
The following year John added into the program Rockport's father-son saxophonists Rikki and Alek Razdan, "because who wouldn't want to play with Willie Alexander? Here we had the young up-and-coming generation, the local noteworthy musician, and the old punk rock & roller whose history goes back to the Nineteen Sixties with such significant bands - Velvet Underground, The Bosstown Sound, The Boom Boom Band - all of that! You had both ends of the spectrum."

Yes, sitting in with a rock icon sounded good. Rikki recalls, "we showed up there, and oh wow, it was really cool. The natural beauty of the place is staggering. It was a memorable gig. I've played thousands of them, and that's the one I remember."

Moose Savage photo
The concert led to other collaborations and to their current recording project. "Playing with Willie is great. He's one of those people where nothing can go wrong. Even if it sort of does, it all comes back and is okay....With Willie we don't think about chords and keys and notes. There's a vibe going on that you play into, which is really fun. Once you've had it happen a few times you want it always."

"Having the Razdans come down and play - it couldn't be better. I'm so happy to be part of that family. It seems like I'm an unofficial Razdan."
John Ratti photo
"I may change direction at any moment. I'm just going along for the ride myself. I don't know what's going to happen. Usually the mistakes are what drives the thing, makes it good....It's a thrill for you to make that contact and actually win somebody over, make somebody like your music that never heard you before."
August 13, at 7:30pm the Gloucester Writer's Center will present

Willie Alexander’s One Night Only Rock & Roll Songwriting Workshop
See the GWC website for information and registration.

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