Cover-to-cover on ‘The Last Waltz,’ Saturday with Frank Muffin
The Lafayette band has made an annual tradition of benefit shows that have gone cover-to-cover with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ ‘The Wall’ and ‘Rumours.’ This weekend, it’s The Band’s ‘Last Waltz’
In what’s turned into a great holiday season tradition, Lafayette band Frank Muffin is back this weekend with a cover-to-cover tribute show.
Actually, this one is a bit more complicated when it comes nailing down the cover-to-cover part, compared to the ambitious takes on albums by the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac.
Saturday, Frank Muffin will tackle The Band’s “The Last Waltz,” an expansive concert – filmed for a concert documentary by the same name on Thanksgiving Day in 1976 – and accompanying album that featured mix-and-match performances by The Band and guests that included Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters and Neil Diamond.
How Frank Muffin – Hans Rees, Brittany Rees, Jerome Hemersbach and Joe Heeb – plan to pull it off … here, let’s get straight into a Q&A for a show at Carnahan Hall that will benefit The Arc of Tippecanoe County.
Question: You’ve gone big with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The Wall.” You’ve gone a bit more pared down for Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” How did you settle on “The Last Waltz?”
Hans Rees: The first two album tributes were big productions – especially when you’re doing it all yourselves.. “Rumours” was picked in large part because of its iconic status. For this year’s tribute, I think we just wanted something that is not only a landmark album, but fun.
Q: What other albums were in contention this year but didn’t make the cut?
Hans Rees: We regularly are discussing future album options. Maybe one day we will hit them all. Some recent top contenders: The Who, “Who’s Next,” Talking Heads, “Stop Making Sense,” Cheap Trick, “Live at Budokan,” and ELO, “Out of the Blue.”
Q: Those all would have been great. The “Last Waltz” show was a bit of a marathon in director Martin Scorsese’s movie. The record from The Band was even more expansive. What challenges is it posing?
Brittany Rees: Choosing the songs. At the actual concert setlist was some 50-plus performances – mostly songs, but also included some poetry recitations. Scorsese chose maybe 25 of them for the film. But there were 30 on the 1978 album, and not necessarily all the same ones that were in the film. Even the 2002 Deluxe edition caps out at 44 songs. It also added some doubles through rehearsal versions and concert versions. We chose to parse out what was on the most releases, finesse that list with a few decisions of our own. We finally settled on our own performance order that makes sense to us and still captures the essence of what The Band did.
Hans Rees: We originally planned on re-creating the original “Waltz” event with a Thanksgiving dinner, ballroom dancers, poetry recitations, the whole bit. With the ongoing COVID climate challenges and difficulty finding caterers available on Thanksgiving weekend, we decided that just sticking to the music was smartest.
Q: The Band had a ton of guests for that show. What’s your plan for this one?
Hans Rees: In the spirit of the “Waltz” and what we’ve done at all our tribute benefits to date, we’re following suit. We’ve been working with a team of about 15 other local musicians plus Frank Muffin members to fill out this show. That’s about the same amount of people we pulled together for “The Wall,” which required a full orchestra. For the “Waltz,” it’s with a horn section, organist and then individual guests for songs throughout. We have some great talent from the Lafayette area and a few from out of town as well.
Q: One year’s fun. Two years is an echo. Three years is a trend. Four years is, what, a tradition? It’s not quite the Lafayette Christmas Parade, but is this something you’re committed to for, I don’t, forever?
Hans Rees: When we dreamed this concept up, we didn’t have a plan. It has been fantastic to be able to give back to the community through doing something we love. This gives us a great excuse to play music in a way we might not normally be able to do. There is so much talent in this town, and we have been very fortunate to be able to play with many of them. As long as people still want to come to the shows, support these wonderful organizations and the musicians are willing to join the Muffin family, we will probably continue.
Q: You’re watching the movie the next day, too, right?
Hans Rees: Yes. We have licensed the movie to show on Sunday night. For just a $5 ticket (which proceeds will also go to this year’s charity) you can watch the movie with some of the performers from Saturday night. It’s a nice way for us musicians to unwind and relax without the pressure of performance looming over our heads anymore.
Q: What else should we know?
Hans Rees: We do these shows because we love to. But we also want to do what we can for our community. So each of our album tribute performances has been a benefit for a local non-profit group or agency. The proceeds from this year’s show will benefit The Arc of Tippecanoe County.
The Arc is committed to all individuals with developmental disabilities realizing their goals of learning, living, working, and playing in their community.
Empowering individuals through advocacy and social opportunities.
Empowering their families through education.
Empowering their communities through awareness.
Founded in 1953 by a group of local parents and educators, The Arc serves as a resource to self-advocates and family members for a better life and to the community to promote positive attitudes to disabilities.
Brittany Rees: In an effort to maximize the fundraising at this event, we are raffling off a new Fender Stratocaster that will be played during the show. Just $20 a chance. Raffle tickets can be purchased online. We will announce the winner at the concert. If that person is present, they can take the guitar home with them after the show.
We are also teaming with the Mandolin network to offer an online stream for this show. Frank Muffin has done some touring this year, performing in Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, and have a quickly approaching three-night stint in New York. Our friends and fans in other parts of the country deserve an opportunity to be part of these big shows, and we are proud to offer that. Moreover, not everyone is able to safely navigate crowds due to the continued COVID risk, and it’s important for venues and performers to maintain virtual attendance options so people aren’t left out for various reasons. This was a no-brainer for us to offer.
(The link for the livestream: https://boxoffice.mandolin.com/products/frank-muffin-presents-a-tribute-to-the-last-waltz-a-benefit-concert)
All of these details are laid out on our website, www.frankmuffin.com with easy links for people to find more information.
IF YOU GO: Frank Muffin Presents a Tribute to The Last Waltz will be 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, Carnahan Hall, 2200 Elmwood Ave., in Market Square Shopping Center in Lafayette. Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 day of show; $150 Reserved tables for six available only from Carnahan Hall’s website. Tickets available at McGuire Music and Sound in Lafayette, JL Records in West Lafayette and online at https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/4826009/the-last-waltz-featuring-frank-muffin-lafayette-carnahan-hall
• The Last Waltz Movie Screening and Hangout with Frank Muffin will be 6 p.m. Sunday at Carnahan Hall. Tickets: $5, available at Carnahan Hall’s website or at Saturday’s performance.