'The Last Waltz' for Philly school kids
by thenotebook on Nov 27 2013 Posted in Latest news
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
In the wake of the Philadelphia School District's budget crisis, a group of prominent area musicians have banded together to stage a Thanksgiving weekend benefit concert.
They're drawing inspiration -- and the event's name -- from the 1978 Martin Scorsese concert film that documented the farewell performance of The Band on Thanksgiving Day 1976.
It's The Last Waltz for Philadelphia schoolchildren.
In the film, Robbie Robertson, lead guitar player and chief songwriter in The Band, explains to Scorsese that he had to call it quits because of the tremendous strain the group had undergone after a decade-plus of touring on the road.
"It's a goddamned impossible way of life," Robertson told Scorsese.
It's a sentiment that students, parents and teachers in the Philadelphia School District can relate to after a decade-plus of financial volatility.
This year, as the school district closed 24 schools and reduced its staff by 20 percent, Fergus Carey – the owner of Fergie's Pub and Monk's Cafe, among other bars and restaurants – was having a revelation.
"I've been dreaming about putting on The Last Waltz Philly-style for years," he said.
When the film -- which features not just The Band, but also some of the top artists of the time in the concert -- opened, Carey was a 13-year-old in Ireland.
"It blew me away -- the Eric Clapton, the Van Morrison, the Neil Young," he said. "It was just like, 'Oh my God, this is dynamite stuff.'"
After talking with some local musicians and promoters, Carey's dream of putting on a localized version of the show started coming together very quickly as the Trocadero Theatre, at 10th and Arch Streets, agreed to host.