By Steve Heilig
For many music lovers, the greatest American band of all was in fact four-fifths Canadian, and was simply called The Band. Starting as The Hawks in the early 1960s, they became Bob Dylan’s backing band and then delivered two LPs on their own that forever defined “Americana”—Music from Big Pink and The Band. Their live album Rock of Ages, featuring stellar horn charts by the late great New Orleans maestro Allen Toussaint, sits at the top of any smart list of greatest concert recordings.
For a time they were so popular as to co-headline the biggest rock festival in history, Watkins Glen in 1973, along with the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. The original lineup bid farewell in a ragged all-star 1976 San Francisco show called The Last Waltz. In subsequent years some members kept on under The Band moniker, and others had solo careers. When Levon Helm, who some fans considered the center of the group, died in 2012, he expressed wishes that The Band’s legacy continue in some manner.
And so it has. On New Year’s Eve, the closest thing to The Band comes to Marin in the form of The Weight—a group taking its name from one of The Band’s signature songs and consisting of veterans of the second-generation grouping and/or musicians who were otherwise directly connected to it. Opening for them will be local jam-faves Moonalice, for a one-two punch of classic yet innovative rock music.
The Weight’s guitarist Jim Weider is no newbie to The Band’s music, having been a longtime member almost since the original unit disbanded.
“It’s like wearing an old pair of shoes for me,” he says. “I played in The Band for 15 years, and with Levon for at least 30. I’m so used to playing these songs. It feels very comfortable and natural.” Some of his fondest memories of his tenure with The Band include “Playing the Roger Waters The Wall show at the Berlin Wall after the wall came down. Playing Woodstock ’94. Bob Dylan’s birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden. But most of all, the laughing and storytelling we did on those endless long night bus rides!”
Moonalice’s psychedelic sound is well-loved in these parts, and member Roger McNamee reflects, “Along with the Dead, The Band powered the soundtrack of my teenage years. Moonalice is beyond fired up to play at our home venue—Sweetwater—with The Weight on New Year’s Eve.”
The Weight, with special guest Moonalice; Thursday, Dec. 31; Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; Doors, 8pm/Show, 9pm; $75-$85; 21+; sweetwatermusichall.com.