The Woodstock Allstars at the Stewart House

It feels weird to be writing a review about someone who, well, writes reviews… But David Malachowski doesn’t do just that. Yes, he reviews concerts for the Times Union and writes CD reviews for the Kingston Freeman, but David is first and foremost a musician himself. After having read many articles by him about other people, I finally got to see Mr. Malachowski perform on Friday night when he played at the Stewart House with the Woodstock Allstars.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the Woodstock Allstars. I hadn’t either, until recently. It’s easy to miss a band that only plays together once a year or so… It’s not for lack of motivation however, in fact, it’s quite the opposite: the “Allstars” have separately been involved in multiple other musical projects throughout their careers, and members of the band have played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Govt. Mule, Rick Danko, Paul Simon, Savoy Brown, and Joan Osborne, to name a few (when you have as much talent and dedication as the Woodstock Allstars do, you tend to be in high demand). And so the Allstars played their only performance scheduled for this year at the Stewart House on Friday night (it was actually supposed to be an outdoor concert at the Athens Riverfront Park, but was moved due to the rain).

David Malachowski formed the Woodstock Allstars in 2007 and members have come, gone, gone and come back, and you never know who will be playing. This is a real jam band — one that is so full of stellar musicians, they are the only group that can pull off playing one show a year together and sound not good, but great! The musicians playing on Friday were the current line-up of Machan Taylor on guitar and vocals, David Malachowski on guitar and vocals, Daniel A. Weiss on keyboard, Dennis Gruenling on harmonica, Pete Levin on organ, Tony Levin on bass, and Gary Burke on drums.

There were wires everywhere, and the room was crammed to the max. Guitars (no less than seven of them), a drum set, a bass, a keyboard, an organ, amps, fans, and…an antique iron wood stove??? Yes, that’s right. The Stewart House, built in the late 1800’s, is a historic building and retains a lot of it’s original charm. As for the concert… David’s voice is smooth as single malt whiskey, and Machan’s is soulful. When they sang together, it was a perfect marriage of vocals. The Woodstock Allstars opened with “Further On Up The Road,” and only heated up the already sweltering room with their music from there. At times the music would build with excitement, Machan singing jazzily, then David would bring the mood down to a calm blues with his guitar — only to fire up spirits with his playing shortly after. Duo keyboards were great, with Pete and Daniel trading solos back and forth, while bass grounded the music and drums kept a steady beat with smoky cymbals crashing along. Some of the hottest parts came towards the end of the night, and the musicians brought the historic house down with their last few songs.

Although David Malachowski is the “organizer” of the band, so to speak, there isn’t really any lead musician. They all take turns in the spotlight and play for the love of music, not ego. It’s a beautiful thing. The spontaneity of the situation allows for true art to take place — uninhibited, unadulterated, and completely natural art — in the form of music. In the words of Malachowski, “I love playing with that bunch, God do I…” Well, we love listening.

Crossroads

Feelin’ Alright

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