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The Iron Horse Tribute to Lou Reed, Jan 9, 2014.

"Oh ye of little faith ..." (Lou Reed, "Busload of Faith," New York).

How do we say good-bye to a person who influenced the world for generations in music, writing, performing, poetry, art and consciousness? 

We don't.

We don't say good-bye. (I've decided).

In getting ready to attend the Lou Reed tribute at the Iron Horse Music Hall, I was torn about going, because it would make Reed's passing all the more real. Yet, I did not want to miss the opportunity to be in the same room with fellow fans and bands who also love Lou Reed. The last time I saw Reed was 2008 at the Calvin Theatre . It was a satisfying performance, validating who Reed is, yet filled with surprises, humor, depth and poetics, that let us get to know him even better. The gathering of artists tonight, in their elegant presentation of Velvet Underground songs and Lou Reed classics, accomplished a similar feeling. A tribute to hold these songs and memories for the rest of our times here, allowed Lou Reed's influence to continue to be celebrated.

There is no such thing as a final thought on Lou Reed.

When the past makes you laugh and you can savor the magic
That let you survive your own war
You find that that fire is passion
And there's a door up ahead not a wall

~Lou Reed,  "Magic And Loss," Magic and Loss.

The Velvet Underground founder and prolific solo artist always loomed large over audiences. Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013. His long struggle with liver cancer was known by fans, and we followed his journey through to - however you define what happens after death. He was a poet and photographer too. 

It has been noted that one of Reed's goals as a writer was "to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music. ("Interview in Rolling Stone Magazine Nov/Dec 1987: Twentieth Anniversary Issue.)  

Lou Reed lived being genuine in self expression of mindful observations. If tempted to compare yourself to him, then you weren't being yourself, and you were already off your mark. Living through your own mirror is the challenge. As much as Reed is associated and charged with inspiring punk, he was historically dismissive of it, 

"I'm too literate to be into punk rock . . . The whole CBGB's, new Max's thing that everyone's into and what's going on in London—you don't seriously think I'm responsible for what's mostly rubbish?" (Lou Reed, From: Waiting For The Man – A Biography of Lou Reed. Jeremy Reed, 1994 Picador p.156.)

Steve Nelson, an early producer of The Velvet Underground, promoted the band in Western MA, circa 1969 and 1970. He started a museum of music icons for the New England region. The Music Museum of New England (MMONE) Mr. Nelson had some story gems to share with the crowd at the Iron Horse during the tribute and local archive pieces to register in our minds.

Photo Credits: The Music Museum of New England. Courtesy of Steve Nelson.



Fans got a kick out of the fact that this tribute took place the day after Bowie and Elvis' birthdays. It was also Jimmy Page's birthday (Jan 9th) and the anniversary of the first Velvet Underground concert in Western Mass. Multiple memorial concerts were going on for Lou this week. Places from NYC to the mid-west to California were celebrating his life in song. Bands ranging from U2 to Pearl Jam to the Killers sang in his honor. Rock stars, art enthusiasts, actors and world leaders tweeted about him. Fans miss him.

Show Recap:

The Pioneer Valley crowd here was warm and relaxed. This was a very dedicated group for a Thursday night. A full house and lively bar kept the tables circulating as people moved around the venue. It was a refreshing atmosphere as people were so happy to share in this common passion. One mom brought her boy, who dragged his homework along as he picked at dinner, yet he still was bopping to the familiar tunes. (What a cool kid!) Couples hugged as music gems sparked to another time. One guy was reading an antique book, I wondered if it was a poetry book or something Lou inspired. Generations of folks who had a lifetime of memories to preserve were present, really present, listening with their eyes closed, nodding. You could almost hear the music in their heads. The whole thing was an awesome exchange between the fans and the bands. Yet, it was so subtle, the artists may not have even realized their power over this crowd. We were sad that Lou could not physically be here, but his spirit did show up - right on time.

Lou Reed's pop hits were jammed out by Rusty Belle, early in the evening. "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Sweet Jane" bellowed. Velvet Underground and Reed trivia references were made throughout the night by everyone. Bands gingerly acknowledged that no one can come close to Nico in talent, but they'd do their best. Soulful, poetic and gentle melodies came from all of these performers when necessary, while contrasted brain shredding, ear splitting guitar work reminded us that VU was an experimental band. 

Mark Mulcahy and Friends' rendition of "Coney Island Baby" made me cry at the first sad breath of "I wanna play football for the coach." By the time the chorus joined in, there was relief and deliverance. The drummer was on fire during this set. lewisreedmerrygoroundBoth sides of the archive record "Merry Go Round/Your Love" authorized by 'Lewis Reed' were played by the Lonesome Brothers. They also played a serious and slowed down version of "Busload of Faith" from the New York album, and it carried the same weight and comforting irony as it always did. The sentiments seemed to flow when "Perfect Day" was introduced by Winter Pills. I saw Elvis Costello recently and wondered if he reflected on his duet with Lou recently, as he did a great rendition of "Perfect Day" with Reed. A blast of a moment was watching Phillip Price's hair fly as he joyfully jammed out in "Beginning to See The Light". What floored me after this was The Fawns' riveting, I mean - simply mind blowing and intensely powerfully sharp arrow through - "Vicious". Reed often talks about mirrors and if there is a modern woman embracing Reed's intensity, Leso Bezo of The Fawns was it. Her straightforward take on "Pale Blue Eyes" brought Reed's matter of fact tone to the forefront, even though this song is rich with lyrical texture and complexity. I was hoping there would be a group (sing to my Lou) to wrap up the night on an inclusive note - and I was not disappointed,  "Satellite of Love" was the perfect song to summarize the mood of the room. It was joyous and carefree, much better than watching things on TV.

(All photos were taken at the show by unless otherwise specified.)

Photos, Video Clips and Set List/Commentary:

Goldwater The Second (Stephanie Says, Sad Song)


Photo from band website.

Rubwrongways recording artists, Goldwater The Second, had the musical stamina and experience to nail the two opening songs of the night that commanded the audience to attention.

"Stephanie Says" is an original VU song that wasn't published until decades later and some think reworked into "Caroline Says," for Berlin, as Reed owned the rights to it. A melodic, harmonious song, it offers warmth and validation for anyone who's felt the confusion of empty, cold feelings, when their lives yield disappointment upon reflection.

From Berlin, "Sad Song" builds the magnificence that Reed elegantly projected with the album, Berlin. The contrast of the beautiful productions, with the embracing of melancholy is the balance and irony that we take away from Reed's music.

Rusty Belle (Sweet Jane, Walk on the Wild Side)


Photo from Rusty Belle at

Kate Lorenz and Rusty Belle are Amherst proud and nominated for New England Artist of the Year. With a new record called, Common Courtesy, they brought their seasoned mix of sensibilities to rock the house for Lou tonight.

"Sweet Jane" from the 1970 Velvet Underground record, Loaded, was the signature track that came up early in the set to delight the audience. Played by Reed in two keys, this widely covered song was performed by a range of bands, shared with the likes of David Bowie and Metallica.

Transforner brought us, "Walk On The Wild Side," which was inspired by a novel Reed read, Nelson Algren's 1956, "A Walk on the Wild Side." Produced by David Bowie, this risk taking song placed at #16 on the Billboard Top 100. Made famous not only by Reed's subdued vocals as they hover over the superstars of Warhol's Factory, but Herbie Flowers double bassline makes a continuous statement, only to be matched by the Thunderthighs, (Dari Lallou, Karen Friedman, Jacki Campbell and Casey Synge.) The sax was played by Ronnie Ross, a childhood music friend of Bowie's, who taught him how to play sax. After Reed's death, Whoopie Goldberg tweeted, "... this colored girl's still gonna go do-doo doo doo ..."

Daniel Hales & The Frost Heaves (What Goes On, Afterhours)


"What Goes On" by VU, from their self-titled third album, is a trick of magic and intensity; simplicity and complexity - all humming along - then in your face when the guitar solo kicks in. Daniel Hales and The Frost Heaves did the song justice by bringing the almost psychedelic swirling, twirling ending to life. When fans were covering their ears, yet still bopping along, Hales and The Heaves kept at it. This was for Lou, there was no holding back.

The band tried a bit of trivia in introducing "After Hours"  as the last track of the best album in rock in roll. They paused for the audience to guess it, but the people just wanted to hear the music.  The 1969 song was written by Lou Reed, and originally performed by The Velvet Underground, with lead vocals by drummer Maureen Tucker. Lou Reed stated in an interview that the song was "so innocent and pure" that he could not possibly sing it himself. In the Tin Pan alley style of the 1930's the song is sparse, charming and witty. Reference: Martin Charles Strong, The Great Indie Discography (Canongate U.S., 2003).

Rocky Roberts & Friends (Oh! Sweet Nuthin', All Tomorrows Parties)


There was a lot of respect for The Velvet Underground and Nico tonight. Rocky Roberts and Friends took on the experimental masterpiece, "All Tomorrow's Parties" which is featured on the 'banana' album, "The Velvet Underground and Nico" (1967). An interesting piece of history about this song is the creativity that Cale and Reed took with the instruments:

Much of the album's sound was conceived by John Cale, who stressed the experimental qualities of the band. Cale, who was influenced greatly by his work with La Monte Young, John Cage and the early Fluxus movement, encouraged the use of alternative ways of producing sound in music. Cale thought his sensibilities meshed well with Lou Reed's, who was already experimenting with alternative tunings. For instance, Reed had "invented" the ostrich guitar tuning for a song he wrote called "The Ostrich" for the short-lived band The Primitives. Ostrich guitar tuning consists of all strings being tuned to the same note. The method was utilized on songs "Venus in Furs" and "All Tomorrow's Parties". Often, the guitars were also tuned down a whole step, which produced a lower, fuller sound that Cale called "sexy". Reference:

Rocky Roberts and Friends kept the intensity of the song, but let their own harmonious vocals lead. It had a beautiful, eerie flow to it and it soared over the crowd to the balcony, reflecting the sad core of the song and its meanings.

Skeg, Lucas & Dana Kendell (European Son, I Found A Reason)


Skeg, Lucas and Dana Kendall were serious and poignant in their delivery of their set. The guitar jams required for these songs were well matched by the musicianship among them.

"European Son" by VU, was dedicated by the band to Lou Reed's literary influence and deep admirer, Delmore Schwartz. First pressings of the album actually state his name on the track label. Delmore Schwartz was a mentor of Reed's while Reed was at Syracuse University. Ironically, they studied together while Reed was at the same age that Schwartz wrote "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities." "European Son" was chosen because Schwartz hated a lot of lyrics in rock songs, so Reed chose the fewest words for this song. Reed wrote a forward to later publications of In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, which was also published in the Poetry Foundation on line journal. It is called, "O Delmore How I Miss You". For a thoughtful essay on Lou Reed's relationship with Delmore Schwartz visit: . European Son is a long song. There are two stanza's of lyrics sung by Reed, and then a loud crash in the song, caused by John Cale hitting a stack of plates with a metal chair. It is interesting to learn the context of this song, because the symbolism of the breaking glass reflects the life of Delmore Schwartz as he struggled being so brilliant, yet ultimately unsatisfied in daily life. There is a story, too, that Delmore broke windows in his Village apartment before he was taken to Bellvue Hospital.

In "I Found A Reason," there was a gospel feel to this harmonious and borderline radio friendly tune by VU, first published on Loaded. The Kendalls brought it local with their dedication to the technique, while lending texture to the vocals.

Mark Mulcahy & Friends (Coney Island Baby, Waiting For My Man)


Mark Mulcahy and Friends set the right tone for "Coney Island Baby" from Reed's 1976 album of the same name. This song has always been a favorite of mine and for some reason it reminds me of driving. It's sad and grow up from innocence connotations get you in the heart every time. The beautiful vocals at the end made you think that maybe Reed did believe the 'glory of love' was significant.

When an addiction sets in, the relationship to the object, person, idea, substance, takes precedence over anything else in life. Reed's "I'm Waiting For The (My) Man" was a snapshot of what a white boy was willing to do to get heroine. Go uptown for 26 bucks, between Lex and 125th - and wait. The style of the music, in a barrelhouse rock and roll piano jive, gives it a light hearted, casual feel. Marc Mulcahy and Friends kept the feel of this song true and spun it in their own voices, with harmonies that echoed as well as expert piano work on keys.

Fancy Trash (Hanging Around, Strawman)


Local heroes, Fancy Trash, have a motto, "folk for the anti-folk". They made a strong presence for Lou tonight spinning rock edges around the room. Drummer, Jason Smith had a well deserved spotlight as he brought it all home for the band.  

"Hanging Round" was one of the favorites from Transformer, the album that has had a digital revival since Reed's death. With production assistance from David Bowie, the record helped Reed with his transition from VU to into his solo work, when his first solo effort wasn't widely recognized. Although the glam image did not stay with Reed over the years, it has resonated a mystique of creativity and edge that will continue into future genres.

The New York album, in my view, brought Lou Reed and his followers into the core of his identity. Sophisticated, bold, assertive and unapologetic, it takes on the world from Reed's perspective, as the ordinary NYC citizen. He has lived, loved, and worked in New York, seeing the widest range of not only the hip Factory scene, but moving beyond that, he embraces the day to day people and the patterns of how they live. Known to the world, now he gets to make statements that hold an opinion. Enter: "Strawman."

Lonesome Brothers (Busload of Faith, Your Love, Merry Go Round)


"Busload of Faith" from Reed's New York is probably one of my favorite vocals from Reed. His strong New York identity and direct irony in observations gives a stand by me sense of validation, that he sees hypocrisy and what the people on the ground struggle with and he won't stand for it. Controversial topics like abortion are taken on, but what else would you expect from Reed? There is a sense of freedom in learning how to trust only yourself, but yet he calls it 'faith', which leaves the concept still broad enough to be powerful. His reach was so wide that even the Vatican invited him to perform at a fundraiser concert in Rome and on his passing the Papal staff were tweeting his song lyrics.

So if you want a rock and roll education, you have to hang out with Ray Mason of the Lonesome Brothers. Not only is he a talented musician and songwriter, but he knows every liner note ever written and puts them all together in strings of casual conversation. The Lonesome Brothers chose to play an educational tid bit from Reed, highlighting that these tracks were named, "Lewis Reed" and they were the A and B sides of the record. List of Pre-Velvet Underground Recordings for Lou Reed.

Luke Cavagnac (Femme Fatale, Foggy Notion)


I think the song, "Femme Fatale" takes on the persona of the vocalist who sings it. When Nico performed it with VU, it was wise and foreboding. When Reed performed it dedicated to others, it was warm and forgiving. Artist, musician, Luke Cavagnac and Friends gave it a cool mod delivery tonight, so that the song could be open for fans to make it their own.

Recorded May 6, 1969, and released in 1985 on Verve after record label changes, "Foggy Notion" was played live in clubs regardless of the production history. Luke Cavagnac and his band were the perfect match to pick up the retro style of this track's wit and edge.

Winterpills (Perfect Day, Beginning To See The Light)


The B- side of "Walk On The Wild Side" and cataloged on Transformer among other collections, covers, fundraisers and a film production, "Perfect Day" is a coveted song for good reason. Even Reed was impressed with the song's long term performance in the most unexpected places. Penned as a reflection of an afternoon in Central Park with his first finance' wife, yet also interpreted to follow the love of an addiction, the verse can't be captured in a single key. Winter Pills  gathered the room and delivered it with ease.

From the vault of its 1969 VU debut, to a "super delux" Universal released White Light/White Heat reissue, "Beginning To See The Light" is finally being heard. Winter Pills' Phillip Price gave the performance of a lifetime, as he brought the song back to its organic roots.

 Fawns (Vicious, Pale Blue Eyes)


As stated above, Lesa Bezo's rendition of "Vicious" had us stunned. She embodied the intensity of Reed with startling ease. Her own presence in the song, how she internalized it, made it genuine. The Fawns guitar work equally enveloped the room with garage rock metal. Andy Warhol inspired and requested a song of Reed about a 'vicious' person, stating if someone hit you with a flower, and Reed obliged.

"Pale Blue Eyes" is a song I know well and heard Reed sing live. Reed's call out to his first love who happened to be married reverberates within the walls of boundaries, spilled over by feeling - and action. He never paints a picture of a relationship as easy or without problems. He folds the rage of connection right into the beauty of the moment. This is one of the reasons that many of us believe Reed may be one of the few people on the planet who really did understand true love.

If I could make the world as pure
And strange as what I see
I'd put you in a mirror
I'd put in front of me
I'd put in front of me

School For The Dead (She's My Best Friend, Satellite of Love)


From Coney Island Baby, "She's My Best Friend" is as close to open sentiment as Reed's going to get. If you want real sentiment, listen to Reed's tribute to his mentor of art and philosophical inspiration, his friend, Andy Warhol: Songs For 'Drella.

"Satellite of Love" is another track almost lost in the Velvet Underground archives, but when revived, it went through some slight lyric changes to be included as one of the most famous songs on Transformer.  Its subject watches television, contemplating extreme jealousy over an unfaithful girlfriend. Reed despised TV, he said in a CBS interview, "TV is the lowest media available." The song has been a favorite of U2, with Bono and The Edge covering at shows many times, sometimes including Reed to walk out on stage and sing the chorus.

School For The Dead  were leaders in ending this night on a meaningful note, by commenting on the sky that for the moment, covered the Pioneer Valley with sound. Joined by other bands, they closed the night with a gathering of heart felt coda. Like the music of Lou Reed, it was glorious, harmonious, and strangely beautiful, now blending into the walls of our local music history.

For video clips of many bands during this performance, visit our playlist on youtube.


Photos of the Lou Reed Tribute at The Iron Horse:  

From the album, The Raven,

I have a Guardian Angel
Keep him in my head
When I'm afraid and alone
I call him to my bed
I have a Guardian Angel
Who keeps bad things from me

The only way to ruin it would be for me
Not to trust me
The only way to ruin it would be for me
Not to trust me

I have a Guardian Angel
Who's often saved my life
Through malevolent storms and crystal drums
The Angel on my right
Has lifted me up and set me down
Always showing me what's right

And if my instinct proved me wrong
The Angel set it right
And if my instinct proved me wrong
The Angel set it right

Have a Guardian Angel
I keep him in my head
And when I'm havin' nightmares
He shows me dreams instead
I have a ring, I have a dress
I have an empty shell

By the books below tea cups
I've kept a kind of hell
By the books below tea cups
I've kept a kind of hell

Panic and anxiety
So often in my head
But I had a Guardian Angel
Who took care of me instead
The champagne cork the night light owl
A raven and a duck

The seed of pining parents
And your despairing love
The seed of pining parents
And your despairing love

Love and luck both have charmed lives
Can change all things about
I had a Guardian Angel
That's what this is all about
I have a Guardian Angel
I keep him in my head

When I'm alone and become afraid
He saved my life instead
When I'm alone and become afraid
He saved my life instead

Guardian Angel
Guardian Angel
Guardian Angel  

Read more: Lou Reed - Guardian Angel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Gio Pilato on LOU REED

Lou Reed To Be Honored in Tribute at The Iron Horse Music Hall.

October 27, 2013. We Grieve The Magic and Loss of Lou Reed.

Lou Reed, April 20th, 2008


All proceeds from this show went to the Cancer Connection in Northampton, MA.

Visit their website here:


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