Bill Frisell And Sam Amidon To Headline Second ETH Benefit Concert

Bill Frisell And Sam Amidon To Headline Second ETH Benefit Concert

By Nancy K. Crevier

“Live at the Edmond Town Hall” returns Monday, March 19, with the second in what Hayden Bates envisions to become yearly multiple concerts to benefit Edmond Town Hall, when contemporary jazz guitarist Bill Frisell and folk musician Sam Amidon appear in one of only three concerts they are scheduled to play together this year.

“This show is an interesting mix of folk and jazz. Sam is very much a dyed-in-the-wool folk musician,” said Mr Bates, “and Bill has an American strain running through his guitar playing, although I had always thought of him as a jazz guitarist.”

Mr Bates, a two-year resident of Newtown, is the driving force behind “Live at the Edmond Town Hall,” an effort to improve the historic Main Street building that houses the state’s only $2 theater and was formerly the home to town offices. A native of Wilton, he had heard only fleetingly of the Edmond Town Theater growing up, but when he and friends came across it one evening, he was immediately impressed by the grandeur and sense of history.

When he moved here the end of 2009, he knew his involvement in his new hometown would be an effort to preserve the old town hall, which continues to go through a transformation with the relocation of town offices to the new municipal center in Fairfield Hills. An instrumentalist with a profound interest in music, Mr Bates, who is employed as a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley in Westport, recognized the Edmond Town Hall space as an inviting concert venue, and proposed hosting a series of benefit concerts there.

Although he had never organized a concert before last year, he felt confident that he could put together a series of quality music concerts that would appeal to not only local, but regional music lovers, as well. He organized the first concert featuring the folk-rock quartet, The Low Anthem, in June 2011, with the blessing of the ETH Board of Managers, and the assistance of Jennifer Rogers of Newtown Cultural Arts Commission, and numerous family and friend volunteers. The June concert netted $4,000 for Edmond Town Hall.

“I didn’t know what to expect with that first concert, but I was pleased,” said Mr Bates.

Sometimes booking an artist is a simple as reaching out to agents, but scheduling conflicts with the artists and the availability of the theater has been challenging, he said. The other difficulty has been in educating the musicians and agents as to his goal.

“A lot of artists I’ve tried to book don’t have experience working with a non-profit, so the business end of dealing is different. We have to help them see we are not negotiating to try and make a killing off of them,” he said, and added that both Bill Frisell and Sam Amidon have been very generous in the process.

“I’m one of those people who reads voraciously about music,” said Mr Bates, whose regular reading list includes indie magazines like Pitchfork, to see what is new in the world of music. It was through the recommendation of Pitchfork that he zeroed in on Sam Amidon. He was already familiar with the music of Bill Frisell, having listened to it since he was in high school, he said.

“Either one is impressive as a stand alone musician. To have them both together here is kind of mind blowing,” said Mr Bates.

Numerous Projects To Be Covered

“Hayden Bates’ passion is the theater,” said board of managers member Mary Fellows. “He’s chosen this as his community service,” and the board could not be more pleased, she said.

Ms Fellows agreed that as Mr Bates noted in his initial visits to the 100-year-old building and subsequent involvement with it, there are numerous projects that can be undertaken at Edmond Town Hall to upgrade and update it. While the $4,000 raised at the Low Anthem concert has not yet been dedicated to any particular project at this time, Ms Fellows said, it is in an account that will probably go toward show-related elements, such as a new sound system and video, two items Mr Bates would very much like to see improved upon.

“Edmond Town Hall needs everything, from basic stuff like upgrading the electrical system, to the fancy stuff, like a sound system,” said Mr Bates. “There will be lots of places to throw the cash at,” he added.

Right now, upcoming concert headliners “are wide open,” admitted Mr Bates, but he does have a goal that each concert will feature a local band as an opener. He is hopeful for a success with the Frisell/Amidon concert equal to or greater than that generated by The Low Anthem. Tickets now on sale at www.edmondtownhall.org/billfrisell have already generated a good amount of interest.

Only 400 tickets, all for individual seats and not general seating, are available for the March 19 concert.

“I’m the kind of fan that likes knowing where I’m going to sit, and when tickets go on sale, I buy them right away. I would encourage people to not wait this time to buy tickets,” Mr Bates said. “We’ve already had people from as far away as Rhode Island and Massachusetts buying tickets. The last thing I want is for anyone local to be bumped out of seeing this concert.”

“As a promoter, Hayden has done a fantastic job,” said Ms Fellows.

Tickets for the Monday, March 19 concert are $29.99 and can be purchased at www.edmondtownhall.org/billfrisell. Doors open at 6:30, with the opening act (to be announced) scheduled to begin at 7 pm.

For a sample of music by Bill Frisell and Sam Amidon, see Sam Amidon & Bill Frisell – saro- (live), on YouTube.

For more information or to donate to support Edmond Town Hall, e-mail Mr Bates at William.bates@stern.nyu.edu.