Over the years I have stopped in to sample many local East End live music venues and sample the exquisite sounds and song choices. The last four years, the Lynn Blue Band has been a comet across the East End music scene. Three years ago, I asked band leader Lynn Blumenfeld if I could do a story about her musical journey, and at last, here it is to help celebrate an upcoming Stephen’s Talkhouse 2019 gig on Sunday, June 30th at 8 p.m.
When I asked Lynn when did she start playing music, she said, “I played violin in elementary school and guitar in high school, but I started singing before I could talk. I’d rock my crib around the room singing. I was in every glee cub and chorus and, of course, high school musicals.”
Naturally, the follow-up had to be: When did she first play in a band? Lynn replied, “In college I was in a band for about 15 minutes. I think I fell off the stage before the gig was over. We did cover one of my favorite tunes, however, Can’t Find My Way Home.”
We also reminisced about the Lynn Blue Band’s start. “Lynn Blue Band played our first gig in March, four years ago at East By North East, a restaurant in Montauk that’s now gone. By that summer we were at Westlake Fishouse on Mondays, and I think we got to play Wolffer Vineyard and Gosman’s that year, too,” she noted.
So who is in this band and why are they special? Lynn shared, “Dave Portocarerro is the lead guitar player and an extraordinary musician who also plays drums, bass and owns a music studio in Hampton Bays. He was in an a cappella singing group in his 20s, so he’s terrific with harmony, and because he’s a drummer he’s got a great sense of rhythm and is able to arrange older classic rocks and change them up so they’re surprising. He does a mean Tom Petty and people go nuts when he covers David Byrne. Dave grew up in Oakdale and has been playing guitar since the 80s. He’s been playing music with Jim ‘The Rev’ Nanos, our bass player, for almost 30 years. He also records and produces at Blakk Dogg Studio, a multi-room faculty he built in Hampton Bays.
Then, there is Jim “The Rev” Nanos on bass. He picked up his mom’s guitar when she wasn’t looking at age 9 and by the time he was 13, he opened for Judy Collins. Yes, he really is that good. His mom played guitar, mostly cowboy ballads. She taught him his first two chords at age nine. He picked up a banjo and taught himself The Kingston Trio tunes and other folk music. He moved over to rock music playing electric guitar and bass, played in high school bands and moved to LA where he worked with producer Gary Usher (Birds, Beach Boys). He produced the first records for LA punk band X and played with the Billy Zoom band. He returned to NY in 1989 and has played with countless local bands ever since. Jim also sings with the band.
Drummer Alex Sarkis started his East End musical journey with Shockshine back in ’97. Two years later, he took a leap of faith. He quit his career as a manager for the music chain Sam Ash, and moved out east permanently to pursue his passion. He reunited with Shockshine and since, moved on to play with such East End notables as Jim Turner, Sara Conway, Jessie Haynes, Mambo Loco, Alfredo Merrat, Joe Delia, Mick Hargreaves, Joe Lauro, The Complete Unknowns and Black and Sparrow. He’s been rocking the East End with The Lynn Blue Band since March 2015.”
As for why she enjoys playing with them, Lynn added, “Dave can play anything, usually after hearing it once or twice. Jim has incredible ears, he knows where songs should go and he’s one sweetheart of a man, he’s also a pleasure to write with. Alex has great chops and his energy is tremendous… his choices and surprises keep the band on its toes and make each song and performance more interesting.”
A band usually is often a community of friends who cover and sit-in. The Lynn Blue Band is no exception because they often play with Fred Gilde and Dan Koontz, two accomplished keyboard players. Lynn said, “Dan is a Sag Harbor guy plays with Sarah Conway and the HooDoos, too. Fred plays with everyone – often Mamma Lee and Jim Lawler rolls the dice…and we’re lucky when he includes us in his schedule.”
Finally, I asked Lynn to tell us about herself and her reply was a shy but poignant, “Not sure what you want to know about me. I sing everything from Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt to Aretha and Jon Lennon.”
I also had to find out what has been her highlight as a performer and dream scenario? Who is the one musician she would love to spend an evening making music with or watching? Here is her response to that big question: “WOW… highlight as a performer? There have been a few. Definitely playing the Talkhouse is amazing… one time, before I had a band, Inda Eaton had me sing back up for her. I was thrilled. I sang a Joni Mitchell song, River, at Guild Hall accompanied by Joe Delia, that was exciting. Our gigs at Wölffer delight me, especially when two, three and five-year old’s ‘rush the stage.’ Lee Lawler (Mamma Lee Rose) invited me to sing Angel from Montgomery at Bay Street with her when they played the Sag Harbor Music Festival about five years ago and the Complete Unknowns have had me guest with them, both are honors. Honestly, every gig seems to have high moments.”
Then, she dug deep and said, “One musician… oh I wish I could’ve seen Aretha. Every note is perfection. Lennon, Dylan, I’m a big Elvis Costello fan…. he’d be a helluvalotta fun to sit in with.”
As for playing at the Talkhouse, she relayed, “The history is epic. Just being on the same stage that Sting and Richie Havens and Coldplay and Suzanne Vega have played on gives me chills….And everyone who shows up at the Talkhouse is there because they want to have a blast!” she noted. “They bring that awesome energy to the band and we give it right back to them…and they appreciate originals. The first few times I played at the Talkhouse, it was for benefits because Peter is so generous, and Ralph, a neighbor, accompanied.”
So who’s in the lineup for the Talkhouse gig? The night of the Talkhouse gig, it’s Dave, Lynn, James Benard on drums (amazing) Mike Leclerc on bass and Fred Gilde on keys.
Tickets to Lynn Blue Band at the Talkhouse are $10.
Stephen Talkhouse is located at 161 Main Street in Amagansett. For tickets to the Talkhouse gig, visit stephentalkhouse.com. For more information about the Lynn Blue Band, visit www.lynnbluemusic.com.