Last Waltz: Columbus Musicians Pay Tribute to The Band

Writer: Abigail Rice.

For many, “The Last Waltz” is a snapshot in time.

On Thanksgiving Day 1976, The Band played its final concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was the perfect opportunity for stars to celebrate the music of a band that stood in the shadows of its own creation: modern Americana. Guests included the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

More than four decades later, an eclectic group of Columbus-based musicians is coming together to recreate the spirit of that night. On November 17th, local musician James Wooster will lead an annual tribute concert to the Last Waltz for the fourth time.

 Photo: Abigail Rice.

Photo: Abigail Rice.

“The spirit of the Last Waltz is two-part,” Wooster said. “It’s celebrating the music and legacy of The Band. It’s also recognizing the music that inspired them.”

Wooster, who plays bass for Bloodthirsty Virgins, banjo for Perennial Rye and guitar for Knot Brothers, spoke of the tribute’s humble beginnings. Much like the members of The Band, he and his impromptu group found themselves haunting local bluegrass bars; the idea for a tribute concert was conceived at Dick’s Den.

“The first year I did it on a really small scale,” Wooster said. “We did it at the Rambling House. You can get only about 90 people in there. We did it there and sold out the show. There seemed to be a group of people that responded well to it--to celebrating that piece of work specifically.”

On November 17th, Wooster’s carefully-curated group will make its first appearance at the Newport Music Hall to recreate classics like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “The Weight.”

“Playing at the Newport this year, it’s a real dream come true,” Wooster said.

While the first few shows came with challenges, finding passionate musicians hasn’t been a problem. Along with Wooster, the core group features drummer David Freeman, bassist Benny Coleman, keyboardists Michael Brokamp and Ryan Paradise, and guitarist Wib Schneider. They will be joined by Doc Robinson, Willie Phoenix, Matt Monta and many more.

“You definitely need to find people you think can emulate that performance or else bring their own originality to it,” Wooster said. “When I introduce [the group] on stage, I’m not introducing them by their character name. I’m not saying ‘here’s Neil Young.’ Hopefully it helps widen people’s appreciation and knowledge of the Columbus music scene.”

Tickets to the all-ages show are $15. Doors open at 7:30pm.

Get more info HERE.