Clubland: The Drunk Stuntmen reunite for acoustic, family-friendly concert at Luthiers Co-Op in Easthampton
PHOTO BY Yordanka G. Ivanova The Drunk Stuntmen
“I’m going to wear my Christmas hat,” promises singer/guitarist Steve Sanderson, which means it’s official: The Drunk Stuntmen are bringing their “E-Ho Ho Ho Holiday Special” to the homey Luthiers Co-Op in Easthampton on Saturday at 8 p.m.
The long-running band doesn’t get to play too often these days, as its current members — keyboardist Scott Hall, bassist J. Scott Brandon, drummer Dave Durst, vocalist Kay McKinstry and Sanderson — are spread all over the state (and some have become parents, too). It’s a rare opportunity to see the group play an acoustic show of their originals as well as some holiday favorites.
“I was going to cover the whole John Denver Muppets Christmas album; I’ve been wanting to do that since I was 8,” Sanderson said, but he soon realized that other life activities — like raising a 2-year-old while renovating a house — meant he had to downsize his epic dream. The Stuntmen will still cover a handful of tunes from that family classic.
“ ‘When the River Meets the Sea’ by Paul Williams is a damn good song,” Sanderson said. “And I really like the story of ‘Alfie the Christmas Tree’ (by John Denver) and ‘The Christmas Wish’ (by Danny Wheetman). I’m corny but it’s fun to share my love for this body of work with people who might not be familiar with it, especially little ones.”
Or his bandmates, since Stuntmen bassist Brandon had never heard the 1979 album until he started rehearsing for the upcoming show.
“I think the two acts are a nice marriage, as Denver was a very Muppetty man,” Brandon quipped. “Of course, any child of the ’70s has a soft spot for Kermit and the gang, and anyone with a heart has to at least like SOME John Denver.”
Sanderson hopes families will come out to celebrate with the band. Luthiers Co-Op is for all ages, and its small-ish capacity, folksy atmosphere and walls lined with beautiful stringed instruments made from wood of every color and texture makes for a warm and inviting place to see a show, especially in winter.
Although you might need earmuffs and a scarf to get to the venue on a cold December night, you won’t need earplugs once you’re inside.
“There won’t be an electric guitar on stage,” Sanderson said emphatically, even promising that while drummer Durst will sit in on some songs, he’ll probably use brushes, not sticks, keeping everything intimate.
The Stuntmen are big fans of the cozy room, part instrument store and part neighborhood bar; they played there earlier this summer (and Sanderson books a concert series at the venue).
“Having been set up by musicians, and located in a music store, the Co-Op has everything a musician needs or wants when they walk into a club,” Brandon said. “Forgot your tuner? No problem. Break a string? Here, try this vintage axe we’ve got hanging on the wall. The sound is great and people go there to really listen to music.”
Sanderson is equally enamored of the vibe — in fact, inspired by the area’s new-ish listening-oriented venues, like the Co-Op and Northampton’s Parlor Room at Signature Sounds, he’s planning to make a stripped-down acoustic solo album next year.
His fellow Stuntmen have put down roots in not-too-nearby cities (keyboardist Hall is out east in Sturbridge and Brandon is even further east in Taunton), but the close-knit band is still alive and kicking ... and next year is the group’s 20th anniversary, Brandon pointed out.
“With everything the ol’ Stunts have been through, we most definitely are a family, and that extends to all the fans who have stuck with us for so long,” he said. “When you have a group of people with collective goals, you really have to trust each other. Your future is in the hands of those guys riding in the van with you. We’ve accomplished so much together and have had just as many disappointments. You pick each other up in the bad times and elevate each other in the good times, just like any family.”
“We may not be geographically together at the moment,” he added, “but get us in the same room with a bunch of amplifiers and we’re right back where we were.”
Joanie Schwartz will start off the night at 7 p.m. and Ben Demerath finishes up the triple-bill at 10 p.m.