Our gal on the ground in L.A. does indeed believe in magic, and she’s got the images from this star-studded benefit for the Autism Think Tank to prove it. Initial details we posted HERE, so check out her photos and observations. Exclusive photos (pictured above: original Spoonful members John Sebastian and Steve Boone) and videos follow the text.
Text & photos By Susan Moll
In conjunction with the Autism Think Tank and the Autism Healthcare Collaborative, the Los Angeles-based Wild Honey Foundation stages yearly tribute concerts at the historic Alex Theatre to raise funding for autism research, education and treatment. Last year’s Wild Honey benefit paid homage to The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society, and The Band and Buffalo Springfield have also been celebrated in the past. (Follow the above links to our coverage.)
This year’s occasion was dedicated to the Lovin’ Spoonful, beloved sunshine boys of the ‘60s. Their folk-pop sound, admired by Lennon, McCartney and the brothers Davies, was a study in contrast to the pandemonium of the mid- to-late 1960s. As the Spoonful daydreamed, Watts rioted; as they believed in magic, Vietnam War protestors self-immolated. With songs redolent of sunshine and flowers, rain on roofs and summers in the city, the Spoonful served feel-good music to a country and a world desperate for something, anything, to feel good about.
It’s rare that a band shows up to play at its own tribute, and this year’s Wild Honey gathering marked the first time that original members John Sebastian, Steve Boone and Joe Butler appeared onstage together since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two decades ago.
They maintain it wasn’t an official reunion – an impossibility without Zal Yanovsky, who passed away in 2002 — but a casual regrouping of the Nashville cats. A slideshow of rare images of the band snapped by renowned photographer Henry Diltz preceded the happenings, which lasted for nearly four hours. No one in the Spoonful or the vocalists and instrumentalists of the Wild Honey Orchestra, the collective that backed each of the guest performers, lacked in stamina at any point of the 36-song lollapalooza of a setlist. Sebastian, Boone and Butler radiated palpable delight in their togetherness.
Sebastian happily regaled the audience with vignettes from throughout the Spoonful’s career, each one more entertaining than the last. In the ‘70s, he lamented that his musical style was no longer in vogue until the Sweathogs barged in. Enter “Welcome Back,” one of many enthusiastic sing-alongs … Sebastian detailed the origins of “Summer in the City,” penned by his brother, Mark, who stood in for Yanofsky … Dave Alvin, who paired with Sebastian for “Night Owl Blues,” first encountered the Spoonful at age nine, when they appeared at the Rose Bowl in nearby Pasadena with Herman’s Hermits. Not only was it the first concert of his life, it was the first time he ever saw anyone play an electric harmonica … Cindy Lee Berryhill gave out “Money” with banjoists Rob Bonfiglio, Jordan Katz and Jason Berk and percussionist Jim Laspesa (Love and Mercy) clacking away on a vintage typewriter… Bonfiglio and better half Carnie Wilson dueted “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,” the stuff of young boys’ fantasies. So many girls, so little time… Micky Dolenz turned in a sweet rendition of “Daydream” and Claudia Lennear of 20 Feet from Stardom fame lent the evening a soulful touch with “You Baby,” a Ronettes 7-inch as well as a Spoonful hit … Carla Olson, whose next album, Have Harmony Will Travel 2, comes out March 20, was full of fire on “Stories We Could Tell” and “4 Eyes,” performed with Sebastian and Peter Case, respectively. … Case, meanwhile, broke open “Blues in the Bottle” and Steve Stanley stepped away from his duties at the head of the Now Sounds reissue label to contemplate a “Younger Girl” … Marshall Crenshaw channeled hums of the Spoonful with “Rain on the Roof” backed by pedal steel player Dave Pearlman, who’s accompanied the likes of Dan Fogelberg, Bobby Womack and Phil Everly on tour … Leave it to Mark Eitzel to find a happy band’s saddest song — “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It”– which he sang with passion and compassion to spare … Durham-based singer/songwriter Skylar Gudasz , who has accompanied Big Star on its Third traveling concert series , sang “You’re a Big Boy Now.” (Her next album, Cinema, arrives April 17.)
The evening concluded with the entire ensemble gathered onstage for the finale, “Do You Believe in Magic?” It’s guaranteed that everyone did.
Summer (n The City: Sebastian & Wild Honey Orchestra
Daydream: Mickey Dolenz
4 Eyes: Peter Case & Carla Olson
Susan Cowsill: You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice
Group Encore: Do You Believe In Magic?