My ears are still ringing from last night’s “Bacon Brothers, A Night with the Mummers” concert at the Electric Factory…the music yes, but also the cranked up IFB needed as I emceed the concert in house and on tv…but mostly what I hear in my mind today is the spirit of unity, the community pride, the professionalism of Kevin and Michael Bacon and their band and the awesome quality of the “amateur” Mummer musicians who joined them on stage.
What an evening! A couple of thousand people jammed the Electric Factory on a raw, snowy night to rock with the Bacon Brothers Band, to raise awareness about the Mummers and to raise money to continue the tradition of America’s oldest and largest folk parade. Polish American String Band set the tone at the start and the Bacon Brothers Band then ignited the crowd. A fabulous set that included “Tell Me What I Have To Do,” “Wild Life,” “Bunch of Words,” covers of The Beatles, “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” and The Stone’s, “Last Time,” new material, “Whole Lotta Shade,” and much, much more, including an in-voice and vibrant Bunny Sigler letting the good times roll. And, it all happened in a performance captured live on myphl17 in Philadelphia.
The concert came about because Kevin had written the song, “New Year’s Day” about a young Philadelphia native trapped in L.A., longing for home and the significance of the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day. Michael then heard about the Mummers financial worries with the financially-strapped City of Philadelphia cutting back support and came up with the idea of a new version of the song with Mummers on the track, making a video and putting on a live fundraising concert. Kevin told me that he never imagined when he wrote the song that it would become an anthem for thousands of Mummers. The Bacons went into a studio with Bunny Sigler for the new version and video with an all-star collection of more than 2 dozen Mummers. Kevin says it’s “really cool” that real Mummers are on the song. Michael deserves credit for mixing some 140 tracks to make the Mummed-up version of “New Year’s Day.” He also trusted the legendary former Fralinger String Band Music Director Herb Smith to develop the arrangement and Smith struck just the right chord. There’s a power and an honesty in that arrangement, much like the Bacons music generally, and in the concert last night, each an avenue for telling a story that deserves to be told.
The concert raised money for the tradition, but also served as an opportunity to showcase to the city what is often not known. That includes the tax revenue the Mummers bring in, their countless charitable works, the cohesiveness of neighborhoods by their presence and the goodwill ambassadors they are from Ireland to Italy and Massachusetts to Texas. The Bacon Brothers left the crowd wanting more. That might happen in an even bigger way than any encore. After the concert, Michael told me, “See you next year!” A new chapter in the storied multi-century Mummers tradition just may have begun. But no matter what will be done, last night was as golden as the “golden slippers” Michael Bacon proudly wore throughout the 2 hour show.