Women rocked for Martha’s Vineyard Breast Cancer Support Group

Vineyard girl Lexie Roth also performed Saturday night. — Photo by Meg Higgins

Quantity and quality defined a large-scale event at Dreamland last Saturday night, Oct. 13. An impressive lineup of musical talent — all female — graced the nightclub’s stage for a benefit for the Martha’s Vineyard Breast Cancer Support Group. The first-time Breast Fest was named in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The list of performers included both local talent and a group of solo singer/songwriters from the New York City area. Capping off the evening was a guest appearance by the Grammy Hall of Fame artist Carly Simon. The folk-rock legend, who has made the Vineyard her home for decades, provided the closing song for the singer/songwriter portion of the evening.

Although the show promoters downplayed Ms. Simon’s participation at the star’s request, word spread quickly that she was appearing and a crowd lined up even before the doors opened at 7 pm. Dreamland met its capacity of 500 at around 10 pm and a number of late arrivals were turned away at the door.

Those who did get in were treated to a sensational show — an estrogen-fueled evening of folk, blues, electronic music, country, and rock and roll.

The event was divided into two sections. The show started off with individual singer/songwriter performances, then segued into a dance party featuring rock bands.

The room was set up auditorium style with rows of white folding chairs and a few lounge tables in the rear. By about an hour into the show those standing around the club’s perimeter were three or four deep.

The concert came together when two planned events morphed into one music extravaganza. Since this past summer, Larry Laverdure had been playing with the idea of a show featuring all local women. When he eventually approached Dreamland about hosting the event, it turned out that entertainment director Phil DaRosa had already booked a group of women songwriters from New York into the space. The two decided to combine the events and Rob Myers gave the evening its moniker and its cause.

The evening’s entertainment kicked off with three local singer/songwriters taking center stage, guitars in hand. Lexie Roth, Jemima James, and Marciana Jones took turns delivering original tunes. Ms. Roth led off with a country-tinged tune and, from the first sweet strains of her lovely voice, the ladies of the Vineyard held court admirably.

Ms. James was joined at times on guitar by Dan Waters, and Geordie Gude added harmonica licks to some of Ms. Jones’s numbers. The women sang three songs each. Ms. Roth’s crowd-pleasing version of Buck Owens’ “Crying Time” inspired her two fellow singers to join in. Each of these popular Island artists has a distinctive style and voice and the opening set was a great showcase of some of the Island’s wealth of musical talent.

Next up, two more local ladies strutted their stuff. Treather Gassmann, wearing an evening gown, wig, and opera length gloves, delivered dramatic renderings of two German opera arias accompanied by Adam Lipsky on keyboard. Shelagh Hackett sang a trio of Steely Dan tunes with Boaz Kirschenbaum on guitar.

Then the off-Island women had their time in the spotlight. Five singer/songwriters, who are all part of a New York based music management organization called the Outlet Collective, took the stage individually for three or four songs each. The young women: Mieka Pauley, Maddy Wyatt, Jeannine Hebb, Lisa Jaeggi, and Sami the Great each displayed strong vocals and unique talent.

Ms. Hebb and Sami the Great played keyboards, the others accompanied themselves on guitar. Ms. Pauley, the grittiest of the group, started off her set singing, unaccompanied, a hard hitting original tune. Her deep, throaty voice wowed the crowd. She finished up with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Speaking to the audience, Ms. Pauley enthused about sharing the stage with Ms. Simon and talked about how she and the other visiting musicians had the chance to hang out with the star the night before.

Then it was time for the much-anticipated appearance of the legend herself. Despite a resounding ovation, Ms. Simon took the stage with her usual laid back attitude and chatted conversationally with the audience a little before singing a tune co-written by herself and her son, Ben Taylor. Behind her onstage, singing backup, were all of the evening’s performers plus a couple of other local women. Mr. DaRosa, Mr. Myers, and music producer Jim Parr played guitar, as did Ms. Simon herself.

The Grammy and Oscar winning artist noted that she was very pleased to be a part of the fundraising event. “When we we all decide to put our heads together on this Island, we can really manage to do something,” she said. As an example, she talked about a 1973 gathering that she participated in to block a McDonalds from coming to the Island, although she admitted, “There were about five of us demonstrating at Five Corners.”

After the one communal performance, Ms. Simon flashed her famous smile and left the stage the way she had entered it, modestly and graciously. Though the local celebrity made it very clear ahead of time that she did not want to be the focal point of the evening, by lending her star power to the event she helped raise much-needed funds for the Martha’s Vineyard Breast Cancer Support Group and also gave some emerging female artists the chance to display their talent before a sizable crowd. Although, for fans of Ms. Simon’s, the wait was long and the appearance brief.

About half the audience departed after the four-hour marathon but the lively crowd that stuck around were rewarded with a high energy dance party. The folding chairs were cleared away to create a dance floor and three bands — all featuring female vocalists — rocked the club for the final hour and a half. Emily Hunsaker, Andrea Dello Russo, and Sabrina Luening fronted a band each and delivered rock, blues, and funk covers, and a few originals.

The M.V. Breast Cancer Support Group meets every third Wednesday of the month at 6 pm at Isabelle’s Beach House, located at 83 Seaview Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

The song that Ms. Simon performed featured the lyrics, “I can’t thank you enough.” For stepping up to help out a worthy local cause and making every effort to not overshadow her fellow performers, the community must extend a big thank you to Ms. Simon.