“You never know what to expect when they came on stage. However you know that it was going to be great.” This is what Jeff Opt said to me while the two of us sat around inside the Yellow Cab building. What he was referring to in his statement about of the iconic groups of the 60s, The Band. Jeff Opt is truly special. He is one of the main coordinators of the yearly event Dayton Sideshow, an annual two day event that highlights the unique art that is being done in town. Each year, the Sideshow will have a theme to the exhibition that will include a variety of work, which includes video, sculptures, paintings, photography, and live music from local bands. What the Sideshow aims to do is to help individuals obtain a platform to show off their creations, and also to celebrate the local art scene. If you haven’t been to one of the previous shows, do yourself a favor and check it out this year during the spring Urban Nights event, which will be taking place in May. While sitting at the Yellow Cab building, Opt talked about the joys of helping others achieve their dreams. “It’s a passion of mine. I love being able to help others.”
For a couple of years, Opt had been dreaming of doing a show that recreated The Last Waltz, the final concert that The Band would perform as a group on November 25, 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco (the same venue the group made its debut in 1969). The Band comprised of Rick Danko (vocals, trombone, bass, fiddle), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboard, trumpet, saxophone), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, saxophone) and Robbie Robertson (guitar vocals). The Band was a hybrid of many musical influences, with the Americana folk sound blending in with the psychedelic traits that bands from Cream to Led Zeppelin were built on. The statement mentioned earlier by Opt was true. The Band wasn’t the most polished group to come to the stage, but you always were in awe of the way they played music. It was beautiful how they would bring all these different components into their music.
Sadly, with Robertson wanting to have the group become strictly a studio-only band due to the exhaustion of always being on the road, along with Manuel suffering a severe neck injury after a boating accident, the group decided their to disband and have a farewell concert that will have some of the artists and bands that influenced them along the way, with a large horn section backing them. During the concert, artists from Eric Clapton, to Neil Young, to Bob Dylan performed as well. The show was filmed by director Martin Scorsese. In 1978, Scorsese released the documentary of the same name as the show, The Last Waltz. The movie featured concert performances, and interviews with the band. The Last Waltz is hailed as one of the greatest concert films ever made in many circles you talk to. On February 24th, Opt’s vision of bringing the show to town will become reality. “It is one of my favorite movies. I just think that it’s cool watching this great band play one last time. I thought it would be cool to recreate that movie.”
Such A Night: A Celebration of The Band’s Last Waltz will be taking place at the legendary jazz club Gilly’s Niteclub, located on 132 S. Jefferson Street, in Dayton, Ohio. Close to thirty local musicians along with an eight piece horn section will bring the awe-inspiring film to life. “All these musicians are excited about being part of this project”, explained Opt. “Most of these guys have never played together. So, to see this coming together is really cool.” Opt has been working on this project since last October/November, calling up people that he knew would be great for the show. Each member will tell you one thing when it comes to the show, including Opt, “This show is going to blow some minds.”
The evening will not only be producing excellent live music, but it’s also going to be helping a cause that is going to help a great deal of people. All the proceeds from people walking in will go to one of the Miami Valley’s great nonprofit organizations, The Foodbank. Since 1976, The Foodbank has been helping a network of food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, and backpack programs among others. Being the largest hunger relief agency in the Dayton area, a single dollar will be able to provide eight meals to the hungry. Nearly 5,000,000 meals a year are provided to children, adults, and the elderly. It’s just another gesture of gratitude that Opt gives of himself. “I am firm believer in helping others. I want to be a good role model for my kids.”
The buzz of Such A Night: A Celebration of The Band’s Last Waltz has been astonishing. The show was kept under wraps until the past couple of weeks. It’s now gotten to the point where a small amount of advanced tickets are able to be purchased. “I didn’t want to have a lot of people not be able to get to see the show. So by doing just a limited number of advanced tickets, it just gives people a chance to come and watch, and not be turned down”, Opt said. Opt believes strongly that the show will be something that people will be talking about for days after. He hopes that maybe if all goes well, maybe we will do something like this again next year and beyond. “I was asked about doing The Who’s Tommy. I think that would be cool, but let’s get Such A Night out of the way first (laughs)”, Opt mentioned. Something tells me that Such A Night is truly just the beginning.
Such A Night: A Celebration of The Band’s Last Waltz once again is on February 24th. Show time is 7:30pm, and admission is $5. Donations will be accepted at the door.
Video from the original “The Waltz”