By Jia Jung
Once it became clear that this virus was going to last longer than a few days, weeks, or months, one of the first things I wondered was what to do about the tribute.
I knew that the show had to go on, but after the in-person 2019 concert, during which Mary Guibert showed up personally and at least two couples made love connections, I was initially resistant to the idea of a virtual concert. I came around when I realized that one huge consolation of the online format was the ability to have international participation, opening up a literal world of possibilities.
Putting together an online concert was a whole different bag of chips, though, right when I had been starting to get the hang of live events. With a straight face, I set out to do this on Zoom at first. Luckily, Karen Satterthwaite (performer from 2018 and 2019) and her partner Jorge Garcia-Spitz intervened. Jorge volunteered to do the video editing if I could corral pre-recorded submissions. The fantastic flow and quality of the production is completely thanks to his work.
The other advantage of having a virtual concert was the absence of time constraints. I let it rip and constructed an outrageous 31-song setlist, plus a most special introduction by Mary Guibert, and an artist’s statement by Zoë Nathan, painter of the photo-based image that has been the basis for the concert’s publicity materials from day one.
Meanwhile, Noh Bailey of the Foundry in Western Massachusetts hosted a Zoom VIP session with Mary Guibert and a virtual “green room” for participants. This latter gathering was a memorable feature of the concert – heartwarming, hilarious, and surprisingly intimate, as we could see each others’ faces close up and react in real time with new and old friends throughout the event.
Here’s more about the event’s musicians, in order of hyperlinked performance:
Amherst, MA & Brooklyn, NYC, USA
Aaron Shragge & Neel Murgai of Brooklyn Raga Massive
Neel Murgai (Vocals, Percussion, Sitar, Looping): neelmurgai.com
Aaron Shragge (Shakuhachi ,Trumpet, FX): aaronshragge.com
Back when I was planning the inaugural Brooklyn tribute in 2017, I was heavily courting Brooklyn Raga Massive because of the collective’s various musicians and styles, ranging from traditional influences from all over the Indian subcontinent to the works of jazz legends. Aaron Shragge was so good to write me back, and has been returned every single year so far.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Opaline (Vocals, Guitar)
Kyle Thompson (Drums)
Opaline wrote to me saying that she knew that the program was full, but wanted to reach out…just in case. Days left to go before the “drop dead” deadline for performance submissions, I couldn’t let go of this song that rocks hard and packs potent lyrics, and I still wanted to give it a home. I listened to Opaline’s work and felt that her sound was a match for the song, so I went out on a limb and asked whether she thought that she could turn it around in a few days. She did.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ruth McCavery (Grand Piano)
Spotify: Ruth McCavery
YouTube: Ruth McCavery
When I listened to Ruth’s piano album of the entirety of Grace, this was the track that brought instant tears to my eyes. There was a magical, music box quality to it that filled me with nostalgia. I felt confident that this take was original and precious enough to play back-to-back with another performance of the same song.
Cameron Jang (Vocals, Guitar)
Timothy Tanzer (Lead Vocals, Guitar)
Carvel found the concert through Jeff Buckley Music’s call for artists. Strictly enforced COVID-19 lockdown rules in Australia meant that only two of their group could perform. Tim’s vocals and Cameron’s rhythmic mastery on open strings really made the piece, and channeled my favorite of Jeff’s recordings of it live at Sin-é.
Gujarat, INDIA/Dubai, UAE
Nimit Nilesh (aka Dorian Days)
Nimit Nilesh (Electric Guitar)
SoundCloud: Dorian Days
Spotify: Dorian Days
YouTube: Nimit Nilesh Dorian Days
Nimit was the only one from this whole lineup who did not hail from the Western world. Thus, he had to log into the Zoom green room in the wee hours of the night. By the time all of us reluctantly signed off from the afterparty on Zoom, we had watched the sun rise behind him in Dubai. We have carried on our correspondences ever since, and I know his positivity has invited lots of other continuing friendships as well.
Pavullo Nel Frignano, Italy
Michele Magnani (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar)
Przemyslaw Konrad Werbik (Bass)
For some reason, I saw Overthought’s email long after they sent it and scrambled to apologize to them. I was glad that this song – and pretty much only this song – was still available for them to perform at that point. This duo was another one of the acts who put something together at lightning speed at the last minute but put on a seamless performance.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Randy Coleman (Vocals, Guitar): https://randycolemanmusic.com
Spotify: Randy Coleman
YouTube: Randy Coleman
I got access to Randy through his cousin, whom I know through the sport of long distance marathon swimming. A high profile artist, he definitely brought energy and power to a song that is nothing short of an anthem.
Brooklyn, NYC, USA
Marlon Cherry (Bongo)
Susan Hwang (Vocals, Accordion)
Charlie Nieland (Bass, Sound Mastering)[Video: Rick Rodine]
Among many things, Susan Hwang is the co-creator of an incredible series of performances called The Bushwick Book Club, in which musicians read a book and write songs about it. Somehow, she has kept this up every month or more since 2009. It was through her group that I found a whole network of independent musicians and artists. This is the first year she was able to perform in the concert largely inspired by her example. Happily, she brought her Lusterlit partner Charlie Nieland and multi-musician Marlon Cherry (a performer of the 2019 concert) with her.
Long Island, NYC, USA
Mike Horn (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar)
Bandcamp: Gold Key Music
Mike has performed in every single Brooklyn tribute since 2017, both with his group FloodWaves (now going by Static Traveler) and solo. Even when doing a cover of a cover, he always brings an organic earnestness to his performances that leaves listeners with the feels.
Nidaba Theatre, Milano, Italy
Jack Jaselli (Vocals, Guitar)[Mix: Carlo Di Francesco, Video: Giovanni Di Modica, Audio: Max Ricciardi]
This rockin’ pro performance helped support a small music venue in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy. Jack Jaselli was one of the first artists to write to me after seeing Jeff Buckley Music’s post, and I felt the significance of having a musician sing this song from Italia, a country that has prevailed through much.
Adam Buttigieg (Lead Guitar)
James Callanan (Lead Vocals)
Dylan Foti (Drums)
Jacob Pullia (Rhythm Guitar)
These guys are amazing – they didn’t let the lockdown stop them from putting together a full performance that was totally in sync, yet somehow wielded the dynamics of a bona fide live performance.
Chicago, IL, USA
Melody Angel (Vocals, Electric Guitar):
Patreon: Melody Angel
YouTube: Melody Angel
When I found this video by Melody Angel, I could not sleep all night until I had written her a long message begging for her presence at the show. In addition to her chops on the guitar and out-of-this-world vocals, she brought Black representation and Black Lives Matter awareness to the concert. What moved me most was that she pushed through unknowable pain to put her hope and resilience out there, just as she does on a daily basis with her other tributes, original music, and social messages.
Brooklyn & Queens, NYC, USA
Linda EPO w/ Matt Gilmartin & Seth Faulk
Linda EPO (Vocals, Keys)
Seth Faulk (Drums)
Matt Gilmartin (Bass)
I met Linda through traditional Tahitian dance class and quickly learned that she was a chanteuse first and also a master of keys who performs with a Mexican roots ensemble called Nixtaband. Before I got to see her perform live, I saw a video of her singing and, based off that alone, asked her to perform at the 2019 concert. This year, she came back with Matt Gilmartin (whom she met at the 2019 event, thank you!) and his On The Sun bandmate Seth. On The Sun had performed in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 concerts, too. I couldn’t have imagined the sultry results of this combination of the two groups.
Brooklyn, NYC, USA
Ernesto Hex (Vocals, Electric Guitar)
Spotify: Ernesto Hex
Ernesto was first to answer the Jeff Buckley Music call for artists and first to turn in his submission, so I will never forget the excitement and gratification of seeing his video file come in and then opening it up with baited breath to see and hear what he had done. He is a true Brooklyn independent musician and a major fan of Jeff. No telling how it took going online during a pandemic to find him, but at least I found him!
New Paltz, NY, USA
Angela Bove (Vocals, Guitar):
Bandcamp: Angela Bove
Angela was one of the only musicians who asked to play Jewel Box, a very underrated song from Jeff’s catalog. Her performance is one of my personal favorites – the gentle strength of it is mesmerizing, making it impossible to turn away.
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
I met fine artist and portratist Zoë through a friend during Thanksgiving break in 2008. I’ve somehow kept in touch with her more over the years than I have with the friend who introduced us. In 2017, I “commissioned” a painting whose value far exceeded what I was able to give. A California resident, she could not make it to the previous concerts, but indulged us with this video when the event went online.
DoubleTree Hotel, Downtown Boston, MA, USA
Mary Chin (Vocals)
Jia H. Jung (Ukulele)[DoubleTree GM: Tony Franzone, Video: Edward Hsieh, Direction: Ana Le]
Mary Chin is a family friend of mine who worked closely with my late father for the empowerment of immigrants and refugees. She still fights the good fight as CEO of the Asian American Civic Association, a comprehensive social services agency serving immigrants and refugees of Boston and the greater New England area. She also happens to be someone who might have easily been an opera or jazz singer if not for her current vocation. It was an honor, a special bonding experience, and a wild adventure to put this together with her. Special thanks to the post production crew!
Camarillo, CA, USA & Kilkenny, Ireland
James Delahunty (Guitar)
David Long (Percussions)
David Dooley (Vocal)
The Barnets include James, in California, and his two buddies back in Ireland. The trio was already keeping the music alive across the pond, so it’s no surprise that they created a video that cleverly disguised the fact that they were collaborating across a distance. Everything from their floating images to the candles (peach-scented, I was told), to their musicianship was made for a spooky, quirky for everyone watching. I don’t think I was the only one who was especially impressed by James’s apparent ability to play rhythm and melody at the same time on an acoustic guitar.
Coffs Harbour, Australia
Mischa Igor (Vocals, Electric Guitar, Cajon w/ Electronic Reverse Drum Pedal Triggers)[Camera: Amy Tanashevich of Eminay Hair Studio]
Mischa regularly performs Jeff’s songs at Coffs Harbour, Australia, and promised he could do any of Jeff’s songs. So, I waited a while as the program continued to fill out to see where I would need him most. This song was the one for him. Listening to this laid back version still makes me feel like I’m enjoying a cocktail at sunset with a warm Australian sea breeze going through my hair (and I’ve still never been down under).
New York, City, USA
Mike Horn (Vocals, Guitar)
Eric Lense (Vocals, Guitar)
Everyone always wants to play this song. Mike Horn, who, with Eric Lense (my former ASCAP coworker) have been on board with the show since its beginning, wanted it too. Even so, I withheld it from them for two whole years because other people had snapped it up. I knew that they would do a great job, but stil lmanaged to be caught off guard by this sensitive take, and the fact that Eric is not only a formidable drummer, but a guitarist who can hold his own.
Apple Music: Jack Reynolds
Spotify: Jack Reynolds
Elliot Giles (Drums)
Jack Reynolds (Vocals, Guitar)
Angus Robertson (Bass)
Simon Touli (Lead Guitar)
I had been actively trying to place ithis song into the program since the 2018 concert, going so far as to push the song on any musician who I felt could do justice to this song’s serious grunge leanings. No takers. This year, I was hell bent on finding someone to give this song its dues. At last, I discovered this capture of Jupiter band’s live performance of the song in London. I was ecstatic when they agreed to play the song for the tribute. Watching them teleported me back to the 1990s, a time that I wish I could crawl back into forever. All four band members were also hugely supportive of everyone in the Zoom green room and helped orchestrate a countdown to signoff together when morning was approaching and the time had come to say a reluctant goodbye.
Port Chester, NY, USA
Nicky Barbato (Electric Guitar)
Nicky is a method guitar master who sings through his playing and is a pleasure to work with. It was wonderful to have him back after he played “Hallelujah” at the 2018 show.
Brooklyn, NYC, USA
Mrinalini Roy (Vocals, Electric Guitar)[Sound: Alex Nolan]
In 2019, Mishti was a stand-in when someone realized just nights before the show that they couldn’t make it. The artist who was bailing made up for t by introducing me to his friend Mishti, whom he swore was a “real Buckley disciple.” He was right. Mishti whipped together a 4-piece all-woman band in a day, rehearsed one time just hours before the event, and brought the roof down with “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” right in front of Mary Guibert. The same power comes through in this performance even if she was solo and mediated by a screen. Crazy coincidence: I found out through the course of my full-time job as a regulator of clinical trials for Columbia University that Mishti works on the industry side of the same field. I am in awe of her for continuing to create at this level while fulfilling the demands of a whole other career.
Herstmonceux Castle, Hailsham & Eastbourne, UK
Robert May (Vocals, Guitar)[Video: Graham Baldock, Sound: Olli Daffarn]
YouTube: Remanyn Official
As hard as I try to avoid it, every year, I make some misstep that causes me to yank a song I gave to a performer away from them. This year, Rob (who has a tattoo of Jeff Buckley on his arm) fell prey to this. But he took to “Sky Blue Skin,” asking for the weekend to confirm whether he could honestly pivot so late in the game. On Monday, he said he could do it, and one upped himself by filming his performance inside an actual castle. I am grateful for our continuing correspondences about keeping creativity alive no matter how life can get in the way.
Long Island & Manhattan, NYC, USA
Mark Lesseraux (Vocals)
Thom Loubet (Guitar)
Mark and Thom have been right there since year one of this concert. These fellows never disappoint, and this year was no different. That guitar, that crystalline falsetto, that angsty showmanship! I asked them where in the heck they had filmed this. The answer was the stairwell of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Yuri Padashi (Vocals, Electric Guitar)
SoundCloud: Yuri Padashi
Spotify: Yuri Padashi
YouTube: Yuri Padashi
Yuri approached me after Jeff Buckley Music made a call for artists. He said that he had performed all of Grace live in Italy and that he could pretty much cover any song from that album. He had no full recording of that show but pointed to some snippets online. When I checked out his material, I knew right away that Mojo Pin was the song for him.
Lowell, MA, USA
Brad Aiken (Tenor Saxophone)
Mia Farwell (Vocals)
Justin Hahn (Bass)
Peter Lavina (Electric Guitar)
Jake Mall (Drums)
Once the pandemic hit full force, I fled New York City and stayed with my mother for a good long while in Lowell, Massachusetts. On a fine October day, there was a series of outdoor music performances in Jack Kerouac Park. It was the first live music I had heard since before the lockdown. The very last performers to take the stage was this group of students at UMass Lowell. When I heard Mia’s voice and the soulful instrumentation of her bandmates, I knew I had to squeeze just one more song onto the program, if they were game.
Matty Jontiff & Friends
Chris Brandes (Guitar)
Matty Jontiff (Vocals, Guitar)
Quinn McGovern (Drums)
Baptiste Watiez (Bass)[Sound: Mike Dodson, Video: Heloise Houviez, Production: Ethan Toga]
Matty, an apt musician and major Jeff fan, stepped up to be the volunteer videographer for the first concert back in 2017. He wanted to perform the next year but couldn’t make it until the 2019 event, when he traveled all the way from Florida to rock the house with “What Will You Say,” bringing his amazingly supportive parents along, as well as two buddies who filmed the concert. This year found him in Madrid, in the middle of a program of Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He put this powerful group together, and then on concert day, we all had fun joking around about the gravity of their delivery.
Melbourne, Australia & Lexington, MA, USA
Ingrid Elkner (Vocals)
Demetri Sampas (Grand Piano)
This duo has one of the craziest stories of the bunch. Ingrid and Demetri had never met before I slapped them together days before the show. I thought to myself that I was being too ad hoc, expecting two people on opposite sides of the planet to render a song that another group had regretfully had to leave behind when they pulled out of the perfornace. You can see for yourself the eerie and electrifying synergy that ensued between these two phenomenal musicians. I don’t think this song has been done quite this way by anyone before – their tribute is a gem of originality that still manages to convey the spirit of Jeff.
Lowell, MA, USA
Alan Williams/Birdsong at Morning
John Bumstead (Cello)
Jeff Fischer (Percussion)
Andy Fordyce (Percussion)
Eric Giribaldi (Mandolin)
Jacob Hiser (Violin)
Tara Novak (Viola)
Greg Porter (Bass)
Beth Welty (Violin)
Alan Williams (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Sound Mix, Video)[Lighting: Jeremy Moisson, Cameras: Jude Porter & Darleen Wilson, Audio: Grace Reader]
Alan Williams is the Chair of the Music Department as Umass Lowell, but I still didn’t expect an arrangement of such a scale and caliber. Seeing and hearing Jeff’s genius rendered through a whole village of musicians speaks not only to his multidimensionality but to the talent of each performer.
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Curtis J (Vocals, Electric Guitar)
Bandcamp: Curtis J Social
YouTube: Curtis J
Curits J was one of the most gracious, supportive, and humble performers of 2017 and 2018. He had to skip 2019, so it was nice to have him back for 2020 with this special video.
11/17/2017 @ ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn, NYC, USA
BSKi & Friends
Brian “BSKi” Collazo (Vocals)
Abby Ahmad (Guitar, Backing Vocals)
Attis Clopton (Drums)
Mark Marshall (Guitar)
Greg Novick (Bass)
No one has dared to try this song since 2017. I got close to getting a group in Russia to do it, but it was too short notice. So, I included this archival performance to remind us all that the ideal is still to be able to one day commune again in person. But ‘til then, the 2020 event showed that a worldwide online tribute is hardly second choice. I can’t overstate my gratitude for all those who made this concert possible.