Brown Bird benefit sells out legendary club


Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, bluegrass boy Bill Monroe and countless others have all played the legendary Club Passim in Cambridge, Mass. Monday night, Warren took over the joint.

Dozens of Warren residents and music fans from Maine to Connecticut packed in to watch a two-hour set of Brown Bird songs sung by some of the region’s biggest acoustic acts. Brown Bird, a Warren duo made up of Dave Lamb and MorganEve Swain, has been on hiatus since last spring as Dave fights leukemia. Though treatment is going well, the disease has taken a financial toll on the band and partnership; they derive much of their income from touring and merchandise sales. Monday night’s sold-out show was a fund-raiser to help keep the musicians on their feet.

“It was so awesome” to watch a video of the show the following morning, MorganEve said Tuesday. She stayed home with Dave, as his treatment doesn’t allow him to be in public with large groups of people.

“It was so cool to see people playing all these songs.” Details from the show were passed on by her friends as well as both spouse’s parents, who attended.

A long list of musicians helped out Monday. Organized by guitarist/songwriter Ian Fitzgerald, the show included performances by The Low Anthem, Dan Blakeslee, Vudu Sister, Haunt The House, Chadley Kolb, Allysen Callery and others. They all played songs off the Brown Bird discography; luckily, one performer said, “Brown Bird has enough songs to make this fun.”

Other artists helped out in their own way. Water Street artist William Schaff collaborated with colleague Peter Cardoso to make a limited edition concert poster which was sold at the show to raise money for the couple; after the music was over, an anonymous benefactor bought one for each of the performers, generating hundreds for the couple. And Dan Blakeslee, a guitarist and illustrator, told a story of how his life over the past decade or so has been intertwined with Dave’s, Will Schaff and others in Warren and the larger New England folk scene. After he played his song, he stood onstage and took a photo of the audience, sending it to Lamb later.

On Tuesday, MorganEve said she and Dave were blown away by the community spirit shown at Monday night’s show. And she said they are both cautiously looking forward to better times ahead. Treatment is progressing as it should and next week, Dave is getting a small “booster” shot of stem cells from an anonymous organ donor. They don’t know who it is, except that it’s a man, 19 years old, who does not live in the United States.

“This 19-year-old kid is our hero,” she said.

Being off the road has helped with the creative process, and she figures she and Lamb have 20 or so new songs to go — enough for two albums. Many of them, especially those whose lyrics were written by Dave, were colored by his medical condition — “Clearly, that stuff is on our mind,” she said — and they hope to start recording a new album in the spring.

The eventual goal? Sept. 3 is the one-year anniversary of the start of treatment. They hope to celebrate the date with a show.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.