Local Culture

Beyond Our Boroughs

Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble

by Josh Kurp   |   Oct 14, 2010

Beyond Our Boroughs

Home of the Midnight Ramble (Photo: benito, via Flickr)

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New York City is an amazing place to live (eight million residents can’t be wrong), but sometimes you’ve just got to leave the five boroughs and explore the rest of New York—even the dreaded “upstate”—and its surrounding areas. “Beyond Our Boroughs” is a series of escapes from NYC that are easy to get to via bus, car or train. Or plane, if you’re rich.

The Event
In past Beyond Our Boroughs, we’ve usually focused on music festivals. Not that Osheaga, Solid Sound, Virgin Mobile FreeFest and All Tomorrow’s Parties weren’t all amazing (they were), but sometimes 20 bands over two days is just too much. Sometimes you just want to a see single artist in a comfortable setting. How’s this for comfortable: seeing a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee—inside his own home studio. For the last few years, Levon Helm, drummer of the Band, has been doing that, inviting both fans to watch and other bands to play with him.

It’s called the Midnight Ramble, and yes, it happens in Helm’s studio, called “The Barn,” attached to his actual home. The environment is like an old fashioned Southern medicine show, but in upstate New York.

The Location
Woodstock, New York, less than two-and-a-half hours away from Brooklyn. It’s a gorgeous part of the state, and it’s at its most beautiful right now, with the leaves changing. I also suggest attempting to find Big Pink, which every music fan should see and know the history of.

The Where-to-Stay
If you don’t feel like heading back to the city after the show, which begins at 8 p.m., there’s a list of lodgings here.

The Tickets
Tickets range from $20-$65.

The Reason(s) You Should Go
Well, Levon. He’s one of rock’s greatest vocalists, and the fact that he’s even singing at all at (he had throat cancer a few years ago) is remarkable. I saw him in a non-Ramble performance not that long ago, and I was amazed how good songs like “The Weight” still sound, even after all that guy’s been through. Helm’s band is also full of ringers, like Larry Campbell, Jim Weider and Jay Collins. The Ramble has attracted a great number of opening acts, too, including Emmylou Harris, My Morning Jacket, Steve Earle, Elvis Perkins, the Bacon Brothers and many, many more.

Going to the Ramble is the most personal live show you’ll ever have with—for my money—the most important member of one of rock’s most important bands. When’s the last time Bob Dylan, Lou Reed or, ahem, Robbie Robertson let you into their home?