Local Bands Come Together to Rock the Roof at Knapp House
By Jamie Jensen
On the first Friday in December, this writer and her husband received a text from a neighbor and old friend, Laurie Batal: Would we come cheer her on in her new role as a drummer in two local bands, Night Owl and Pillow Fight? They would be playing at the Knapp House on Sunday night and proceeds would go to much-needed roof repair. As the leader of another local Rye-based band, the Urban Coyotes, my husband Paul Jensen was happy to do so. Encouraging seasoned and budding musicians is something he has been doing every summer since 2005 on a small island off the coast of Maine (Star Island), where he hosts a week-long open mic night.
Apparently, encouraging adult musicians is something Rock Island Sound on Milton Road does exceptionally well. We arrived to see another Paul, Paul Bessolo, the proprietor, quietly observing from the corner. Five guitarists, a drummer, and two vocalists were playing cover songs with their teacher, Mario Andreola. They had met as part of Rock Island’s Jam Club. The instructor arranges songs according to the instruments in the class and they gather weekly to jam.
From outside the Knapp House, one might have wondered what was going on. Walking down Rye Beach Avenue toward Milton Road on that cold Sunday evening, observers saw blinking pink and white lights emerging from the County’s oldest house, built in 1663 and purchased by the Rye Historical Society in 1992. For a $10 entry fee, about 70 friends and family turned out for a whole lot of laughter, singing, and dancing on the first floor. Kassandra Souply came with a couple of friends saying, “It was great because it was unexpected, spontaneous, and fun. We showed up for an hour on a Sunday night, danced, sang, supported our friends, Laurie Batal and Mark and MaryEllen Doran, and were home by 9:30.
So how did this unlikely pairing between the Rye Historical Society and Rock Island Sound happen? Tori Meier, a Historical Society board member, was sitting in a meeting discussing the roof repair needs of the Knapp House and had an idea. The Jam Club wanted a venue to play and they knew they were not ready for primetime. Why not debut in the Knapp House and raise some money for this community treasure while they were at it?
Not only was this a debut for the class, it was also the Doran’s wedding anniversary. Mary Ellen, the Night Owl’s lead vocalist and front woman, is well-known among friends in town for her talent. Mark had always wanted to play live with his wife and so he put in the time at the Jam Club to learn his part and celebrate their anniversary jamming together.
Tori Meier and Laurie Batal met at the Jam Club, and when Tori decided to start her own all-female band with friends Carrie Budke and Amy Lacombe, she turned to Laurie to play drums. Tori confided that her desire to start a girl band was so that they could play together in a way that fit who they were — women with busy lives and busy families. She wanted to avoid “band drama” and have fun while supporting other women musicians. For Laurie, the chance to play with a group of women has been both supportive and wonderful. “We all show up at Tori’s, play really hard, and then all spontaneously combust. We have to rush out and drive someone to Hebrew lessons or pick up from a guitar lesson. We rush out to make dinner and then we come back again and keep playing.”
The Rock the Roof event raised about $700 for the Knapp House. Cheers to Night Owl musicians Brad Angevine, Laurie Batal, Jack Burtis, Mark Doran, MaryEllen Doran, Tori Meier, Steven Reisman, and leader/arranger Mario Andreola; and Pillow fight, the All-Female rock group: Laurie Batal, Carrie Budke, Amy Lacombe, and Tori Meier.