For the Love of Music: Scenes


| Mar.-Apr. 2008


Midnight Ramble

The dirt road is steep, and it leads to a post-and-beam house. This venue in Woodstock, New York, is actually the rustic home studio of Levon Helm, former singer and drummer for the Band, whose vocals on “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” are bedrock rock history. Befitting a house party, the Midnight Ramble is BYOB. And don’t forget a dish for the potluck buffet.

The Rambles began a few years ago so Helm could perform in the wake of a bout with throat cancer. He recovered, his voice returned, and the irregular sessions became regular. At $150 a head, they’re not cheap. But you generally get four-plus hours of music by accomplished locals and passers-through (guests have included Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello) in an intimate room, capped with an always-joyous set by Levon and whoever’s sitting in. Add a plate of homemade chicken wings and cookies: priceless. 160 Plochmann Lane , Woodstock, New York ; www.levonhelm.com. —Will Hermes

Will Hermes is a regular contributor to the New York Times and National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

The Smell

Downtown L.A.’s own citadel of skronk, the Smell lurks beneath faded purple neon down a dubious alleyway anchored by a cluster of gay Latino nightclubs and the mechanized chic of the Edison Bar. A roomy brick barn dotted with bookshelves, wing chairs, and scavenged movie-palace seats, this all-ages venue is a Phil Dickian electric dream of a 21st-century punk rock hangout, except that the music is punk only by DIY courtesy.