Experience Drums really loves Ben Tufts. He’s a passionate performer, teacher and clinician who is considered to be one of the busiest players in Washington, DC’s music scene.
On Saturday, February 28, at Arlington, Virginia’s Iota Club and Café, Ben and Friends will be putting on “A Tribute to Live at Leeds, a celebration of The Who’s amazing album that has graced the ears of fans for 45 years!
But there’s much more going on at this show. This will not only be a show for fans. It will also be in memory of Ben’s dad, Mr. Craig Tufts. Proceeds of this show will go to a worthy cause: The Craig Tufts Education Scholarship Fund.
Let’s join Ben and Evan Pollack of Experience Drums as they delve into the music and mission of this special event.
Experience Drums: What is it about The Who that resonates with people?
Ben Tufts: I guess if I could bottle it, I’d sell it, right? I think many would agree that The Beatles had the best songwriting team of that era. (Editor’s Note: This era would be the 1960’s up to the mid 1970’s.) The Rolling Stones had authenticity and longevity and Led Zeppelin probably had the highest caliber musicianship across the board. But The Who? Is there another band from that era that could sink their teeth into such heavy riffing and also offer such great pop sensibility? I don’t think so.
Ex D: How about you? How did they affect you personally and musically?
Ben: I grew up listening to my dad’s record collection. He had the albums Who By Numbers and Tommy. Tommy left a particular mark on me. The scope of the thing was really impressive.
Ex D: What about the Live at Leeds album? Why have you chosen this as the album that you want to perform in its entirety?
Ben: I didn’t hear Live at Leeds until the early 2000s. A friend of mine had been bugging me to check it out. So I finally bought this reissue that contained the entire show, not just the songs that were released on the original back in 1970. The first thirty seconds of “Heaven and Hell” absolutely blew my mind. I had no idea that this what the band actually sounded like live! The rhythm section was so ferocious and Townshend’s guitar playing was so unrestrained. That was it. I was hooked! The CD didn’t leave my truck for months and months.
On February 14, forty-five years ago, the original Live at Leeds album was released. Dan Cohn, a friend and guitarist in the area, suggested that it might be worthwhile to do something to honor the anniversary. So here we are!
Ex D: Who’s going to be involved in this event with you?
Ben Tufts: There are a couple dozen local musicians that have hopped on to do the show. It’s amazing. Beanstalk Library will be performing a few numbers. Derek Evry and his Band of Misanthropes are doing a few. And then much of the show will be “Franken-bands,” groups put together from various members of different bands. We’ve already had a bunch of rehearsals, and it’s really cool to see people intermingling, letting loose and just playing their faces off. The most exciting thing about the show for me is that I was able to assemble a dream band for the Tommy portion of the show. The 1970 show included a full performance of The Who’s rock opera Tommy and so we’ll be playing that whole thing as sort of the centerpiece. It’s Matt Berry of Classified Frequency on bass, Erik Bradford of Short Lives on guitar, and Seth Morrissey of westmain on vocals. Practices have really been a blast!
Ex D: Ben, this is more than just a show for you. You’ll not only be sharing your appreciation of this album but you will be tying this to The Craig Tufts Educational Scholarship Fund, the fund that was set up in memory of your dad. Can you tell me a little about your dad, what he did and why this fund was set up?
Ben Tufts: The fund was established by family and friends at the National Wildlife Federation where my dad Craig Tufts worked for over thirty years. He was the Chief Naturalist at the NWF. But a lot of people considered him more than that. He was the guy who lead nature walks during lunch breaks. He used to head up the Christmas bird count every year. He was in charge of the Backyard Habitat Program, which is a certification program for people who want their backyards to attract more wildlife.
When the magazine editors needed to fact check, they called Craig. When somebody had a bird in their yard they couldn’t identify, they called Craig. When they needed to raise money for projects, they sent Craig.
He fought brain cancer for a year, and towards the end of his life he made it clear that he wanted any money donated to go towards a scholarship fund to send kids to study nature. When he passed, there was a huge outpouring of support for the fund. But in the years since, the only money flowing in has been from events that I host. My dad loved music. He loved The Who, as a matter of fact. So this is a really cool way that I can preserve and honor his memory, do something cool for future generations and play some great music with friends. It’s a win-win-win all around.
Ex D: Ben, this show sounds like a bigger story than people might have realized. Thanks for sharing it!
If you’re in the DC area, come see the show!
When: Saturday, February 28
Where: Iota Club and Café (2832 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia, 22201)
Time: 8:30 pm
Tickets are $12.00
For more information about Ben, This Live at Leeds Tribute Show and how you can donate to The Craig Tufts Educational Scholarship Fund, please visit Ben Tufts through these social media outlets.
Rock on Ben and may a joyful noise be heard all around the DC area!