February 28, 2013

Big Spike appears at local coffeehouse


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Big Spike comes off its winter hiatus Friday at the Palmer Street Coffeehouse in Plattsburgh.

Neil Rossi (mandolin, fiddle), Matt Schrag (guitar), Mike Santosusso (bass), Bill Gaston (banjo) and Freeman Corey (fiddle) comprise the Vermont-based bluegrass band.

“Bluegrass is typically an outdoor type of music,” Rossi said. “In winter in Vermont, it’s hard to do. We spend our winters working on new material, preparing for our new CD and things of that sort. Palmer Street is typically the beginning of our new playing season. We always look forward to it. It’s a great room with great people.”

There is no dearth of songwriters in the band, so they have enough material for their next release. They just need to get in a studio and record.

“We know what we’re going to do, but they (audience) will be able to hear what’s going on there if they show up Friday,” Rossi said. 

“Our past CDs, 90 percent of what we do is original material. We tend to have one or two covers. We are fortunate as a band to have a number of songwriters. Almost all of us write, but me, in particular, Bill and our new guitar player, Matt (do most of the writing). He (Matt) has turned out to be quite the prolific songwriter. Folks will hear something from each of us Friday.”

Rossi’s favorite offering is “Broken Heart Honky Tonk Barroom Blues.”

“It’s about a guy whose girl dumps him. In the spirit of great, old country music, he drowns his sorrows in a barroom, complaining to everybody around him. That one is about three years old. We’ve been playing with it, and I have been fine-tuning it. It’s at the point where we really like (the) way it sounds. We will play it for the first time in public Friday,” he said.

A retired computer programmer/web designer, Rossi and his wife relocated from enough-was-enough New York City to real Vermont 25 years ago.

“Bluegrass is a relatively small musical scene,” he said. “People who play bluegrass tend to know other people who play bluegrass. We started gravitating to each other. When we sang together, we had a nice blend of vocals. When we played together, we had nice instrumentation. This band kind of fell together.”

With the exception of Schrag, the others have played together for more than 15 years.

Schrag replaced renowned Vermont luthier Pete Langdell.

“We had to look around,” Rossi said. “You know the different people around and available at the time. There were a couple of people, and Matt was on the top of the list. He was happy to join, and we’ve been happy with how that worked out. He’s a good guitar player and a good singer.”

Weddings and private parties keep Big Spike busy 50 percent of the time.

“We enjoy doing those,” Rossi said. “People get really into them. We are not a wedding band. People get up, dance and boogie and have a wonderful time.”

More of the same is on tap for Palmer Street.

“The audience is just so responsive, and the room is so good we almost don’t need a sound system,” Rossi said. “It’s so much fun for us to play there. We’re so close to the audience, they’re almost part of the act.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO WHO: Big Spike WHEN: Doors open at 7 p.m. Concert at 7:30 p.m. WHERE: Palmer Street Coffeehouse, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4 Palmer St., Plattsburgh. ADMISSION: $10 per person.