Gene Casey Gets Back on Stage
Synonymous with the East End music scene, Gene Casey and his band, the Lone Sharks, have been commanding stages all over the North and South Forks for decades. Heading what many refer to as the “House Band of the Hamptons,” the Long Island Music Hall of Fame recipient of the Long Island Sound Award has also played with the likes of Bo Didley and can be heard on a number of television and film soundtracks, including “Sons of Anarchy,” “Justified,” “Being Charlie,” “The Killing Season” in addition to the radio program “A Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio.
It just makes sense that now that many of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted on live performances and outdoor gatherings, we should get the music scene scoop directly from one of our most popular entertainers. Haute Spot caught up with Casey just before the Memorial Day holiday to talk about the past year and what’s ahead for the East End.
HRES: How does it feel to be back in action now?
Casey: It feels great. We’ve done three shows in front of a live audience so far. I’m not going to lie, the first one really felt strange after all this time away.
HRES: Have the gigs met your expectations now that things are different than they used to be?
Casey: As a performer, you can’t wait to play again. But what struck me most was how important it was for people to be able to interact with each other and just have some fun. Being on the stage side of things, we tend to think about what we need to do as performers and forget how what it’s like for the people in the audience. It’s not just about going to see a band, it’s about connecting with friends and family, interacting with other people — just being around each other and dancing — it’s essential for our wellbeing as humans.
HRES: Was your approach to performance changed by the time we all spent in the digital world?
Casey: Not having the energy of the audience moving right in front of you does change things. It was a real challenge to put across songs that didn’t need the applause or dancing. It forced me to work hard at something new, and to appreciate the process more.
I went more into a troubadour-type folky mode. I tried to pick songs that stood alone and told a story instead of ones that depended on groups of people and movement.
But, I have to say it was remarkable to see how people would still create connections online. They’d chat and comment, not just with the band but with each other, whenever that option was available. Music is not just about the sound, the radio or the download — at the end of the day, it’s really about that interaction.
HRES: Were there any takeaways, or lessons learned, from this time off?
Casey: This has been a real humbler of an experience. And I really missed my bandmates. We’re all friends, and it was tough to not see each other.
On a positive note, I did manage to write a whole bunch of songs and recorded them from home, so it wasn’t all bad. I was also able to reflect a bit more on what I wanted. This time apart really made me vow to be more selective with what and where we play. As much as I missed working, I also came to the realization that life is short and it’s not worth killing yourself to do stuff you don’t believe in or just to fill a date in a book.
HRES: That sounds like making very good use of the time. What about one of the slight negatives, such as how the pandemic has affected your stage outfits?
Casey: A low blow! Yes, that has been an issue. Did you know that at the end of his life, poor Elvis had one jumpsuit that he could fit into. I’m feeling that right now. I’m calling this my “last jumpsuit tour!”
HRES: Ha! Aside from that, what can your fans expect this summer?
Casey: We will be playing outside a lot and a bit earlier, which makes my wife happy.
Also, I know it’s difficult to keep track of all the changing restrictions but please be mindful of the health and safety of everyone at an event. And don’t be offended if I’m not hugging and kissing and shaking hands like I used to do. We’ve all got to do our part.
Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks have a standing outdoor gig on Thursdays at The Clubhouse in East Hampton throughout the summer and other concerts planned all over the East End. Visit www.genecasey.com for more information and to view the schedule.