The Weight Band featuring members of The Band and The Levon Helm Band
The Band was one of the most important roots rock groups of the 1960s. The influential group, which included Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson, began in Canada and then migrated to the U.S. It was the subject of a Martin Scorsese documentary, The Last Waltz. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked The Band number 50 on the list of 100 greatest artists and the song “The Weight” was ranked 41st on the magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs. It is a storied history.
Levon Helm died in 2012, after a lengthy battle with throat cancer that kept him from performing for many years. In 2013, Jim Weider and Randy Ciarlante, both former members of The Band, performed “Songs of the Band” with founder Garth Hudson, Jimmy Vivino and Byron Isaacs in the Woodstock barn Levon Helm loved.
The experience inspired Weider, Ciarlante and Isaacs to carry on The Band’s legacy and they began performing fan favorites. They invited Brian Mitchell and later added Albert Rogers, Michael Bram and Matt Zeiner to join them. “We started doing some songs and people got excited,” Weider said. “We put the Weight Band together and people were so happy to hear the songs again. Then we wanted to do an original album.”
In 2018, they released an album of original material, World Gone Mad, that captured The Band’s musical tradition but was put together for today’s vibrant Americana base. The album is an Americana/Roots Rock tribute to the music and the Woodstock sound. Goldmine Magazine called it “one of the year’s best indie albums.”
The group’s 2022 album, Shines Like Gold, draws on roadhouse rock, funky swamp pop, blues, country soul, and folk music. It was recorded live at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, New York over four days during the height of the pandemic. Weider describes the music as the “Woodstock Sound” and The Weight Band has become its torchbearer. Members of The Weight Band include Jim Weider on guitar, mandolin and vocals. He is a former member of The Band, and from 1985-2000, was the as lead guitarist and songwriter. He toured with Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko for five years and is also a member of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band and his own group, ProJECT Percolator.
Michael Bram, on drums and vocals, most recently toured with Jason Mraz. His connection to The Band comes by way of the extended community who played at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, where he was the drummer for many years in the Chris O’Leary Band, an offshoot of Levon’s band The Barnburners.
Brian Mitchell, on keyboard and vocals, is a member of the Midnight Ramble Band and has recorded with Bob Dylan, Al Green and B.B. King.
Matt Zeiner, on keyboard and vocals, began his career with Hartford’s Street Temperature Band and then hit the road with Matt “Guitar” Murphy of Blues Brothers fame. He toured extensively with Dickie Betts, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band and over the years, he has performed with, produced, or written for Jeff Pevar, Melvin Sparks, Zach Deputy, Ryan Montbleau and others.
Albert Rogers plays bass and shares vocal duties as a member of The Weight Band. He’s shared the stage with Levon Helm and Garth Hudson in the Jim Weider Band and has performed with Sid McGinnis, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Vivino and Albert Lee.
Choosing the name of the band was an homage to the legendary song. “’The Weight’ will be a song in spaceships on the moon,” he said. “It’s a classic song that defined American culture at the time and still does. The Band was the beginning of Americana. They were the first Americana band and they cross-pollinated all the music and put it in a big pot.”
Replicating the music of The Band would be a tall order, but interpreting it is an art. The songs The Band created have pleased audiences for decades, and The Weight Band has found a way to honor the legacy while creating its own sound with original works that complement that legacy.
Take a load off and come hear the music that defined an era.