Habitat for Harmony
Photos of Melissa Auf Der Maur by George Folk; Tommy Stinsom by Steven Cohen for Spinner; Meshell Ndegeocello, courtesy of www.meshell.com; Rapustina by James Jackson
When three internationally acclaimed, world-traveled rock star bassists and a cellist picked the same ten-by-five block town — Hudson, NY— as the place to finally put down roots and join a community, you know something’s afoot. When civic love inspires them to join forces to make life better for the least fortunate in their neighborhood, attention must be paid.
Thus it is with Home Bass: 4 Strings, 4 Hearts for Habitat, a concert/cabaret event on January 27, 2013, at Helsinki Hudson. Hosted by comely rock goddess Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole/Smashing Pumpkins), with multi-Grammy nominee Meshell Ndegeocello, “personification of rock n’ roll” Tommy Stinson (The Replacements/Guns ‘N’ Roses), and beguiling cello maven Melora Creager (Rasputina), Home Bass will honor and benefit Habitat for Humanity’s Columbia County chapter and its innovative Columbia Passive Townhouses, which offer affordable, sensible housing for low-income families. (Passive Townhouses reduce their owners’ energy consumption and costs by 90%.)
“Hudson is the first place I feel at home,” says Auf der Maur, a Montreal native. Prior to moving to Hudson in 2008, she’d never spent more than one year as an adult in a single place. Now she plans to raise her fourteen-month-old daughter in Hudson. “Hudson made me fall in love with this country and all its possibilities,” she says.
Locals already know flame-haired Auf der Maur, also a noted photographer, as creative director for the multi-purpose venue Basilica Hudson (left), recent hot spot for concerts, film screenings, art installations, and the Ramp Fest. The former 19th century glue factory, which Auf der Maur and her filmmaker husband Tony Stone took over in 2011, ushered a new chapter into her life: “The Basilica is an opportunity for me to offer the community something, and also grow as an artist and a mother.” The success of the Basilica’s mission as a locus for inclusive, public good caught the attention of Columbia Habitat. They invited Auf der Maur to join the board. Although she’d supported environmental and social causes in Quebec, the confluence of nesting, motherhood, and board membership fired her up, revealing her roots as the daughter of the late Nick Auf der Maur, outspoken Canadian writer and politician.
“In the civilized world you wouldn’t think housing was such a crisis,” she says. “Even though Hudson’s economy has boomed in the last ten years, some people are trapped in the cycle of federally subsidized housing, which is corrupt. They’re not benefitting from the development. I felt it was my duty to find out who these families were, and see how I could help. Being a mother, you want to pave a way of progress for your child. Habitat for Humanity is helping these families get ahead.”
Home Bass is the brainchild of Helsinki co-owner Marc Schafler, who previously booked the participants as solo acts. He recognized “strong community spirit” in all of them (both Stinson and Ndegeocello are noted activists). “Tommy’s a cool cat, a real sweetheart,” he says, “and any opportunity to get Meshell into the club… she’s phenomenal.” When he heard Auf der Maur had joined Columbia Habitat, a flashpot went off in his head. His nutty dream of a “bass player fest” grew wings.
“Columbia Habitat is right in line with Helsinki’s mission statement,” he says, “which is ‘to create a shared community of people who have found a home and refuge.’ This event is a wonderful antidote to feeling overwhelmed by what you can’t do in the world. Helping like this is something you can do.” Helsinki Hudson, in fact, sits between two Columbia Habitat buildings, a tangible reminder of goodwill made manifest. “I can look out my window and see the fruits of their labors.”
“When Melissa contacted me, I said, ‘I’m in!,” says Stinson, a Minneapolis native, who moved to Hudson with his wife and young daughter, after spending fifteen years in Los Angeles and a brief period outside Philadelphia. “I’ve been wanting to hook up and do something with all these bass players for a while. Meshell lives right down the street from me. It’s a great vibrant community.” Stinson hints that he may be debuting his brand-new country band, Cowboys & the Campfire, at the Home Bass concert. “I never thought I’d get into country,” says the Guns n’ Roses bassist, “but Hudson has broadened my musical palette.”
Auf der Maur is noncommittal about what else attendees can expect from this once-in-a-lifetime convergence of four-string legends. She hinted at selections from Joy Division, Nancy Sinatra, and maybe even twin-bass anthem “Kill Your Television” by 90s rockers Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Although she shot down the suggestion of Spinal Tap’s triple bass ode “Big Bottom,” rest assured: both the bottom and the heart at Home Bass will be very, very big. —Robert Burke Warren and Holly George Warren