The “Boogie Shakedown,” which started in 1998 as a backyard music festival to kick off the summer, has become an annual tradition celebrated by local musicians, their friends and families. When last year’s “Boogie” was canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Theatre of Ithaca decided to organize a virtual alternative. Even though the event takes place in a different setting, the goal remains the same — to bring people together through music.     

This year, “Boogie for the State – A Virtual Shakedown” will stream for free on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.  

Doug Levine, executive director of the State Theatre of Ithaca, describes the “Boogie” as a “party that's put on by bands for bands” every Memorial Day. Aside from the transition online and colder weather, Levine expects the upcoming event will have the same look and feel as “Boogies” in the past.    

“It was really sad for us to not have a ‘Boogie Shakedown’ in 2020,” Levine said. “Brian Fiorello and I wanted to put on a virtual ‘Boogie’ to give people something to look forward to during the winter months and show some love to our local bands.”

Brian Fiorello, founding organizer and host of the “Boogie Shakedown,” helped Levine compile a lineup of musicians and bands that have performed at previous “Boogies,” including Plastic Nebraska, Sim Redmond Band, Johnny Dowd, Maddy Walsh & The Blind Spots, Madder Rose, Common Railers, The Small Kings, The Rungs, Janet Batch, The Sutras, Don Bazley, and The Moles. 

Levine and Fiorello asked each of the bands to record a short performance for the virtual festival. 

Ted Hansen, who sings and plays guitar for Plastic Nebraska, said the band decided to reunite during the pandemic to record its set because the “Boogie Shakedown” has become a staple in the community.     

“At first, we were very wary of the idea, but as we thought it through, we came up with a way to do it safely,” Hansen said. “It was obviously different being masked and spread out, but it felt really good to play with these guys again, and even better knowing it is all for a great cause.” 

Maddy Walsh and Mike Suave, songwriters of Maddy Walsh & The Blind Spots, are also returning this year with a cover of “What It Means,” by Drive-By Truckers.

“The ‘Boogie Shakedown’ itself is a party where musicians get to enjoy each other's music because so often we're all playing our own shows, so I look forward to tuning in and watching everybody else's performances,” Walsh said.

At a time when the pandemic restricts live music, the lead vocalist said that the event is a promising start to getting back on stage with the rest of the band.  

“These opportunities that the State Theatre has offered to try to keep musicians connected have been great,” Walsh said.

Since the last live performance at the State Theatre in March 2020, the theater has hosted about 20 live stream shows.   

“Everyone knows that we're shut down from live shows, but we have a skeleton-level of staff here who are working away because we want to remain relevant to the community and let people know that we're still your central place for live music,” Levine said. “The other thing is, we are a not-for-profit, so this is a way for us to raise some extra money too.”

The State Theatre will be selling merchandise and accepting donations throughout the concert to raise money for the theater and participating musicians.  

“I’m looking forward to seeing how many people will come out and support the theater,” Fiorello said. “Hopefully, we can bring everybody a little bit of joy and hope for the spring, summer and days to come.” 

Levine said that streaming the “Boogie Shakedown” on Facebook and YouTube invites people from outside the local music community to join the tradition.   

“It's definitely turned into a big family affair,” Levine said. “We started this party in 1998 when I was just out of Ithaca College actually. We were kids then, but now I have my own kids and we all have our own families.”

While the “Boogie Shakedown” has evolved over the past 20 years, Levine believes that the event has always brought joy to musicians and attendees.    

“During this time when we can't have live shows, we can still do other things,” Levine said. “Music connects us, and the ‘Boogie’ is a really fun way to connect everyone.”

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