When pulling up to the train depot in quaint Milford, NY, you may be thinking to yourself, “Where am I? Have a stepped back in time?” It is hard to believe that a three-hour rockin’ party is about to take place on board the Cooperstown Blues Express Train. Led by a locomotive built in the 1940s, on tracks that were put in place in the 1860s and ran between Cooperstown and Colliersville, the Blues Express Train is truly one of the most unusual concert experiences in our state. Having been dubbed “the area’s only rolling nightclub,” this train has been hosting concerts every Saturday night from mid-May through late September since 1997.
Having been around since the ‘90s, formerly a frequent visitor to old school venues in Oneonta like Diana’s, Peter Prince and Moon Boot Lover (MBL) have garnered a huge local and very loyal following over the years. Whenever they come to town to play on the Train, which they tend to do at least once a season, you definitely want to book ahead for these rides, as they tend to fill up quick. As a matter of fact, one of their biggest fans mentioned that he is in the military, and he actually schedules his leaves around Moon Boot Lover’s calendar.
While Moon Boot Lover’s music is difficult to categorize, there are definitely elements of blues, jazz, rock, and general “spacey-ness” involved. Channeling the energy of Jimi Hendrix and Santana at different points throughout the night, there was a constant out-of-orbit vibe going on all through the band’s set, which included the fitting choice of “I Miss the Train”. Peter Prince’s soulful voice shined on each and every song – at least those that had lyrics; and kept everyone grounded, with all the otherworldly tones coming from the instruments backing him up, including his very own frenzied guitar playing on his trademark Flying V guitar.
At one point, Prince jokingly said that the train was trying to take their drum set apart, and explained that this is part of the reason MBL goes through so many drummers, but current drummer Lee James Falco seemed more than capable of holding the rhythm together, which is quite the feat on a slow-moving train rolling along on rickety old tracks. At only 19-years-old, Falco is already sitting in with many bands, so don’t be surprised if you see him play in your area; he is definitely full of talent and is only going up from here. Bassist Ben Carle provided steady yet creative rhythms and notes, on top of well-balanced back-up vocals, throughout the evening’s experience. Rich Lemire, a friend of the band, joined in for this performance with some added percussions.
Once the sun went down, lighting designer Aaron Hunt provided a veritable psychedelic experience aboard the train, effectively utilizing the extremely limited amount of solid wall or ceiling space to somehow pin up the lights underneath translucent sheets, adding even more of an outer space element to the occasion. The crowd seemed to appreciate the trippy lighting, letting it take their already dancing feet to a whole other level, boogying down to “Natural Kind of Lover” until the last-minute, before pulling in to in the Milford Station.
It is strongly recommended, for those of you who have never been on the Cooperstown Blues Express Train, to hop aboard one of these Saturday nights before the summer is through. Where else can you ride on a historic railroad through beautiful countryside – and baseball fields – listening to funky music on an open air car, getting to wave at and taunt the people who have to wait at the railroad crossings sitting in their cars, while you are kicking back, enjoying a beverage and a snack, and cruising along listening to some great tunes.