2003 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the formation of Pine Island.
The band was named after a raised landform in the Intervale, north and slightly west of Burlington. In the six years or so that Pine Island performed, the band appeared throughout Vermont, New England, with forays into New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Canada. wherever we appeared, we had the luck to be met by enthusiastic audiences. The circumstances that were on our side were our youth and our desire to play as good as we knew how.
In the beginning, Gordon, Tim and myself would crowd into a Rambler American, with all our instruments and a PA. Soon we were a quartet, with David Gusakov on fiddle. Sometime in 1976, we purchased a used blue panel van. It was a little dark, but it got us to the gigs in relative comfort. We set up in gazebos, bandstands and opera houses; on flatbed trucks, on the decks of ferries and on impromptu stages built of dimensioned rough-cut lumber. We performed on lawns. porches. yards. farms. greens and festivals; we played in restaurants, town halls, under tents, under the stars and in clubs so choked with smoke you could barely read the clock to see when it was closing time.
In my imagination, Pine Island is playing in the shade of a gigantic maple, near a stone wall, at the bottom of a large hay meadow, a few weeks after the first cut. There is a slight breeze sifting through the leaves above our heads, and the shade is stricken through with bits of sunlight, making it seem somehow more liquid and alive. We are playing Durang's Hornpipe, as arranged by Alan Munde. There is plenty of time before the show, but no one is in sight, just the unrelenting green of the hay meadow, the pale green of early summer leaves and the weary lichen covered gray of the stones that had been tumbled from their places on the wall by repeated frosts. The music has a peculiar clarity in the broken shade. The tempo is relaxed. The small hiss of the leaves rubbing one against the other in the breeze above our heads provides a sonic scrim against which the notes of the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass stand out in relief. We listen as keenly as we might. The moment seems to widen into the sort of forever I had known when I was younger-long afternoons at the swimming hole, that sense of an interminable summer... It occurs to me that this image may have visited me first in a dream, or that several memories had been conflated into one by the passage of years. Something in these recordings brought the image to me again. Something of who we were as a band is also evident.
Live music hovers somewhere just above the threshold of Webster's definition of ephemerasomething not intended to have lasting value. Music, like dreams, broadens the moments in which it is enacted or re-enacted. One part of the musician's dream feeds on the hope that the music will be played again. These cuts are offered in the spirit of that hope: to provide a few minutes in which the music we once played can be heard again.
Jim McGinniss, 8.21.03