At Eric Redd’s shows, the chairs and tables up front are cleared away, and you have to retreat to the back if you want to sit. “I’m not here for you to watch,” said the Woodstock-based singer/dancer/songwriter. “I have these crazy clothes on so you can get excited and dance.”
When Eric Redd Movement’s Holiday Dance Party heats up the Colony on Sunday, December 23, starting at 7 p.m., all proceeds will go to the social service organization Family of Woodstock and its 24-hour hotline. Redd will be joined by DJ Dave Leonard, renowned jazz artist Don Byron, R&B sensation and Grammy Amplifier winner, Chinah Blac; instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Duke McVinnie, The Big Takeover’s NeeNee Rushie, and Grammy-winning producer and guitarist Danny Blume. Get a ticket discount by donating warm socks, gloves or other winter items, or donate a sleeping bag or tent and get in free.
“Members of our community have increased need of our support to provide affordable shelter and housing in the area, particularly among seniors,” said Tamara Cooper, Family Hotline program director. “It’s important to create awareness of this growing gap in our town’s ability to provide for its own. The donation of warm winter items really does make a difference.” Family of Woodstock’s Hotline and Walk-In Center features one of the longest-running 24-hour hotlines in the country, operating 365 days a year, with two full-time and 13 part-time staff, as well as 60 dedicated volunteers.
Redd, whose performances fuse singing, dance, and showmanship, has had a house in Woodstock for ten years, but he tends to keep a low profile, despite having opened for such stars as Paul McCartney, The Pointer Sisters, Dionne Warwick, and others. You might have seen him at several of Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles, and he’s opened for Woodstock musician Simi Stone. But he’s not the kind of singer/songwriter the town typically embraces. Although his music rocks, it’s not rock-n-roll. Nor is it electronica, although his style of dance music is partly electronic, blended with house music — a derivative of garage music from the 70s and 80s — plus R&B.
Growing up in California, Redd got his start as a teenage regular on the TV show Soul Train, dancing to the music of guest artists from Aretha Franklin to B. B. King. “Kids would line up,” he recalled, “and they’d pick who looks cool. You work for two days, dancing while celebrities walk in. The tapings end at 10 or 11 at night. You wake up Sunday morning, find something wild to wear, and go back and do it over again. I had to battle my parents to do it, but it was amazing.”
Through dance lessons provided by the show’s producer, Don Cornelius, Redd honed his dance skills and obtained a scholarship to the California Institute of the Arts, which had been founded by Disney to groom animators, although it later branched out to other arts. Redd had been a political science major, with a possible future as a lawyer. Thanks to Cornelius’s support, he was offered jobs by Alvin Ailey and Merce Cunningham while still in college. He turned them down to dance with a Canadian ballet company.
As his career developed, he became a singer, songwriter, and actor. Redd put together a show that has been the featured New Year’s Eve entertainment in Las Vegas, where he’s shared the stage with Harry Connick, Jr., Kool and the Gang, Lionel Richie, and Cirque du Soleil. His club music hits include “Right Time” (2017) and “Breathe” (2010).
A decade ago, when Redd bought a house and three acres on the edge of Woodstock, he didn’t realize he was living on historic property. It was a UPS man who told him the land had been part of Pan Copeland’s farm and the site of the Sound-outs, the immediate precursors of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. From 1967 to 1970, up to 2000 people gathered for one- to three-day summertime mini-festivals, hearing performers such as Paul Butterfield, Van Morrison, Phil Ochs, and Richie Havens, who lived for a while in a commune on the property. “For a guy from California to end up with this parcel of land,” mused Redd, “it’s what I needed for the rebirth of my own artistry.”
His music changed when his relationship broke up, just a year after the death of his mother, leading to “an evolution of real truth in my art. Everything’s gone, and I’m starting fresh.” When he went to Panama, London, Spain, and Amsterdam to record an album of new songs, “I wanted to create something really different through travels and through my mindset. There was a solace in Woodstock that made me understand I had to be my own artist. New York City didn’t allow that. It made me a show person. But my artist was born in Woodstock.”
For the first time, Redd was able to choose all the people he would work with on the record and select all the tracks, rather than letting his label, Universal Records, call the shots. Although he hadn’t planned to make a “woe is me” record, when he began recording, “a completely different voice came out of my mouth. It was that feeling you’re crying on the inside but on the outside, you look fine to everybody else. A revelation came to me about who I was as an artist.” The record, “Tears Don’t Cry,” is due out in April. His show at the Colony will include “Push,” a song from the album, and he’ll close with a cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” which will be released this summer in Europe.
Most of all, he’s going to get people dancing.
The Colony and Family of Woodstock’s Hotline present Eric Redd Movement: Holiday Dance Party on Sunday, December 23, at 7 p.m., at the Colony, 22 Rock City Road, Woodstock. Donate warm socks, gloves, or other winter items to receive a ticket discount and pay $12. Donate a sleeping bag or tent and get in free. Without donation, tickets are $20 in advance/$25 on day of show and can be purchased online at www.colonywoodstock.com or at the Colony during business hours.
H. Houst and Son, at 4 Mill Hill Road, is offering a 20% discount to anyone who purchases warm socks, gloves, hats, hand warmers, etc., to donate to Family for a reduced price ticket to the show. Just mention code: FAMILY WARM WINTER at cash register. Houst will also forward donations to Family from people who do not plan on attending the show.