The Blisterz, other bands to play to aid school for autistic kids

When Dave Graham plays guitar at home, he can count on helping hands from his 11-year-old son, Luke.

When Dave Graham plays guitar at home, he can count on helping hands from his 11-year-old son, Luke.

Dave’s fingers pick the strings. Luke’s right hand “guides” his father’s arm and keeps the melody moving.

On Sunday, Dave Graham and his friends from the Capital Region’s musical community will lend hands and voices to Luke and his friends at Wildwood School. The second “Wildwoodstock” will begin at 1 p.m. at The Parting Glass Pub in Saratoga Springs.

Funds raised will benefit the Guilderland school, which helps children and adults with neurologically based learning disabilities, autism and other developmental disorders.


WHEN: 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: The Parting Glass, 40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs

HOW MUCH: $5 advance sale at The Parting Glass, online at; $10 at the door; children under 12 free


The 42-year-old Graham, guitarist and singer for rock-punk trio The Blisterz, has recruited his band and seven other local outfits — including Capital Region rock favorite Sirsy — for the afternoon and evening session. As concert organizer, Graham has a big interest in the show; Luke is an autistic child.

“Being a nonprofit organization, Wildwood is always looking for help with funding, so I decided to try to use my local music connections to put together a benefit show,” Graham said of the 2008 Wildwoodstock. “Between ticket sales, a 50-50 raffle and silent auction items, we raised over $7,000.”

Bigger lineup

This year, Graham has a larger lineup and is hoping for a larger payoff for Wildwood. Power pop specialists Wait Until Dusk will start the show at 1 p.m. and will be followed by jam band Cooper Union at 2.

Rock with a touch of cello follows at 3, when The Mark Frederick Band takes the stage. Rockers 28N begin their set at 4.

Erin Harkes and The Rebound present their blues and acoustic-tinged rock numbers at 5; Sirsy sounds off at 6.

The evening will wind down with garage rockers Blackcat Elliot at 7 and The Blisterz at 8.

Graham, who lives in Burnt Hills, wants to promote Wildwoodstock as an affordable afternoon and evening for music fans. Advance tickets are $5. Tickets at the door are $10, children 12 and under are free.

“Some of these benefits will charge $15 or $20,” Graham said. “It’s a little tougher to get people out for that.”

And he wants plenty of people out for the show. Support for the music means support for Wildwood, Luke’s school for the past three years.

“Luke loves being there,” said Michele Graham, also mother to daughter Rory, 8. “He runs to the bus almost every morning. The teachers are great, the staff is willing to work with you.”

“It’s a very family-oriented place,” added Dave. “If we can any little bit to try to help them, we’re all for it.”

Luke is a happy kid. Jumping up and down fulfills his exercise needs; watching the Food Network on television satisfies a fascination with the culinary arts.

“He has difficulty communicating,” Michele said. “His responses are one-and two-word answers. You can say, ‘Luke, how are you today?’ and he’ll say, ‘Good.’ Or ‘Do you want pizza or pasta for dinner?’ It’s ‘Pizza, yes.’ ”

Although Luke only eats about five foods, according to his father, he loves to watch extravagant dishes created by telegenic chefs.

“He knows all the people on the Food Network — Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Emeril — he knows them all, probably more than he can identify extended family members,” Dave said.

The musician, who works full time as a sales representative selling industrial pollution control equipment for the R.K. Chase Co. in Albany, said Sunday’s gathering will also give people a chance to learn about autism and other neurological disorders.

“This awareness can hopefully lead to better acceptance in the community of people afflicted with these disorders,” Graham said.

He’s received help from family and Wildwood personnel to organize the giant gig. Sirsy’s Melanie Krahmer offered advice and tips for the 2008 show. Gus Hais of Blackcat Elliot designed the Wildwoodstock T-shirt logo, a bright blue guitar plastered over a white puzzle.

“It’s just for a great cause,” said Hais, guitarist and vocalist for the Albany County-based band. “Dave from The Blisterz is a great friend of ours. It’s important for us to do something for a friend who’s also in a band. Blackcat Elliot always tries to do as many benefits as we can. I’m a firm believer in helping out as many people as I can.”

Sirsy’s Krahmer said her band plays many benefits, and enjoys the appearances.

“Playing benefits does the same thing for a band that it does for an individual, I guess. It makes you feel good and allows you to give back to the community,” she said.

Krahmer knows Graham, and knows Luke has autism. “So when Dave pitches this show, it’s obvious that the pitch comes from his heart,” she said. “It’s hard not to be a part of something as beautiful as that.”

Graham expects adults will like the show, which will again include a silent auction. Face-painting and jewelry-making will be activities for younger fans in need of diversions.

Winning fans

Wildwood students should also like the music. The Blisterz have a following with the kids.

“They asked us to do a show for them last year, which I was a little nervous about,” Graham said. “Beth McLaughlin is the head music therapist, I asked her, ‘Have you heard us play? We’re a loud rock band.’ She said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got your CD.’ We did a Hannah Montana song, we did a Kelly Clarkson song. We did some stuff we normally wouldn’t do.

“I told the guys in the band, ‘Just do me a favor, let’s keep the volume level down. A lot of kids on the autistic spectrum have sound sensitivity.”

Graham didn’t have to worry about bad reviews.

“We play a lot of different places, bars and clubs,” he said. “It was one of the most fun shows we ever played. These kids were so appreciative, they were so excited. They were jumping up and down the whole time, running around. We had it in the auditorium at Wildwood. The guys in my band were amazed. We came out of that with such a good feeling.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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