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Fairfield's Mill River Band Taking The Stage At The Levitt In Westport

The Mill River Band is set to play at the Levitt on Thursday night. Photo Credit: Contributed
The Mill River Band is set to play at the Levitt on Thursday night. Photo Credit: Contributed
The Mill River Band is set to play at the Levitt on Thursday night. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTPORT, Conn. — Nearly 12 years ago, Fairfield resident Jim Schanck was talking about starting a band with his buddies in his backyard. Today his group — The Mill River Band — plays at venues across Fairfield County.

The band is also set to play in front of an estimated crowd of 1,000 people at The Levitt Pavilion in Westport at 8 p.m. Thursday.

A cover band by trade, the Mill River Band plays a wide range of songs. But the band also has some original ones.

“We have such an eclectic repertoire,” Schanck said. “We have over 80 songs.”

Schanck said his band plays everything from classic Beatles to Bob Dylan. They have also covered the more contemporary Jack Johnson, which is popular with younger audiences.

His band also plays at corporate events and senior centers. But Schanck said they cut their teeth at Las Vetas, the well-known coffee shop near the Fairfield train station.

“We have a lot of fun" at Las Vetas, he said. “It’s a great room, great vibe.”

Schanck said he enjoys the sense of community that goes with performing at live venues such as Las Vetas or the Levitt.

“There’s nothing better than live music,” he said. “I’ll see friends of mine that I haven’t seen for awhile.”

Founded 12 years ago in Fairfield — and named after Fairfield’s Mill River — they have also performed at popular local venues such as the Fairfield Theater Company. The band made its national TV debut in 2005 on Rachel Ray’s "American Block Party."

Members include Schanck on lead guitar, Michael Jacob on percussion, Mike Dougherty on bass and vocals, John Burlinson on acoustic guitar & vocals, Tom “Doc” Abrahamsen on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Chuch Chesler on keyboards, accordion and vocals, and Doug Bernstein on sax.

Most of the band’s members hold professional jobs during the day and make the time to play live gigs in the evenings.

“We’re kind of the tradesmen or doctors of lawyers by day and blues musicians or Grateful Dead musicians at night,” Schanck said.

But out of all the concerts that Schanck plays, he said the Levitt is his favorite venue.

“It’s phenomenal, simply phenomenal,” he said. “It’s the best gig of the year by far.”

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