As a musician, Dave Noyes was known best as the trombone player for rock band Rustic Overtones, one of Maine’s most popular acts in recent decades. But friends and fellow musicians remember him not just for his talent but for the kindness they say he displayed daily.
They’ll try to repay that kindness with a concert on April 3 that will benefit his family and honor the music and life of Noyes, who died unexpectedly in his sleep March 7 at age 45. The medical examiner has not determined the cause.
Within hours of his death, Noyes’ Rustic bandmates wound up in a bar together and unanimously decided they needed to do something big to honor him. Not long after, Lauren Wayne, who runs the State Theatre, offered the Portland venue while putting a message on the marquis saying, “Thank You Dave Noyes, You Are Loved.”
Since then, dozens of musicians have signed on to take part in “Good Grief: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Dave Noyes,” happening at the State Theatre.
“Dave has influenced a ton of people in this community, including us,” said Wayne. So far the show is selling well, she said, adding she’d love to see a sellout. “It’s going to be an amazing, very emotional night.”
There will be an all-star cast of players, upwards of 50, and the night will feature performances from several bands in which Noyes played, including Rustic Overtones, with current and former members such as Tony McNaboe, Spencer Albee, Mike Taylor and Ryan Zoidis taking the stage.
Rustic Overtones, which formed in the mid-1990s, is in the midst of finishing a new album and recently released its first single, “Black Shirt,” with Noyes on horn and backing vocals.
“As a musician he formed our sound,” said frontman Dave Gutter. “He was really a forward-thinking guy as far as music goes.”
But his contribution to the band went beyond that. Over the past few years he had taken over several aspects of its daily operations.
“He did our taxes, he did everything toward the end, and it was out of keeping the band going, out of love for the music that he did those things,” Gutter said.
Through the years Noyes was also a member of bands Seekonk, Plains, the soul and funk acts Model Airplane and Kenya Hall Band, Afro-Caribbean ensemble Raging Brass, reggae act Royal Hammer and 19-piece big band The Fogcutters.
Noyes, who was raised in Portland, was drawn to music at an early age. Starting in second grade, he learned the violin and then the clarinet before moving to the trombone in junior high. Across the board, his bandmates remembered him last week as humble, hard-working and musically gifted.
Fogcutters singer Megan Jo Wilson said Noyes wrote complex multiple instrumental charts for 20 people, note-by-note, and also sprang to life during rehearsals.
“I watched him repeatedly command the attention of 20 half-drunk musicians in an instant when it was time to run his songs,” she said. “A person who commits themselves fully to a life of artistic expression is a rare and courageous gem, and he was all in.”
Sax player Brian Desmond Graham, who played with Noyes in The Fogcutters from 2010 to about 2016, echoed Wilson’s sentiments. “In the digital age, he was analog. He wrote big band charts with a pencil, and they were always perfect and beautiful.”
Take a listen to “Sergio ’66,” The Fogcutters song written by Dave Noyes
According to Jason Ingalls, fellow member of 2000s band Seekonk, Noyes wrote about 75 percent of its songs, along with playing nylon string guitar, keys, cello and trombone.
“Dave was brilliant, writing songs and letting us be ourselves inside them. It was profound how open he was to someone else’s creativity within his constructs,” Ingalls said.
Noyes’ influence on the Portland music scene wasn’t only as a member of numerous bands. He was also a partner at the Apohadion Theater, a performance space and art studio in Portland. In 1998 he helped organize a Rustic Overtones show with the Waterville junior and high school orchestras and band program.
“It was Dave who wrote out orchestral arrangements and horn parts. I will never forget his patience and care when it came to orchestrating rehearsals with these music students and bringing the vision of an extraordinary production to life,” said singer-songwriter Raffi Der Simonian, who worked with him on the show.
He even met his wife, Anna Maria Amoroso-Noyes, through music – when she played viola on the 2009 Rustic Overtones album “The New Way Out.” And that led to Noyes taking on a new role he cherished, being a dad, and a “super-human” one at that, his wife said.
Their son Noah will turn 3 in May and their second son, Wes, is due in July. Amoroso-Noyes said her husband’s love for music was huge, but so was his impact as a dad and husband.
“He would spend all day taking care of Noah and then in the evening he would go to work and do his other life in music,” she said. “He was absolutely selfless, but at the same time he was always doing what he loved. It brings me great comfort to know he was doing what he loved, and it made him happy to do all of this at the same time.”
Remembering Dave Noyes
Dave was a super-human dad. He would spend all day taking care of Noah and then in the evening he would go to work and do his other life in music. He had an amazing capacity to keep out negativity and to spread love and kindness.
– Anna Maria Amoroso-Noyes, wife
He was a rarity in the music scene of egos. He was very humble and he made everyone feel welcome and he had a quiet power.
– Dave Gutter, Rustic Overtones bandmate
Dave never really wanted the spotlight, nor did he want a ton of attention for what he did. He was one of those people that elevated all of us to play better, to listen deeper and to find more meaning to what we played.
– Jason Ward, Rustic Overtones bandmate
I’ll be seeing you everywhere I go as ghosts of you and I replay a scene from long ago.
– Tony McNaboe, Rustic Overtones bandmate, in a song he wrote about Noyes
He was there for you. He was genuine. He didn’t need the spotlight. He was a huge supporter of whatever you were into or doing.
– Brian Desmond Graham, Fogcutters bandmate
Dave was the kindest, most gentle and genuine person I’ve ever met.
– Lyle Divinsky, Model Airplane bandmate
He was also a very talented visual artist, with his own screen printing business. He was such a wonderful person, kind soul, and incredibly humble. He will be missed so much.
– Kate Beever, musician
He was perfectly happy to contribute great things to this world in his own inimitable, quiet way. He did good because he was good.
– Peter McLaughlin, Space Gallery, Pretty Purgatory Records
I loved his slow bouncy nod. His humility. The way he smiled and his eyes would light up and look away to a high corner when he got excited.
– Megan Jo Wilson, Fogcutters bandmate
WHO: Performances by Rustic Overtones, The Fogcutters, Royal Hammer, Kenya Hall, Jaw Gems, The Ghost of Paul Revere, Lyle Divinsky, Model Airplane, Red Eye Flight Crew, Micromassé, Raging Brass and others.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 3
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $20
TICKETS & INFO: statetheatreportland.com
AND ONE MORE THING: Good Grief afterparty! When the show ends at State Theatre, the celebration continues at Portland House of Music with sets by Raging Brass, Model Airplane and Gina & The Red Eye Flight Crew. $5 if you have a ticket from the State Theatre show, $10 for everyone else, 21-plus show. portlandhouseofmusic.com.
Here’s an epic video of Rustic Overtones covering Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer with a whole lot of horns!