Chris and Dave ... featuring Dan!
Dave and Chris Gagne, Chris and Dave Gagne, Dave and Chris, Chris and Dave, Chris & David, David & Chris, or simply … Featuring Dan!
The two or three-man/woman band will answer to any and all of these names, and David Gagne, who has taught music since he was 15, has been performing in and around Boothbay Harbor since 1976.
A musician with no apparent bounds, he plays piano, guitar, both acoustic and electric, French horn, and drums, and he sings. It’s hard to say what he’s best at. “He can pick up any instrument and learn it,” his wife and fellow musician, Chris, said.
Dave grew up in Hallowell and still performs there, and as far north as Sugarloaf. During high school,
During high school, he played with a group called Ole Limousine, and during the 70s he was under contract as a songwriter and studio musician with one of the nine recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. "Some of your favorite music was recorded there," he said.
In 1978 Dave started performing at Slate’s Restaurant. He played with the Fleshapoids, and teamed up with Kenny Cox to form the Neat and Clean Band.
Next came the Dani Tribesmen, and Mike & Tina Murphy, and he still performs with his cousin, Stevie Jones. “He’s extremely talented,” Dave said. “I was hiring him to play guitar when he was 16.”
While attending the University of Maine at Augusta, Dave was hiring his music teachers to play with him. “Then I got stupid and dropped out.” Even so, he managed to secure a job teaching music at a private high school in New Hampshire – New Hampton School, where he taught for 15 years, until 2008.
The school’s Dave Gagne Music Room was established when he worked there. “I got to enjoy working in my own space.”
David and Chris met in 1997, while he was teaching in New Hampshire. Chris went to a bar where he was playing one night. “He was singing an Eagles song, and I was sitting there singing harmony,” Chris said. “He made me get up and sing with him. Then he came over to visit me, and he just kept staying.”
Chris, who grew up in Ashland, New Hampshire, had been singing for quite a few years by then, having sung in her high school chorus, in a fife and drum band, and a bluegrass band. Along with singing with the band, she still plays fife, and guitar, some base, and hand drum.
Dave, who has been coming to Boothbay Harbor since he was a kid, started playing reggae at J.H. Hawke (now Mine Oyster) and then McSeagull’s, in 1976. In 1989, he was hired to play with his band, Dani Tribesmen, on the Islander, owned by David Walker.
Now on the Harbor Princess, the band has been doing the ever popular “Reggae Cruise” ever since, every Sunday from late June into mid-September. “Some people have done it every year,” Dave said. “Then their kids, then their grandkids, have started coming. People have met their significant others on the cruise, then we play at their wedding.”
The couple moved to Boothbay Harbor in 2008. Besides the reggae cruise, they have played in local restaurants and other venues ever since.
Dan Grish lives in Edgecomb and Durham, Connecticut with his wife Patrice. They visited the Boothbay area for the first time around 10 years go, and fell in love with it. They eventually bought a second home in Edgecomb.
Dan said a big part of their falling in love with the area was going down to the harbor and patronizing the restaurants.
One night they went to McSeagull’s, and Chris and Dave were playing. “My wife volunteered me to play some base,” he said. “And from that inauspicious beginning with a couple notes I played, it’s evolved into what we have now.”
Dan, who plays symphonic base, among other instruments, learned to play the organ at age 4, from his mother, an organist. He plays double bass with the Farmington Valley Symphony and tuba with St. Peter’s Drum Corp. in Connecticut.
“He’s a great tuba player,” Dave said. But mostly he plays base, and sometimes guitar, and on occasion he harmonizes with the band.” Whenever Dan plays with the band, they call themselves ‘Featuring Dan.’ “We started announcing that, and now ‘Featuring’ has become his first name,” Chris said. “Now he’s ‘Feach.”
“Dave is a very accomplished musician,” Dan said. “He’s been doing it for a long, long time, and I still revel about the fact that here’s somebody who can sit there and play the guitar while he’s singing and tapping out the beat with his foot on his tambourine, while calling out the chord changes to me over his shoulder.
“And … Chris, is a very powerful singer, with the harmonies she provides when she’s not singing lead herself. It’s just seemingly seamless. It’s so impressive. To be a part of that is wonderful.”
Dave plays with his aunt’s band, Swingtime, too. Elaine Bender, who chooses not to disclose her age, gave her nephew a ukulele when he was 10. She plays piano and sings, and David plays guitar when she needs an extra. “When she turned 65 she retired, and I gave her a PA system. She put a band together and started booking gigs. Now she books me. She’s tremendous — just going all the time.”
Chris, who performs around 140 times a year, has another life as an executive assistant at LincolnHealth. “She keeps us kind of whole by doing that, so I can be a musician,” Dave said.
Dave performed 320 times in 2017. The Gagnes and Dan, can be seen at different places around the harbor, including Newagen Seaside Inn, McSeagull’s, Mine Oyster, Mystic Mermaid, Boat House Bistro, Lobsterman’s Wharf and Fisherman’s Wharf; in Hallowell at the Quarry Tap Room, Slates and Liberal Cup; and at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland and Freeport, and the Harbor Room in New Harbor.
The band also plays gigs at St. Andrews Village, where it’ll be preforming at the Gregory Wing for a Valentine’s Day party.
The Gagnes have three children. David, 32, also a musician, lives and performs in Manhattan; Rayanna is 27, and the youngest, Gerald, 16, is a junior at Boothbay Region High School.
Dave, who said they love Boothbay Harbor and the friends they've made here, said he’s written over a thousand songs over the years, and used to write a song, sometimes two, every day. He may have, as he said, “gotten stupid and dropped out of college,” but he’s never gotten stupid enough to drop out of the music scene.
And for that, a lot of music lovers are glad.