Taking the stage at The Burl Friday night, Dennis Quaid told the sold-out crowd that he met Harry Dean Stanton on the Kentucky-born actor’s 50th birthday, and the concert at hand was a big ol’ birthday party.
He was just a few hours early, as the late actor’s birthday is actually Saturday, July 14. But the audience was all-in to get down to rock ‘n’ roll classics such as “Not Fade Away” and “L.A. Woman” with the moonlighting actor and his band The Sharks. Quaid and Band were in town for the eighth annual Harry Dean Stanton Fest for a gig organizer Lucy Jones said she didn’t even have to pitch to the actor and longtime Stanton friend.
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Jones credited Stanton’s cousin Jim Huggins Jr. with casually mentioning there was a festival in Stanton’s honor in Lexington, when he and Quaid met while visiting Stanton when he was in hospice care, last year. But Quaid and fellow Shark and Stanton friend Jamie James took the information seriously and said they needed to come pay tribute to the West Irvine native and University of Kentucky graduate, who died last September.
And while most celebrities who have come to the fest have been here for film screenings and panel discussions, like Dabney Coleman will do Sunday night at the Kentucky Theatre, it was wholly appropriate for Quaid to come play a concert, given his and Stanton’s bond was musical.
The Burl show capped a couple of days of Quaid surreptitiously bumming around The Bluegrass and spreading joy, like popping up at Red State BBQ and taking a selfie with the waitress, who recognized him from “The Parent Trap” (1998).
“We tried to create these VIP experiences for him, but he just wanted to do his own thing,” Jones said, adding that when he got to Lexington he rented a car and went exploring.
Another person who got a moment with Quaid while he was here was Louisville minister Mike Olsen, who is battling Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Olsen has been on something of a bucket list tour while he awaits a lung transplant to raise awareness of the disease, which scars the lungs for an unknown reason.
The item being checked off Friday night was singing with Quaid, who took to the piano to play “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” by Jerry Lee Lewis, who Quaid played in the 1989 biopic “Great Balls of Fire!” Olsen channeled Quaid’s raucous demeanor singing the song.
“He kept eye contact with me so I’d know what to do,” said Olsen, who said he has a singing background. “He made me feel like part of the band. He was there for me in this situation.”
Jones said she was thrilled with how everything turned out, noting the concert was the first event in the Fest’s eight-year history to sell out weeks in advance. She attributed all the good vibes to, “the spirit of Harry Dean.”
The Harry Dean Stanton Fest continues Saturday and Sunday, including another Burl Show Saturday night with Donnie Fritts and Western Movies. Here’s the schedule:
IF YOU GO
Harry Dean Stanton Fest
▪ Screening of “Young Doctors in Love.” Farish Theater (11 a.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Private Benjamin.” Farish Theater (1 p.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Repo Man.” Farish Theater (3 p.m., Free).
▪ Harry Dean Stanton Trivia with Local Trivia Action. The Burl. (7 p.m., Free).
▪ Donnie Fritts/Western Movies. The Burl. (9 p.m., $12). Tickets: ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1685937 .
▪ Screening of “The Missouri Breaks.” Farish Theater (1 p.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Lucky.” Farish Theater (3:30 p.m., Free).
▪ Screening of “Char-ac-ter.” Kentucky Theatre, followed by panel discussion with Dabney Coleman, (7 p.m., $10). showclix.com/event/characterscreening