Local Rhythms – May 25, 2006

Local Rhythms
By Michael Witthaus

Music is a Family Value

Watching my daughter’s spring concert the other night at Bluff School, I’m reminded of how important it is to start kids early on music. This thought also occurred to me as I listened to some jazz on the hi-fi one cool, pleasant evening recently.

My father was a complicated man, and we didn’t always understand each other, but with music, we were in harmony. My earliest recollections of him are these – watching him practice on a bulky Hawaiian steel guitar, us singing along to folk groups like the Kingston Trio, or the whole family relaxing with something like Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” He encouraged my own youthful forays, too, be they fleeting (the Monkees) or indelible (the Beatles), and bought me many Burl Ives and Limelighters records besides.

In high school, our relations stretched and strained, I gave him a gift that surprised even me – the Grateful Dead, a band he embraced with a fierceness I never quite understood. Mine was a pale offering, I think, next to the free-ranging, inquisitive mind he’d equipped me with. Inspired by him, I’d sought out everything from the honey-throated folk of Judy Collins to jazz guitar masters like Wes Montgomery.

Early on, I’ve tried to instill in my own kids a love for music and an urge to seek out strange new fruit. My oldest daughter’s tastes range from Phish-y jam band sounds to things too experimental even for my ears. The youngster, in addition to playing clarinet and singing, is quite the pianist. It tickled me when she recently asked, “Dad, can I download some Beethoven from iTunes?”

My son’s working on a degree in media arts, which leads to lots of “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” comments.

Studies suggest that a child’s love for music benefits them as students and citizens. It’s my belief that diverse tastes in music lead to greater tolerance for a wider range of ideas. Intellectual curiosity in one realm tends to spur similar urges in others.

So, when you can’t understand your kids, try giving the gift of music. There’s a fringe benefit – when you’re all listening, no one’s talking, so there’s nothing to argue about. You might also join them the next time “High School Musical” is on Disney Channel. The sequel’s due any day.

Here are my picks for the long weekend:

Thursday: Dicky Betts & Great Southern, Colonial Theatre – “Hand Picked,” a song from his solo “Highway Call,” was the first bluegrass song I ever grew to love, sandwiched into a collection of the easy-tempo, guitar-centered rock Betts is best known for. The energy behind “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica,” to name but two greats from his long Allman Brothers career.

Friday: Lock Down and Weapon III, Music Matters – The last of the independent records stores continues its free Friday night live music series with hip hop from a duo that recently released a record. I don’t know a whole lot about them, but think of it as an excuse to expand your horizons while browsing through the cool t-shirts, lunchboxes, body paint and other trinkets MM carries in addition to CDs and DVDs.

Saturday: Brooke Brown Saracino, Sophie & Zeke’s – I caught this young lady’s scintillating set at Canoe Club last week. A tasty combination of early Joni Mitchell tempered with Beth Orton’s world-weariness – quite a feat for a 22-year old. This set kicks off a regular weekend series of original folk music, with Ingrid’s Ruse and foreverinmotion due in June.

Sunday: Memorial Day Picnic, Heritage – Sad to say, the chances to see Ingrid’s Ruse are fading, with Ingrid Ayer-Richardson’s recently announced Maine relocation plans. She and her husband are moving to Portland in a matter of weeks, and the region will be poorer for their leaving. This all-day affair (2-10 PM), which in addition to the Ruse also features Highball Heroes and Space Monkeez, looks even more promising with the current forecast for sun and temperatures in the 80s. There’s buffet BBQ, too.

Monday: Strange Creek Campout (Day 3), Greenfield – If you plan on going to this musical gathering of the tribes, be aware that 90 percent of this event takes place Saturday and Sunday. Monday’s really the load-out day. That said, great bands like Strangefolk, Max Creek, the Zen Tricksters and the amazing Ryan Montbleau play literally round the clock beginning Saturday at 10, even roaming around the campsites like minstrels after the onstage fun ends.

Tuesday: Irish Session, Salt hill – To quote Oscar Wilde: “Work is the curse of the drinking class.” Let’s welcome the start of a 4-day week with a few pints and enjoy the region’s best Celtic music tradition. Host Dave Loney’s band, Steampacket, is also slated for Sh’s 3rd anniversary celebration June 17.

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