Local Rhythms – Venue Blues

Local music fans endured a frustrating night last Saturday, as a 4-band show at Claremont’s Knights Hall was cut short by police.  Power trio Stonewall had just com-pleted their third song when bandleader Josh Parker announced, “we either have to quit playing or pay a fine, and we can’t afford 100 dollars for that.”  Someone in the crowd urged the band to get a decibel meter, claiming the sound level wasn’t over the legal limit.  But it was too little, too late, and disgruntled fans filed peacefully out the door.

At least we got to play our new song,” said Parker, looking for some consolation.
There were plenty of problems with the show.  Slow equipment changes and bands exceeding the allotted time forced headliners (and show organizers) Stonewall to take the stage at well past 11 o’clock.

But the notion that there’s a “legal sound level” is flat wrong, according to Captain Colby Casey of the Claremont Police Department, who was there Saturday night.  The relevant municipal ordinance governs sound “more than 50 feet from one private location to another,” he says.  “If the sound is disturbing or offensive to someone of average sensibility, it violates.”

The issue, then, isn’t local police out to ruin a good time.  And, in case anyone who’s never been to a Knights Hall show was wondering, they’re not using the noise ordi-nance as an excuse to stop some other kind of bad behavior. 

The kids are alright.

“Unruly people have never been a problem,” says Capt. Casey.  “Lawbreaking has never been a problem.  The noise is the problem.”

Why wouldn’t it be?  The Knights Hall sits in the middle of a working class neighbor-hood.  The real issue here is the lack of an appropriate local venue for this kind of mu-sic.  Stonewall, Broken Mindz, Xelement and Hexerei all play intense, in-your-face hard rock.  Original rock. 

The bands have a significant audience, but precious few places to congregate.  In an-other story in today’s paper, you can read about the Underground, a Chester perform-ance space begun by foreverinmotion’s Brendon Thomas to help boost the local music scene.  Certainly there’s an underutilized space somewhere in Claremont that could be put to the same purpose.

Because there’s something that wasn’t talked about much as things broke up Saturday night – the fact that the Knights Hall isn’t very well suited for live music.  Even if noise wasn’t a factor, there’s no stage for a band, as well as past concerns about fire safety and overloaded circuits.  It’s fine for bingo and family reunion suppers, but the Opera House it isn’t.

Come to think of it, what about the Opera House?

No matter – here’s the top picks for the coming days –

Thursday:  New Faces Night, Roots on the River – Bands seem to break out at this show and move on greater heights.  Tonight it’s Crooked Still, with their unique take on old-time bluegrass.  Cellist Rushad Eggleston colors familiar standards like “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’” and “Come On In My Kitchen” with a low moan that makes them fresh and accessible for contemporary audiences.  Opener Anäis Mitchell is another of my new favorites, with a childlike voice and sweetly subversive songs.

Friday: Standstill, For Another Day & Sarvela, Electra – A three band show featuring For Another Day, a hot young Chester group who play frequently at the Underground.  Standstill is local boy Matt Cross’s project when he’s not on the radio, and Sarvela is an up and coming Springfield combo.  Lots of rock is on the slate at Electra, with Stonewall and Broken Mindz next week, and Hexerei in early July.

Saturday: About Gladys, Salt hill Pub – An Upper Valley supergroup of sorts, includ-ing Frydaddy’s Wally Wysk, Jimmy Goodwin and others.  Expect a healthy dose of the classics – blues, rock and soul – that are guaranteed to give most boomers a good aerobic workout.  Some may even resemble YouTube hit man Judson Laipply.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you must.

Sunday: Survivor, Paramount Theatre (Rutland) – To quote Bowling for Soup, there are plenty of folks still “preoccupied with 1985,” and this band is definitely one the era’s best guilty pleasures.  Who hasn’t imagined themselves triumphing over peril to the pulsing opening strains of “Eye of the Tiger”?   It’s my belief that without those killer soundtracks (remember James Brown’s “Living in America”?) most of the Rocky sequels wouldn’t have been made.

Wednesday:  Fairport Convention, Iron Horse – It’s impossible to gauge this band’s importance, even if some key members, like Sandy Denny (who died in the mid-70’s) and Richard Thompson are gone.  Simon Nicol is the only one left from the original lineup, but that’s not such a big deal. The first foursome played exactly one gig together before replacing the drummer.  Few bands have influenced as many diverse performers as this one.

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