Local Rhythms – Look Up, America – It’s Our Birthday

I love the Fourth of July more than any other holiday. It’s not
religious like Christmas, vague like Thanksgiving (thankful for what –
everything? Be specific) or the ephemeral day of convenience Memorial
Day became when we began to lose sight of its’ original intent.

No, Indpendence Day celebrates something everyone agrees about – it’s
great to be an American in America. OK, there are perhaps 260 million
versions of that sentiment, but for one day, we set those differences
aside. We choose a beverage, stare up at the sky, and wait for the

Winston Churchill once said, “democracy is the worst form of
government – except for all those others that have been tried.” Of
course, he also said, “the best argument against democracy is a
five-minute conversation with the average voter.” The miracle we
celebrate every July is that this undeniable, inchoate internal
squabble has characterized and sustained the grand American experiment
for 230 years, not destroyed it.

I heard a song a few weeks back, a typically great fade-out from a
“Sopranos” episode, that hit me like a comet. I ran to my computer to
track it down. “The Fourth of July” is a Dave Alvin song, but the
version I heard was by X, America’s greatest punk band. It’s about a
relationship that clearly holds more memories than magic, and is
probably doomed – done in by confusion, not the dying flame of desire.
“She gives me her cheek when I want her lips,” laments the singer.

But sitting on his porch and looking up at the night sky, he finds his
resolve. “Whatever happened, I apologize,” he calls to her. “So dry
your tears and baby, take a walk outside – it’s the Fourth of July.”

Whatever our differences, together on this day we turn our eyes
upward, all staring at the same thing.

Happy Birthday, U.S.A.

This year, we’re blessed with a four day weekend, filled with music
and (I’m keeping my fingers crossed) sunshine.

Thursday: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Dartmouth College – Born of swing
sensitibilities, but infused with the breathless gonzo humor of bands
like Oingo Boingo. Their execution of perennials like “Minnie the
Moocher” and “Big Time Operator” is dead-on. But just when you think
you’ve got them pegged right down to their pants, they take something
like “I Wanna Be Just Like You” from the “Jungle Book” and spin it
into gold. “You and Me (and the Bottle Makes Three)” is the greatest
good-time going to hell song ever recorded.

Friday: Take Your Pick in Claremont – One of those rare times when I
can’t make up my mind. You’ll likely see me in three places tonight.
First, Bistro Nouveau christens their new patio with local reggae
favorites Saylyn, along with a special outdoor menu featuring plenty
of finger food. After that, it’s off to Sophie & Zeke’s for Josh
Parker’s “Stonewall Unplugged” set. Later, I’ll wrap things up at the
Hullabaloo Martini Bar with Dave Davis. Claremont – I’m lovin’ it!

Saturday: Drunk Stuntmen, Heritage Tavern – A child-friendly barbeque
starting at 5 PM, with outdoor music from a fun-loving band. The
Stuntmen recently received a cool honor – induction into WRSI-FM’s
Hall of Fame. They’re one of 250 bands “who have made the station
what it is,” according to Program Director Johnny Memphis. More
commonly known as “The River,” WRSI is the only reason I turn off XM
while driving through western Massachusetts.

Sunday: Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Hidene Meadowlands – I’m going to
Tivo the Boston Pops Esplanade Fourth, just to see what kind of
mischief Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry get into. But if
you’d like to see the 1812 Overture, cannons and all, without the
trafficand crowds, head to Manchester, Vermont (or Ascutney,
Middlebury or Shelburne, and a few others in the next six days) and
enjoy a patriotic display of fireworks and classical music.

Monday: 35th Parallel, Colburn Park – Interesting free stuff. The two
man group calls its music “MediterrAsian,” a blend of Middle East,
North India, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the United States.
Playing a lot of percussion instruments you’ve likely never heard of,
and weaving electronic sounds with bazouki, dijeridoo and old
fashioned guitar, it’s a unique, heady excursion.

Tuesday: Wings & Wheels, Hartness State Airport – There are a number
of local celebrations, but I like this one for sentimental reasons.
It marks the final area appearance, for a while anyway, of Ingrid’s
Ruse. What a shame – as their “Roots of the River” set proved, the
band was really finding their groove. Fortunately, they’re making a
record as a parting gift to area fans, and Ingrid Ayer-Richardson
isn’t ruling out a release party show later this summer. This gala
also includes Stonewall, Broken Mindz, fireworks, and a $100 a ticket
2006 Corvette raffle.

3 thoughts on “Local Rhythms – Look Up, America – It’s Our Birthday

  1. This guy doesn’t work very hard, he misses half of what is going on here in this area which tells me he waits for the sources to come to him. He also thinks we give a damn about his opinions, most of us don’t or at least those whom I’ve discussed him with. I missed the part where he owns bars and clubs, where are they and what are the names? I want to make sure I don’t go there with my dirty smoking habit. A reader wouldn’t realize there was more than one member to any local band, must be too hard to find out those names and remember how to spell them. This feature could be done by a robot and a data entry clerk.

  2. For the record:

    1. All the information in Local Rhythms is personally researched.
    2. In the last 2.5 years, ‘ve done more stories on local bands than anyone else in the area – I know their names.
    3. I don’t own a bar. I assume this is in reference to my 8/10 column, where I say so specifically.

  3. After posting my original post I got a much needed education. I managed to put both feet in my mouth with that post, usually I limit myself to one at a time…
    I have come to the realization that we are lucky to have Michael Witthaus giving of his personal time to The Eagle for the benefit of all music lovers in this area.
    Michael saw a void and stepped up to fill it and he does it thoroughly and he does it well.
    I believe I was indulging in a bit of transferred aggression which is never right and I’m apologizing for doing it here especially to someone who didn’t deserve it in the least.

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