If I were a decent guitarist (not even close), I’d probably be like a friend of mine, who spends his every spare minute playing in a band. Most of the time, though, he can be found providing counsel on paint and caulk selection at an area building supply store.
That’s his day job. Darn near every musician I know has one.
I write about music, an avocation with a time-to-dollar ratio that’s likely on a par with the money my friend makes on the coffee house/private party circuit. Computer software consulting pays my bills, but music stokes the bank of my soul.
Looking at box office receipts from bands like the Stones and Aerosmith, you’d think the music business is an easy path to catered backstage parties, with overflowing bowls of brown M&M’s everywhere. The truth is that most musicians are like my friend, playing for love and barely breaking even after expenses like gas, meals and guitar strings are tallied up.
Thus, I was amused when asked recently why Chris Jones, the embattled owner of Middle Earth Music Hall, seemed content to operate at a loss. “What kind of person,” this person mused, “is proud that he’s never made money?”
This was no doubt in reference to news stories quoting Jones saying his club had “never been profitable.” Jones also said he viewed Middle Earth as a refuge for people who’d “given up on the bar scene” but still wanted to listen to good music.
Jones, for the record, began promoting shows so he could see his favorite bands locally. In the last four years, he’s presented some wonderful, often unheralded, talent to music lovers everywhere.
To its’ fans, Middle Earth is a church, and what emanates from it cleanses their souls. Jones may not be making money, but believe me – he’s turning a profit.
Al Kooper created Blood, Sweat and Tears and discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd, but didn’t get rich in the process. “I came in for the love of music,” he wrote in a recent e-mail, “and when the sharks smell that, you’re through financially.”
Passion for music is all most would-be jukebox heroes need. God bless ‘em.
Now, what’s happening for music lovers this weekend?
Thursday: Open Mike Night – A place where many an aspiring musician begins, and more than a few practicing ones go to hone their craft, is the venerable talent night down at the local pub. Tonight, there’s Salt Hill, with Will Michaels (a/k/a “The Singing Bartender”) hosting, or the free-for-all at Royal Flush in Springfield. Firestones in Queechee does theirs later this month. Sunapee Coffeehouse, alas, is on indefinite hiatus while it looks for volunteers.
Friday: Madeline Peyroux & Jill Sobule, Lebanon Opera House – She channels the likes of Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughn. A throwback to the days of smoky jazz clubs, Peyroux’s so convincing, the first time I heard her I thought it was a 78-RPM record with the sound cleaned up. Opener Jill Sobule deserves her own spotlight, with giddy, frothy thinking person’s pop.
Saturday: Stonewall, Royal Flush – Another CD release party from Exsubel Studios and producer Shamus Martin. Hopefully, they’ve worked out the kinks with their disc duplicator, which caused Ingrid’s Ruse (who Martin drums for) to hold a party two weekends ago without any product to sell. One of the tracks from Stonewall’s 3-song demo, “Blessings For Pearls,” is up on my blog for anyone wanting to give the band a listen.
Sunday: Celia Sings Sinatra, Canoe Club – Phil Celia led a spirited set the other night in Bradford, sticking to a funky groove some of the time, and mining his singer-songwriter heart of gold as well. Tonight it’s something completely different, when Phil joins the Bob Merrill Trio to play some silky smooth evening music, with arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Count Basie and others.
Tuesday: Peter Rowan & the Rowan Brothers, Iron Horse – Talk about genre hopping! This guitarist played with Bill Monroe early on, fronted a band (Earth Opera) that opened for the Doors in the 60’s, and wrote hits for New Riders of the Purple Sage, one of the first outlaw country bands. Tonight, it’s acoustic Americana with siblings Chris and Lorin.
Wednesday: Broken Social Scene, Lupo’s – It’s a long drive to Providence, but this Toronto collective is worth it. They remind me of a more upbeat Joy Division, if that’s possible. The personnel include core duo Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and whoever’s in town. They closed the recent Virgin Festival with part-time members Emily Haines (Metric) and Amy Millan (Stars).
Finally: Two Claremont fine dining establishments now welcome every turning of the calendar page with the same familiar faces. Al Alessi handles first Friday chores at Sophie & Zeke’s, while Jason Cann greets each month’s leadoff Saturday at Bistro Nouveau.