Local Rhythms – Tuohy Twofer at Eagle Block

eageblock.jpgThe local region’s live music pedigree really intrigued me when I moved here in 1980. I got first hand exposure to it when a convalescing Steven Tyler limped into the radio station where I worked one Saturday in 1981, a stack of reel-to-reel tapes in tow, looking to use our studio.

Aerosmith got their start in the bars around Sunapee, and band sightings are the stuff of local legend, but it was my first time. I was starry-eyed that day watching the somewhat soused rock star steal nips from a three-foot tall bottle of Portuguese wine, as he listened to rough mixes from the band’s Tokyo shows.

Josh and Joe Tuohy had their own unique view of this history; they grew up at the Shanty, a Sunapee nightspot their parents owned from the late sixties through the early nineties. Aerosmith never played there (they did, says Josh, hang out occasionally), but a lot of other local luminaries did.

It made an impression on the boys, and they’ve extended the family’s hospitality tradition to Salt Hill Pub, which they opened in 2003.

On Monday, the Tuohy brothers announced plans to work their magic closer to their old home, in Newport’s Eagle Block. It doesn’t have a name yet, but the new restaurant will feature the Irish-flavored hominess that’s worked for them so well in Lebanon.

“We’re going to transplant a lot of the Pub menu,” says Josh Tuohy, “because we think it works very well. It’s good food for the money.” They’re targeting a winter opening, but no firm date is set.

Josh says he’s excited about the prospect of running a club that’s two different venues in one, serviced by one common kitchen. That means customers looking for quiet dining will be comfortable downstairs, while the more energetic can head for the upstairs bar – which, unlike Salt Hill, will offer full cocktail service.

There are no immediate plans for live entertainment, Josh says, but knowing their history, it’s just a matter of time before the house is rocking. “Music has been a part of our success and identity,” he concedes “We’ll do it eventually, though probably not as extensively as we have at Salt Hill.”

The short life of the Eagle Tavern threw the town of Newport for a loop, so it’s great to know that this historic building, the focus of so much civic energy in the past few years, is now in good hands. I can’t wait to see what they have in store. Which reminds me – what’s happening this weekend?

Thursday: Nadine Zahr, Colby-Sawyer College – An Ani DiFranco disciple, Zahr performs songs of love and loss, with a coffeehouse earnestness. This pose certainly has lots of fans, but it’s a crowded field. Look at it this way – you could drive a lot further and spend a lot more for something less intimate. When Zahr plays, you want to look her in the eye. I like that.

Friday: Red Hot Juba, Salt Hill Pub – Zoot suit riot at the Pub! This Burlington-based band is like the Squirrel Nut Zippers with a shot of good Irish whiskey poured in the glass. They break out of the swing mode every now and then to good effect. This band best exemplifies Josh Tuohy’s willingness to take risks when booking bands. That’s why I think the Double Eagle (“2E” – get it?), or whatever they decide to call the new business, will be a hot spot.

Saturday: Richard Shindell, Chandler Music Hall – One of the great storytelling songwriters working today. If you’ve never heard him, you really must experience songs like “Last Fare of the Day,” a brilliantly human snapshot of the hours after 9/11, or “Cold Missouri Waters,” a song about a forest fire that is utterly harrowing. (*UPDATE* – Thanks, Chris Jones, for pointing out that James Keelaughan wrote this song, not Shindell) Lucy Kaplansky, Shindell’s band mate in Cry Cry Cry, opens the show and joins him later onstage.

Sunday: Dark Star Orchestra, Lebanon Opera House – A band that brings a surprise every time they take the stage. Sure, they’re a Grateful Dead cover group, but with a difference. Each show is a complete re-creation of a Dead concert from back in time. Since virtually every one of that band’s performances was committed to tape, this is not as hard as it looks. But DSO not only does the songs, they include the unique nuances of the night they’re re-making – flubs, false starts and all.

Tuesday: Bill Frisell, Hopkins Center – He’s been called the Miles Davis of the guitar, with “a signature built from pure sound and inflection; an anti-technique that’s instantly identifiable.” He’s skilled at blending into a wide range of musical tapestries, and skill that’s helped him contribute to work by artists as diverse as John Zorn , Elvis Costello, Ron Sexsmith and the L.A. Philharmonic.

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