Local Rhythms – Ditch The Arenas

cheatseats.jpgPeople will line up to see Bob Seger until the day he can’t remember the words to “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” Why wouldn’t they? He’s a working class hero who can play guys half his age under the table.

The fifth song Seger performed last Saturday night in Boston was “Old Time Rock and Roll.” There are but a handful of players with deep enough catalogs to drop such a big number that early and still be able to deliver more. He did – gems like “Turn the Page,” “Night Moves” and “Against the Wind.”

Barring a miracle, the next time I hear any of those songs, it’ll be a bar band playing them. I’ve had my fill of the cynical business that’s turned rock and roll into a commodity, and its most passionate fans into dupes. Music was never meant to be played in a cavernous barn like the TD Banknorth Garden – or whatever it’s called next week (they really should fasten sponsor names to the building with Velcro).

But here’s the worst of it. Last November I bought tickets the moment they went on sale. For nearly 200 dollars, I got two seats in the last row of the top balcony – barely in the same zip code. Like most arena concerts, every ticket sold for the same price. Show promoter Live Nation must figure star struck fans will pay anything, and won’t care where they sit.

If you did care, Live Nation had the answer. In the middle of December, Ticketmaster (their parent company), sent an email offering me really, really good seats, which they’d kept from retail sale. All I had to do was pay three times face value at auction.

Lately, Ticketmaster is pushing for legislation to outlaw ticket reselling operations like StubHub and EBay, but that’s just so they can have a monopoly on scalping.

I’ve got nothing against making money, but I’m opting out of this game. There’s plenty of good live music that doesn’t require me to bring cotton for nosebleeds, or do business with the Ticketmaster mafia.

I don’t believe for a second that my small protest will dent the ambitions of, say, Van Halen, who still hate each other but are going out this summer to milk their minions. Nor will it slow down the Police’s upcoming Stewart Copeland Annuity Tour, or stop Mick Jagger from making his child support payments.

No matter. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell – if you want me, I’ll be in the bars. Speaking of which:

Thursday: Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men, Boccelli’s – Great music lives in Bellows Falls, and this is one of the best “gets” in a long time. Alvin fronted the Blasters and played with mid-80’s punk standard bearers X as well. Lately, he’s putting his own special stamp on Americana. The West Coast native’s latest project is compilation of California songwriters. He’s comfortable in Bakersfield, South Central, and all points in between.

Friday: Comedy Connection with Mike Siscoe, Electra – At this West Lebanon nightspot, first Fridays are all about comedy. Siscoe’s material ranges from familiar topics like teenage hormones and novel attention disorder treatments (hint: they’re not legal), to character bits featuring the public access show “Hookah Time,” with a Borat-type host and cheesy production values. It’s pretty funny stuff.

Saturday: Stonewall, Christophe’s (Ludlow) – Oops, I had Peter Pidgeon and Arcoda listed here, but it’s actually next week.  Since both the Heritage and Stonewall are Martin Hansen joints, I’ll replace my mistake with a plug for the best power trio in the Twin State region, and maybe points beyond.  Check out their MySpace site to listen to their latest Exsubel Records release.

Sunday: Josh Ritter, Latchis Theatre (Brattleboro) – A star in Ireland, he’s finally starting to catch fire stateside. Ritter has matinee idol looks, a wildly infectious voice, and catchy songs. Really, he’s the whole package. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this show sells out, even if it is Super Bowl Sunday. Dejected Patriots fans looking to pick up their sorrows could do a whole lot worse than this. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, a singer-songwriter led combo from Boston, open the show.

Monday: Opening Day, Salt hill 2 – The town of Newport has waited patiently for this night, and the Tuohy brothers will undoubtedly deliver the same blend of charm, service and comfort food that’s won them a loyal clientèle on the Lebanon Green. Josh and Joe say they chose Monday for a “medium” opening, but my guess is they won’t be holding much back. Live music will be coming – but not tonight. You’ll know when I do.

Robert Dubac’s “The Male Intellect”

dubacsmall.jpgAccording to Robert Dubac, man’s struggle to understand women – and vice versa – will never end.

“Women are a paradox,” says the comedian, who performs his one-man show, “The Male Intellect,” February 8 at the Claremont Opera House. “They want us to figure things out. But once we do, they want us to stop. Honesty is the most important thing to a woman – unless it’s the truth about her. They want a man to be more intelligent, but get ticked off when he’s right.”

Dubac doesn’t let men off the hook. “We like the Three Stooges,” he says, “while women don’t think even one stooge is funny. Three – that’s redundant.”

In “The Male Intellect,” the comedian morphs into an array of characters, all with worse instincts than his, to try and close the communication gap between the sexes. There’s the Colonel, a stereotypical redneck who insists that honesty is what women want, but has an odd idea of what that is.

Tell her you’re a jerk, he coaches “Bobby,” the perplexed character at the center of the show. Later, when she realizes it’s true, you can remind her that she was warned.

The bon vivant Jean-Michel offers some useless advice – “speak French,” he says, “women love that” – but does provide a telling assessment of the difference between the sexes when the subject is sex. “It is like a little light switch in your room of love,” he says. “It is on – I want it. Oops, I changed my mind – poof, it’s off.”

Man’s switch has only one position, says Jean-Pierre. “Because we never know when yours will be on, we have to keep ours on all the time.”

Throughout the show, Dubac ranges across a two-sided stage that represents his confused mind. The masculine right side, where his chauvinistic alter egos live, is cluttered and chaotic. It’s filled with stuff, like a dented file cabinet where he keeps his beer. “What?” he asks, popping a Corona. “I keep it filed under ‘B’.”

The left side, on the other hand, is a virtual clean slate, waiting to be filled with enough secrets for the just-dumped Bobby to win back his fiancé. Bobby’s feminine voice will only provide hints about how he should do that, leaving him to fill in the gaps.

Before “The Male Intellect” began its’ long run – now over 12 years, and translated into four languages – Dubac did stand-up comedy and worked as an actor. He appeared in the movies “Sketch Artist” and “The Rookie,” and had guest television roles in “Growing Pains,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and a 2-year stint on the soap opera, “Loving.”

As a comedian, Dubac honed his skills on the late 70’s concert circuit, opening for groups like the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffett. He also toured with the Police, who are currently readying a reunion performance at the upcoming Grammy broadcast. Back then, they were an unknown band on their first American run. “We rode around in two Econoline vans, trying to shove alternative music and comedy down the mouths of the southern rock and roll circuit,” says Dubac.

“The Male Intellect” isn’t autobiographical, he says. Dubac’s been happily married for 11 years, and his wife, a former actress, provided him with a lot of input. “When I first started doing the show, it was this little group of misogynists who were trying to figure out women,” he says. “With her help, it grew into something – a guy who’s going to flush that out of his system and face life as it really is. That’s more conducive to a relationship than drawing a line in the sand and saying that’s the way I am.

“I tell people I wrote the show, but she explained it to me,” says Dubac. “That’s her joke, actually. I have to give her credit.”

He wrote the show in the early 90s, as he grew tired of a misguided stand-up scene. “The weight of the material you could do on stage got less and less,” he says. “It was all built for that six-minute television spot that everyone wanted to get on the Tonight Show. I think it stifled the creativity.”

Though Dubac plays the subject for laughs, he wants the show to provide “a positive experience.” Couples should think of “The Male Intellect” as a pre-Valentine’s Day gift. “I am kind of sifting through the decades of therapy people go through and giving it to them in 90 minutes.” For men, it’s easier and cheaper than weekly visits to the shrink, he says, “and you get to do it while you watch another guy drink a beer.”

Seriously, says Dubac, “the show celebrates the differences between men and women, and how you can work it out.”

What’s the secret? “ It’s OK to think like a woman – it doesn’t make you gay,” he says. “Well, maybe gay enough to use coasters.”