Elvis Sighting This Saturday in Claremont

dan5.jpgEight passionate Elvis Presley fans will give some love back to the community this weekend, when Dan D. and the Burning Love perform a benefit for the Stevens High School Class of 2007’s Substance-Free Graduation Event. Bandleader (and Claremont native) Dan LaPorte combines a genetic love for the King’s music (his father was a big fan too) with an eerie resemblence to Elvis, in both looks and voice. His four-piece band, buoyed by three backup singers, crackles along like James Burton, Elvis’s original guitarist, was leading it.

LaPorte got serious about his Elvis obsession one night a few years back in a Boston karaoke bar. He bought his first sequined leather jumpsuit and entered a contest there, which he won. After a few years performing solo at weddings, parties and charity events, LaPorte recruited some musician friends, and in 2005, Dan D. and the Burning Love were born. They quickly gained a reputation for their note-perfect re-creation of the “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii” television special.

Experienced area players make up the Burning Love. Drummer Rick Leavitt of Newport spent nine years on the country circuit opening for the likes of Jo Dee Messina and TG Shepard. Keyboard player Marty Young and bassist Todd LeBlanc have both worked with several area bands. Newest member Mike Colburn performed with the late Seventies Elvis tribute group Paul Dee & the Manhattan Express, and more recently with the Boomer Sellers Band.

Their Saturday night performance (7 PM, tickets are $15 each, $25 for couples) also features a “special guest appearance” by a band called Little Memphis. It’s won’t be a clumsy opening act, though. “Little Memphis” is actually Dan D. and the Burning Love, minus the cape and King-sized sunglasses, and performing many original tunes.

“It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time,” says Ed Leavitt, lead songwriter and a member of the “Inspirations” backup trio. Little Memphis has been hard at work on a record of original material, and the response to it so far has been encouraging.

Leavitt wrote one song, “The Lights Went Down In Graceland,” based on, he said, “my memories as a kid of when Elvis died.” The band sent the it to Jason Edge, the president of the Elvis International fan club. “Jason really liked the song, and posted on the website,” says Leavitt.

The band was surprised and gratified by response to “The Lights Went Down in Graceland.” “We got emails from around the world,” says Leavitt. “Elvis International reaches 28 different countries.” The song also attracted the attention of Doc Walker, program director at Sirius’s “Elvis Radio” satellite station.

With a little more luck and hard work, Little Memphis hopes to break out, which means a gradual phasing out of the band’s tribute work. Thus, Saturday’s show may represent one of Claremont’s last chances to witness Dan LaPorte’s dead ringer act.

Maybe – old habits are hard to break, and one imagines that as long as Dan D. can fit himself into a white jumpsuit, his Burning Love won’t die.


Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda Deliver The Goods

barcoda.jpgChagrined that I’d gotten the date wrong in the previous week’s column, I made a point of being at Heritage Saturday for Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda’s set. I’d heard some of their MP3s, but really wasn’t sure what to expect of them live. Their most recent EP, “Happy Song,” is smoother than 20 dollar gin, with throwback arrangements that would make Al Kooper smile and nod in appreciation.

In particular, “The Myth” blusters with Lucretia McEvil horn charts; Pete Pidgeon holds down the center with wicked guitar triplets and fifth-gear-on-an-icy-road vocals, featuring goofy lines like “Every time I open my mouth I get misinterpretated.”

On record, Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda take all that’s great about melting pot Americana music and add a few drops of high-energy hot sauce. But what if it was all overdubs, multitracking and multiple takes? How would they sound in a bar, surrounded by pool tables, milling patrons and NASCAR beer lights?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. My first indication that Arcoda has a knack for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat was their arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.” Most everyone does it as a slow growling blues. Arcoda gave it their own stamp by turning it into a booty-shaking jump shuffle. So far, so good.

Pidgeon plays guitar like a roadhouse Pat Metheny, with a dash of prog-rock spiderfingers thrown in, on a big, hollow bodied Gibson six-string more typically seen in the hands of guys working behind monogrammed bandstands. He has the easy, natural touch of George Benson combined with the frenetic fret-ranging of Steve Howe. I’ve never seen anything like it, with the possible exception of Robben Ford one night in 1979, when he was trying to upstage Bob Weir in a Palo Alto bar.

Arcoda has apparentely employed more drummers than Spinal Tap. On Saturday, with longtime bassist Seth Rivers holding down his end, including a couple of wild and wooly solos, the only reason I knew they had a new rhythm section was because Pete said so. Unfazed, these guys could and did make it up on the spot, nailing a rough but ragged pre-Grammy cover of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” at a fan’s request.

My favorite number of the eveing was “Funk #49,” a James Gang song that introduced me to kick-ass rock and roll nearly 30 years ago. Pidgeon & Arcoda of course gave it their own shape, playing the 4/4 intro as a Jimi Hendrix burlesque, then shifting into blistering solo trade-offs between Pidgeon and second guitarist Kurt Schellenberg, who is no slouch either.

Their rip-roaring, and horns-free, version of “The Myth” closed the night, leaving me smiling and looking forward to their next trip to the area.

Download some of their music and you’ll know what I’m talking about:


Happy Song

The Myth

Boring Beatles News

unreleased.jpgVia Fox News comes word that the Beatles catalog will be available for download soon, and it won’t be exclusively iTunes. It’s hard to believe that Neil Aspinall represents a band that made 13 albums in something like 7 years. Because if they were managed then like they are today, it would be a miracle if one record every two years came out.

Hell, it would be a miracle if they released ANYTHING.

The great, majestic news emanating forth from corpse picker Aspinall? Digital versions of the 13 releases everybody on planet Earth has already heard are due, and nothing more. Apparently, he didn’t hear what Steve Jobs had to say the other day, or for that matter what was playing on Jobs’ iPhone at MacWorld.

Let me spell it out for Neil. Everyone who has an iPod has already ripped their Beatles collection to MP3, and isn’t interested in buying it again. C’mon, release something else – hell, there’s hours and hours of good available material.

But Aspinall isn’t even letting a DVD of “Let It Be” see the light of day. Good thing I’ve got a bootleg of the 1982 LaserDisc version in my home collection.

Idiots, prats.

Remember 1977? Here’s What It Means NOW

police.JPGThe concert ticket business is a whorehouse, and today it’s more crowded than the Grammy stage during Mary J. Blige’s set Sunday night. Best Buy is the latest entrant, pairing with the Police’s “30th Anniversary Highway Robbery Tour” in offering exclusive pre-sale codes to Reward Zone members. Even the codes, by the way, are selling on EBay, and there are a few fools dim enough to spend north of 60 bucks on them.

Posession of a code doesn’t guarantee tickets, of course, and it definitely won’t get you good seats. TicketBastard, the ruiner of live music, is auctioning off the first 10 rows. Starting price? $250.00, sure to rise as there’s an abundant supply of people who, as whore supreme Rod Stewart once sang before he crossed over to the dark side, “got a lot more money than sense.”

I’m surprised someone hasn’t gotten the idea to sell the absolute best seats at $1977 a pop, in honor of the year the Police released their first indie single. Oh, wait, TicketBastard hasn’t made the first row available yet. Maybe that’s their plan….

One more greed alert – if you didn’t get a Best Buy code, you can join the Police Fan Club for $100 – in honor of the ticket price total for their first gig – and jump the line that way.

Local Rhythms – No DRM

nodrm.jpgSteve Jobs is like that old ad for BASF – he doesn’t make the computers, digital music players or cell phones, he just makes them better. How? By thinking like the people who will ultimately use the MacBooks, iPods and iPhones that his company, Apple, unleashes on the world.

On Sunday night, the world will watch the annual Grammy awards unfold. Amidst a sea of self-congratulation, the stubbornly out-of-touch music business will again refuse to face some obvious truths. First, lawsuits won’t make people buy music, and second, encryption schemes won’t stop them from stealing it.

Which brings me back to Steve Jobs. In an open letter published on Apple’s website last Tuesday, he called for an end to digital rights management (DRM) schemes – the many ways record companies lock up their online music. His declaration carries some weight, because iTunes is the world’s largest legal download service, and the iPod is far and away most popular music player.

Jobs made a call to simple, common sense. In a world, he wrote, where last year 2 billion songs were sold online, “while over 20 billion … were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves,” how can anyone stop piracy?

On the other hand, if the industry took all the money wasted on making CDs that aren’t bought, the warehouses where they’re stored, and the fleets of trucks that deliver them, they could change the world and save their business.

When faced with the choice of a drive to the mall or a click of a mouse, what will most people do? But music purchased through most download services is fraught with problems that often render it unplayable. Tech-savvy fans turn to free (and currently illegal) download options for convenience as much as price.

If only the industry could agree upon a way to monetize this practice. They view Napster, which ushered in MP3 file trading in 1999, as the beginning of their end. Left out is the fact that CD sales rose, not fell, in Napster’s wake.

In making millions of songs easily available to casual listeners, Napster sparked an explosion of interest in previously ignored music. The industry responded by litigating them out of existence. Eight years later, they still haven’t learned that more fans means more business. Hopefully, Jobs’ modest proposal will spur them to find fresh ways to face this challenge.

On to live entertainment:

Thursday: “The Male Intellect,” Claremont Opera House – It’s a weekend for laughter, with Dubac’s critically acclaimed one-man show tonight, and Brooklyn funny woman Mary Dimino Friday at Hullabaloo in downtown Claremont. Dubac hilariously explores the confusing gulf between the sexes, while the down-to-earth Dimino looks at life from a female perspective, including this funny take on weight: “I started as a woman, and ended up Spongebob Squarepants.”

Friday: – Pondering Judd, Salt Hill Pub – A first-time appearance by this Seacoast Americana combo, who can pick and grin like Nashville cats, and then kick out the jams with e-Phish-iency (sorry about the pun, it’s been that kind of day). They’ve opened for Guster and the Saw Doctors, and were just named best rock band of 2006 in a recent Portsmouth poll.

Saturday: Last Kid Picked, Newport Opera House –
Local heroes hold down the musical end of Winter Carnival for another year. They’ll play everything from “My Prerogative” to “Boys of Summer” – the Ataris’ version. Newport boasts the oldest winter carnival in the country; this is the 91st year. LKP hasn’t played every one, but they’ve done a bunch. The best part about this show, perhaps, is that it’s indoors.

Sunday: Mike Monaghan, Center at Eastman – Saxophonist Monaghan freelances with the Boston Pops, and has worked with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Anita O’Day. Sunday’s show begins with the Bill Wightman-led JOSA Ensemble, who will then back Monaghan. There’s a real chemistry between Wightman’s band and the musicians he recruits for JOSA that makes each performance special and unique.

Tuesday: Altan & Paul Brady, Hopkins Center – This is a great double bill of Irish music, featuring Altan, a six-piece traditional band, and Brady, a terrific songwriter who’s given songs to everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Bob Dylan. Brady will do his own set and sit in with Altan. His soulful voice should blend well with lead vocalist Maihread Ni Mhaonaigh’s pristine soprano.

Wednesday: Jerry Douglas, Iron Horse – He didn’t invent the Dobro, a resonator guitar turned flat and played with a combination of steel sliding and finger picking. But to hear the sounds emanating from Douglas as his hands float and dance across the instrument, you’d be forgiven if you thought otherwise. He often backs people like Allison Krause. To see him up front is a real treat.

“Children Running Through” – Patty Griffin’s Long Winter Journey

griffinsml.jpgTime, inexorably passing and gratefully savored, informs much of Patty Griffin’s latest effort, Children Running Through. Fittingly, it arrives amidst this season’s coldest days. Throughout the 12-song collection (13 when purchased through iTunes), it’s winter – for broken bodies and beaten souls. World-weary resignation courses through this, Griffin’s fifth and most fully realized record, and colors the chilly landscape of slow buses, empty fields and sinking vessels like flinty clouds.

Fans of every phase of Griffin’s 11-year recording career will find something to like here, from the raw acoustic folk of her earliest work to the lush arrangements on 2004’s Impossible Dream. Often, the elements come together in a single song. “No Bad News” opens with busker guitar and ends a Calypso romp, while the Dylanesque “Getting Ready” hints at the stark, percolating fury of Living With Ghosts, then shifts into a loose garage band sound familiar to anyone who’s heard a leaked Internet copy of Silver Bell, her unreleased masterpiece.

There are gentler moments, such as “You’ll Remember,” a sultry torch song that opens the disc, and the spare, nostalgic piano ballad, “Burgundy Shoes.” Griffin and producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon) again recruit Americana grand dame Emmylou Harris to sing backup to stunning effect. Framed by elegiac guitar, Harris’s brittle, beautiful voice perfectly complements “Trapeze,” the tale of an aging circus performer who has loved, lost and even taken a potion to harden her heart, yet still works without a net.

“Trapeze” is a perfect distillation of the storytelling magic heard in earlier works like “Making Pies” and “Top of the World.” It’s destined to be one she’s singing 20 years from now, and make no mistake – people will pay to experience Griffin’s timeless magic even then. For more than any songwriter, Patty Griffin crafts her music the way Shakers make chairs, seamlessly joined and breathtaking in their durable beauty.

Griffin’s songs are as lean as her frail physique, yet powerful as the train at the center of “Railroad Wings.” “There are things you don’t know you know,” observes Griffin over a lazy guitar cadence, coming to wisdom by song’s end: “as far as I can tell everything means nothing/except some things that mean everything.” Such small, beautiful jewels are everywhere on this record.

The “children running through” this disc would bury Griffin or worse, reduce her to irrelevancy. “I’m no kid/In a kid’s game,” she laments at one point, a moment later waiting to “send the ghosts on their way/tell them they’ve had their day” in “Someone Else’s Tomorrow.”

But Griffin echoes each funereal moment with one of fierce determination. On the gospel-fueled “Heavenly Day,” she sings, “tomorrow may rain with sorrow/here’s a little time we can borrow,” with the spirited abandon of a young Aretha Franklin. Throughout, she wrestles hope from her darkest moments. In “I Don’t Ever Give Up,” she states defiantly, “I’m not clean/but I’m not washed up.”

Hardly. This record probably won’t get much radio airplay, and may be completely ignored by a youth culture that consumes music like Pop-Tarts. But Children Running Through will be passed, hand-to-hand, among the gray believers who know that, as the final track (“Crying Over”) intones, “in all of this dreaming of silver and gold/is something to break this winter so cold.”

Beatles, Apple Settle Legal Differences

apple-apple.jpgNo, Apple didn’t air a subliminal ad during the Super Bowl – the rumored iTunes/Beatles “big announcement” never happened. Today, however, there is some official Apple-Apple news, via FMQB. Apple Inc., as the Steve Jobs-led company is now officially known, settled their trademark litigation with Apple Corps., the home of the Beatles catalog.

In a statement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, “We love the Beatles, and it has been painful being at odds with them over these trademarks. It feels great to resolve this in a positive manner, and in a way that should remove the potential of further disagreements in the future.”On behalf of Apple Corps shareholders, Neil Aspinall, manager of Apple Corps said, “It is great to put this dispute behind us and move on. The years ahead are going to be very exciting times for us. We wish Apple Inc. every success and look forward to many years of peaceful co-operation with them.”

No word on what this means to rumors of Beatles music being available via iTunes, but the new rumors point to Valentine’s Day as a possible launch date, to coincide with the “Love” album released towards the end of last year.