Three years ago this week, I submitted the first “Local Rhythms” column to the Eagle Times. My editor at the time had only one question: “can you keep it up every week?” I wasn’t sure – and not because I feared writer’s block.
When I approached the paper, my original idea was to write about the local entertainment scene, in spite of what I perceived as the absence of a robust night life.
How wrong I was.
The things I felt deserving of attention, like the rise of the Internet and the way Claremont in particular had been blessed with a competitive environment which gave unprecedented access to a cornucopia of culture, is still there – it’s growing every day.
However, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of talent beyond my door. Suddenly I found myself thinking, why watch television when there’s so much to go out and see?
With each passing week, I found players who’d been toiling for years in the local clubs, and up-and-comers who dreamed, in spite of the odds, of using their area notoriety as a foothold for a jump to the national stage. Each had something unique to offer.
There’s been an ebb and flow over the last three years; Pub Italiano and Coyote Creek are gone, newcomers like Sophie and Zeke’s and the Imperial Lounge stepped up to take their place.
The Bellows Falls scene has risen, fallen, and risen again. The Tuohy brothers are poised to transform Newport’s music scene on Fridays and Saturdays, and the Royal Flush in Springfield is now home to local stalwarts and plenty of dead ringer tribute bands.
Rockingham is on the rise, and Charlestown is an eclectic’s dream.
Three years ago, as I wrote the words, “each week, I’ll try to highlight the entertainment opportunities this area offers,” I had no way of knowing just what a rich experience that effort would be. I’ve been humbled by the rich array of talent I’ve found in so many unexpected places.
I hope my words provide inspiration for readers to check it out themselves. I’m grateful to have such a rich scene to write about. Every new discovery reminds me that even though I never learned to play myself, there are plenty who can. They’re waiting to entertain me – and you.
Last Friday night, I witnessed the next generation of singers and players.at the Claremont Middle School’s Talent Show. Make no mistake – in a few years you’ll see at least a few of these kids on a bigger stage.
Speaking of which, what else is keeping the scene vital this week?
Thursday: Norm Wolfe & Peter Concilio, Sophie & Zeke’s – In addition to playing, Norm’s worked with kids in the Hanover and Dresden school districts. His guitar work has graced the North Country over four decades. Bassist Concilio has played with top musicians, as well as producing concerts by Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie. Together, they weave a wonderful musical conversation.
Friday: Cheryl Wheeler/Antje Duvekot, New England Youth Theatre (Brattleboro) – Wheeler’s claim to fame is the regional masterpiece “When Fall Comes to New England,” a song that sums up not only the natural beauty here, but also the many ways the weather affects our life. Duvekot has channeled life’s challenges into a stunningly mature body of songs that belie her youth.
Saturday: Junk, Newport Moose Lodge – Known until recently as “Junk in the Trunk,” this is a band with clever instincts to go with their classic rock sensibilities. This means that along with familiar favorites from the likes of Deep Purple, frontman Rich Cortese will pull some obscurely wonderful tunes by bands like Wishbone Ash or Steely Dan out of his hat.
Sunday: Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon Finale, Center at Eastman – An end and a beginning. Sax player Greg Abate joins the JOSA Ensemble, laying down smooth riffs for trumpeter and vocalist Johnny Souza to improvise around. It’s the last performance of a very well-received season. It also marks Bistro Nouveau’s entree into Eastman. Claremont misses them already.
Monday: Vienna Teng, Iron Horse – Reminiscent of Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan, this young songwriter/pianist took an odd route to her musical career. She earned a Stanford degree in computer science, went to work for Cisco and then quit to follow her muse. Urgent and hypnotic are two good words to describe her.
Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt Hill Pub – A circle forms in the center of Lebanon’s pub on the green every Tuesday at 6:30, and the “seisun” – that’s the Irish spelling – can take just about any form. It all depends on the players, and tonight the dynamic duo of Chris Stevens on concert mandolina and Roger Burridge on fiddle will get things started; before the night ends, many friends will drop by to join in.