Local Rhythms – Banding Together for a Fan


Few can match the music community’s generous nature. It’s amazing – most area players have day jobs, and stuggle to find the time to even practice. But when there’s a friend in need or a cause worth supporting, they won’t hesitate to step up.

For example, there’s the COVER show featuring Jay Ungar and Molly Mason tomorrow at the Lebanon Opera House, and next week’s Farmer’s Market benefit, wit Dar Williams topping the bill.

Sometimes it’s a fellow performer that needs a helping hand, but this weekend in South Strafford, Vermont some of the Upper Valley’s best will band together for a fan.

Health care is a problem that no amount of politics or public agitation seems able to solve. For some, medicine is the greatest luxury of all. That’s the case for the area woman, who’s asked to remain anonymous in the public media, at the center of Saturday’s benefit show at Barrett Hall.

The “Purple Hair Fund Dance” – she’s been known to dye hers that color – features Dr. Burma, Gypsy Reel, Blue Monday, Jeanne McCullough and Friends, Jeremiah McClane and Terry Youk.

In the course of the event’s four hours, others will undoubtedly join in.

Admission is by donation, and proceeds raised will help with the medical costs faced by a person who, says show organizer Ted Mortimer, “all the musicians on the bill know and love.”

Ted Mortimer leads Dr. Burma; he’s guitarist, teacher and all-around good guy. “I’ve known her for 20 years,” he says.

“She and my wife Linda are like sisters.”

“Last month she was diagnosed with a Type IV Glioblastoma,” he tod me in a recent email, “which is the worst variant of the most aggressive brain tumor there is. She had surgery at DHMC about 10 days ago to remove it, but they couldn’t get it all.

“The docs have told her she has 18 months to live if she opts for heavy radiation and chemo; 3-6 months if she doesn’t. She has no health insurance, little savings, and can no longer work.”

Far too often, financial ruin accompanies the physical and emotional devastation of failing health. That’s especially true for a lot of musicians.

The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, for example, pays for things like wheelchairs, hearing aids and funeral expenses for destitute players.

With that in mind, it’s inspiring to know that this weekend, local musicians will be singing for a music lover.

What else is on the calendar?

Thursday: Aztec Two-Step, Boccelli’s – “Music Lives in Bellows Falls.” That’s the new slogan across the river, and they’re proving with show after show. This duo has been entertaining regional audiences since the late Sixties. Their 1972 debut album sat at the crossroads of folk and prog-rock, and was an FM radio staple at a time when such a thing mattered. It’s been over 35 years, and they’re still going strong.


Friday: Blue Monday, Skunk Hollow Tavern – This band, which also plays the “Purple Hair Dance,” got their name from the Monday night Salt Hill jam sessions where they met and found their groove together. Featuring harmonica man Johnny Bishop, Brian Kennell of the Squids, Bobby Gagnier and Ted Mortimer (who’s everywhere and plays everything, it seems), the band covers the gamut of the American blues idiom, and have a ton of fun in the process.

Saturday: Sirsy, Salt Hill Two – If you haven’t seen this two-piece powerhouse, you’re in for a treat. Haling from upstate New York, Sirsy features the awesome lungs of Melanie Krahmer, who can wail, growl and pound the devil out of a drum kit. She’s accompanied by guitarist Rich Libutti, who helps out on snare when Melanie takes a flute solo – did I mention that? This is a duo that’s decidedly greater than the sum of their parts.

Sunday: Jack’s Mannequin, Keene State College – Jack McMahon’s side project is more of the piano-driven indie rock that his band, Something Corporate, has a reputation for – albeit a little wilder and unrestrained. In an attempt to either keep the crowd young or make sure the oldsters pay a price for living vicariously, student tickets are five bucks. Everybody else pays twenty-five.

Monday: Graham Parker & His Latest Clowns, Iron Horse – He emerged around the same time as Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. Early records like “Squeezing Out Sparks” hinted at greatness, but Parker’s star never rose to the level of his English compatriots. One of the punchiest live shows in all of rock. Eilen Jewell opens – she’ll be a bona fide star by summer’s end, mark my words.

Wednesday: Chaos Theory Dance Company, Colby Sawyer College – Student, faculty and guest dancers join forces for two nights of spirited improvisation The “Theory of Everything” dance features music taken from silent movies and Queen riffs. This week’s eclectic pick.

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