A couple of months ago, the Upper Valley music scene’s ubiquity dimmed a bit when Shenanigans switched to a “house band” live music format. The nightclub, located next to the Astrobowl in White River Junction, used to book different performers every Friday and Saturday night.
Fortunately, that’s changing.
“Honestly, from the get-go I couldn’t wait to see it stop,” says Dennis Naylor, who recently took over management responsibilities. “People rely on something new.”
That’s a fresh outlook indeed, and when Naylor took over booking the music, he thought an open audition call of sorts might bring some variety to the venue.
That’s the idea behind the “Shenanigans Battle of the Bands,” which began last week.
“There’s so many bands out there that you don’t get to hear unless you go to one particular bar,” says Naylor. “The CDs you get … have been doctored up in the studio, and this is better than trying out a new band on Saturday night and finding out they’re horrible.”
Some of the area’s best stepped up – Sarvela, an AC/DC-inspired WRJ band won last week, and Stonewall battles D’brotherhood tonight.
Next week Four of Clubs and Reality Check compete.
The three first round winners meet in the finals May 24, and the winner gets a cash prize with a headline slot at Shenanigans on Saturday, May 26.
“We got so many bands that we’re going to do a second one in June,” says Naylor.
In the meantime, house bands are history, and one of Dennis’s favorites plays this Saturday. Conniption Fits features former members of Syd and the veteran area band Motorplant; their fine new CD, “Airplane Rides,” is getting airplay on more than a few area radio stations.
There’s a vibrant area music scene happening, and it’s great to see Shenanigans back on board with it. Where the recent talk was, in Naylor’s words, “want to go to Shenanigans? No, they had the same band last week,” now there’s plans for even more local talent.
Next month, the club is adding live music to the vintage car show they do every year. “It will probably feature one of those small local bands,” Naylor says.
With his novel competitition to pick a Saturday band catching on, there could also be a lot more Thursday night rocking going on in White River.
What else is shaking this weekend?
Thursday: Falcon Ridge “Most Wanted Showcase, Middle Earth – Each year the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival has an all-day New Artist Showcase, where juried performers play three tunes apiece. The well-heeled audience then votes on the top three, who are invited back and are also featured on a pre-festival tour, which stops tonight in Bradford. Red Molly is an all-female three-piece with great harmonies, Ellis plays her own brand of spirited acoustic rock, and Pat Wictor is, simply, worldly wise.
Friday: Pete Merrigan, Sophie & Zeke’s – It’s the long-awaited return of “Three Season Pete,” and can summer be far behind? He’s like “Cheers”with a beret – he knows everybody’s name. A word of advice – make reservations if you want to enjoy Merrigan’s happy-go-lucky blend of picking, singing and banter. Downtown Claremont’s favorite dining spot is sure to be packed for this one.
Saturday: Soak, Heritage – A new band in the box at Charlestown’s favorite music spot, this time a Allman Brothers/Grateful Dead-inspired three piece from Manchester. You can listen to their stuff on MySpace (www.myspace.com/soaknh), but the real fun happens when Soak plays live. Look for a big Memorial Day party in two weeks at the under-new-ownership Heritage, with Sun King, Stonewall and the Highball Heroes – always a great time.
Sunday: James Keelaghan, Boccelli’s – Recently, I failed to give this Juno-nominated songwriter credit for writing “Cold Missouri Waters,” done to perfection by Cry Cry Cry on their album, so I’m righting that wrong. Keelaghan has a great singing voice and a terrific catalog of songs, including “Jenny Brice” and “River Run.” He also did a nice cover on “Beautiful,” a tribute album to fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot released last year.
Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt Hill – The musical circle in the center of Lebanon’s tavern on the green started and stopped in March. It resumes in earnest with the permanent trio of Chris Stevens on squeeze box, along with Roger Burridge and maestro/mainstay Dave Loney on fiddle. Anyone with a bit o’ talent can stop by and join in. A welcome return of an area tradition.
Wednesday: Michael Civiello, Old Courthouse – The Colby-Sawyer music direction tickles the ivories every Wednesday at this elegant, understated Newport eatery. His sound doesn’t dominate the room, but it always enhances it. A bit of jazz and classical to accompany an inventive menu. Highly recommended.