Local Rhythms – The Fireworks Are Hailing

This is the time of the year I start humming Bruce Springsteen’s “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and thinking about fireworks. That’s inevitable – I moved East from California in 1976, just in time to join an estimated 2 million people in Boston for the Bicentennial.

There’s nothing like a patriotic sky to bring a country together, and every year it seems the divisions in our nation miraculously heal, if only for 24 hours.

The Fourth of July is also a great time to be in a small town. The pyrotechnics, while modest when compared to the Washington Monument or the Hatch Shell, still inspire plenty of “oohs and ahhs”. Here’s what’s happening locally next Wednesday.

Springfield’s Wings and Wheels, held at Hartness Airport, claims to be the biggest fireworks display in Vermont. It’s a chance for the kids to get up close and personal with planes and tractors, and music. Local blues man Chris Kleeman and his band performs after the show in the sky.

In Claremont, the rocket’s red glare will emanate from Arrowhead, for citizens to enjoy in Monadnock Park. Destiny and perennial favorites the Flames provide entertainment.

Saxton’s River has an old fashioned parade, as does Plainfield, where there’s also morning gospel music at the community church, a flea market and an art show.

Grantham’s Old Home Days is always fun, with a parade, climbing wall, train rides and country music from Ozzie’s Band.

Of course, if you believe that bigger is better, you can always pack the family up and trek to Boston, where the Pops reign supreme. If you want to get anywhere near the stage, though, plan to show up at dawn.

Your reward is a healthy dose of classical music with an attitude, ending with the “1812 Overture,” and the most over the top fireworks show known to mankind. Celebrity performers are always a part of the show, too, and this year John Mellencamp joins Keith Lockhart’s thoroughly modern orchestra.

The former John Cougar will probably do “Pink Houses” and “Our Country” – which isn’t a bad song in spite of its egregious commercialism.

I think I’ll Tivo the Boston event, and join my family and friends on the big lawn for some local fun. To paraphrase Mr. Mellencamp, I wasn’t born in a small town, but now I live in a small town.

What else is happening?

Thursday: Goog Smith Trio, Elixir – Another new venue, with a martini bar and small plate menu. Built in a renovated freight house right along the railroad tracks in White River Junction, I’m told it has a nice ambience and reasonably good acoustics. The Goog Smith Trio is bursting with youthful energy (again, according to my sources). Nice to see the local milieu growing – WRJ is turning into a real hot spot.

Friday: Yarn, Okemo Mountain – Their “Angel in Woodstock” sounds like an upcountry version of “Poncho and Lefty,” and as someone else wrote, you can almost hear the pops in the vinyl when they play. This four-piece band, led by songwriter/guitarist Blake Christiana, is a treat for anyone who calls themselves a fan of Americana. What a perfect way to start the five-day weekend (you are taking Monday and Tuesday off, right?).

Saturday: Jesse Peters, Heritage – A formal grand opening, courtesy of new owners Richard and Sarah Cahill, includes a free buffet from three to eight, with music later from Jesse Peters and his band. Peters will continue to hold down open mike nights at this Charlestown institution. One more thing – if you see Richard, make sure to congratulate him. On July 4, Cahill officially becomes a U.S. citizen, at a ceremony to be held in Portsmouth. Ain’t that America?

Sunday: Pink Martini, Hopkins Center – An eclectic 12-piece orchestra that blends classical, Latin and jazz into something truly unique. Their music turns up in the strangest places – movie soundtracks, “Sopranos” episodes and during the setup of Windows Server 2003. You heard right, Pink Martini is capable of serenading geeks and gangsters (albeit fictional ones). Their latest, “Hey Eugene!” takes lounge music to a new level.

Monday: A Day In His Life, Pittsfield Colonial – OK, most of you wouldn’t drive this far anyway, so I mention it mainly to fuel debate. If you loved the Beatles as much as I did, you don’t want to see clone imitations like this alleged John Lennon reincarnation. If you’re craving an ersatz Summer of Love redux, go see It’s a Beautiful Day in Northampton on Sunday. Better yet, rent “Monterey Pop” and enjoy the real thing.

Further Out: Last year’s local music extravaganza at Whaleback Mountain was a huge success, and “Whalestock,” set for August 11 at the Enfield ski area, hopes to follow in its footsteps. Hexerei again headlines, this time minus longtime bassist Mike “Frodo” Bergeron.

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