Local Rhythms – Autumn Brings Opera House Music

operahouse.gifI tend to have mixed feelings as fall approaches. The sun lover in me would rather feel the air warming my back than taste it on the tip of my tongue. But everything else autumn brings – apple picking, pumpkin carving and foliage color – make the bittersweet reunion with my jackets and sweaters easier to endure.

The season also means music. As summer sheds shut down and the melodies move indoors, regional opera house calendars become crowded with talent. This weekend is a prime example.

To the north, on Friday Barre welcomes one of my favorite country artists, Marty Stuart, performing with his crack band, the Fabulous Superlatives. On Saturday, the Newport Opera House hosts Stan Jr., a “Super Legends” journey through the decades, to benefit the Stevens High School Alumni Association.

Claremont will soon be rich with comedy, with last year’s sellout smash hit Bob Marley returning in October, followed by the Logger in November. Music-wise, there’s opera (Tosca), Americana (Jonathan Edwards) and a keyboard extravaganza (I Love a Piano) coming up.

Some of the area’s best music will originate from the Lebanon Opera House stage. This weekend, Suzanne Vega plays a fundraiser for the Upper Valley Haven.

The rest of the LOH season includes great jam bands (Little Feat, Bob Weir’s Ratdog), blues (Susan Tedeschi, Guy Davis) and Americana (Livingston Taylor).

I especially have my eyes on the First Annual Upper Valley Bluegrass Festival, running for two nights in November. It features the Greencards and Crooked Still, two of my favorite young bands, along with Del McCoury and Sam Bush.

Most exciting of all, Kate Rusby is coming to Lebanon next May. The name might not be immediately familiar, but trust me – you should get to know her.

It’s a long way off, but yours truly has long pined for this lovely, honey-throated English folksinger to make the trip across the pond. I even e-mailed her back in 2002.

To my delight, she replied.

“Come to Britain,” said Kate, “I don’t fly.”

One can only assume she’s conquered her fear – or located a very fast boat. In any case, I’m rejoicing, and you should book your seats.

What else is worthwhile this weekend?

Thursday: Pick Up Band, Claremont Farmer’s Market – One of the best parts of autumn is the bountiful harvests to be found at area farmer’s markets. The music’s pretty good too. Claremont’s weekly gathering in Broad Street Park has really started to swing this year. The aptly-named Pick Up Band is led by Springfield’s Tony Mastaler, a jazz guitarist with a lot of friends. He’s usually joined by Chuck Ober on saxophone, and anyone else he rounds up. Fans of Les Paul and Mary Ford, or the jazzy blues of Billie Holiday, will enjoy this.

Friday: Pete Merrigan, Salt Hill Two – Sadly, when summer ends, Pete Merrigan packs it in and heads down south to his Florida home. Friday and Saturday mark his final appearances until next year. It’s fitting he’s signing off in Newport’s newest. Salt Hill is, of course, run by the Tuohy brothers, who toddled about Sunapee’s Shanty back when Mr. Merrigan was starting out with the Mad Beach Band. Safe travels, Pete – see you next year!

Saturday: Localvore Equinox Jamm, Damon Hall (Hartland) – What a clever concept: a “localvore” is a consumer of locally grown foods. The show, then, is the spiritual child of farmer’s markets everywhere. It features jam band stalwarts the Gully Boys, Pete Meijer and the Black Bear Moon Rhythm Ensemble. It’s also a potluck supper, and anyone who brings a dish made with locally-produced ingredients gets in free. Tickets are 10 dollars otherwise.

Sunday: Suzanne Vega, Latchis Theatre – This art deco jewel in downtown Brattleboro usually shows movies, but tonight is packed with music. There’s a free pre-show performance from Lisa McCormick (email lisatickets@gmail.com), who’s just released a new CD. Vega, of course, needs no introduction, but it’s worth noting that 20-plus years into her career she’s still pushing musical boundaries. Her recent “Beauty and Crime” is an electric film noir of an album, rich in texture with a dark, urban mood.

Tuesday: Southern Culture on the Skids, Iron Horse – This band was the highlight of last July’s Green River Festival. At one point, their lead guitarist threw fried chicken to the crowd. I’d describe their music as the B-52’s meets Junior Brown – recall “you’re wanted by the police, and my wife thinks you’re dead” – playing inside the oval at a demolition derby.

Wednesday: Carlos Ocasio, Canoe Club – Carlos is like a lot of Upper Valley musicians, playing weekend sets with two different bands (Frydaddy & Gusano), while gigging solo at supper clubs during the weeknights. He’s been a part of the local music scene for about as long as there’s been a scene.

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