This is the time of year when the inevitable gift lists begin appearing. Pundits everywhere line up to pick the hottest toys, coolest gadgets and must-have baubles. I’m going to perform a different kind of public service, by pointing out presents to avoid.
It sounds cynical, I know. Ultimately, you’ll thank me.
In no particular order, here’s my Christmas Miss List:
- Fan Clubs – Everyone wants to do something special for their Hannah Montana-crazed moppet. But you’re better off taking the $30 annual fee that promises tickets to the concert and giving it to a scalper. Because that may be the only way of getting into the show. So says recent press reports, which tell of fans suing their favorite stars faster than you can say mileycyrussucks.com.
- Sony Products – I’m like a classic abused spouse when it comes to this company – easily seduced by flashy features, then slapped down by mediocrity. If only I’d waited for the Amazon Kindle instead of believing the E-Reader’s sexy lies, I’d be happy. Instead, there’s another busted unit in my closet full of dead Walkmans, Discmans and Watchmans. I really should call the shelter.
- Satellite Radios – The XM/Sirius merger could happen any day. In the meantime, a bet on either company is like a choice between VHS and Beta (or Blu-Ray and HD-DVD). Don’t get me wrong, I believe satellite’s ubiquity of choice may do nothing short of saving music. But until the smoke clears, there’s a 50/50 chance your gift could become a white elephant.
- PCs – Here’s a funny old computer joke: the code name for Windows 95 was Mac ’84. Apple invents, Microsoft reinvents – badly. Nowadays, virtually every new PC is sold with Windows Vista; a 500-pound software gorilla that eats resources like King Kong chomps bananas. Hence, the best new joke is the one about the perfect upgrade – a downgrade to Windows XP.
- The iPhone – 2007 will go down in history as the year of Apple’s biggest blunder since the 20-pound “portable” computer. The iPhone made many iRate when its high price was cut by $200 a mere two months after introduction. Even after the rage died down (an early adopter rebate helped), the cool looking device still had problems. No 4G, no expansion options – and partnering with AT&T was like custom-mounting an iPod in a Pinto.
OK, on to cheerier topics – like can’t-miss music:
Thursday: Belly Dancing, Middle Earth Music Hall – “Charlie Wilson’s War” is a book I came to a little late, but what a fantastic read it turned out to be. I can’t wait for the movie, with Tom Hanks playing the wild and crazy Texas congressman who may have single-handedly destroyed the Communist menace. What does that have to do with belly dancing? One of the book’s best moments revolved around a “friend” of Wilson’s who showed her hip-swiveling moves to the leader of Pakistan, a very fundamentalist country.
Friday: Jesse Peters Open Mic, McKinley’s Pub – The Morningstar Café’s former ringmaster is still in downtown Springfield, first Fridays in the basement of Penelope’s Restaurant. His trio plays a no cover show Saturday across the river at Charlestown’s Heritage. Peters recently posted an original song, “United States of the Blues,” on his website as a free download. The man has a political bent, as evidence by this down and dirty rant, which has a Roger Waters feel to it. Nice stuff, and worth checking out.
Saturday: Greg Brown, Bellows Falls Opera House – He began his career hosting hootenannies in mid-1960s Greenwich Village, and started Red House Records, the home of some pretty amazing albums. When Greg Brown straps on a weathered guitar and begins singing in his low moaning voice, you sense the essence of folk music. As if Brown weren’t enough, another musical family represents at Friday’s show: Sarah Lee Guthrie, daughter of Arlo and granddaughter of Woody, playing with husband Johnny Irion.
Sunday: Tympanon, Parker House – This is perfect “Sunday in Quechee” music. Samantha Moffatt is a wonderful local musician (hammered dulcimer, percussion, chromatic button accordion and voice), who often plays solo at Elixir, as well as shows with her Celtic-flavored folk-baroque group Bauchon. Tonight she joins two talented musicians from Montreal: multi-instrumentalist Jean-Pierre LeDuc (guitar, fiddle) and his wife, Mireille Girard, a singer and accordion player.
Wednesday: Hurricane Alley, Andre’s – Welcome to a new music venue name in the Local Rhythms mix (though the Sunapee restaurant’s food is pretty well-known). Hurricane Alley’s a versatile band – lead guitarist/singe Reid Traviskis calls it “ABBA to ZZ Top.” Usually a five-piece, they play Andre’s every Wednesday as a trio. I planned on mentioning their appearance at Newport’s Moose Club, but it turns out the Friday night gig is a members-only show (newportmoose.com lists all of their public events).