“You feel all right when you hear that music ring” – Dire Straits
No one gets rich making music – not anymore.
Whether that’s a sad fact or a simple truth, it’s undeniable. Strapping on a guitar, sitting down at the piano or stepping up to a microphone with dreams of wealth and fame is a near-certain recipe for disappointment.
For every arena rock star bathed in spotlight, five thousand aspirants toil in garages and bars. In my opinion, it’s luck more than talent that separates the two camps.
And frankly, I’m more interested in those who play for love, not money.
So every week, it’s the strugglers and strivers I write about – musicians that play to stay young and write songs because doing anything else would betray their soul.
Their biggest ambition is to someday quit the day job, and do music full time.
Today at Thanksgiving, I am grateful for them. All the names would fill a column and then some, so I won’t make a list. But I want to say to every guy that leaves the plant at five and hits the BK drive-through on the way to band practice – thank you.
For every songwriter who works at Newbury Comics, Borders or another of a million gigs that pay for the real gig – thank you.
To the teacher who’s a part-time trumpet player, the hot tub rep living to be a weekend Pat Benetar, the keyboard tickler who, like the Harry character in Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing,” keeps “saving it up for Friday night.”
Please accept my heartfelt gratitude.
In years past, I’ve thanked many bar, club and restaurant owners who book live music, and the newfangled web sites that make it easier to find all the great bands out there.
Satellite radio stations, high definition television broadcasters and independent-minded record labels have all received a shout out from this page.
But without the players, none of the other things happen.
When anyone thanks me for writing this column, I try to immediately express how grateful I am to have a scene I can write about.
I haven’t seen every local band yet, but I’m working on it. I haven’t listened to every studio demo, but that’s my reason for broadband.
Bruce Springsteen once wrote, “we learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school.”
Thankfully, class is still in session.
Here’s the rest of the week as I see it:
Friday: Bill Staines, Hartland Four Corners Universalist Church – My first encounter with this singer-songwriter (who now lives in Portsmouth, NH) was Nanci Griffith’s cover of “Roseville Fair” on her 1988 live album “One Fair Summer Evening.” She called Staines “our generation’s Woody Guthrie,” and credited him with giving her the courage to perform. He’s now in his sixth decade of performing.
Saturday: Pariah Beat w/ Rick Berlin & Rusty Belle, Main Street Museum – I’ve become a big fan of the Upper Valley alt-folk collective Pariah Beat, but my real interest in this show is Rick Berlin. I saw him with Orchestra Luna, a progressive rock band that was at least 10 years ahead of its time (featuring a pre-Meatloaf Karla DeVito), back in the mid-70s. Since then, he’s fronted Rick Berlin’s Airlift, and lately he’s been out playing solo.
Sunday: Matt McCabe, Firestones – Jazz and brunch go together like peanut butter and jelly, or perhaps more aptly eggs benedict and hollandaise sauce. McCabe made his bones playing with Roomful of Blues, but lately goes solo with a soft touch and a bevy of standards like “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Starlight”. Between Firestones and Bentley’s the twin towns of Quechee and Woodstock own the mid-day meal.
Monday: Dark Star Orchestra, Higher Ground – I’m not crazy about tribute bands, but I like this unique approach to Grateful Dead covers. DSO chooses an entire performance from the Dead, the most bootlegged band in history, and re-creates it from beginning to end. The audience is challenged to guess the when and where. As 2008 draws to a close, I expect a few visits from ghosts of New Year’s Eve past.
Tuesday: Acoustic Coalition, Murphy Farm – This loose affiliation embodies the Upper Valley scene. Most of the players at this weekly jam session, returning to Quechee after spending the summer up north, gig with other bands – some with several. The Yellow House Media website, a great source for all things local and musical, contains a sampling of the inspired fun that transpires.
Wednesday: Molly Venter, Canoe Club – This week’s pick is a scrappy singer-songwriter whose stark, confessional style pulls you in and makes you feel her pain. Heaven help the male subjects of songs like “Playing for Keeps” and “How This Ends.” Multi-instrumentalist Cahalen David Morrison, who shines on mandolin and lap steel guitar, joins Molly and plays songs from his “Subcontinent” album.