Local Rhythms – Segue to Heaven

bf_port_bioThe other day, I received a mini-lecture on the perils of technology from one of those “I’m not a computer person” people.

Though I remain unconvinced to give up e-mail, digital newspapers or my beloved iPod, she did make me nostalgic for old school disk jockeys.

Among the changes wrought by the MP3 era is a near disappearance of the artful transition from one song to another.

These days, the word “segue” brings to mind the two-wheeled transportation of “Paul Blart Mall Cop” – not music.

But there was a time when the radio was a wonderful place of discovery and the hosts were spirit guides and alchemists.

“I am a DJ, I am what I play,” David Bowie once sang. “I’ve got believers.”

Once a guy named Joe Kelly on KOME-FM in San Jose, California laid the brooding harmonica opening of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” atop the final notes of Meat Loaf’s “Bat of Hell,” and it made me want to go out and case the promised land.

Pandora, Slacker and Last.fm are fine at what they do, but they’re simply tools to find music.

They can’t make you feel it.

I miss that – but Bill Fitzhugh gives me hope.

Fitzhugh’s “All Hand Mixed Vinyl” show combines the passion of radio’s golden era with the skill of a great club DJ.

A typical set features Chicago’s “Southern California Purples” split down the middle, between it two versions of “I Am The Walrus,” and crowned with Todd Rundgren’s note for note recreation of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Every song is slip-cued and beat-mixed to perfection.

Last week’s half-hour featured a seamless transition of Zeppelin’s “Living Loving Maid” to Tull’s “Aqualung” to an obscure Grand Funk song, leading eventually to the commingling of the percussion sections of “Whole Lotta Love” and Chicago’s “I’m A Man.”

As Fitzhugh wove the two songs together multiple times, it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began.

Musically and thematically, it worked perfectly. Lyrics like “you need cooling/baby I’m not fooling,” and “I’m a man and I can’t help but love you so” are sentiments cut from the same cloth.

Fitzhugh’s been doing his thing for a couple of years now, once a week (with multiple replays) on the XM Deep Tracks satellite channel.

Considering that listening to “Abbey Road” on shuffle can turn me into a Luddite, it’s like a glass of cool water in the desert.

What else is cool this week?

Thursday: Eve 6, Pickle Barrel – It’s the sweet spot of ski season, which means my favorite winter place – the après-ski lodge – is bustling. Tonight, an LA-based alt-rock band that got its name from an X-Files episode carries on with two out of three original members, after splitting in 2004. They’re working on a new album, but expect to hear “Inside Out,” which went to number one on the modern rock charts in 1998.

Friday: Mark Erelli, Boccelli’s – “Delivered” is far and away the best effort of Erelli’s career. From parenthood (“Once”) to the loss of his own parents (“Man of the Family”) to the dual comfort and frustration of unchanging routine (“Hope Dies Last”), no record in 2008 better exemplified what life is like today. You owe it to yourself to hear Mark play this beautiful, soul-affirming masterpiece (solo) tonight.

Saturday: Sensible Shoes Dance Party, Canoe Club – Once a month, this downtown restaurant clears away a few tables and indulges in decibels the way a chocoholic attacks dessert. Last time around, Tim Utt and Barbara Blaisdell’s soulful band attracted a good crowd to this late start (9 PM) party, and rocked their way through familiar songs and a few choice selections from a new record due later this spring. Big fun!

Sunday: Kris Delmhorst, Armadillo’s Burritos – This singer-songwriter began her last album (“Shotgun Singer”) with stripped-down solo takes, then called in her pals, including Peter Mulvey and husband Jeffrey Foucault, to flesh them out. The results wowed critics far and wide, and led to a lot of airplay on XM’s Loft station, which is an oasis for Americana fans. Armadillo’s, located in downtown Keene, presents folk shows monthly.

Monday: Open Mike, Bentley’s – This is the perfect Monday event. It’s full of surprises, just like the start of the week. Silas & Company helm the talent night, typically broken into 15 minute segments, and welcoming anyone with a guitar and the guts to perform in front of an audience. With the bevy of open mikes area-wide, there must be plenty fitting that description.

Tuesday: Singer and Jordan, Tip Top Café – Phil Singer and Laurianne Jordan play the kind of folk music that was in vogue before Dylan went electric. They sing about trains, love gone wrong and leaders in need of schooling, all of which pair well with anything on the menu at this fine White River Junction restaurant.