Meadowbrook mixes it up this season – 3 new shows announced


Staind, Shinedown & Chevelle set for July 10

Steve Miller Band/Doobie Brothers confirmed for August 16

Tickets for both shows on sale Saturday, May 9.


In what’s shaping into a wonderfully diverse summer of entertainment, Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion announced three new shows Tuesday.

Rounding out Bike Week, which so far includes a Brad Paisley/Dierks Bentley double bill (6/14), the Henry Paul-led Outlaws opening for a Fogerty-less Creedence Clearwater Revisited (6/17) and Blake Shelton with Craig Morton (6/18) is the pairing of two 90’s rock powerhouses – Live, who wowed the Meadowbrook crowd last year, and Candlebox.  A third act will likely be added to the June 19 show.

On August 1, a Canadian singer-songwriter with a list of admirers including none other than Bob Dylan performs.  Gordon Lightfoot’s hits include “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Sundown” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

The third show announced Tuesday features crooner John Legend and modern soul diva India.Arie – a definite change of pace for the Gilford, NH venue.

On Wednesday, another show was listed on the Meadowbrook web site.  Steve Miller and the Doobie Brothers appear August 16, with an on sale date of Saturday, May 9.  Though exact details aren’t currently available, at least on more show,  targeting a younger demographic, will be announced in the coming weeks, as well as a performance by an as-yet-unnamed hard rock act.

Availability for the three just-announced shows begins with an Internet pre-sale (code required) on Friday, May 1 at 10 AM.  General public availability starts Saturday morning at 10 AM.  All seats are sold directly through

After 24 shows last year, the venue will do around the same number in 2009.  “But it seems like more,” said venue Marketing Director Chris Lockwood recently.  “That’s because of the variety and quality of acts.”

The Country Music Association nominated the 6,500-seat facility as one of the nation’s top venues in 2008 (they lost to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium).  The recognition was instrumental in luring premier talent.  “This is the only non-Live Nation facility to book Brad Paisley,” says Lockwood, noting that negotiations for the country music star’s show began right after the CMA nomination was announced.

Meadowbrook has a pair of initiatives to memorialize founder Bob Harding, who died last year. A “Rock On Scholarship,” given to a Lakes Region High School student with plans to pursue the arts in college, is “based solely on talent.” Bracelets emblazoned with a rocker’s “devil horns” salute are being sold at shows to raise money for the effort.

On May 23, the inaugural “Rock On Fest” features Korn, Burn Halo and 30 local bands.  The event is a departure from so-called “pay to play” events like Locobazooka, a regional music showcase that ran for 15 years in Massachusetts before moving to Miami.  “Pay to play is promoters taking advantage of bands,” says Lockwood. “The best bands can hope for is to break even.”

For “Rock On Fest,” he says, “the bands become their own street team, and make 3 bucks for every ticket they sell.  They can sell merchandise in the venue – no money changes hands with Meadowbrook.”

“We have never been the type of band who would pay to play a gig,” says Sid Narged, whose Nashua-based Kinetic Theory will perform at the festival.  Narged says that Meadowbrook’s approach – asking each group to attract 50 fans using special ticket codes and embedded web site links –  “is a great way to promote the show, help the local bands, and give back to the local fans who support the bands. It really is a class act.”

Here’s a look at Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion’s 2009 Schedule:

Sat May 23     12:30 PM     Rock On! Fest 2009, with Korn, Burn Halo and 30 local bands

Sun May 31     7:00 PM     Willie Nelson

Sun Jun 14     7:30 PM     Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne

Wed Jun 17     8:00 PM     Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Outlaws

Thu Jun 18     8:00 PM     Blake Shelton, Craig Morgan

Fri Jun 19     7:30 PM     Live, Candlebox

Sat Jun 27     7:00 PM     Styx, REO Speedwagon, .38 Special

Fri Jul 3     8:00 PM     Diana Krall

Fri Jul 10  7:00 PM      Staind, Shinedown and Chevelle

Sat Jul 11    8:00 PM     The Offspring, Sum 41, Jack Turner

Thu Jul 16     8:00 PM     Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin

Sun Jul 19     7:00 PM     Tom Jones

Sat Aug 1     8:00 PM     Gordon Lightfoot

Wed Aug 5     7:00 PM     Pat Benetar, Blondie, the Donnas

Fri Aug 14     8:00 PM     Sugarland, Matt Nathanson SOLD OUT

Sat Aug 15     7:30 PM     John Legend, India.Arie

Sun Aug 16     7:00 PM     Steve Miller Band, Doobie Brothers

Fri Aug 21     7:00 PM    Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Sat Aug 22     8:00 PM     An Evening With The Moody Blues

Mon Aug 24     6:00 PM     Allman Brothers Band, Widespread Panic

Sun Aug 30     8:00 PM     Big & Rich, Luke Bryan

Sat Sep 26     8:00 PM     Alan Jackson

Conniption Fits – A Heaping Helping of Perspective

picture-12When it comes to trios, there’s power and finesse. “A Heaping Help of Perspective” marks the Conniption Fits’ first outing as a three-piece (guitarist Tuck Stocking left after 2006’s “Airplane Rides”), and fortunately, they opted for the latter.

For their second album, the Fairlee-based band eschew crushing chords for tasteful guitar figures and expert singing, while resisting the temptation to overproduce, trusting a well-oiled core unit do its work.

Don’t get me wrong – the record is not without punch and swagger.  You’d expect nothing less from a band that made their bones satiating bar patrons hungry for Foo Fighters and Gin Blossoms covers. Heck, guitarist Stevens Blanchard alone has been at it for half his life.

It just doesn’t need to beat listeners over the head to prove that it rocks.

Examples?  The roiling “Game of Grace,” which opens like a power pop version of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”  Or “Grit Your Teeth,” with a middle bridge evocative of “Synchronicity,” a runaway train of a song done by perhaps the finest finesse trio of them all, the Police.

The best moments come when guitarist Stevens Blanchard, drummer Seth Roya and bass player Erik Von Geldern blend modern angst with Big 80’s gusto.  This Weezer meets Def Leppard formula is evident on the perfectly executed “Get Off.”   The track features reggae-rock interludes mixed with lush three-part harmonies (all the band members sing, and there’s nary an overdub).

The record’s short – just 8 songs total, but it’s 30 minutes of real chemistry, self-produced with no sidemen.  For the most part, it has precision without sounding labored, spontaneity without feeling too loose.  The energy level never flags (there’s only one ballad, the dreamy, disc-ending “Time Remains”), and there’s a constant sense that these guys thoroughly enjoy playing together.

“Willing To Try Again” succeeds where the overly frenetic “(She Just Needs to Go) Away” fails, going from a whisper to a scream with poise and nuance.  Despite somewhat clumsy lyrics (“I need a crutch and one that’s not worn down” – huh?), this is also true on “Come Undone (Only Me to Blame)” – a close contender with “Get Off” for the record’s best track.

The song starts out teasing at being a ballad, then riffs a bit of rock and reggae (the album’s Police homage tendencies becomes clear with the liner notes, which thank Sting and Messrs. Copeland and Summers by name).  In between jazz-tinged drum runs and juicy guitar jangle, it soars into rock and roll heaven.

Whether consumed a la carte or by the whole disc, “A Heaping Helping of Perspective” is a delicious platter of music. The record is available on iTunes, CD Baby and the band’s web site, with select tracks streaming on MySpace.

Upcoming Conniption Fits appearances:

Jun 13 2009      The Woodstock Inn     Woodstock, NH
Jul 11 2009     The Woodstock Inn     Woodstock, NH
Jul 17 2009     Connecticut Valley Fair     Bradford, VT
Sep 4 2009     Derryfield Country Club     Manchester, NH
Oct 10 2009     Shenanigans         White River Junction, VT

Local Rhythms – There Oughta Be A Law

If you’re going to pee on my leg, at least tell me it’s “Rain” – not the Beatles.

picture-111In 1974, a band calling itself Fleetwood Mac went on tour, though none of the musicians had ever appeared on a Mac album.  An unscrupulous ex-manager claimed ownership of the name; since it was the post-Peter Green, pre-“Rumours” period, he probably figured nobody would notice.

The imposters fooled no one, and the enterprise ended almost before it began.

35 years later, such a ruse is easier to pull off, apparently. In what Sha Na Na’s John “Bowzer” Bauman terms “a sophisticated form of identity theft,” shows by everyone from the Coasters and Drifters to Frankie Goes to Hollywood are routinely presented without a single legitimate member on stage.

So when Bauman, in his role as chairman of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation’s “Truth in Music” committee, stopped by the New Hampshire State House last week to lobby for a law to end the practice, I felt his pain.

Matthew Houde (D-Plainfield) is co-sponsor of SB 130.  He views the issue as a consumer protection problem.  “Existing intellectual property law is just not adequate to cover the situation,” Houde said recently.

So far, 26 states have passed laws; New Hampshire would be the last in New England to do so.  A week ago Tuesday, the Senate sent the bill to the House.

Bravo, I say.  But there’s still more to be done.

What about the bands that uphold the letter of the law while trouncing its’ spirit?

For example, the only original member of Foghat, performing June 14 at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, is the drummer.

At 40 bucks a ticket, another definition of “Slow Ride” comes to mind.

No one in “Creedence Clearwater Revisited” (June 17, Meadowbrook) has even spoken to John Fogerty since the 1970s, let alone played with him.

Do you see a bad moon rising?

Why do Boston and Journey keep on touring?  Brad Delp is dead, and though I never much cared for him, without Steve Perry there’s no Journey sound.

I propose a law of my own – when a signature member leaves, a band must change its name.

If some lucky karaoke singer can clone “More Than a Feeling,” that’s fine – but it’s not Boston.

I expect an aging rocker to milk a valuable trademark relentlessly.

But please call it what it is – a tribute band.

If you’re going to pee on my leg, at least tell me it’s “Rain” – not the Beatles.

What’s happening this week?

Thursday: Dana & Susan Robinson, Canoe Club – Dana Robinson is a solid Americana singer/songwriter with a knack for recruiting awesome talent (Rani Arbo and Lui Collins played on his 1997 release, “Midnight Salvage).  For the past few years, he’s performed with his talented his wife, who adds a perfectly understated harmony to his songs, while soloing admirably on her own.  Their just released “Round My Door” is a gem.

Friday: Otis Grove, Salt hill Pub – I know the honest sound of vinyl albums are all the rage – let’s show the Hammond B-3 organ the same respect.  This trio burns up the floor with funk, and keyboard player Sam Gilman, who also kicks it with a real Fender Rhodes, is a big reason.  I caught their set at last year’s Harpoon BBQ Fest and my booty wouldn’t stop shaking.  A highly anticipated Pub debut.

Saturday: Deathrash & Stonewall, Claremont Moose – May is a big month for metal, with Hexerei and Soul Octane Burner at Imperial the 29th, TranScent and Mother Virus playing Forester’s in Newport the 23rd, and a rejuvenated Stonewall at Imperial and Heritage on the15 & 29 respectively.  Deathrash, who had an 80’s heyday with music reminiscent of Metallica and Megadeth, should kick things off nicely.

Sunday: All Across the City, Hopkins Center – A jazzy tribute to legendary guitarist Jim Hall features David Newsam, Fred Haas, James Lattini and the ubiquitous Dave Clark.  The free show (held at Rollins Chapel) highlights Hall composition like “Careful” and “Waltz New,” and his collaborations with giants like Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Paul Desmond and Ron Carter.

Tuesday:  Elixir Gala Reopening – White River Junction’s live music hub is re-opening, with a new menu and performers five nights a week. Tonight, Yellow House major domo Dave Clark assembles a who’s who of Upper Valley players, including his latest project Paris Express, which includes Sam Moffat and Mike Gareau.  The Elmores, Peter Meijer and Ricker Winsor are also booked for future dates.

Wednesday: Take Two, Briggs Opera House – The creators of this world premiere musical call it “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” meets “Falsettos.” How do you navigate the shoals of love when Twittering and texting have replaced answering machines and nervous phone calls as the tools for unmaking relationships?  Four actors – two men, two women – ask the Internet for answers.

Big Days For Soul Octane Burner

sob_logoThrough steady gigging at Electra, Imperial Lounge and the Claremont Moose Hall (where they perform Saturday), Soul Octane Burner built a solid area following for the roiling music they call “redneck metal.”

But until recently, the band hadn’t recorded a CD of original material.

To put it mildly, things are moving a bit faster these days.

In addition to their eponymous debut disc, released last month, Soul Octane Burner will soon share the stage with Korn and Burn Halo at the Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavillion.  The all-day “Rock On Fest 2009” features 30 area bands in addition to the headliners.

“It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to any of us,” lead vocalist Dave Belimer said the other day from SOB’s Claremont practice space, as his band mates shouted in agreement.

How did it happen?

“A lot of luck,” laughs Belimer.   “Fans called 99 Rock demanding to hear us on the radio. They made it happen.”

The Hanover station, particularly Chris Garrett, brought the opportunity to the band’s attention.  Meadowbrook tagged them as a good fit and sent their tape to Korn’s management for final consideration.

Fans can help the band get a good time slot by purchasing tickets in their name, says manager Larry Kennett. The band also receives a percentage from each transaction made with the ROCKSOULOCTANEBURNER sales code.  Buying that way also qualifies fans for a chance to win a Korn meet and greet at the show.

Saturday’s Moose lineup features Till We Die, who recently performed with Black Label Society at the Verizon Wireless.  Other supporting bands include Last Regret, Kellyville Killer and Beware the Ides.

Since the show is a CD release party, everyone paying the $15 admission will receive a free copy of “Soul Octane Burner.”  The disc draws its spirit from old school metal – Pantera, Metallica, Corrosion of Conformity – and newer bands like Lamb of God.

“We’re always listening for a new riff to inspire us,” says lead guitarist Shane Davis.

Lyricist Belimer calls the band’s style “controlled rage – something that hopefully gets you moving, gives you a little tinge in the back of your neck.”

“There’ a lot of anger in the songs,” he says.  “I still think like a kid, I don’t like getting stepped on.”

“He’s angry all the time,” Shane says. “So we put a microphone in his hand.”

They’ve been around since 2002, while this configuration has been the same since 2006, but the musicians in Soul Octane Burner go back much further than that.

“Shane and I took drum lessons in grade school,” says Belimer, who remembers Davis as a pretty cool first grader with his own drum set.  The rest of the band – rhythm guitarist Dan Griffith, bass player Geno Gray and drummer Dale Pederson – have also played together in different groups over the years.

Making a CD, they say, is a “dream come true.”

“It’s a big accomplishment to have the product in your hand,” says Davis.  “After all the work we’ve done, time away from home, this is why.”

“It’s been our lifelong journey, all of us,” adds Belimer.  “We’ve been playing literally since we were kids, especially Shane and I, we’re the oldest.    It’s been a long journey.”

Local Rhythms – Give It Away

Pariah Beat @ Main Street Museum
Pariah Beat @ Main Street Museum

Record Store Day was by most accounts a fabulous success.  I stopped in a bit late for Pariah Beat’s free set, but with enough time to snag some cool vinyl.

I also left with some unplanned purchases.

Norwegian rocker Ida Maria’s single, “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked,” is in heavy rotation on Sirius Alt Nation.  Saturday, the entire CD wafted through the Newbury Comics sound system.

I heard, I liked, I bought.

That’s why independent stores matter.  You can’t do that at Wal-Mart.

Here’s a funny thing, however.  As I checked out at the counter, the clerk proffered a stack of promo singles.  It was good, too – Duffy, Jenny Lewis, Kings of Leon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“Take what you want, everyone who buys vinyl gets one,” she said.

Among the purchases in my bag, I found more free stuff – a special edition LP, a couple of sampler CDs, even a card for a free song download tucked inside one of the 12” albums I’d paid for.

As the Red Hot Chili Peppers once said, “give it away, give it away, give it away now.”

The file-trading web site Pirate Bay may have lost in court last week, but a fundamental fact remains. Recorded music, for better or worse, is now a commodity used to promote the people who play it.

Used to be, liking an album compelled you to see the show.  These days, enjoyment of the show is expressed by the purchase of a souvenir CD.

How does shutting down a web site help that equation?

Fall Out Boy’s “Believers Never Die Part Deux” tour includes Cobra Starship and Hey Monday.  Both artists are on Decaydence Records, a label started by Fall Out Boy front man Pete Wentz.

That’s smart, and sure to spur action at the merchandise table.

In such a world, it makes no sense at all for fans to leave the show and return home to find the Internet locked up tight.

Of course, the Pirate Bay fight isn’t about keeping Hey Monday and Cobra Starship’s music out of file trader hands.  They’re protecting the Beatles, Stones and AC/DC.

Unfortunately, that’s also what most radio stations are playing, and with a few exceptions, big box stores are selling.

It’s why the rest of us cling to indie record stores, where discovery still matters.

What’s out there to discover this week?

Thursday: Third Eye Blind, St. Anselm’s College – This San Francisco-based band had a big hit with “Semi-Charmed Life” in the late 90s.  Last winter, they released three songs as STEM files and had a contest for the best remix.  Their web site features rare downloads – demos, sound board recordings, videos and other goodies – all for free.  Of course, all this largesse hopefully drives fans to the band’s live shows.

Friday:  Pariah Beat, Main Street Museum – A strange and wonderful venue hosts an equally intriguing band.  PB are joined by Dylan Sneed and the Rogue Birds.  In tune with the economic times, the museum hosts a “Tramp and Hobo Symposium” next month.  The opening “Hallelujah I’m a Bum!” reception has artwork from the nearby Institute for Cartoon Studies.  Later in the month Pariah Beat play an outdoor BYO Hobo Stew concert.

Saturday: The New Legendary Strafford Blues Band, Gusanoz – A change of pace for the West Lebanon Mexican eatery.  The band has a strong Upper Valley following, but this show marks the debut of vocalist Kat Murphy, a one-time American Idol contestant who’s also done recording and session work in New Orleans. LSBB has been around since 1995, playing blues, swing, and R&B; the new blood should be invigorating.

Sunday: Guy Davis, Tunbridge Town Hall – While growing up, blues man Davis said the only cotton he picked was his underwear off the floor.  He told a journalist that the first time he heard the blues was in college, played by lily-white Vermont boys.  Still, Davis embodies the blues, channeling masters like Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Willie McTell, though he possesses his own unique style.

Tuesday: Toumani Diabaté & the Symmetric Orchestra, Hopkins Center – The Malian master of the kora (the 21-string West African lute) has worked with Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, Björk and many jazz artists. He and his dance band, the Symmetric Orchestra, inject West African songs with electro-funk.  The result is fresh and modern – “a genre-bending frenzy of hot dance rhythms,”

Wednesday: Hungrytown, Keene Public Library – The music of Ken Anderson and Rebecca Hall should appeal to fans of fellow travelers Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.  Hungrytown faithfully reproduces the music of Appalachia and the American South, from Smithsonian field recordings to the Louvin Brothers.  It’s somehow unsurprising that they’re playing in a library, at an event called “Music in the Stacks.”

Fools Play On

“Back then it wasn’t called “indie” – it was called stupid to have your own record company.” – Mike Girard, Fools lead singer

fools2009In the late 1970s, Boston was a hotbed of so-called “New Wave” music.  Sparked by the Cars’ national success, record labels came to the city eager to sign bands.   The Fools, Robin Lane & the Chartbusters, Private Lightning, Human Sexual Response and the Nervous Eaters were just a few who made deals.

When the Hub sound didn’t play out on national level, most faded away after a few albums.

But the Fools play on.

Apart from a brief 1990s hiatus, the band has steadily gigged and made records (most recently, 2007’s “10”) since arriving on the Boston music scene.

Friday night, they’ll play a special sit-down. unplugged, “Storytellers”-type set at Tupelo Music Hall.

EMI signed the Fools in 1979 on the strength of the politically incorrect “She Looks Alright In the Dark,” and their Talking Heads send-up, “Psycho Chicken,”  which David Byrne dryly called “a humorous version of a brilliant song.”

They made a pair of albums, but spent a lot of time clashing with the record company.  At one point the band was asked to re-work “It’s a Night for Beautiful Girls” – ironic considering the song was their biggest hit for the label.

“Part of our time with EMI was about them trying to bang off the rough edges,” lead singer Mike Girard said recently. “I don’t think they ever succeeded.”

True to their name, in 1985, the Fools started their own label.

“World Dance Party” brought success on the band’s own terms.  They covered Manfred Mann’s “Do Wah Diddy,” and the video received heavy MTV play.  A couple of the album’s songs became radio hits, and remain crowd pleasers to this day.

Says Girard of the decision to go it alone, “back then it wasn’t called “indie” – it was called stupid to have your own record company.”

But, he continues, “it was the first time we were totally free to do what we wanted, and we’ve been that way ever since.”

The album also yielded the twangy “Life Sucks, Then You Die,” a song the band first played in disguise – as their own opening act.

“We decided rather than have a crapshoot on that we’d form kind of a butt-poke country band,” says Girard.  For ambience, they’d put a bucket of manure on the stage, and use a fan to send the aroma into the crowd.

“We’d come out in chaps and cowboy hats, the whole deal,” he says.  “More than one drunk person over the years said to me, ‘boy, you guys gotta get rid of that country band that opens for you’.”

“I took that as the highest compliment,” he says.  “Even from a drunk person.”

Their major label days weren’t all about artistic struggle.  Some of the stories likely to come up in this Friday’s show revolve around their experiences opening shows for a who’s who of bands in the late 70s and early 80s.

“We did the only Knack tour,” says Girard, adding that being a one-hit wonder (“My Sharona”) was that band’s own fault.

“They did so much to repel every radio person in America that their second album never saw the light of day,” says Girard, “but they were a surprisingly good band.”

While on the road with Van Halen, “it was suggested about halfway through the tour that we stay in different hotels.  We were probably a little too rowdy or something.  It wasn’t like throwing TVs out windows.  I know Alex [Van Halen] liked to party, so he was missing sound checks at times because of us.”

So their legacy is being a bad influence on … Van Halen?

“It seems that way,” says Girard.  “I don’t know what else to make of it.  David Lee Roth was kind of tough to get along with at times, everybody else was great.”  As for Eddie Van Halen, “he was with Valerie Bertinelli, and they had those little heart balloons over their heads.  Anything was fine with Eddie.  It was love.“

Girard is sure they’ll have more stories about their time in Europe touring with an on-the-verge Journey, playing festivals alongside Cheap Trick, and drinking with Phil Collins as the Genesis singer/drummer contemplated a solo career.

“If we can’t think of any stories we’ll just make them up,” Girard laughs. “I’ve never felt a responsibility to tell the public the truth about anything.”

He’ll be serious, though, if fans ask whether the long-unavailable “Sold Out” and “Heavy Mental” LPs will ever come on CD.

“We can’t get EMI to release them,” says Girard, complaining that the label demands “exorbitant amounts” every time the discussion comes up.

“We’ve kind of given up trying to battle through that,” he says.  “If you want to hear some of those songs, you’ve got to come and see us.”

Local Rhythms – Record Store Day

picture-11Music business news is giving me whiplash.

Take the RIAA lawsuits.  Last December, the industry organization announced plans to stop going after fans, focusing instead on Internet service providers.

But they’re milking all they can out of their ongoing cases.  A UNH student was initially sued for sharing 7 songs but, her attorney recently told the Union Leader, “the number keeps changing, and unfortunately, it’s going in the wrong direction.”

The growth of legal download services is an industry bright spot, right?  Fans are getting with the program.  That’s a good thing.

Here’s the industry’s idea for how best to capitalize on this success – raise prices.  That’s right, “Stairway to Heaven” used to cost a buck on iTunes – now it’s $1.29.

Head spin, neck snap – huh?

Here’s another puzzler.  Apple Corps responded to Beatles fans clamoring for MP3s of Fab Four songs by – wait for it – remastering and reissuing their entire catalog on CD.

Talk about partying like it’s 1999.

“Discussions regarding … digital distribution … will continue,” read a clueless press release.  “There is no further information available at this time.”

One glimmer of hope is Record Store Day, a worldwide celebration of indie retailers happening this Saturday.  Participating New Hampshire stores include Bull Moose, Turn It Up! and Newbury Comics.

Granted, a 28-store chain can’t exactly be called independent, but one Newbury Comics clerk typically knows more about what’s in the bins than the entire staff at Best Buy or Wal-Mart.  That’s still unique and worth preserving.

A lot of musicians agree, and are chipping in with store appearances and RSD-only releases.

Locally, Static-X takes a break from the Sno-Core tour to appear at Bull Moose in Portsmouth, while big names like Lamb of God, State Radio and Sarah Borges are among those listed for Newbury Comics (including a 4-band show in Nashua, roots rocker Michael Bernier in Salem, and an open microphone in West Lebanon) .

Special product includes Americana chanteuse Tift Merritt’s “Buckingham Solo” live collection, special 7” singles from the Stooges, Andrew Bird and Brandi Carlile, along with 12” platters from Talking Heads, Radiohead and Regina Spektor.

There’s also  “This Album Crashes Hard Drives,” an audiophile-grade vinyl indie sampler specially released for Record Store Day.

“In a rare act of collective goodwill,” says a blurb about the disc on, “[artists] have come together and made a high-quality LP at a price you can actually afford.”

If only the RIAA cared that much about fans.  What else is happening?

Thursday: Bluesberry Jam, Salt hill Newport – Arthur James holds forth in the weekly blues-tinged jam session, with amps and microphones provided.  James usually rocks it up with his band Northbound, but calls tonight’s ensemble “Unacoustic Mayhem”. This is a standard open mike affair, with a bluesier touch. It beats American Idol by a country mile.

Friday: Herman’s Hermits, Paramount Theater (Rutland) – Peter Noone is still at it, 45 years after topping the charts with the Carole King/Gerry Goffin-penned “I’m Into Something Good.”  These days, he’s as likely to cover David Bowie as dip into his catalog of smashes like “There’s a Kind of Hush,” “Silhouettes” or “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Saturday: Mary Gauthier, Lebanon Opera House – A benefit for COVER that also features Anais Mitchell.  Listening to Gauthier, who’s lived as hardscrabble a life as any musician around, you know her songs come from a very real place.  Tomorrow night in Bellows Falls, she plays an intimate show at Boccelli’s on the Canal, a great little restaurant which seats less than 100 people. As of Sunday, tickets were still available.

Sunday: Gavin DeGraw, SNHU Field House – The singer-songwriter came to prominence the way a lot of musicians are doing it these days, by way of a youth-oriented television show.  “One Tree Hill” featured his “I Don’t Want to Be” as its theme song.  The Berklee grad just released his 4th studio album.  “Free” is a deliciously soulful, yet rough around the edges affair that should please fans and newcomers alike.

Monday: Todd Rundgren, Iron Horse – It appears that Todd’s in the same boat as Leonard Cohen.  He made a few bad business decisions (like selling his share of Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell,” which he produced) and now he tours a lot.  Rundgren is directly or indirectly responsible for some of the best pop to come of out the 1970s, writing “I Saw The Light” and “Hello It’s Me” and producing Grand Funk’s “We’re An American Band.”  A night with him is a tuneful journey.

Tuesday: Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, Hopkins Center – This week’s eclectic pick blends the classical dance forms of India with contemporary concepts.  It’s colorful and kinetic, combining “magic and spirituality with the sensuous flow of Odissi, the oldest of India ‘s classical dance forms,” according to the troupe’s web site.

Local Rhythms – 5 Years Down the Road

dsc03502I began writing “Local Rhythms” in April 2004 equipped with more curiosity than actual knowledge.

Even if no one read my dispatches from the area arts scene, I reasoned, I’d find something to do on the weekend.

Five years later, I’m still looking for the heart of Saturday night – or any other day of the week where there’s music to be found.

Happily, the joy of discovery is still a weekly occurrence.

Though a lot of my favorite haunts closed their doors, and some talented bands gave up the ghost, the thing has grown.

Coyote Club is gone, but the Imperial thrives across the street.  The Windham ended and Oona’s burned, but Boccelli’s now thrives.  Closed last year, Elixir is returning May 5 with a new owner, chef and – of course – live music.

Sophie & Zeke’s is bigger and better, and there’s now two Salt hill Pubs. Roots on the River is celebrating its’ 10th birthday; how long until FredFest lasts the whole week?

Ingrid’s Ruse and Ben Shippee may have left the game, but recent discoveries like Chris O’Brien, Aloud, Twiddle, Oneside and Jenee Halstead keep me looking forward.

I’m thankful for the club owners and impresarios who showcase this talent. Ray Massucco, Josh Tuohy, Buzz Boswell and John Chapin top the list, but are by no means the only names.

Mostly, I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made. These musicians toil in the trenches at a time when big label dreams are a distant memory, For some, the greatest aspiration is simply to quit their day job to play music.

Terry Ray Gould’s recent thoughts about his joy of sharing music represent this passion quite well.

He picked four “perfect moments in life” (another Facebook meme – we have that in common).

One was seeing a friend get goosebumps in response to his guitar playing.

Another came while watching “Second Wind” partner Suzi Hastings share a tearful connection with three audience members at a retirement home appearance, as their version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” ended.

It’s that spirit which draws me back to my subject week after month after year.

For some, music is a living; for others, music is life.

My beat is filled with more of the latter.

For that I am fortunate, and not just because it means no more dull weekends.  Speaking of which:

Thursday: Habib Koité, Woodstock Town Hall Theatre – Bonnie Raitt enlisted Koité for her 2002 “Silver Lining” CD, comparing his guitar playing to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.  But don’t expect ‘Voodoo Chile’ from Mali’s biggest pop star.  He’s lightning fast on the fret board, to be sure, but features a traditional that’s hypnotic and spirited. Habib makes his instrument sound like much more than a guitar, so I guess he shares that with Jimi and Stevie as well.

Friday; Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Oxbow High (Bradford) – The closing of Middle Earth Music Hall left a void in Bradford that’s yet to be filled.  The hobbit hole was a second home for this frenetic band, whose special brand of “punk-classical-hillbilly-Floyd” music reaches a rabid fan base that includes Dar Williams, who says watching them “reminds me to write and perform with my whole heart and soul.”

Saturday: Yellow House Jam, Casa Del Sol – A high point of the last five years was meeting Dave Clark, musician, raconteur and purveyor of Yellow House, a web site rich with information on all aspects of local music.  Dave’s mailing list just reached 2,000 subscribers; to celebrate, his band Juke Joynt is playing an open jam at this Ascutney Mexican restaurant.  All (especially musicians) are welcome to attend.

Sunday: Hard Times, Hopkins Center – Singer/guitarist Ricker Winsor leads a band that includes Keith Friedland on harmonica, bassist Christopher McCampbell and Cathy Friedland, playing accordion on few songs.  ‘Hard Times’ features the music of Skip James, Stephen Foster, Mississippi John Hurt and others. Says one critic of Winsor,  ‘he clearly loves singing these old songs, wrapping his warm mellow voice lovingly around the words.”

Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt hill Pub – There’s a lot of excitement ahead at the Pub.  Two bands that knocked me out at last summer’s Harpoon BBQ Festival appear in May – “Kansas City Techno” stalwarts Antennas Up, and Otis Grove, a junk-shaking funk band with local roots.  Each Tuesday, of course, it’s the traditional sounds of Chris Stevens, Roger Burridge and anyone who happens to stop by for the sessions, which start at 6.

Wednesday: Willy Porter, Flying Goose – The singer-songwriter is approaching 20 years in the game, with a new album, “How to Rob a Bank,” set for June release.  Porter’s guitar playing is sensational, and an evening with him at this intimate New London brewpub/restaurant should be a real treat.

Idiot Wind, or It’s Alright, Ma – I’m Only Pooping

picture-3I think I found a music story to go with the picture of Lenin’s exploding ass.  OK, it’s a stretch, but you gotta admit, both of them are funny as hell.  Besides, both Lenin and Dylan can be described as revolutionaries with (how do I put this delicately?) posterior problems.

It seems the Bard of Minnesota has upset his Malibu neighbors:

Dylan, 67, who had the 1963 hit “Blowin’ in the Wind”, is under investigation by public health officials over whiffs emanating from a lavatory used by security guards at his cliffside compound at Point Dune, Malibu.

One couple, David and Cindy Emminger, claim the singer has ignored repeated requests to deal with the problem, forcing them to install five industrial-sized fans to divert the smell.

They claim that even the fans have not had the desired effect, as the Pacific breeze that sweeps across the area forces the odours back in their direction. “It’s a scandal – ‘Mr Civil Rights’ is killing our civil rights,” said Mr Emminger.

He alleged that the lavatory, which was installed on Dylan’s grounds six months ago, had made parts of his family home uninhabitable. He also claims his eight year old son has fallen ill from the fumes, which he describes as being from a “toxic, hazardous, carcinogenic chemical toilet”.

His wife told the Los Angeles Times. “I couldn’t figure out at first where the smell was coming from, until I finally noticed that they had moved the porta-potty directly in front of my front door. We both have allergies and are sensitive to chemicals.”

The newspaper claimed than a city public health inspector was sent to inspect the Dylan property in January, but was turned away and accused of trespassing by the security staff. Malibu Mayor Andy Stern said, however, that no other neighbours seemed to have experienced problems.

Local Rhythms – Green Mountain Home Companion

picture-2After a Sunday morning awash in news of lost jobs, foreclosures and other tales of economic despair, a thought occurred to me: what would Mickey Rooney do?

“Let’s put on a show!” he’d shout with a smile, and rally his pals to lose their blues.

Inspired?  Look no further than Woodstock, where the 12th annual community “Green Mountain Home Companion” talent show takes place Friday.

The event, presented by Pentangle Arts Council, gathers performers of all stripes and ages together for a night of homegrown entertainment, co-hosted by Al Alessi and Bob Merrill.

“It’s a great mix of talent,” says Alessi. “There’s a lot of original stuff – from kids and adults who’ve been really crafting their métiers.”

Sharing the stage are comedians, belly dancers, jazz, rock and polka bands.  Merrill and Alessi move things along with a shtick that combines “Late Show” Letterman with Lake Wobegon, and adds an upcountry touch.

Pentangle calls it a “sugaring off party,” a celebration of the abundant talent located right here in our own backyard.

The show has evolved into one of Woodstock’s biggest nights, a focal point for school music programs.  “Kids have been working with their teachers all year,” Alessi says.

At the other end of the age spectrum are Net Protas, who Al describes as “very evocative of Hank Williams, Sr.” and Bess Klassen-Landis, a grandmother who’s performed multiple times and recent released a CD of her folk songs.

This is Alessi’s fifth year as host.  Before that, he performed with his daughter Elizabeth “Biz” Alessi, who sang her first show at age 9.

Appearing in the show can often be the catalyst for a musical career.   Roy Salguero began performing at the community talent showcase as a teenager.  He’ll enter the Berklee College of Music this fall.

“His chops have developed hugely,” observes Alessi. “For his first show, Roy was reading music during rehearsal. I promised him five bucks if he could come to the show and not have any sheet in front of him, and he did it.”

Laughs Al, “I still owe him the five bucks.”

“In the old days, in the depression era, people were their own entertainment,” says Alessi.  “In times like these, its’ value becomes even more important.”

With Mickey Rooney optimism, he concludes, “I feel really swell about this.”

Curtain time for “A Green Mountain Home Companion” is 7:30 Friday, at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre.

What else is happening?

Thursday: Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary Tour, Hopkins Center – Unlike a lot of “all star” bands, this septet has played together for years, and recently completed “Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records” to mark this year’s tour.  Musical director and pianist Bill Charlap says they made the CD to “honor the label and its key players, whittling it down to eight of our favorites from Blue Note’s wide-ranging and extensive catalog,” including Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner.

Friday: Soul Octane Burner, Imperial Lounge – This week’s four-band show at Claremont’s musical hot spot is a study in intensity.  From Empire to Ruin play with staccato fury, Affliction features crunch, melody and X-rated lyrics, while Low King feature an edgier sound than their days as Lazy Day Puppet.  Headliner SOB’s long-promised CD should drop any day now.  Based on what I’ve heard on MySpace, it should be a tour de force.

Saturday: Spring Mud Fling, Belmont Odd Fellows Hall – An eclectic group of musicians hook up for an anything-goes “old style road house dance hall jamboree” jam session in this tiny Vermont hamlet, located between Ludlow and Mt. Holly, a mile or two off of 103.  The lineup includes members of the classic rock Spiders, the Celtic band Gypsy Reel and blues singer Sandra Wright.

Sunday: Joe Bonamassa, Lebanon Opera House – This guitarist opened for B.B. King at age 12, and worked with Eric Clapton’s producer (an experience chronicled in the 2003 documentary, “Tom Dowd and the Language of Music”). But don’t pigeonhole Bonamassa as simply a blues rocker.  His first hits came with a band that included the progeny of Miles Davis, Berry Oakley (Allman Brothers) and Robbie Krieger (Doors) – he’s an original musical voice.

Tuesday: Jazz Ambassadors, Brattleboro Union High School – This performance by the U.S. Army’s 19-member big band features jazz music from across the spectrum, including swing, bebop, Latin, contemporary, standards, popular tunes and Dixieland.  Fans can also expect a few patriotic selections from the Jazz Ambassadors, currently celebrating their 40th year together.

Wednesday: Missy Higgins & Harlan Coben, Boston Public Library – Writer Coben employed the Aussie singer-songwriter’s hit “Where I Stood” as a key element in his last novel, “Hold Tight,” which led to this unique mini-tour of libraries and bookstores.  Coben reads (from the just-published “Long Lost”), while Higgins plays piano and sings – no word on whether any duets are planned.