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.

Dead in NYC – Proof That People Win Stuff

At least we know the Grateful Dead actually give stuff away as promised – I received this from a friend of a family member who won seats to see Weir, Lesh and Haynes play an intimate acoustic set at the Angel Orensanz Center on the Lower East Side, the first of three free shows done for fans who won an online lottery.  It’s the same place Patty Griffin played in early 2007 to celebrate the release of Children Running Free, later documented on an Artists Den show.

Rolling Stone described the set thusly:

At 5 p.m. the men did a rare acoustic-trio set at the intimate Angel Orensanz, a former synagogue on the Lower East Side. The show focused on American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead classics like “Dire Wolf,” “Cumberland Blues” and “Casey Jones,” but the highlight was a largely instrumental, 20-minute version of “Bird Song,” the three men weaving guitar lines in and around each other.

Sounds stunning, wish I was there.  Here’s what my sister’s friend had to say about the experience:

Ok people, heads, and those of you who I know would appreciate, here’s how the story went……

Friday night my friend (thanks Jim Cox) sent me a link to win free Dead tix  to some shows they are doing to loyal fans for free, yada yada yada….yea, right, I never win stuff, but what the hell.  There was like a 20 minute window left to fill this thing out.  So I took 2 minutes and did it.
Saturday morning I got an email that said I WON.  Yea right, it must be a scam!!  The online form had you chose a friend to go with you, so I am like “who would be crazy enough and able to do this?  Joy of course”  So I forward this email to Joy and say…hey look I won us tickets!  ha ha h a!!  And I left for santa cruz to look for some surf.  .
I am sitting on the beach, depressed it is flat as a pancake, and Joy calls and say “ummm, yea we need to go to this.”
SO, I got on a redeye Sunday night, Joy and I  met in Manhattan, the acoustic set was UNREAL, so intimate, it was like Bobby was sitting in my lap!! (hello, you know I would love that…even if he does look like he is a hundred ys old!).   I could hear his foot-a-tappin and the crowd was unusually silenced…..I don’t mean to be “woo wooo” but it was magical.  Maybe b/c it was in an old synagogue?  Phil was totally “on” with his fancy bass and Warren fit perfectly, in my opinion!!!   Flew out to Chicago after the show, and woke up to bday breakfast with my mom and flew back to CA!
Here are some amazing “in Bobby’s lap” pictures she took: