Local Rhythms – Twitter for music? I’m in.

picture-18I’ve come around to Twitter.

For the longest time, it just seemed frivolous.  So you’re stuck in the airport, or navigating the Starbucks latte line.  Who cares?

Then I learned how to use blip.fm to Tweet music to my peeps.

For the uninitiated, a tweet is Twitter’s hybrid of a Facebook status update and an instant message; peeps are recipients, your Twitter followers.

One of the big challenges of writing about music is finding ways for people to hear it.

Enter blip.fm, the web site that lets anyone program a radio station and tweet it to the world.

It’s not the first tool to do this.  But I’ve find imeem, i.Like and other music recommendation services a bit cumbersome.

Blip.fm does a good job with the basics.

Their large peer-to-peer database makes picking music a breeze, and “blipping” a song automatically generates a tweet.

My site (http://blip.fm/LocalRhythms) includes music covered in this space, by performers – Stonewall, Conniption Fits, Jenee Halstead, and others – that you likely won’t hear on the radio.

Here’s why.  The Future of Music Coalition recently published a study showing that around 80 percent of all material on radio playlists comes from major labels – worse yet, almost 50 percent was released before 1999.

The numbers haven’t changed in four years.

But while the public apparently recognizes this steady stream of one-hit wonders and golden oldies for the calculated gruel it is, neither a payola scandal nor a slump rivaled only by the auto industry has reversed this self-destructive trend.

Clear Channel, the largest owner of American radio stations, has shed 12 percent of its workforce since the start of this year.  Last week another big player, Cumulus, ordered employees to take 5 days of unpaid leave as a cost-saving measure.

But like Detroit, it’s doubtful they’ve learned any lessons.  Big Radio will probably do the safety dance of homogenization (their own SUV) right into the grave.

I don’t expect my humble Internet outpost to completely replace that, but at least it will offer a way for readers to judge with their ears some of the music I discuss each week.

Follow me on Twitter (account name: mwitthaus), to hear about songs as they’re added.  I’ll also tweet links to interesting articles and blog posts.

But if I ever share my sandwich order, or an opinion about my dentist’s waiting room, please cancel – and get me into treatment.  Meanwhile, here’s what’s happening:

Thursday: Jason Cann, Harpoon Brewery – If you haven’t been to the newly remodeled and expanded tavern at Harpoon’s Windsor location, the addition of the region’s best-kept singer-songwriter secret as a regular Thursday attraction should provide the impetus.  But the multitude of brews on tap should draw you in anyway, not to mention the food.

Friday: Roadhouse, Imperial Lounge – That axiom about a day job being “the gig that pays for the gig”?  This band embodies it and then some.  The members of Roadhouse are working class locals who’ve been playing in the area for years, mostly covering their favorites – Benetar, Seger, AC/DC are right in their wheelhouse – and mainly having a good time.

Saturday: DeVote Dance Party, White River Junction Elks – A techno benefit for Upper Valley Haven features four DJs – Shar4 and 1200 Terrorist of the Tronic Crew (VT and NH chapters respectively), Robot Ears and DJ Alchemic.  The event promises non-stop dance music played through a top-notch sound system, all for $5 and a non-perishable food item, gently used piece of clothing or a book.

Sunday: Ameranouche Trio, Grafton Old Tavern – This gypsy jazz trio’s music has been featured in movies, heard at last year’s Newport Jazz Festival and called a state “best of “ by New Hampshire Magazine.  They play intricate, jazzy and mostly instrumental tunes.  Listening to them reminded me of a day I spent in Montmarte, Paris.  The band’s second CD was just released, so the night (at one of the oldest venues in the U.S.) should be a happy one.

Monday: 200 Years of Vermont Popular Music, Woodstock Historical Society – Singer, researcher and recently retired teacher Linda Radtke dressed in period costume, is joined by pianist John Lincoln.  The program brings Vermont history to life with performances of, and commentary about, the songs found in the Vermont Historical Society’s collection of sheet music – mostly community-published songs.  It’s old school local music.

Tuesday: Billy Rosen/David Westphalen, Tip Top Café – Billy’s one of my favorite guitarists, with a soft touch on the fret board. Downtown White River Junction is jumping again, with the newly re-opened Elixir bringing the tunes 4-5 nights a week, but the Tip-Top, with regular live music (and its auxiliary bakery’s Friday night folk series) has kept the beat going. Good food, too.

Visit http://blip.fm/LocalRhythms to hear music mentioned in Local Rhythms

At 90, Pete Seeger isn’t slowing down

Photo Credit: Thom Wolke
Photo Credit: Thom Wolke

As a beaming Pete Seeger bounded across the star-studded Madison Square Garden stage midway through his 90th birthday celebration Sunday night, Thom Wolke looked on in amazement.

“Man,” he thought, “I’d like this much energy when I turn 50!”

Wolke watched from backstage as Guy Davis, the blues man he’s managed for several years, performed at the event.

Davis calls Seeger his “Uncle Pete.”  The two met when Davis was a youngster attending summer camp.   The upstate Vermont camp was run by Pete’s brother John, whom Davis credits with introducing him to the blues – as well as teaching him to play the banjo.

Davis, and his mother, actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee, who was also on hand, had plenty of company for the evening – a veritable who’s who of the entertainment world.

“It was something out of this world, almost surreal but it seemed to make sense,” says Thom, who runs his Twin Cloud artist management company out of his Plainfield home.

Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and Ben Harper were just some of the performers who contributed to the near-four hour show.

The assembled multitude, which also included Hollywood power couple Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, crowded the stage at show’s end for a rousing sing-along of “This Land Is Your Land.”

Even Oscar the Grouch made an appearance, asking folksinger Tom Chapin the reason for the large crowd.

“Pete Seeger is turning 90,” explained Chapin.

“Geez, I thought he was 100,” replied the Sesame Street character.  Later, he sang “Garbage” in honor of the occasion.

“Oscar was the most popular celebrity of the whole night,” laughed Wolke.  “I asked for an autograph – he ate my pencil, and told me to have a rotten day.”

Seeger shows no signs of slowing down.  This summer (on August 1st and 2nd), he’ll headline both days of “George Wein’s Folk Festival 50,” formerly known as the Newport Folk Festival.

Many of those who played at Sunday’s show will be on hand for the 50th anniversary of the festival – Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Del McCoury, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Billy Bragg, Tom Morello and the folksinger’s grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger.

Other scheduled Newport performers include Judy Collins (who will share the stage with Seeger), Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes, The Avett Brothers, Iron & Wine, Mavis Staples, Ben Kweller, The Low Anthem, Brett Dennen, Tift Merritt, Langhorne Slim, Neko Case, The Campbell Brothers, Josh Ritter, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Tim Eriksen & Shape Note Singers, Guy Clark, Deer Tick, Balfa Toujours, Dala Girls and Joe Pug.

After drifting away from the folk music mantle – Jimmy Buffett and the Black Crowes were recent headliners – this year’s festival is moving back to its roots.

Seeger was a mainstay at the earliest gatherings.  Ironically, it’s also the same festival where, in 1965, he famously threatened to cut the power with an axe when Bob Dylan went electric.