Do you want to know a secret? It’s all here.
When I began writing about the local music scene five years ago, a part of me wondered if I could even find seven days of nightlife every week.
I half expected to end up talking about using the Internet to hear bands who’d never come near my little town, or high definition concerts on cable and satellite television that were almost better than the real thing.
Turned out, the same technology that closed distances and made everything local also connected me to a wealth of creative energy emanating from Claremont, Newport, Springfield, Windsor, Charlestown and points beyond.
Early on, I discovered metal mavericks Hexerei and progressive-rockers (now power trio) Spectris through their web sites. Ditto with Oshe, an amazing jazz-fusion quartet that once regularly gigged in the area (including a few wild drum circles in Unity).
MySpace delivered country from Little Memphis and High Ground, Sunapee regulars Roxanne and the Voodoo Rockers playing blues, and good-time singer/guitarists – Pete Merrigan, Jesse Peters and Terry Gould, to name just a few.
When I headed out the door, things got even better. There’s an open mike literally every night somewhere close by, and a battle of the bands every quarter. From late May through early October, music festivals of every stripe compete for my attention.
Summers are about bandstands, gazebos and town common shows.
Don’t forget farmer’s markets, which usually deliver music with their localvore treats.
Of course, if I’m hungry for big-name talent, it’s not far to drive (Meadowbrook, anyone?).
The many area venues presenting talent on a regular basis prove the axiom that, even though the record business is on the ropes, music is doing fine.
The Claremont Opera House is a treasure. Anyone in the packed houses for the recent Natalie MacMaster and Chuck Wicks shows would agree.
Over at the Newport Opera House, a local band like Last Kid Picked can still sell the place out. Speaking of which, if you haven’t grabbed tickets for the Mad Beach Band’s upcoming reunion show there – don’t wait.
Throughout the area, different places have found a sweet spot.
Sophie and Zeke’s has jazz, and you can count on Salt hill Pub for Irish music every St. Patrick’s Day. Imperial Gardens is the place for hard rock lovers, and newcomer Silver Fern is a reliable stop for singer-songwriters on Saturdays.
Casa del Sol does roots music, and Digby’s on the Deck is the place to enjoy a sunny Sunday afternoon.
There’s so much more – who has time for television?
Thursday: Jason Cann, Harpoon Brewery – This singer/songwriter (who also fronts the rock trio Wherehouse) is a true local treasure. When I first saw him at the old Claremont Bistro Nouveau, his easygoing voice and manner suggested an upcountry Kenny Loggins. After much prodding, Jason’s recorded and posted a few songs on his web site – my favorite is “I Want”.
Friday: Stonewall, Imperial Gardens – After what seemed like forever, Stonewall completed their “What If” CD last year. A few weeks ago, they had the (at the time unknown) honor of playing the final show at Charlestown’s Heritage Tavern, a sort of second home to them. These days, Imperial is the most welcoming venue for hard rock, metal, and other high-energy music.
Saturday: Planet Zydeco, Boccelli’s – A few miles beyond Charlestown lies the musical oasis of Bellows Falls. It’s been the cause of more than a few of my mid-week trips to the gas station. Boccelli’s, the quaint restaurant/auction house that picked up the thread when the Windham closed, is usually the reason why. Tonight, a Putney band with a Louisiana heart performs.
Sunday: Tammy Jackson Band, Newport Common – I get more than my fair share of grief for being a country music fan. It’s funny the amount of prejudice people can exhibit when they’re calling someone a redneck. Anyway, Tammy and her husband Cliff Clegg are a Sunapee institution, and their outdoor Newport shows are always a treat. Hope the weather cooperates!
Monday: Second Wind, Digby’s – There’s a moveable feast of area open mike nights, and this one is by all reports one of the best. Partly that’s because someone wins a prize at night’s end, but mostly it’s due to all-around good guy Terry Gould and his musical sidekick Suzi Hastings, who host the weekly event.
Tuesday: Singer & Jordan, Tip Top Café – A quick trip up Interstate 91 takes you to White River Junction, and a quirky arts scene that includes punk rock shows at Main Street Museum (which is like stepping into a Joseph Cornell diorama), jazz at Elixir Restaurant, and “lower case” folk music at this corner café. Philip Singer’s music has an early Sixties Bleecker Street vibe.
Wednesday: Upper Valley Community Band, Flanders Stage – One of the region’s special qualities is its connectedness. As an expatriate of ever-changing California, I especially appreciate this, and nothing quite exemplifies it like the many homespun musical entities that populate the region. Tonight 40 or 50 friends, directed by Carole Blake, play big band favorites.