Local Rhythms – Lose the digital cheesecloth

Picture 2I’m not one of those annoying old people constantly crowing about how wonderful things used to be.  My generation must answer for 8-track tapes, rotary dial phones and gas shortages – not to mention every piece of clothing John Travolta wore in “Saturday Night Fever.”

Am I nostalgic for that? Hardly. I’m a modern guy who can’t get enough of email on my Palm Pre, texting, voice-activated Bluetooth calls or satellite radio.

But speaking of radio, I’ve figured out why no amount of effort can make me like today’s flavor of the week pop music.

L’il Wayne begets T-Pain, Sean Kingston yields to Lady Gaga, and I always wonder – where’s the talent?

Turns out much of it’s done with the musical version of the Wonderbra – a computer program that turns even the worst voice into a top ten song.

Auto-Tune came into vogue on Cher’s execrable 1998 hit, “Believe.”  Now this pitch correction tool, intended to subtly fix final mixes, is built into every recording studio.

It’s why Kanye West has a career, Lindsay Lohan did a concert tour, and Atlanta’s “real housewife” Kim Zolciak could make the aptly-titled “Tardy for the Party.”

Because hey, if you’re a reality television star with a dream, it shouldn’t matter that your Marlboro-charred throat can’t carry a tune.

Fortunately, there’s some backlash.

Jay-Z released a single, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune),” in late June. There’s a video for the song depicting T-Pain’s bling getting blown to pieces while the hip-hop mogul raps, “pull your skirt back down, grow a set men.”

I hope he meant a set of vocal cords.

Wyclef Jean’s “Mr. Autotune” is the best of the put-down songs. “If you sing off key, for a small fee, I can make you a celebrity,” says Wyclef.

“I wanna make money,” replies duet partner Nick Cannon.

“Then all you gotta do is pay me,” is the retort.  “You’ll be a superstar.”

You always knew that pop-up pop tarts like Lady Gaga couldn’t sing.  You suspected that the prefab ‘tweens churned out of the Mouse Factory were doing it with mirrors, musical rhinoplasty and studio liposuction.

Well, now you have proof.

When Auto-tune, desire and money are all that’s required to succeed in today’s music world, it makes me want to head to the bar.

There, the bands don’t use digital cheesecloth to get across.

Here are a few choices:

Thursday: Sensible Soul Trio, Elixir – Now under new management, the White River Junction small plate restaurant continues the tradition of live music, five nights a week.  Tonight, a stripped down version of the popular dance band Sensible Shoes perform, led by Woodstock attendee Barbara Blaisdell and her husband Tim Utt.  The band’s new album should arrive any day now.

Friday: Larry Dougher Band, Sophie & Zeke’s (Canceled) – The young bluesman visits the downtown Claremont eatery with a new album, the just-released “Let Me Stay.” He also has a crackerjack band – drummer Bobby Gagnier and bass player Michael Fralish.  Unlike many who take inspiration from players like Buddy Guy, Albert King and Muddy Waters, Dougher wrote all but one of the songs on his new album.

Saturday: Oh Darling, Motel-in-the-Meadow – This Chester show benefits TARPS – the Animal Rescue Protection Society, and features an L.A. band that fans of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will love doing an all-acoustic show.  Also along for the fun are 84 Sheepdog and Dan Whitley. Suggested donation is $10 with all proceeds going to support building a new ‘no-kill’ shelter.   Oh, and bring a lawn chair.

Sunday: Pete Merrigan, Digby’s – One of my favorite ways to spend a late weekend afternoon is nestled just beyond the Sunapee roundabout.   A cold beverage, a basket of onion rings, nachos or chicken fingers, and Pete – with his uncanny knack of recognizing 90 percent of everyone on the outdoor deck – is the just the right combination.  Add sunshine, and it’s perfection.

Tuesday: Jesse Peters, PK’s Pub – Last May, this singer/songwriter die a “Hub and Spoke” tour, traveling to gigs in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York on a bicycle.  I can guarantee he doesn’t have an Auto-Tune equipped laptop.  For one thing, there’s nowhere to put it. Tonight, Jesse does a close to home gig where other people get to be brave.  It’s open mike night, which in downtown Bellows Falls can often produce some magical moments if the right player stops by.

Wednesday: Tad Davis Open Mike, Skunk Hollow – Tad Davis holds forth for amateur night in Hartland Four Corners.  Maybe that’s unfair – anything can happen, from excellent to awful.  The one constant is the 20 or so minutes allotted to each performer to work through material.  Should you take your act public or stick to lip-synching for YouTube?  Here’s the place to find out.

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Local Rhythms – Roll ’em down, crank it up

db1212By the time you read this, the brief summer spasm of high temps and no rain may be over.  But as I drove to a deck party the other night, the Who’s Woodstock set started on XM Deep Tracks.

Instinctively, I rolled down the windows and grabbed the volume knob.

I arrived home and decided to pick the 10 best tunes for jogging this impulse:

1. Draw the Line, Aerosmith – The sound of a diesel truck releasing its brakes kicks it off; listening to this song while driving is a speeding ticket itching to happen.

2. How Many More Times, Led Zeppelin – This one stays at normal volume until Robert Plant utters, “oh Rosie, OK” and boom – there go the speakers.

3. Lonely Ol’ Night, John Mellencamp – Rough and rugged, like the Paul Newman movie that inspired it.  The drums/bass/guitar triplet at the bridge is pure rock n roll.

4. Ain’t Living Long Like This, Rodney Crowell – All you country haters out there with your dreamy emo and finger-breaking jazz, wouldn’t get out of Rodney’s roadhouse alive.

5. Full Cleveland, Greg Copeland – Me and about five other people know about this, the best song from the most underrated record ever made, “Revenge Will Come”

6. I Need to Know, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – This is Petty’s second LP, which Rhapsody lists as an EP – the songs are so fast, its’ 35 minutes seem like 15.

7. God Save the Queen, Sex Pistols – There were better punk bands around when this came out, but none slapped as hard or snarled so convincingly – even if it was an act.

8. Slip Kid, The Who – It took an all night sleep deprivation session to convince Pete Townshend to play the peace and love Woodstock festival; two years later, he wrote this.

9. Rocks Off, Rolling Stones – Most Stones fans call Exile the Stones’ best; track one is pure raunch: Jagger’s moan, Keith’s nasty riff, and Charlie keeping the train on track.

10. Caravan, Van Morrison – Let’s be clear – I mean the version from “The Last Waltz,” so powerful that even Robbie Robertson appeared stunned, and he’d already rehearsed it.

Honestly, there are few things more exhilarating than combining high-octane rock and roll with the open road.  The cost of gas can rise to 10 dollars a gallon, and that won’t change.

The kick of a good live band runs a close second, and to that end, I offer these possibilities:

Thursday: Eliza Gilkyson, Boccelli’s – This singer-songwriter proudly proclaims that she’s got “miles on her tires,” and a mature musical outlook to match. An Austin native raised on music (her father, a songwriter, wrote “Bare Necessities” for Disney, and her brother played in the punk band X), she has a sweet, soulful voice – a softer Lucinda Williams.

Friday: Cornish Fair, Cornish – 2009 marks 60 years of cotton candy, stomach churning carnival rides, prize pigs and plenty of talent, particularly musical.  This year’s fair opens with Joe Tyler, who has a classic Beatles/Stones bent, local rockers No Sudden Moves, and traditional country due Maria Rose and Danny Elswick.  Running through Sunday, other performers include Larry Dougher (blues) and Bow Junction (bluegrass).

Saturday: The Groove, Sunapee Harbor – Carey Lee Rush is a long-time contributor to the local music scene, a founding member of Last Kid Picked and a part of many bands over the years.  He’s really psyched about his latest combo, which specializes in funk along the lines of Cold Blood and Little Feat.  I’m told they do a killer version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Fool’s Game”.  This show happens at Flanders Stage, located on the water by the Anchorage restaurant.

Sunday: Claremont Soup Kitchen Benefit Jam, Moose Lodge – In difficult economic times, an organization like this one, which helps feed the less fortunate in our own midst, is more important than ever.  The second annual event starts at 1 in the afternoon, and features Tinderbox, Saylyn, and Roadhouse.  Call: 543-0556 or go to the kitchen for tickets.

Monday: Best of Open Mike, Digby’s – Terry Ray Gould is just as ubiquitous as Pete Merrigan these days, playing Farmer’s Markets, cafes (farewell, Green Acres!) and open mikes like this one, which features a prize at the end of the night and a friendly vibe.

Wednesday: Johnny Bishop Duo, Salt hill Pub – Harmonica wizard Bishop made one of my favorite local albums of last year, Johnny B & the Goodes “Have Mercy” – a disk chock-a-block full of honest blues.  Johnny has a lot of friends on the local scene, so a surprise guest or two at tonight’s gig shouldn’t come as a … well, surprise.

Email me your top Roll ‘Em Down, Crank It Up tunes.

Shed Woes – region’s live music biz adapts

Chris Lockwood - Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavillion
Chris Lockwood - Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavillion

Remember when the concert market behaved like it had Hermes handbags on offer, not Jimmy Buffett seats?  Akin to luxury goods, the demand for high-end talent at a premium price seemed recession-proof.  The question wasn’t whether fans would pay, but how much.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the gold mine.

Sir Paul McCartney, usually a sure thing, barely sold out Fenway Park.  Aerosmith/Dropkick Murphys struggled to fill the Comcast Center – a hometown gig, no less; hundreds of AC/DC Gillette Stadium tickets were quietly given away.

Stunned by their sudden reversal of fortune, Live Nation launched weekly Wednesday specials, with half price pairs and “all-in” no service fee offers at all four of their New England sheds.

That promotion, coupled with $5 ducat web deals from Subway and Citi, flooded the market with cheap tickets, but Live Nation spokesman John Vlautin believes it’s all good.

“The specials have brought in hundreds of thousands of new fans who might not have attended a concert this summer,” he said in an e-mail interview, adding that Live Nation plans to offer the Wednesday bargains indefinitely. “It’s been very positive for music fans who are getting a great deal and for the artists who are playing to more people night in and night out.”

But Chris Lockwood, Marketing Director at Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in Gilford, is less sanguine.

“No doubt fans are happy, but what’s going to happen next year? It’s definitely not true on the artist side of things,” says Lockwood, who thinks such sales stunts amount to “conditioning their customers to not buy their product.”

“It’s a bad business model,” he concludes.

Meadowbrook addresses worsening economic conditions differently, says Lockwood.  They sent a $3 direct mail coupon in May that’s still being redeemed on a regular basis, and offered a layaway program to help fans on a budget lock in premium seats.

Last minute blowout sales occasionally happen usually via a blast to Meadowbrook’s e-mail list.  “MTV Sunblock Tour” 4-packs sold for more than half off a week before the show.  But package deals – show tickets combined with dinner at the on-site “Center Stage” restaurant or a performer ‘meet and greet’ – are preferred.

In a clever co-op, Laconia Savings Bank bought and gave away 500 seats to three slow-moving June Bike Week shows, in exchange for event sponsorship, which usually costs thousands of dollars.  “We sold the tickets for service fees only, and the bank got 1,500 new customers,” says Chris.

Two big “all-in” promotions are left before the Meadowbrook season ends in September.  A $99 “Country Boys of Summer” package offers lawn seats for Big & Rich (8/30), Tim McGraw (9/5) and Alan Jackson (9/26), while the $99 “Rock Pack” includes lawn seats to four consecutive shows – Lynyrd Skynyrd/Joan Jett (8/21), Moody Blues (8/22), Judas Priest/Whitesnake (8/23) and Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic (8/24).

Verizon Wireless Arena appears to be dealing with the down economy by booking fewer shows.  But bargains can be had – a batch of $13.99 tickets for ‘tween queen Demi Lovato’s Auygust 24 show are gone, but $39.99 floor seats were still available last Thursday.

Tupelo Music Hall is weathering the economic storm without resorting to fire sales – one of the luxuries of being a small venue, says owner Scott Hayward.

“We’re in a fairly aggressive growth cycle,” reports Hayward, who just announced plans to open a second location in Salisbury, Massachusetts.  The beachfront club will seat 800, more than triple the capacity of the Londonderry location.

The recession has had some effect, notes Hayward. “People aren’t buying as many tickets as they used to, but we’re still selling out 70 percent of our shows, and we’re above where we were last year.”

Why?  “We’re in a tight niche,” Hayward says simply of the small, BYOB room, that caters to serious music fans.  “We get a lot of big names.  It’s not hard to sell 240 seats.”

Tupelo does offer a fan loyalty card that includes a waiver of their BYOB fee, but, says Hayward, “that’s not designed to save fans money, it’s for our base” – regulars who are more than willing to pay for advance notice of appearances from the likes of John Hiatt, Paula Cole and Shawn Colvin.

“These shows sell out so fast that if you’re at work, you’ll miss it,” says Hayward.

Tupelo Music Hall Salisbury, due to open in late October or early November, will feature top-level talent – Bruce Hornsby, Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King – along with Londonderry regulars like Johnny Winter and the Little River Band.

Hayward can guess why he’s succeeding in challenging times.

“It’s not that the bigger rooms are doing anything wrong,” he says.  “It’s just a bigger machine to feed.”

15 Minutes with a rock God – Ian Hill of Judas Priest

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Ian Hill, founding member of Judas Priest

Whatever your opinion of Judas Priest’s sturm und drang music, you’ve got to love lead singer Rob Halford – for his common sense, if nothing else.

A 1990 lawsuit accused the band of inserting subliminal messages into their songs, and driving two disturbed young men to suicide.   Bollocks, was Halford’s retort.  Urging fans to kill themselves is counterproductive.  Better to secretly urge them, he said, to “buy more of our records.”

Sunday, ‘Priest’ hits Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in Gilford for the final night of their American tour with headliner Whitesnake.  The show will feature a complete performance of the band’s most successful album, “British Steel.”

Bass player and founding member Ian Hill spoke recently spoke with Michael Witthaus:

MW: Any favorite moments on the tour?

IH: We’ve done so many places; the main thing is the show, which we always enjoy.  Days off are few and far between.

MW: You’re ending in Gilford.

IH: Beautiful part of the country, New Hampshire, it’s our first time playing in Gilford. We’re looking forward to somewhere with a bit of scenery.  Last time around, we went to Lake Champlain in Vermont.  We rented speedboats and motored from one end of the lake to the other, peered through people’s back windows.

MW:  How has the response been to the nightly performances of British Steel?

IH:  Fans know what to expect, which is great.  Though really, it’s something we’ve never done. Someone pointed out it was the 30-year anniversary; when you play the songs every night, you tend to forget which album it came from.  British Steel was the first one we had a U.S. tour with where we were the headliner.

MW: When did you first come to America?

IH:  In 1977; in 1980 we opened for REO Speedwagon. Then we were special guests with Foghat and Journey. We began British Steel as special guests with KISS – damn good start that – and then went on our own.  We must have done something right.

MW: How did you start the band?

IH:  We were both about 17 when we started playing together in 1969. Kenneth [guitarist K.K.” Downing] and I weren’t really close friends until we realized our common interest in music. We formed what was really a school band, with a chum called John Ellis.  Judas Priest was another band. Their lead vocalist, Alan Atkins, came round and asked to sing.  Family commitments caused him to leave, but we kept the name.

MW:  What were your influences?

IH:  Honestly, I listened to white boy blues – Eric Clapton, John Mayall.  But my big influence was Jack Bruce, and Cream.  I thought their live recordings were stand up.  I still listen to Wheels of Fire today.

MW:  You moved away from finger picking your bass in recent years.  Why?

IH:  Clarity, really – it’s a cleaner, sharper sound.  When you have a couple of distorted guitars, you need that clean sound to put it through.

MW:  How has the second time around with Rob Halford been?

IH:   All was well when Rob came back.  Everything clicked into place like an old jigsaw puzzle.  We did some good material with Tim (“Ripper” Owens, who replaced Halford from 1996-2003).  He’s a great vocalist, great bloke.  But being a fan of the band, he could see the sense of it.  In every interview, we were asked if Rob was coming back.

By the time they got to Woodstock

Jim Petrillo jogs his Woodstock memory
Jim Petrillo jogs his Woodstock memory

40 years ago today, a crowd estimated at half a million people gathered on an upstate New York dairy farm to enjoy the music world’s top acts.   What happened made history.  Rain, food shortages and refugee camp conditions did not dampen the resolve to, in the words of farm owner Max Yasgur, “have nothing but fun and music.”

Among the throng were three Upper Valley residents, who still have a few vivid memories of the event.

Now in his 50s, Jim Petrillo runs a Norwich construction company and spends his free time mountain biking in the wilds of Vermont, a place he’s called home since 1972.  But in 1969, he was living in Tuckahoe, New York when somebody told him about a “festival in Woodstock” – on the Sunday before the show.

“Of course, it wasn’t there,” laughs Jim. “They started naming the groups that were going to be there and I went, ‘you gotta be kidding me’.  We made plans and headed out. We got there on Wednesday.”

Upon arriving in White Lake, he says, “I guess we had a mile or two to walk.  We ended up sleeping in somebody’s barn, and woke up to all kinds of hippie people walking around the next day.”

Richard Camp works with Jim at the Simpson Companies, where he’s the CFO, though they didn’t know each other in 1969.   Richard heard about the show on New York’s WNEW-FM, and bought his ticket weeks in advance.

Camp arrived early.  A PATH shuttle bus from Grand Central Station dropped him at the end of Yasgur’s road.  He wandered through the woods, sharing food and libations with other fans.

“Wednesday night I went up where the pond was, and there were some guys who pitched tents,” he recalls.  “ I was wandering around, and some guy was playing guitar.  He said, my tent’s pretty big – you can crash here if you want.”

The communal spirit shaped his experience.  “It gave me a different perspective,” says Camp. “You shared everything, there was never a question that you were going to try and hoard anything you had … you just couldn’t survive any other way.”

Camp spent Thursday at the Hog Farm, an art-strewn field where lesser-known performers played on a second stage.  He left late in the day to get closer to the show site.  “I decided to sleep by the gates, and when I woke up Friday morning, we all lined up on the up side of the farm road while they were trying to get the stage set up.”

He remembers a chaotic scene when the festival finally opened.

“By the time we were on the field, they said they wanted to collect tickets.  We said ‘come and get ‘em’ – but they never did. I was right between the speaker towers.  We were so close that when they threw beer to the crowd, we caught one.”

Barbara Blaisdell of South Strafford caught the music bug early, learning piano and writing a musical in high school. These days, she performs with husband Tim Utt in Sensible Shoes, a popular Upper Valley rock/soul band.

Blaisdell still has her three-day Woodstock ducat, purchased for $18.00 at the Syracuse pizzeria where she worked while attending college.  After trying unsuccessfully to recruit several of her friends to join her, she rode to the festival with a girlfriend, and promptly lost her in the crowd.

She then met two young Englishmen on their way to Niagara Falls; instead, the pair had run into the mass pilgrimage.  “They were hitchhiking up the Thruway and knew nothing about Woodstock, they had just gotten into the airport. They found themselves in this traffic snarl.”

“We had the weekend,” smiles Barbara.

Does she recall the music? “I remember all of it.  I was on the right.  I was pretty close.  I’m early to everything. I saw everything,” she says, with a NYC borough accent adding emphasis to every word.

“Sly and the Family Stone was one my most exciting moments of going to shows ever – the energy, and all those people doing their little part.  That’s what I’m still trying to do in my music,” concludes Blaisdell.

Here’s Richard Camp’s favorite memory, which he shared in a WNEW radio interview a few years back: “Imagine waking up at like 5 in the morning with the sun coming up, and Roger Daltrey on the stage in that fringe jacket, singing ‘My Generation.’

“My most vivid recollection was Joe Cocker and the storm rolling in,” says Jim Petrillo. “I was right at the stage, and the sky was just turning absolute black and the wind was blowing, and Joe Cocker is singing, and it was just very dramatic.”

Petrillo, Camp and Blaisdell each shared a common goal, something no amount rain, mud or near starvation would keep them from.

“I was gonna see Hendrix, come hell or high water,” says Camp.

Blaisdelll’s ride left early, forcing a nervous decision to hitchhike home.  “It was just unthinkable – but that’s what I did, because I had to see Hendrix.”

“The guys I went with, I don’t know if they got bummed out, but they just decided they were gonna leave,” says Petrillo.  “I knew I’d run into people I knew, and I did, and fortunately they had dry clothes they lent me and I got a ride home on Monday.”

40 years have passed since those momentous days of endless music and communal partying, punctuated by epic storms (“It seemed like it rained all the time,” says Jim).  An iconic documentary film, just re-released with reams of bonus footage, brings up things they never knew happened at Woodstock (“Creedence and the Dead played?”).

For Jim Petrillo, some of it will always be a blur.

“I’ve heard the Jimi Hendrix ‘Star Spangled Banner’ a zillion times.  Did I hear it live? I don’t know.  That’s part of the problem.”

Local Rhythms – Music wants to be free – or at least freemium

The record companies must be feeling pretty good right now.  Two recent illegal downloading cases netted the RIAA over $2.6 million in judgment money.  The era of piracy is ending, just like they said it would.  Music fans – turn off your computers, start your cars, and drive post haste to Newbury Comics for further instructions.

Not so fast – if that’s really true, it’s only because you can’t steal something that’s already free.

Though the cost of music is rising for webcasters and radio stations, fans are finding it’s getting closer to zero every day.

Start with the many musicians who’ve already written off recorded work as a loss leader to drive fans to their live shows.  Locally, that includes 84 Sheepdog and Ghost Dinner Band (see below and Beyond), but bigger acts are in the picture too – and that’s where it gets interesting.

Trent Reznor gives away Nine Inch Nails music on his web site, but hardcore fans will pay for “freemium” content – extras like DVDs, exclusive concert presales, t-shirts and the like.

Currently, the most compelling free/premium concept is only available in Europe, but is promised Stateside by year’s end – with the record labels’ blessing.  Spotify is a service that looks a lot like iTunes, without the 99 cent per song price tag.   With Spotify, pretty much any song in the world can be streamed free.

The audio quality, and more importantly, stream reliability is, by all accounts, phenomenal.

Unlike services like Last.fm and Pandora, which send music randomly based on a listener’s tastes, Spotify allows you save songs, as well as create and share playlists – just like iTunes.

The whole thing is ad-supported, so it costs nothing if you watch a commercial or two.  Ironically, the delay in bringing the service to the U.S. is apparently tied to the fact that the ads aren’t obtrusive enough.  The labels want fans to work harder for free music.

Typical.

For a “freemium” fee of five Euros, the ads disappear, and music can be played offline – even on an iPhone.   If music is so easy to get legally, the lure to break the law disappears.

It’s not a whole lot different than Rhapsody or Napster; both offer subscriptions, with unlimited access to downloadable (and portable) tracks.  Of course, access ends when you stop paying.  But the way I see it, for the cost of one CD a month, I can listen to tens, even hundreds more.  That’s a fair deal.

Speaking of which, many of the shows below are no-cover.  What’s stopping you from going?

Thursday: Hop Season Preview, Hopkins Center – Another eclectic lineup from the Hopkins Center this year, with returning favorites like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Bill T. Jones dance company, along with the legendary Ravi Shankar and the young, virtuoso Sejong Soloists.  Thursday’s previews (Noon and 5 PM, no ticket required) provide an look of the many shows between now and next May.  Bring your calendar.

Friday: Ghost Dinner Band, Henniker Junction – This band sounds like Pink Floyd meets Tom Waits on their way to an Electric Prunes concert – dreamy, gravel-filled and intense.  Henniker is two towns away from the Sunapee region, and Ghost Dinner, who weave Nirvana and Robert Johnson covers between originals, make it a worthwhile trip.  Their recently released “In Nightmares” is available for free via BitTorrent.

Saturday: West Fest, Claremont – This could get a little crazy.  Every year on Lionel West’s Twistback Road property, the best of the area metal scene gets together.  Anything can happen.  Saturday’s lineup includes Hexerei, Soul Octane Burner, Escape to Everything, Till We Die and TranScenT.  There’s BBQ from Claremont’s Sweet Fire, and a car derby.  Noontime start, 5 buck tickets, and you must be 21 to get in.

Sunday: Brownstock, Ascutney Mountain Resort – I remember going to my very first pig roast, hosted by Rick and Dave Davis, back in 1981.  This year, the name of their annual party is a nod to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.  Acts include the Gibson Family Band, Carlos Ocasio and Frydaddy, Michael Veitch and Friends, Dave Clark and Juke Joynt, the Nobby Reed Project and anyone related to Rick or Dave Davis who can carry a tune.

Tuesday: Open Mike, One Mile West – George Johnson, carpenter by day, musician by night, rotates hosting duties with the Moores at this Sunapee restaurant/bar.  I stopped in the other day and was impressed with the great menu and the huge selection of beverages on tap, including a lovely Long Trail Double IPA, and a made in New Hampshire (non-alcohol) blueberry soda.

Wednesday: Squids, Ben Mere Bandstand – Always a good time, hope there’s good weather.  The Squids are the perfect excuse for an afternoon of alfresco music.  See you on the Sunapee harbor!

Beyond – Worth driving out of town
Pleasant Valley Brewing
16 Main Street, Saxtons River, Vermont
Distance: 41 minutes south

Why: 84 Sheepdog w/ Ingrid
When: Friday 7 August

Formed as a Richard Thompson tribute band, Ingrid’s Ruse provided many memorable nights of music before lead singer/guitarist Ingrid Ayer-Richardson moved to Maine in 2007.  After “The Ruse” split, band mates Josh Maiocco and Shamus Martin busied themselves with solo endeavors – Josh’s singer-songwriter work, and Shamus’s many projects with his independent Exsubel label.   They formed 84 Sheepdog last year.

Ingrid’s back in town for a visit and a rare set with her old pals, so this is a must-see affair.  Pleasant Valley Brewing Company, run by ex-Windham manager Patrick LeBlanc, is a great, music-friendly place too.

84 Sheepdog has a novel “plug and tug” way of getting their music to the masses.  Anyone who comes to a show with an MP3 player can hook up to a computer and download band tracks.