This Week’s Compass

Local Music Spotlight

Who: Mark & Debbie Bond
What: Easy and classic rock, in a small package
Sounds like: Peter Gabriel, Vertical Horizon, Bon Jovi

A married couple playing a tasty blend of up-tempo rock and adult contemporary, they’re summer regulars at the Anchorage in Sunapee.   Recently, they began a residency at Ramunto’s in Claremont. “We want to be different, cater to our strengths, and take advantage of the technology we have on hand,” says Deb Bond. The result is a two-person band that sounds like four or five.

Mark and Debbie met in 1991, when both were members of Wildheart; a stint with alt-rockers Acid Bran led to a record deal and two songs in the film National Lampoon’s Last Resort. Later, they were original members of Last Kid Picked, and have played with several other area cover bands.

They cover other artists well (“Late In the Evening,” complete with horn track, is a standout), and play excellent originals. Broken, released in 2006, rocks on “Hot Day,” “All Along” and “One,” then cools down with the romantic ballad “Lipstick,” which builds to a crescendo, with Mark and Deb harmonizing and trading lead vocals.

Their union has also produced three children, and Debbie Bond says she’s “truly experienced it all: true love, incredible kids, artistic fulfillment and business success. What more can anyone ask for?” That’s sweet music, indeed.

Upcoming gigs:

Wednesday, Nov 4     7:00P    Ramunto’s, Claremont
Friday, Nov 6         7:30P    Gallery Walk – Adagio Trattoria, Brattleboro
Wednesday Nov 11     7:00P    Ramunto’s, Claremont
Saturday, Nov 14        9:30P    West Dover, Vermont (check web site for details)
Saturday, Nov 28        7:00P    Rick’s Tavern, Newfane, Vermont


Mark your calendar

Who: Susan Tedeschi
Where: Lebanon Opera House
When: Saturday, Nov 8, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $30/$40/$50

To many cognoscenti, Tedeschi is the reigning queen of the blues, a guitarist who can play the chrome off a trailer hitch and sing like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. This show will rattle the walls of the old opera house, so you should be prepared for an earth-shaking experience. Oh, she has three Grammy nominations and a song on the Bug soundtrack, plus Allman Brothers lineage by her marriage to Derek Trucks. How cool is that?

She’s got brass as well. Asked about meeting the Rolling Stones a few years ago, she replied, “I’m not intimidated by a bunch of British rockers. I’d be intimidated by Howlin’ Wolf if I met him, but I’m not intimidated by those guys.” How about that?

Tedeschi recently sang the National Anthem at a Red Sox playoff game. In January, she appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and performed with her husband at one of Barack Obama’s inauguration balls. You decide which is more impressive.

Worth driving out of town

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Saturday, Nov. 14 – XL Center Hartford, CT (2 shows) – 132 miles
Sunday, Nov. 15 – Verizon Wireless Arena Manchester, NH (2 shows) – 70 miles
Wednesday, Nov 18 – Dunkin’ Donuts Center Providence, RI (2 shows) – 169 miles
Thursday, Nov. 19 – DCU Center Worcester, MA – 105 miles
Sunday, Dec. 13 – Times Union Center Albany, NY (2 shows) – 126 miles
Tickets: $22-$68

For many, the holiday season begins the day after Thanksgiving; for others, it starts when Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes to town.

Some bands perform in an arena-sized venue at the expense of intimacy, but only a hockey rink can contain Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They combine Queen’s bombast with the orchestral rock of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and the pageantry of Jesus Christ Superstar for a two hour-plus show replete with lasers, fire and a lighting system that looks like an escapee from Transformers.

A TSO show is typically divided into two parts. First, there’s a Christmas program featuring several different singers, most of them operatically trained and on loan from major Broadway productions. A 14-piece orchestra and seven-member rock band provide the music, with a James Earl Jones sound-alike narrating a story that’s equal parts piety and human warmth.

The rest is free form, combining non-holiday originals with arena rock staples like “Immigrant Song” and “Layla.” Since their just-released double album Night Castle is only the second without “Christmas” in the title, it will likely feature in much of the second set.

Local Rhythms – All Hail All Hallows

TimCurryRHPSIt falls on a Saturday; at the end of daylight savings time no less. So this column is all Hallows, all the time.

In my neighborhood, I have a reputation for serenading the trick or treat crowd. Here are a few tunes you’re likely to hear – thanks to my Facebook pals for their suggestions.

Let’s start with the Top Five:

Without a doubt, number one is Bobby Boris Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” with “Werewolves of London” from Warren Zevon and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” right behind. CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” makes the cut for all those werewolf/vampire movies. “Spooky” from Classics IV is in for being sweet and creepy.

Then there are songs that deserve the top, like the wonderfully ghoulish “Welcome to My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper, or “Dead Man’s Party” – merely the best Oingo Boingo song of many. No Halloween is complete without one hit wonder Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell on You.” For hip-hop fans, Will Smith as Fresh Prince on “Nightmare on My Street” is perfect. Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters” always helps me feel the spirit.

Want freakishly weird? Try the cannibalism-themed “Timothy,” made by Rupert Holmes before his Piña Colada days.  A couple of my more esoteric friends chimed in with “D.O.A.,” a Bloodrock song about a car crash and its macabre aftermath. Then there’s the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary” which I heard on a recent trip to Salem, Massachusetts, or the Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck,” which would be banned if folks knew what it was really about. Oh, and “It’s Halloween” by the Shaggs. They’re from New Hampshire, and the song is so awful it’s charming.

Without Facebook or my electronic music maven Rhapsody, I might have forgotten the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ “Hell,” which urges everyone to “get ready for a suit of flame,” or Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold,” the perfect background music for doing unspeakable thing to small animals. A couple of others sure to help the mood are “Zombie” from the Cranberries and John Entwistle’s grisly baritone on the Who’s “Boris the Spider.”

For some, only Rocky Horror Picture Show will do. So here’s a tip of the witch’s hat to Tim Curry’s “Time Warp.”

Finally, the left field award goes to Richard Shindell’s “Are You Happy Now,” a song about getting dumped, followed by the ex toilet papering the house, smashing pumpkins on the lawn and stealing the trick or treat candy.

And with that, here’s my all-Hallows list of possibilities:

Newport Opera House: Last Kid Picked – This band is synonymous with Halloween in Newport since their first All Hallows gig as Werewolves of London in 1996.  There’s a full bar for this full-on masquerade ball, so pick a designated driver. 21+ $16/8pm

Claremont Moose: Shredstock 2009 – The Agonist, a female-fronted metal band from Canada, top a bill that includes Hexerei, TranScenT, Hung, and Last Chance to Reason. A costume contest will undoubtedly include more than a few studs and chains. $15/5pm

Forester’s: Kelleyville Killer – Another metal show, this time in Newport, starring the Summoned, Kelleyville Killer, Wake the Sleeping, Your Chariot Awaits and We Met Aliens. There’s a 50/50 raffle, costume contests and other fun. $10/6pm 863-9824

Silver Fern: 360 – The downtown Claremont sports bar hosts its first annual costume ball with a band that plays the hits. Cash prize for best costume, food and drink specials 21+ $5/8pm 542-5747

East Buffet: Spectris – A trio with a strong repertoire of progressive rock, their recently released Industry is one of the best local CDs of the year. They also do a rave-up cover of “Ring of Fire.” 21+ No Cover/9pm 542-8880

Salt hill Pub Newport: Saylyn – Reggae music highlights the party upstairs in downtown Newport. This is the Claremont band’s first ShP appearance. Costumes strongly encouraged. 21+ No cover/9pm 863-7774

White River Junction: Gorey Daze – Pariah Beat perform amidst the Main Street Museum’s esoterica at 6pm, a DJ spins at Tip Top Café starting at 9. In between, costumed revelers march in the street, along with psychics and a monster petting zoo. Check for prices.

Westminster Meeting House: Jatoba – Barnaby’s Backwoods Jamboree with groove kings Jatoba, and Pleasant Valley Brewing volunteer taxis shuttle to the party from downtown Saxtons River. Costume contest, haunted trail. $15/6pm 802-869-4602

Everyday Inn: Ninja Monkey – Dubbed the Harvest Moon Halloween Smash, this Bellows Falls party features raucous music from a beloved local band. Costume party with cash prizes, and free taxi service provided by Pleasant Valley Brewing. 802-463-4536

Carmella’s: Hell Night – DJ dancing tonight, and if you want two days of dress-up, the downtown Claremont Italian restaurant is having a costume contest on Friday the 30th. 542-5005

Springfield Chamber of Commerce: The Illusion – The exact location is a mystery, but this Springfield party, featuring a band that’s been around since the 1960s, is sure to be fun if you can find it. 8pm 802-885-2779

This week’s Hippo

In this week’s Music Roundup, I talk about my new favorite female singer-songwriter, Amy Petty.  There’s also news about a multi-band metal show at Rocko’s, country music from Branded: No Rules at Circle 9 Ranch, and a show from Bulletproof Messenger at Milly’s

Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Bruce Robison are performing at Tupelo Music Hall this Sunday. I had a great talk with REK, and my story is linked here:

The “guitar pull” — a few musicians sitting in a circle trading tunes — wasn’t invented in Texas. But guys like Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen helped make it an art form. This Sunday, Oct. 25, New Hampshire music fans will get a rare glimpse of this tradition as Keen, Todd Snider and Bruce Robison visit Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry to swap songs and stories.

It’s anybody’s guess what the balance between the two will be, but Keen expects a raconteur’s night out.

This Week’s Compass

Worth driving out of town

Rickie Lee Jones
Iron Horse Music Hall
Northampton, Mass.

Distance: 86 miles
When: Monday, October 26, 7PM
Tickets: $50/$55 door

30 years ago, Rickie Lee Jones arrived on the music scene with a flawless, eponymous debut album. She dated Tom Waits, Lowell George covered her songs, Rolling Stone put her on the cover, and a Saturday Night Live appearance in those heady pre-cable days vaulted her into public consciousness. On the strength of a Top 10 hit “Chuck E.’s In Love”), she won a Best New Artist Grammy, and Time magazine dubbed her the “Duchess of Coolsville.”

Jones’ early career happened when record labels let artists follow their muse (particularly quirky million-sellers). She touched down on many styles in the ensuing years, covering Tin Pan Alley, the Beatles and even Jimi Hendrix. She made synthesizer-driven jazz-rock; a duet with Dr. John of the ribald standard “Makin’ Whoopee” earned her another Grammy.

In short, Jones hasn’t lost her ability to surprise, so her upcoming “Balm in Gilead,” made with support from all-stars like Ben Harper, Vic Chestnutt, Bill Frisell, Victoria Williams and Alison Krauss, is one of the most anticipated albums of the year.  A chance to see her in an intimate setting like the Iron Horse, which seats just a few hundred, shouldn’t be missed.

Local Music Spotlight

Who: Hexerei
What: Claremont metal stalwarts
Sounds like: Pantera, Slayer

If passion were money, Hexerei would be millionaires.  The Claremont-based band personifies the D.I.Y. ethic required for success in today’s music business.  Through sheer determination as much as talent, they’ve created a solid following throughout New England with their hard-edged music – heavy metal with a beating heart.  Their latest, “Paid in Full,” has a darker mood than Hexerei’s first two CDs (“Book of Shadows” and “27”), but no less a sense of purpose.

Much of the band’s drive comes from their lyricist and lead singer who was, as the expression goes, born for this.  By the time he was 9 years old, Travis Pfenning had seen his first metal show, played in a band and met his first groupie.  His two older brothers regaled him with tales of backing GG Allin, the notorious rock monster famous for rolling in glass and committing unspeakable acts onstage.  How could a small town boy resist?

Over the years, Hexerei has helped a lot of area bands make their way through the music jungle.  Stonewall got an early boost opening shows and winning a Hexerei-sponsored battle of the bands. A new Claremont melodic hardcore band, Rumors of Betrayal, will open an upcoming West Lebanon show.

Upcoming gigs:

Oct 23 2009      8:00P    Imperial Lounge w/ Soul Octane Burner, TranScenT
Oct 31 2009     5:00P    Claremont Moose Lodge w/ The Agonist, Last Chance to Reason, TranScenT & Hung
Nov 13 2009     8:00P    Electra Night Club w/ TranScenT and Till We Die

Mark your calendar

Who: Spectris Halloween Bash
Where: East Buffet
When: Saturday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m.
Tickets: Free (21+ only)

Claremont, Chinese food and wall-rattling rock & roll go together well it seems. East Buffet, located across from Citizens Bank on Pleasant Street, began offering live music a few months ago. By most accounts, it’s doing pretty well with it. They just dropped the cover charge in their recently renovated lounge, so this is one of the few free admission Halloween parties in the area. There will be prizes for best costumes, decorations and an appearance by the Budweiser Girls.

Spectris recently released “Industry,” a powerful record that recalls the complex instrumental interplay and tempo changes of bands like Rush and Tool. Other album high points: the psychedelic blues of “Grey Area,” and “Crossing,” a sort of Cream meets Metallica boogie. While their originals deserve a listen, it’s covers that fill a dance floor, and Spectris has plenty, from AC/DC to a roiling version of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” They do an Aerosmith song or two, and plan to unleash a hell-bent redo of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” no doubt honoring the flaming rum center of the tasty East Buffet scorpion bowl.

Local Rhythms – No static at all

Two years ago, Newport native Steve Smith came home to start a radio station. After several years running a Clear Channel affiliate (with no regrets, he’s quick to point out), he was looking for a new direction.

Steve’s goal was simple – serve the community. “That’s what every radio station should do,” he told me the other day.

After a lot of research, he came up with a country music format that suited local sensibilities, but managed to satisfy his music maven instincts at the same time.

So it’s a given that WCNL plays every generation of Hank Williams, along with Loretta Lynn and Toby Keith.
But the Johnny Cash selections are both well known and obscure. “One of the great surprises I’ve had on this station is discovering all the great Cash music I missed,” says Smith.

Best of all, there’s room for artists that draw from country roots, like the Amazing Rhythm Aces and the Byrds, and the Eagles, a band that influenced modern players like Travis Tritt and Toby Keith.

Steve is proud of hometown-produced shows like the Sunday morning “Joyful Noise” gospel program, and “Tiger Talk,” which is written, produced and presented by Newport High School students. It includes a 15-minute school news segment.

But he gets his biggest charge from non-musical moments.

“Last Friday, the Newport football game was moved to one in the afternoon, and we broadcast it live,” he said. “People called to thank us for doing that, because it meant they could hear their kids play while they were at work.  That was awesome.”

In December 2008, when WCNL was the only radio station with power after a big ice storm, being able to provide vital information to the town was especially satisfying.

Charity work is a big part of the station’s efforts. Steve wanted me to be sure to ask readers to support the Coats for the Community drive WCNL is doing with Sullivan Country United Way. They’re collecting clean, unused coats, which can be dropped off at the any Claremont Savings Bank location or at the WCNL studios on Main Street in Newport.

The station recently augmented their AM signal and Internet stream with a new FM signal.

There are plans for an all-local music program, a countrified version of Local Licks, a show Steve did in the Upper Valley. Anyone looking for airplay should contact the station.

With that, Steve was off to cover the Stevens-Newport football game.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Oct. 22: Ellis Paul, Flying Goose Pub – What would the Boston folk scene be without Paul’s definitive songwriting style and nurturing heart? Along with an immense catalog of songs (16 albums), he’s helped bring people like Patty Griffin and Antje Duvekot to the public’s attention, and he’s worked with everyone that matters in the New England folk world. For that and more, he’s won 13 Boston Music Awards.

Friday, Oct. 23 Tom Howie, Flickinger Auditorium (KUA) – The literate young songwriter is appearing in a free show accompanied by Ryan Gleason, a Kimball Union Academy alumnus, on upright bass. Howie’s easy acoustic folk is reminiscent of John Mayer and Jason Mraz. Steve Tyler, healing from an ill-timed stage dive, attended Tom’s recent Flying Goose show, so there’s definitely a buzz going on here.

Saturday, Oct. 24: Alive & BalancE, Claremont Opera House – Kiss and Van Halen are coming to Claremont. OK, they’re really convincing doppelgangers. I doubt music this loud has ever invaded this building. The walls will probably still be shaking when the symphony arrives on Sunday. Alive re-creates mid-70’s Kiss minus the flames and fireworks, while BalancE features a dead ringer for Sammy Hagar on vocals.

Sunday, Oct. 25: Arch Weathers, Canoe Club –� don’t know much about this New London based piano player, apart from his repertoire, which includes Elton John, Billy Joel and Broadway show tunes. But he’s a new face at the Hanover restaurant/bar, so why not give him a plug? I have a lot of respect for Canoe Club owner John Chapin’s taste in music, so Weathers is probably a safe bet.

Tuesday, Oct. 27: Irish Sessions, Salt hill Pub – Wednesday blues nights ended a couple of weeks back, but the weekly Irish sessions are a mainstay, with a changing cast of musicians sharing a circle in the center of the room, playing whatever feels natural. It’s a perfect after work destination, with an early (6:30) start. Chris Stevens, Roger Burridge and Dave Loney are regulars, with interesting guests often stopping by.

Wednesday, Oct. 28: Ed Eastridge, Marshland Farm (Quechee) – Tasty licks from the one of the area’s finest jazz guitarists, and he’s a smart singer too. One wag described his music as “like therapy” – and I won’t disagree. There is something quite soothing about his restrained, delicate touch in the midst of life’s vicissitudes.

Ground Zero – Youth haven fights for survival

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 10.13.58 AMLike a lot of businesses, it’s been tough year for Ground Zero.

Attendance at the all-ages Allenstown teen music center dropped precipitously over the summer. This was due partly to a down economy, but also because the club relocated to a bigger space as the school year was ending.

To bolster revenue, the club recently introduced a line of band gear with the Ground Zero logo, including strings, cables, drumsticks and guitar picks. The alcohol and tobacco-free venue is also raising money selling smokeless electronic “BluCigs” cigarettes, both at the club and on their web site.

But whether that will be enough to keep Ground Zero open is unclear.

“We’ve exhausted all of our personal savings trying to keep the club going,” says Christian Skinner, who runs the club with his wife Starr and another business partner. “Our hope is that because school is started up, word of mouth will start picking up and people will realize that we’re there.”

Ground Zero presents original live music five or six nights a week in the summer months, Fridays and Saturdays the rest of the year. It’s a mix of solo singer-songwriters, alt rockers and metal bands of every stripe.

The club offers, says Skinner, “a safe positive place where teenagers can interact with their peers, listen to some great original music, shoot pool, play video games and create a safe haven for the community youth.”

To that end, anyone who wants to play Ground Zero must submit lyrics first. “We make sure the bands aren’t promoting anything nasty,” says Skinner. Offers from bands who dwell on suicide, promiscuity, or drug and alcohol use are politely declined.

Skinner says he and his wife both “believe in the Lord,” but Ground Zero isn’t a ministry. “We steer clear of organized religion,” he says. “We don’t push our faith on any of the kids there, we don’t have Bibles laying all over the place. But we book primarily positive rock bands.”

There are problems on both sides of that hard line.  Acts with drawing power can’t play the club. Though Skinner won’t name names, the fact that he books non-Christian bands has earned him the enmity of some church groups.

Another self-imposed barrier: Skinner won’t rent his space out for raves, or independently produced shows that don’t hew to a positive line.

With that in mind, he’s asked, what needs to happen to keep Ground Zero alive?

“Something, I don’t really know,” says the normally ebullient Skinner. “We’re not government-funded, we’re not nonprofit [though he says guidance on how to become one would be welcomed]. We’re not funded by churches or any orgs; we’ve always done this straight out of pocket.”

Their website has a PayPal donation link, he says, but over the years it’s raised a mere $60.

Since opening his first after-hours coffee house in 1996, Christian Skinner has run a lot of teen music centers – Little Vegas and Narrow Way Café in Manchester, Café Eclipse in Concord and Club Drifters in Nashua. He opened Ground Zero in 2007.

But he’s never seen it this bad, and his vision of a safe, positive environment for area teenagers is now colliding with another hard reality – Skinner has four children of his own.

“We’ve faced our share of closures,” Skinner said by cell phone the other day, as he rode around Manchester tacking up flyers. “My wife and I did this for six years with no kids and we were able to get by. Now it’s at the point where two kids are in school – there’s school clothes.”

“We’re not the type of people to worry, we have faith,” he says. “But it’s at the point where we need to go out and get day jobs to support our family, or something miraculous has to happen.”

Acoustic for Autism plays for a cure

A4AutismWhen Louis Gendron learned his daughter had been diagnosed with autism, he reacted instinctively. First he tried to learn as much as he could about tending to her physical needs. “It’s a marathon, there’s different challenges every day for parents,” said the Claremont native from his Wilton, NH home.

Then Gendron began looking for ways to fight back. “Fathers are typically problem solvers, we try to fix things.” But, he says in frustration, “I couldn’t fix her. I couldn’t solve the problem.”

Instead, he methodically pored through information on autism, a neural disorder with no known cure that, according to data released October 5 by the Center for Disease Control, now affects 1 in 100 Americans.

The more he learned, the greater his resolve to do something in response grew. “I thought I’d really like to help other parents who may not have access to the resources I do.”

This determination led to Acoustic for Autism, a compilation album benefiting Generation Rescue, a research organization devoted to recovering children from autism begun by actress Jenny McCarthy.

The collection of music includes 12 songs donated by a luminous array of independent artists, including Chris Trapper, Dennis Crommett (Winterpills), Kris Delmhorst and Cormac McCarthy.

Using music as a vehicle made a lot of sense for Gendron. Growing up in Claremont, he lived in a musical house, and learned drums and guitar at a young age. “My father was a drummer, I hung out in the studio with Foghat when I was a kid and I’ve been around a lot of musicians,” he says. His mother’s best friend was “Lady” Eve Whitcomb, the beloved Claremont singer who performed with Lionel Hampton and other jazz greats.

As an adult, Gendron did film editing work on music videos by Cowboy Junkies, Alice in Chains Metallica and Queensryche.

At first, he tried organizing a benefit concert, but the logistics proved unmanageable. “I put that on the side and stared working on an album. I thought I could reach a worldwide audience if I did it right,” says Gendron.

Calling on his musician friends (and a few he didn’t know but hoped to snag), Gendron got to work pulling the project’s threads together. “I t was like throwing darts at a dartboard,” he says. “I figured the worst thing people could say to me is no.”

At this point, fate – and Facebook – intervened in a way that would sound scripted if it weren’t true. Michael Cusanelli, a pal from Stevens High School whom Gendron hadn’t seen in 20 years, “friended” him on the social network site. A few weeks later the pair met for lunch in Keene.

They talked about life since graduation. Gendron spoke of his current job with a Southern California software developer, and his work making music videos back in the days when MTV still played them.

When Cusanelli said he was currently VP at World Sound, a Seattle record company, Gendron told him about Acoustic for Autism. “This is something I’m really passionate about,” he recalls saying.

“Mike said, ‘great, I’ll put it out through my record label. Let’s team up on this.’ That’s really what I needed, because I didn’t know how to distribute the thing or put it out,” Gendron says.

Then stunningly, a few weeks after the two old friends began working together, Cusanelli learned that one of his children had autism.

“The fact that we reconnected out of the blue right around the time I hit that wall, where I needed some industry help – that was pretty wild. We both sort of realized it was meant to be,” says Gendron.

“Then, when one of his own kids was diagnosed with autism, we knew we had to make this happen.”

Cusanelli sent Gendron a steady stream of songs, including one by a World Sounds artist, Amuhea, and another from Analogue Transit, a band he’d been negotiating with before getting involved in the project.

The music they eventually chose for the record is as varied as the many ways autism can touch families’ lives.

“I wanted different emotions captured in the songs,” says Gendron. “I didn’t want [them] to be so literal … to be autism songs. I wanted it to be about hope, and spiritual … but I was thinking of things that I’ve gone through personally.”

His intent is perfectly distilled in the lyrics of the Kris Delmhorst contribution to Acoustic for Autism, “Light of the Light,” originally heard on her 2006 album Strange Conversation:

Who will soothe the fevered children?
Who will heal these separations?
Maybe even now it’s coming
We can wait no longer, we can wait no more.

“But I also wanted to put together a collection of great acoustic music,” says Gendron. “Even if you aren’t affected by autism in any way, you could buy the album, enjoy the music and say, I really want to learn more about this.”

The album was released September 29 on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody and the web site. There’s no CD, but digital copies of liner notes and credits are included with purchase.

“We want to maximize the funds going to charity, and minimize the use of plastics and the environmental impact,” explains Gendron.

The choice of Generation Rescue as a beneficiary may spark controversy – not everyone shares Jenny McCarthy’s opinion about the role of aggressive vaccinations in autism. But Gendron believes their high profile is vital. “We wanted to work with an organization to help get the word out,” he says. “I don’t care about blaming anybody … let’s just figure out what it is and fix it.”

“We’re steering clear of getting on a political bandwagon,” says Gendron, adding that his effort is “not affiliated with Generation Rescue” – only donating money to it.

“We want to keep the focus on helping parents on a direct level. If this project is successful, we’ll have more freedom and choices to help other organizations.”

Local Rhythms – Going the distance

gdbThe greatest book ever written is nine sentences long – and I can’t wait for the movie.

I discovered Maurice Sendak’s magical Where The Wild Things Are when I had children of my own. For a time, reading it to each of them was a nightly ritual.

Every child understands the story. Rowdy Max is sent to bed without supper, and escapes to an imaginary world – what kid wouldn’t get that?

The 48-page picture book was a bit like a hit song you can’t get enough of, but eventually you do. And great music, like a compelling story, lights a spark that makes you wanting more.

When the movie version opens in theatres Friday, I’ll be there.

Stories lead to novels and more, just like songs lead to albums – at least the great ones do.

One of my favorite satellite radio stations is Deep Tracks. Their pithy slogan, “we’re not single-minded,” sums up what I’m looking for in music – a body of work.

The other day I fired up the Gabe Dixon Band’s eponymous 2008 album, on the recommendation of another music writer. I was floored – there isn’t a bad moment on it. Piano-driven rock informed by elements as disparate as Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Jason Mraz and Ben Folds, Gabe Dixon’s music is addictive.

This experience, a record without a bad track, isn’t as rare as the cynics would have you believe. There are a lot of good full-length works out there. Claiming otherwise is a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to the purchase of a lot of junk music.

No one spends their whole life reading nothing but picture books, yet they often do it with music. That’s the equivalent of eating a candy bar because healthier options are too much work.

Someone said to me the other day that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ longevity surprised them. “They seemed like throwaways back when,” he said. “Now they’re the keepers of the flame.”

At some point, people moved from thinking about particular songs to the Tom Petty sound.

When they went to see him in concert, they weren’t hoping he’d play one thing – they wanted to hear everything.

I’m not going to be a crusty curmudgeon and claim that career musicians like Tom Petty are a thing of the past.

They just exist in an alternate universe.

Cross the galaxy. Find these artists, like Gabe Dixon, and demand nothing less.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Oct. 15: Spencer Lewis, Hartness House – Looking ahead on the calendar, there’s a lot of music scheduled at this historical Springfield restaurant. I’m very sad that Layah Jane, scheduled to perform last Sunday evening, canceled at the last minute. But I’m pleased that this pastoral guitarist is playing. In the coming weeks, look for Sylvan Lewis, Folk by Association and The Harper & The Minstrel, among others.

Friday, Oct. 16 John Sullivan Band, Silver Fern Grille & Bar – Springfield rocker Sullivan, a commanding singer and accomplished guitarist, toggles between classic rock, current hits and big bluesy originals with his four-piece band. He’s been playing in one form or another since the 1960s, and has released a couple of independent records, Many Voices and Touch the Sky. His latest project is a Christian rock effort.

Saturday, Oct. 17: Paingivers Ball, Claremont Moose – This is really about easing pain, not inflicting it; the name is a reference to show organizer and tattoo artist Rick Bellimer’s profession.  The musical lineup includes Stonewall, Soul Octane Burner and Roadhouse, along with Boston’s Last Regret, and it’s a full-on costume ball. Wear something crazy, and bring a non-perishable food item to replenish depleted area food banks.

Sunday, Oct. 18: Bob Merrill w/ Chloe Brisson, Canoe Club – This 14-year old prodigy has been singing since she could talk. Matt Wilson and Fred Haas (who coached her at Interplay Jazz Summer Camp in Woodstock for several years) joined Brisson on her debut CD, “Red Door Sessions.” Piano player Merrill, a mainstay at backing area vocalists, provides wonderful accompaniment to the young singer.

Tuesday, Oct. 20: Adam McMahon Trio, Windsor Station – A top-notch blues player with an interesting biography. While deployed in the Middle East with the Air National Guard, he began an open microphone night. How cool is that? The Maine native also played in fellow Iraq veteran Larry Dougher’s band for a stint. The two still do occasionally get together to make music. McMahon’s three-piece configuration draws from the genre’s greats like B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Local Notes:   Mark and Deb Bond are now Wednesday regulars at Ramunto’s Pizza in Claremont. Check them out, and keep live music alive!

Compass Preview

Worth driving out of town

Keene Pumpkin Festival

Distance: 39 miles
When: Saturday, October 17, 10AM – 9PM
Tickets: FREE

There’s something fundamentally wrong with Boston, a city of over 600,000 people, stealing Keene’s crown for the most lit jack-o-lanterns in one place a few years ago. But the humble city of 22,000 took it in stride, continuing to host its’ annual Pumpkin Festival while publicly de-emphasizing attempts to re-claim the title.

Not that they won’t be trying. Everyone attending is asked to bring a carved pumpkin and a votive candle. But there’s a lot more to this event than orange orbs as far as the eye can see.  For example, a kid’s costume parade that’s always a great photo opportunity, a $2.00 climbing wall for teenagers, fireworks, food and vendor stands and a great array of music, on three different stages.

A local radio station is sponsoring its own music festival in the McCue’s Billiard Hall parking lot, located near the lower end of Main Street on Emerald Street. The event, which will raise money for the Professional Firefighters of Keene Local 3265 Scholarship Fund, features Edens Lie, Bending Tunez, the Conniption Fits, Vegas Temper and Aerosmith tribute band Draw the Line.

Mark your calendar

Who: Last Kid Picked
Where: Newport Opera House
When: Saturday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $16 (21+ only)

Daylight Saving Time ends on Halloween night. Does that mean the night of spooks and hauntings will last an extra hour? If so, the place to be is Newport, for an adults-only masquerade ball that includes a full bar and the much-beloved Last Kid Picked, a band that’s been making music in one form or another since All Hallows Eve 1996.

That first night, the band was known as the Werewolves of London, and since then October 31 has belonged to LKP, which plays a mix of classic rock and pretty much everything else. Their song list includes “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy,” Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” and even an Eminem song or two.  How’s that for variety?

This shindig has sold out in years past, so it’s best to check soon for tickets. They Newport Opera House is unique in that it feels less like a performance hall than a party for affairs like this one, with big tables and chairs spread out across the floor. Be warned, though – patrons will move the furniture when dancing fever strikes.

Local Music Spotlight

Who: Second Wind
What: A funky Americana Sonny & Cher – “Classy, sassy, and fun, with a little fire”
Sounds like: Bonnie Raitt, Judy Collins with finesse guitar playing

Terry Ray Gould and Suzi Hastings play a lot of farmer’s markets, which makes sense. The two members of Second Wind have the same kind of intimacy with their music that local growers have with their crops. Each rendition of a well-known song is handcrafted with the same kind of care

The two were friends for a long time before deciding to enter a talent show at the Newport Opera House, where Hastings is well known for her musical theatre work. For the showcase, the pair covered Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and something clicked. That was three years ago, and they’ve been playing together ever since.

Summer is wound down, but last week they performed in Claremont’s Broad Street Park gazebo one last time, playing until it was dark. They’re obviously passionate about what they do. The only thing Terry seems to love more is warm apple pie, which explains the farmer’s market connection.

Upcoming gigs:

Thursday, Oct. 15 – Brown’s Tavern, Brownsville
Fridays through Nov. 27 – Carmella’s, Claremont
Saturday, Nov. 28 – Brown’s Tavern     Brownsville
Friday, Dec. 11 – Elixir, White River Junction
Tuesday, Dec 29. Quechee Club, Quechee

Local Rhythms – Back to the living room for me

Since my computer’s hard drive started filling up with MP3s, music has been about convenience, not fidelity. Oh, I’d occasionally dig out old vinyl records and wallow nostalgically in the warmth of analog sound, and rant to the annoyance of anyone born after 1980.

Most of the time, though, the number of songs that fit on the head of a pin mattered more to me than audiophile sound pristine enough to hear a pin drop.

MP3s are the musical equivalent of instant coffee – all the caffeine and half the flavor. Most CDs aren’t much better. But you live with tradeoffs when all your music fits in a shirt pocket. When it’s possible to hear “Brass in Pocket” while jogging, shopping or listening at 35,000 feet, some tinniness is tolerable.

However, to appreciate a lot of the great music that’s recently remastered and released in surround sound, you need to be on the couch.

A year or two ago, I picked up “Tommy” in DVD-Audio, curious about how the Who rock opera sounded through six speakers. Pretty awesome, it turns out. Then the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” got the Dolby 5:1 treatment. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was even nicer.

“Genesis 1970-1975” took what I consider to be that band’s best work and buffed it like a diamond. I listened to the opening piano runs of “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” circulate through the room and began dreaming of system upgrades.

For the first time in a long time, that meant a receiver with HDMI inputs, not a new CPU, a bigger hard drive or more memory.

I long resisted Blu-ray, figuring it was just a trick to make me re-buy my DVD collection. Then the Hannah Montana movie came out with a bunch of Blu-ray only extras, a few days before my teenaged daughter’s birthday.

Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children.

Confession: I’d also read about the upcoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live box set – 68 tracks in Blu-ray audio format, sounding 256 times better than a CD. Bob Lefsetz cried when he heard it.

So in between “Hoedown Throwdown” I bought and checked out Diana Krall and David Gilmour on Blu-ray. It was sonically brilliant. Better than that, it was music without multitasking – something I’d nearly forgotten.

There are some things you can’t do with an iPod. I may never leave the living room.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Oct. 8: Almost Cool, Brown’s Tavern – Bill Temple and cohort Ed Goodwin have a collective 50 years of experience playing music, with the Gully Boys, Cool Waters and Thunder Jug. They’ve shared the stage with everyone from the Neville Brothers to Buddy Miles. Almost Cool is a more relaxed acoustic affair, with songs like “Bombing The Back Roads” and “Child Of Privilege.” Check them out on

Friday, Oct. 9: Mari Rosa, Sunapee Community Coffeehouse – Fans of Norah Jones, will like this exotic singer. She was born in Boston, but acts and sounds like she’s from Buenos Aires. I loved her languid bossa nova take of the classic “Besame Mucho.” She’s an accomplished songwriter (in English, Spanish and Portuguese, no less) who won a Billboard award in 2005. “Honeyspot,” the title track from her most recent CD, is pure seduction..

Saturday, Oct. 10: Conniption Fits, Shenanigans – Their recent CD, “A Heaping Helping of Perspective,” is a delicious power-pop blend of swagger and finesse. Guitarist Stevens Blanchard’s metal kid past (with Motorplant) bleeds through, but the headbanging is tempered with four-part harmonies and the sort of musical discipline no power trio can survive without.

Sunday, Oct. 11: Layah Jane, Moonlight Café – It’s a great week for sultry female vocalists (see Mari Rosa above), with this Canadian import stopping in to Springfield’s Hartness House for a weekend-ending set of soul-infused folk – or is it folk-infused soul? Whatever, it’s called, Layah Jane’s lilting voice warbles like Phoebe Snow, with a Rickie Lee Jones whisky chaser. If you see one show this week, this should be it.

Monday, Oct. 12: Marko the Magician, Canoe Club – This talented prestidigitator has been wowing Hanover diners for years with a very difficult kind of magic. Marko performs tricks tableside, literally in your hands, and it’s impossible to tell how he does it, even though he has an excellent web site that provides all sorts of opportunities for you to guess. It’s up to you to make dinner disappear, however.

Wednesday, Oct. 14: Sejong with Ori Shaham, Hopkins Center – Sejong, a conductor-less 12-member string ensemble, is joined by the well-regarded piano soloist Shaham to perform Mendelssohn’s Octet, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major, and Four Scenes, a work written for the ensemble by 18-year-old American composer Jay Greenberg.