Local Rhythms – That’s customer service

Screen shot 2009-10-01 at 9.29.07 AMMusically, summer began early and ended late this year.  But what do you call the damp chilliness that came in between?

Summer for hobbits, perhaps.  I know I felt like a mushroom for most of the last three months.

The words “rain or shine” had a poignant meaning for anyone trying to make or enjoy music. Every ticket purchase was a bet on the weather.  July was a washout, and August wasn’t much better.

For promoters trying to do business in this down economy, things were bleak indeed.  Live Nation lawn seats went unsold by the thousands, even when practically given away.

Of course, after years of sticking it to fans with inflated prices, ridiculous fees and scalping good tickets, their comeuppance was overdue.

Still, it seemed like Mother Nature was piling on.

Taking care of customers can be rewarding, however. Two examples stand out.

In early June, Roots on the River celebrated its 10th year in Bellows Falls with four blissful days of music, most of them rain-free.  It began as a whimsical way to bring Fred Eaglesmith to town for a couple of days, now “Fred Fest” is an institution.

Ray Massucco dubbed this year’s event “Fred X” – an absolutely, positively good time.  “Fredheads,” as Mr. Eaglesmith’s fans are fondly known, responded in force.  Deluxe weekend packages, including goodie bags and other special treats, were close to sold out.

But everyone, courtesy of Ray, got a piece of cake.  That’s taking care of business.

Over in the Lakes Region, Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion presented 25 shows, ranging from classic rock, jazz, indie and a lot of country music.  Unlike many in the business, when their season ended, Meadowbrook’s management was pleased.

Next year will commence Gilford facility’s 15th year.  It began as a portable stage and folding chairs in the middle of a field, now it’s the classiest concert facility in all of New England.  Its’ sightlines, concessions and margaritas are the best around.

What’s amazing to me is that many people barely know it exists.

One trip should change that.

A building is just concrete and steel. The Meadowbrook difference is the smile on every employee’s face and the customer care that’s constantly on display.  Little touches like free parking, same-day ticket deals and letting fans lay away seats matter too.

As Alan Jackson sang “Remember When” on Saturday, I recalled when customer service and live music weren’t mutually exclusive.

Fortunately, such care survives in Bellows Falls and Gilford.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Oct. 1: Acoustic Coalition, Hartness House – Here’s something new. An acoustic open mike series that’s been running for years in Woodstock and Quechee comes to Springfield, Vermont, hosted by Mark Koch.  The Hartness House is a beautiful old mansion with tons of charm, with plans for more music in the weeks to come (like Hungrytown’s Rebecca Hall next Thursday).

Friday, Oct. 2: Bob Marley, Claremont Opera House – One of the funniest people alive, and the hardest working comedian I know is back for another area show.  Unlike many comics, Bob brings a new set of material every time he comes to town.  He can form a bit in his head in the morning and have it audience-ready by the time he walks on stage, riffing on current events, his parents and life in New England.  He’s the essence of Ha!

Saturday, Oct. 3: Christabel & the Jons, Salt hill Pub – A Knoxville, Tenn. band led by a singer with an angelic voice, backed by a band featuring upright bass, violin, accordion and occasionally trumpet.  Their new album, “Custom Made for You,” reminds me of another Knoxville chanteuse, Robinella, mixed with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks.  Another awesomely cool “get” for the Lebanon pub – how do they do it?

Sunday, Oct. 4: Paddle Battle, Herrick’s Cove – Amidst resplendent foliage, canoe enthusiasts of all levels will enjoy the Connecticut River, either by relaxing or pushing themselves to the limit.  There’s a course laid out for the serious racer, while casual paddlers can enter an open class race, or help with river cleanup.  Music provided by Springfield legends the Illusion, a band that’s been at it for over 40 years. More: http://www.ctrpaddlebattle.com

Monday, Oct. 5: This is Our Victory Tour, Hooker-Dunham (Brattleboro) – A metal show with Beneath the Sky, Corpus Christi, A Breath Beyond Broken and two others.  Presented by Graveyard Booking, also doing a 7-band show at Springfield’s newest venue, 802 Music, on Saturday, Oct. 3.

Wednesday, Oct. 7: Emily Lanier, Marshland Farm – I enjoyed her with New Kind of Blue.  After leaving that group, the jazz vocalist formed the Emily Lanier Jazz Ensemble, with a rotating pool of talent playing a steady diet of standards like “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” “Deed I Do” and “Stormy Weather.”

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