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)
More: http://www.newportoperashouse.com

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 yellowhousemedia.com.

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.

Recycled Percussion comes home

It’s September 21, a Monday night, and Goffstown High is buzzing like the Verizon Center.  Guards stand at backstage entrances blocked with crime scene tape.  Only a fortunate few wearing laminated “Grizzlies” passes around their necks are allowed to pass.

Over a thousand lucky fans fill the bleachers, while a couple hundred more stand against the stage.  The show won’t start for another 45 minutes.

A small but eager press corps are stage right, waiting patiently for a word or an on-camera moment with the stars.

Earlier that morning Recycled Percussion, fresh from five weeks on America’s Got Talent, announced plans for a free show to thank their hometown fans.  It was to be held in the place where, 14 years earlier, bandleader Justin Spencer debuted his “junk rock” musical project at a school talent show. The band toyed with doing a bigger venue, but didn’t think they could fill it on such short notice.

That turned out to be false modesty. One to a customer seats were snapped up in 15 minutes.  Some fans started lining up at Shaw’s supermarket three hours ahead of time.  As the show drew near, crowds mobbed the gymnasium entrance, and police were stationed up and down Route 114, shooing away anyone without a ticket.

The can banging, guitar shredding, power tool-wielding band may have begun as local heroes, but now were rock stars that could play the Goffstown gym 10 nights in a row if they chose to.   A humbled Justin Spencer said, “I didn’t realize how massive the support would be in New Hampshire, because we were in L.A. for the past few months and were kind of detached from all the media.”

Prior to the performance, Selectman Scott Gross came on stage and declared it “Recycled Percussion Day” in Goffstown. The City of Manchester did the same thing when the band’s flight landed the previous Friday night.

State representative John Hikel also read a proclamation, on behalf of the New Hampshire state house of representatives.

Then the lights went down and the crowd’s dull roar turned into pandemonium.

Recycled Percussion sprinted on stage and did an hour-plus of the material that’s made them a national sensation.  Within two songs, Spencer’s white untucked dress shirt was completely soaked in sweat.  Fellow drummer Ryan Vezina had done three vertical leaps over his makeshift “drum set” – stacked buckets with cymbal and microphone-festooned steel tubes duct taped to them.

As Todd “DJ Pharaoh” Griffin spun a rock steady backbeat, Spencer prowled the stage like a panther, delighted to have longer than 90 seconds of performing time.  Guitarist Jim Magoon played a psychedelic “Star Spangled Banner” like he’d written it, not Hendrix, and Spencer fist bumped him as he walked back to his drum kit.

After a medley that touched down in multiple musical eras, Spencer walked to the front of the stage to recall the America’s Got Talent experience for the crowd.   He said that after they’d wrangled their way into the New York regional auditions, judge David Hasselhoff declared them “a five dollar band that wouldn’t go anywhere.”  The other judges split – Sharon Osbourne liked them, Piers Morgan didn’t.

So the band packed up, and got halfway through New Jersey when they got a callback – “technical difficulties,” they were told.  After a debate about whether to try again or head to a paying gig – one of 300 the band does each year – they turned the van around.

They barely made it out of the second New York audition – Hasselhoff changed his mind, but so did Osbourne.  Three weeks and one spinning dual drum set later they were on their way.

Then Spencer remembered his first gig at the long-ago high school talent show.  On that night, his band finished in second place.  “How,” he wondered, “did we go from second in Goffstown to third place in the whole country?”

Beginning October 7, Recycled Percussion will be in Las Vegas for the 10-week run of America’s Got Talent Live, headlined by contest winner Kevin Skinner and hosted by Jerry Springer, at Planet Hollywood’s 1,300-seat CHI Showroom.  They perform at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on December 31 and January 1 (tickets $26 – http://www.palacetheatre.org)

Recycled Percussion – Interview with Justin Spencer

RPwithStateProclamRecycled Percussion leader Justin Spencer spoke by phone after a show in Delhi, New York.

You must be excited about America’s Got Talent Live, the showcase opening for a 10 week run at Planet Hollywood October 7.

It’s amazing.  They asked us to do it, and we’re going to be one of the headlining acts on there.  Our intentions are to be in Vegas for not just that show, but for many years to come.

Have you made firm plans beyond that?

I can’t talk about that, but I can assure you that we’re doing everything we can to stay in Las Vegas, that’s for sure.

Given your commitment to an anti-substance lifestyle, it must be interesting to draw your sights on Sin City, U.S.A. if not the world?

(laughs) Yeah, right.  You know, I’ve been around that my whole life.  It’s funny, I never got into drinking, never tried it.  I’ve never really tasted beer before, never tried a cigarette.  Back in the day, when everyone tried smoking dope and shit like that, I tried it and you know what?  This isn’t for me.  I realized that for me to succeed at what I want to do, and where I wanted the band to go, we needed to leverage every edge possible.  Coming from a small town in New Hampshire playing buckets, we had every disadvantage.  We said, listen, this is the way we’re gonna take it.  We’re gonna work out, we’re gonna eat right, we’re gonna be healthy, we’re gonna not only play music but we’re gonna try and inspire kids as well, and that’s what we’re doing.  It brings us to Vegas, and that’s fine too.  Because the message goes wherever we go. Just because you’re going to Vegas doesn’t mean you can’t bring the message with you.

How did it feel to be back in your high school, knowing the tickets had been snapped up in 15 minutes, and having it buzzing like the Verizon?

That’s funny, because originally we were going to do it at the Verizon, and cut it in half and do 4,000 seats.  I didn’t think that many people were going to come out.  I didn’t realize how massive the support would be in New Hampshire, because we were in L.A. for the past few months and were kind of detached from all the media.  Thousands would have come out if we’d been at the Verizon. We gave out 1,200 seats in 15 minutes [for the Goffstown High show] and I can only imagine how many more would have come in the next three to four hours if there were more tickets.  We were turning away hundreds outside the high school, even with the signs.  It was beyond flattering.  It fuels us more to come back sometime during the holidays when we come home to try and give back to the fans who didn’t get a chance to see us.  I mean, to go back in your hometown … when the lights went out it was ear piercing.  It was electric.  It was amazing.

What was it like walking off the plane on Friday, when a pretty big crowd greeted you?

There was a crowd of fans, friends and family.  The mayor’s office was there to give us a proclamation announcing that September 18 is Recycled Percussion Day in Manchester.  Last night, we received one from the state and from Goffstown.  These honors are huge and there’s talk about getting a key to the city, and that’s cool.

What was the moment for you when you realized you really could go all the way?

You know, we knew going into it, the producers told us singers win the show, that’s just how it goes.  America identifies with singers.  We knew that was going to be our toughest competition.  I think we didn’t think we had a shot until the first performance we gave when we looked over and all three judges were giving us standing ovations, and that went into the media. And the media went from ‘who are Recycled Percussion’ to ‘these guys are a Vegas act.’  It surprised us, and it kept getting bigger and bigger and we became a favorite.  Up until even the next morning after the finals were given, Associated Press was saying Recycled Percussion lost, but there was no way … Recycled Percussion was the best show on America’s Got Talent.  It was really cool because Piers said to us afterwards, you guys are the most creative act in the history of this show, and you guys raised the bar for any act that comes after you guys.  Think about how massive these productions were that we built.  From a creative standpoint, it was clearly hard to beat these things.  How could you have any more energy, or build a bigger production, and do all that in 90 seconds?  I think we brought it right to the edge and that’s what kept us up there with the singers.  In the top 5, we looked around us – all singing groups and Recycled Percussion.  And we did it without any sob stories. We didn’t need a sob story.  We just went and flat out blew people away on stage.

The first set, the one that went viral on YouTube, with the rotating stage, how did you get the engineering to make that happen on such short notice?

We came up with that idea and we gave them the specs to work on it.  That was the easiest one to come up with because it was our first performance and we had four weeks to plan that with the engineers and producers and find someone in California that could build a stage like that for us.  We had a week and half to come up with the van idea, then we had three days to come up with the water idea.  You’re writing one show and thinking to move ahead … you’re planning one show ahead, but trying not to think that you’re going to make it.  So it’s like a really, really mentally grueling show, especially for a band like us.  A singing group can just say, we’re going to sing this song.  We have to top what we did last time, every time we come out, and that is really hard to do.  Especially when you open with a performance like the rotating stage, and when we did that. Piers said afterwards in the interview that it was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen.  The good news is that, the bad news is good luck topping that show.

A lot of people may think this is an overnight sensation, but you’ve been at this for 14 years.  How does it feel after all that work, that one television show did so much for you, so fast?

As we’re 14 years of hard work, and it all is trumped by five weeks on that show.  It made us a hundred times bigger, made us celebrities and put a lot of things on our plate.  But if it wasn’t for those 14 years, we never would have finished third, we never would have had the experience to be up there with those guys.  All those years of practice on all those stages that’s why we were so good in the finals.  We were polished showmen.  If we just came out of the gate, if we had done this 8 years ago, we would have gotten laughed off that stage.

So next stop Vegas, after Vegas the world.  As I walked around backstage at Goffstown High on Monday, I noticed the world “perseverance” written on a wall.  Was that there when you were a student?

No, but that is something we always preach to people, it’s funny you say it.  Persistence, man, it’s like we’ve almost given up so many times.  It’s amazing, if we’d given up the five times … every time we almost give, we’re like oh let’s stick around a little more and see what happens, and this happens.  As big as this is, a moment in your life that changes the path your career takes, we know there’s even bigger stuff than that.  Maybe not for TV, but there is a streamline to wealth, fortune and creativity that’s sitting right in front of us.  It’s just a matter of grabbing it. We can see it right now, we’ve never been able to see it before and that just re-kindles the fire.

The thought of going to an engineer with an idea you wanted to in the past but couldn’t afford must be exciting.  Are there things fans are going to see that you always wanted to do but didn’t have the resources to make it happen?

Oh, yeah.  The next time Recycled Percussion performs, in Vegas … let me say never again.  We’ll never be the same ever again.  What we saw in Goffstown last night is going to be the past.  It’s going to be big production, big wows, and just crazy, crazy ideas.  That’s what makes this thing so special for all of us. We finally get to, as an artist, create these ideas that we had, and I’ll tell you, we’ve got some great ones.

This week’s Hippo – Black Brook Band

Switch Hitters – Black Brook Band Best New & Traditional NH Country Band

If versatility is the best measure of a bar band, the Black Brook Band has the country title. On Sunday, September 20, the New Hampshire Country Music Association (NHCMA) named the Manchester six-piece both best traditional and best new country band at their 22nd annual awards show.

With a repertoire of standards from performers like George Jones, Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash, they’ve won the NHCMA traditional award before. In 2006, they took the state prize and went on to win the national title.

But this year was Black Brook’s first entering in the new country category.

The NHCMA competition is run, “Country Music Idol” style, with contestants performing for a panel of judges. Black Brook lead singer Marcus Knight says he didn’t expect to beat Jonathan Scott and the Blazing Hearts, who’d won multiple times in past years.

When the award was announced, says Knight, “I was numb. We were stunned that we took the both of them.”

Knight also took home a personal trophy, for best new country vocalist.

The Black Brook Band includes Shorty Champagne on guitar and pedal steel, Ray Ryan on lead guitar and vocals, the Vaillancourt brothers – Dick on bass and Bob on rhythm guitar – and “Puppet” Duperon, so nicknamed for his resemblance to the Muppet character Animal.

They’ve honed their versatility at places like Pelto’s Barn in Troy, where they play Saturday, October 3. When Pelto’s patrons ask for a little Elvis mixed in with “Big River,” the band is easy to oblige. Their set list includes everyone from Toby Keith to the Traveling Wilburys, along with the old school country the band’s members, all but one in their mid-fifties, grew up on.

Knight, born in Goffstown and raised in Manchester, lived with a musical family and started playing instruments at age 5. He learned to read music while in the Muchachos, a Manchester drum corps.

His home was typically filled with music. “My older brother was a DJ back in the days when they had sock hops,” he says. “My mother and father had a stereo and played all the old country songs. We used to get together every Saturday and have a family jam. We’d play all kinds of instruments and sing along to the records.”

Later Knight teamed up with his younger brother, Billy Joe, who sang with the band for a few years before bowing out for health reasons.  These days, Billy Joe serves as Black Brook’s sound engineer and occasional backup vocalist.

The band has released one album of original material, entitled Old 97. There are echoes of Slim Whitman on “Pretty Senorita,” while tracks like “Truck Driver Blues” and “Say Goodbye” have a modern country sound. Old 97 ends with “Tears Keep Falling,” a gospel song that Knight says “deals with things going on in the world today, and why God is crying making rain.”

Knight and the band will head to a New England regional contest in Manchester, Conn. on Oct. 10th. Regardless of how that turns out, they will go to the national competition next March in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – the site of their 2007 victory.

Knight is busy clearing his work schedule for the trip (all of Black Brook’s members hold down regular jobs), but doubts it can top the rush of winning in 2007.

“That was the highest point,” he says. “We performed in front of over 1,500 people. The place was twice as big as the Palace Theater. You could fit the Palace Theater on their stage.”


What: Black Brook Band

When: Saturday, October 3 at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Pelto’s Barn, 161 Bigelow Hill Road, Troy

Tickets: $7.00 a Person $13.00 a Couple, 21+

Additional:  http://www.peltosbarnsite.com

Other upcoming Black Brook Band shows:

Saturday, October 10, 2009 8:30pm – American Legion, 96 Islington Street, Portsmouth
Friday, October 16, 2009 9:00pm – Shenanigans, White River Junction, VT
Saturday, October 31, 2009 8:00pm – Circle 9 Ranch, Epsom
Friday, November 6, 2009 6:00pm – Workman’s Club, 183 Douglas Street, Manchester

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.”