Local Rhythms – Tricks of the trade

I have the greatest job in the world.

For someone who considers “have you heard this?” the perfect conversation starter, being tasked with finding and exposing talented musicians is as good as it gets.

Radio, MTV, and cheap multiple band concerts used to guide my personal quest for great music. These days, the gurus have changed.

I have to work harder, but the reward is often greater.

This week, I’m going to share a few of my secrets.

First, how to pick a show?

MySpace, for all its busy purple unicorn screen noise, is still the best place to hear what a band sounds like, because everyone’s there. Before I recommend a local show, chances are I’ve streamed a song or two on MySpace.

Lately, though, I’ve been checking out ReverbNation, because it’s cleaner and more musician-centric, with a built in music player, and better event listings.

Facebook is getting better at music every day, but MySpace combines streaming and event listings more effectively. Eventually, however, I expect Facebook to bury MySpace in this department (as they have in every other way).

For local music, though, a stop at the Yellow House Media web site is a must. There are top-notch events listings and many full-length songs posted there.

When you don’t know what you’re looking for, things get challenging.

Rhapsody, Napster and a few other commercial sites will deliver channels of music based on your tastes. I think every serious music fan should have an account. For the cost of one CD a month, it’s a bargain.

But in this economy, you may not have an extra 13 to 15 bucks a month to spend. Free options like Last.fm, imeem or Pandora are good substitutes.

Search for music on Google and you’ll probably get a link to lala.com, a recent entrant into the digital music market. It’s a hybrid of Rhapsody and iTunes that charges ten cents a song stream.

Lala has a compelling fan playlist component, but I expect the dime-a-dance aspect will get old fast.

If you have cable or satellite television, you may have Sirius/XM and not even know it. Pick a genre, and if you can get past the often-annoying air talent, there’s a treasure or two to be had. But there’s been a steady downhill slide in quality since the merger.

Of course, satellite is still deeper than terrestrial radio. If you’re patient, it’s worth the trouble.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Nov. 19: Richard Shindell, Flying Goose – Few musicians possess the literary voice of Richard Shindell. His songs read like short stories, with an eye for detail and a knack for parable that would please fans of Raymond Carver or Flannery O’Connor. That he’s not an international star in a world where Bon Jovi sells out football stadiums is, to my mind anyway, a crime against good taste. Go see him and you won’t be disappointed.

Friday, Nov. 20 Two Man Gentleman Band, Salt hill Pub – Is Dr. Demento still on the radio? He’d love this duo. Though you can’t dance to them (a liability in any other bar), they’re a lot of fun, with songs that touch on everything from bar snobbery (“Fancy Beer”) to the girth of America’s largest President, “William Howard Taft.” They can be bawdy too – one of their songs is called “When Your Lips Are Playing My Kazoo.”

Saturday, Nov. 21: Spectris, East Buffet – The progressive rockers turned power trio have a new album, Industry, with touches of metal and blues along with the spacey stuff.  Bassist Josh Mosher anchors a more aggressive, guitar-forward sound that takes its cues from power trios like Tool (and Rush, which means they haven’t completely forsaken their progressive rock roots). East Buffet is a fun music room too.

Sunday, Nov. 22: Tuck’s Rock Dojo Show, Windsor Station – Guitarist Tuck Stocking spent time with many area bands, most notably Syd and Conniption Fits, before turning his attention to teaching young musicians. Tonight Tuck showcases his students – SWAGG, No Smoking and Whether List, who cover Tom Petty, Taylor Swift, Green Day, All Time Low, Paramore, The Almost, Forever The Sickest Kids and others.

Tuesday, Nov. 24: Gillian Joy, Canoe Club – Hanover’s most musician-friendly club presents a piano player who’s been compared to George Winston – subtle but skilled, nuanced yet strong. Last year, Canoe Club impresario John Chapin called her “totally promising.” She’s been asked back several times, so things appear to be working out.

Wednesday, Nov. 25: Ted Mortimer, Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm – A true local treasure who wears many different musical hats, but is always an elegant, stylish guitarist evincing a wonderfully soft touch. Mortimer’s song selection at fine dining events like this one (prix fix, tres chic) typically draws from standards like “Misty” and “The Way You Look Tonight” – very pleasant indeed.

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