This week’s Compass

Worth driving out of town

Sweet, Hot and Sassy
The Middle
316 Central Street, Franklin
Saturday, Dec. 12 7:30 PM
Tickets: $8-$16

Distance: 45 Miles

Tilton-based Sweet, Hot and Sassy had their heyday in the 1990s; the trio’s modern Andrews Sisters sound won them a large regional following. In 1992, the trio released a holiday CD, “Swingin’ ‘Round the Christmas Tree,” which mixed “Forties-fied” versions of classics with jumping modern songs like “Santa Baby” and “Mr. Santa (Mr. Sandman),” making it required listening for those in the know at Christmas.

By the end of the decade, the group went separate ways, with Mary McGuire fronting her own band, Val Blachly playing with Tim Mowry and the Mink Hills Bluegrass Band, and Ellen Carlson fiddling with several folk and country bands, most prominently High Range.

Their performance at the former Franklin Opera House was to be a full reunion – until McGuire was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September.  The good news is that the singer/guitarist is recovering (“I’m suffering more from chemo than cancer,” she said the other day) and will be able to appear to sing a few songs with her former mates.  It’s a Christmas miracle made even better by Blachly and Carlson’s announcement that proceeds from the show will be donated to McGuire to help ease the financial burdens of her recovery.

Local Music Spotlight

Who: Wise R Katubadrau
What: Island Rhythms
Sounds like: Bob Marley, Ben Harper and Michael Franti

This singer-songwriter, once known as Wise Rokobili (he dropped the name lest anyone confuse him with Carl Perkins) is an mainstay at Casa del Sol, Silver Fern, Brown’s Tavern, Bentley’s and other area clubs. He brings an “island twist” to familiar songs.  A version of “Save the Last Dance For Me” that winds into  “Margaritaville” is a particular standout.

The Fiji-born Katubadrau (the name means “100 Doors” in his native country) has a natural talent for reggae, whether it’s the master (Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”) or the Anglicized rhythms of UB40.  Ever versatile, he also covers contemporary artists, including Jack Johnson, OAR and Wyclef Jean.

There are only a few more chances to see him before next summer.  He’s off to Georgia and North Carolina at month’s end, and will head for Southern California in January, where he plans to record some original material.

Hear music from Wise R Katubadrau at

Upcoming gigs (solo):

Thursday Dec 3   8p.m. Bentley’s Restaurant, Main Street, Woodstock, VT
Thursday Dec 10 9p.m. Ri Ra Irish Pub, 22 Market Square, Portsmouth
Friday, Dec 11 6p.m. Jesse’s Restaurant, Lebanon Rd, Hanover

Mark your calendar

What: Holiday Concert
Where: Stevens High School
When: Thursday, Dec 17, 7p.m.
More: 543-4220

It’s as important a part of the December experience in Claremont as lighted houses in Nelmar Heights and the Broad Street Park display. The annual student performance features the Stevens concert band and choir; making their first appearance of the school year are the elite Jazz Band and Stevenaires singing group.

The program is a mixture of secular and traditional, with the first half including some songs – “Prelude and Dance,” “Love and Peace (The Father’s Wish)” and “Lord of the Dance” – originally scheduled for a fall concert that had to be postponed.

The second half features seasonal favorites.  The choir will perform “Carol of the Bells” and an Amy Grant medley of “Emmanuel,” “Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Christmas Hymn.”  They’ll also sing a Chanukah song called “Miracle of Lights.”  The band’s portion includes “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Russian Christmas” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

According to Stevens band director Pat Granter, the latter title isn’t a punctuation error. The comma belongs after the word “Merry.” It’s an olde world expression that means “God keep you well.”  Well, it is a school concert, after all.

Local Rhythms – Bye, bye Boccelli’s

I know life is full of ups and downs, but that doesn’t make the news of Sharon Boccelli’s plans to close her Bellows Falls café any easier to take.

Just around three years ago, the restaurant/auction house on the canal almost single-handedly brought the town back from a one-two punch – the end of concerts in the Windham Hotel lobby, and the loss of Oona’s Restaurant, a great music room, in a fire.

Now, coinciding with the wrecking ball claiming what remained of Oona’s, Boccelli’s on the Canal becomes a void in need of filling.

Their final day of business is December 30, with Cliff Eberhardt performing the final concert December 12, and the local Red Fox Band doing their regular Gallery Walk gig on the 18th.

PK’s Tavern will continue with open mic nights, hosted by Jesse Peters, every Tuesday.

Just out of town, Patrick LeBlanc, a longtime fixture at the Windham, now runs Pleasant Valley Brewing in Saxtons River, home to some great and innovative live music. Check out their Facebook fan page to learn more.

Of course, the world will descend in June for the annual Roots on the River Festival.  Fredfest is still going strong.

Even with the planned closing, I’m told to expect a show or two at Boccelli’s between now and May, when their permit expires – with dinner specials.

Bellows Falls has a talent for revival, and here’s the most hopeful news of all.

Vermont Festivals Promoter Ray Massucco told me in an email that the old Windham space is again available for booking, adding, “I need to do some pro forma budgeting to see if it works for me.”

Still, it’s the end of an all-too-brief era, which began with the Josh Maiocco/Jesse Peters “Saxtons River Smackdown” in January 2007, and included many golden nights of music. Dave Alvin, Richard Shindell, Antje Duvekot, Meg Hutchinson, Mark Erelli and several shows from the inestimable Chris O’Brien were among the memorable ones.

The other night, I was in Nashua checking out the downtown, and I went into a restaurant that advertised itself as a home to “jazz and wine.”  I asked the hostess for the live music lineup.

“We stopped that,” she told me. “The economy.”

Goodness, I’m tired of hard times.

I’ll miss the home cooking touch that emanated from every plate of food at Boccelli’s, the olive bar, funky local beers hearty coffee and decadent desserts.

But most of all, I’ll miss the music – hopefully, not for too long.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Dec. 3: Ken Rokicki, Canoe Club – A new to the area guitarist who should fit easily into the Canoe Club vibe, where music is one of many ingredients in a scintillating dining experience.  Rokicki puts a jazzy touch on American Songbook standards, along with ballads from the first half of the 20th Century – George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart all figure prominently.

Friday, Dec. 4: DJ Mic-E-Luv, Silver Fern Grille – The Electra nightclub scene moves south for a night. Springfield-based Mike Brehme, a/k/a Mic-E-Luv, learned the ropes from the West Lebanon club’s top DJ, Eric G, and belongs to his so-called Drama Squad of MCs.  He specializes in hip-hop, mixing in tricks of the trade – phasing, beat mixing and scratching – that make spinning an art form.

Saturday, Dec. 5: Rookie of the Year & Backseat Goodbye, 802 Music – The Springfield storefront, which rapidly has become a big player in the local music scene, presents of one its most intriguing shows yet.  Each band features great harmonies, intricate playing and nuanced songs about the complexities of life – on record, anyway.  The show is billed as all acoustic, so tonight may vary from the studio, but it’s promising regardless.

Sunday, Dec. 6: Area Choir, South Congregational Church (Newport) –�ne of my favorite holiday traditions, the Area Choir represents over 20 churches from 15 area communities. This year’s features an array of intelligent choices, including “O Lord, Where Now Is Bethlehem?” (“The Woodstock Hymn”), “The Star Carol” and “Some Children See Him.” Best of all, there’s a sing-along at night’s end.

Tuesday, Dec. 8: Putnam-Pirozzoli Guitar Duo, Windsor Station – This jazz guitar duo trade licks with elegance and poise.  Their set includes everything from Gershwin to Hendrix.  Gerry Putnam did a long run with popular band Night Kitchen, and Tom Pirozolli’s career has taken him all over the country.  He’s made 6 albums in the process. It’s music that pairs nicely with a bowl of chowder and a mug of winter ale.

Wednesday, Dec 9: Acoustic Hot Tuna, Lebanon Opera House – Some of my earliest rock shows were witnessed through a hole in the ceiling of a bar in the Santa Cruz Mountains, watching this band.  In those days they featured the late Papa John Creach on violin. Their early music set the tone for a lot of Americana bands that followed.

This week’s Hippo

HippoThird floor Ha! at Boynton’s Taproom in Manchester Millyard District:

It’s opening night at Boynton’s Taproom, Manchester’s newest comedy club, and it seems the couple at the ringside table didn’t get the memo — the one that reads, “Sit close to a comic, and you may become the act.”

Right now, there’s a 26-year-old man who’s likely wishing he hadn’t worn a baseball cap to the show.

Songs of the season with Winterbloom:

Winterbloom — the seasonal side project of Antje Duvekot, Meg Hutchinson, Anne Heaton and Natalia Zuckerman — doesn’t play standard holiday fare.

Music Roundup covers local shows for fans of hip-hop, acid jazz, singer-songwriter, aspiring arena rock and inspirational music with an edge.