Local Rhythms – Google Nation

I don’t understand math.

A Congressional majority is sixty votes out of a hundred, not fifty-one, and a two by four is one and three-quarters inches thick.

More baffling is the biggest company on the Internet, which gives away most of its products, yet is somehow worth tens of billions of dollars.

How does that work?

Well, Google profits from advertising – we at the (always free) Compass certainly understand that.

It also looks like the company could take over the world.

There’s hardly a game in cyberspace Google isn’t playing.  Want e-mail? Try G-mail.  Need a word processor, calendar, or a place to store and view your documents? Google has all three, and they’re free!

Ditto for digital photo albums (Picasa), video (YouTube) and net telephony (Google Voice).

They’re even taking on Facebook with Buzz, though that little launch had many longing for the good old days when Microsoft was the biggest dog in the pound.  Due to a bug (they insist it’s fixed), users who signed up for the social networking service unwittingly divulged their private data to the world.

This included GPS location information, and a tongue-in-cheek website, www.pleaserobme.com, sprang up to point would-be thieves to easy targets.

This put a stain on Google’s unofficial slogan – “don’t be evil.”

However, with all this frantic activity, including acquisitions that leapfrog the company to the front of the pack in rapidly evolving markets like streaming mobile video and cloud-based music, maybe “don’t be evil, be everywhere” is more apt.

I’d also suggest that anyone whose blogger.com site was unceremoniously shut down last year due to alleged copyright violations might dispute Google’s all-purpose benevolence.

That said, when Google decides to disrupt a sector, it’s usually good for consumers.  In music, the company is rumored to be negotiating to buy a company that would directly compete with iTunes.

Plenty have tried and failed to topple Apple – Google has the war chest to pull it off.

The Mountain View mega-corporation is also making inroads into the iPhone’s world with Android, which is a pretty nifty device.

The latest initiative, Google Fiber, could impact Claremont. The company wants to build – for free, naturally – several ultra-high speed fiber optic networks in select cities and towns.

Communities can submit proposals for consideration, and Mayor Cutts plans to raise the idea with the City Council.

Imagine a sign at the city limits – “Claremont – Powered by Google.”

It could happen.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Feb 25: Dala (opening for Vance Gilbert), Flying Goose – Vance Gilbert is a talented performer, but the real reason to hit this show is the two Canadian girls who started singing Frank Sinatra songs in high school and wowed the crowd at last year’s Newport (R.I.) Folk Festival.  Sweet harmonies that remind me of what a duet featuring Joan Baez and Judy Collins might sound like – honey throated and gorgeous.

Friday, Feb. 26: Hexerei/Till We Die, Electra – The standard bearers of the local metal scene return after a brief hiatus.  It’s great to see Travis Pfenning and his band, which has had more that their share of ups and downs, back on the stage. Till We Die rounds out the Metal Mayhem bill – it will be a good night for headbangers.

Saturday, Feb. 27: Three Rix, Plainfield Blow-Me-Down Grange  – Rik Palieri, Rick Nestler and Rich Bala will give a musical history lesson, with songs from the first European settlers and pioneers, Revolutionary War ballads, sea shanties from the days of whaling ships, through lumber camps, bluestone quarries and the Depression-era hobos, right up to the current environmental movement.  Presented by Thom Wolke’s Twin Cloud Concerts.

Sunday, Feb. 28: Dartmouth Chamber Singers, Hopkins Center – An “American Life” concert focused on the leading lights of modern classical music, from the early 20th century up to the present day.  Harmony, rhythm and melody are always at the forefront in works by Irving Fine, Aaron Copland, Thomas Campion and Leonard Bernstein, along with folk-inspired pieces by 21st century composers including Stephen Paulus, Gilbert Martin and Alf Houkoum.

Tuesday, March 2: Open Mic, PK’s Tavern – Singer songwriter Jesse Peters, who’s ramping up a nationwide bicycle tour commending in May, is the biweekly host of this, one of the longest running opening rehearsals in the area.  On his off weeks, pals like Ezra Veitch and Josh Maiocco occasionally pick up the slack.  It’s always a good time, as Bellows Falls is a hotbed of local talent.  Good pints too.

Wednesday, March 3: Ted Mortimer, Quechee Inn – One of the most well-rounded guitarists in the area, who rocks out with Dr. Burma and mines the Great American Songbook with his wife Linda Boudreault, plays solo during the dinner hour, which features several soup to nuts food specials in an elegant setting.   A three-course dinner and cool jazz music are indeed a worthwhile combination

This Week’s Compass

Horizon – Mark your calendar

What: Jimmy Dunn’s Funny Guys, Naughty Girls and Dirty Guitars

Where: Claremont Opera House

When: Saturday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $22/advance

More: www.claremontoperahouse.com

It’s a night of mature (18+) comedy featuring one of the funniest guys in Boston, rock and roll and burlesque.  Dubbed as a couple’s night out, the event features Dunn, well known for doing his comedy shtick on NESN after Red Sox games and driving a cab in Olympia Sports commercials.  He’s joined by rock Sal Baglio, longtime lead singer of the Stompers, who performs with his current band the Grease Rockets.

Oh, and there’s dancing girls, one of the main reason it’s necessary to leave the kids home.  Dunn did the show in Manchester a few months back, where it was a big hit. He says it’s the kind of “naughty couples” show familiar to anyone who’s been to Las Vegas.   There will be plenty of give and take with the audience.

But this is the Opera House, after all, so while the entertainment will be bawdy, it won’t be indecent.  Expect the spirits of Rusty Warren and Gypsy Rose Lee, updated for the 21st century, but not a night at the typical gentlemen’s club.

Beyond – Worth driving out of town

What: Pat Green

Where: Pickle Barrel Nightclub, 1741 Killington Road, Killington

When: Thursday, March 4, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $20

More: http://www.picklebarrelnightclub.com

Distance: 46 Miles

If you’ve ever wondered what a night at a Texas roadhouse feels like, check out this show.

A country rocker in the vein of Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney, Pat Green is one of the most overlooked talents in music.  With a career spanning 15 years and 10 albums, he’s won the admiration of his fellow players (Willie Nelson is a big fan) and a solid following, but he’s never broken into the arena world.

That may be a good thing, as the honky-tonk good time vibe of songs like “Wave on Wave” and the ironic “Country Star” fit perfectly in a hot, crowded nightclub like the Pickle Barrel.  Green also writes evocative music – “Footsteps of our Fathers,” from last year’s What I’m For, is one such song, a bit of heritage rock as good as anything coming out of Nashville.

But not many country players would brave a cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” as Green did at a show in Northampton, Massachusetts a few years back.  It’s these curve balls, and an unabashed rocker’s spirit that make Pat Green a special, if often not fully appreciated talent.

Players – Local Music Spotlight

Who:  Little Memphis

What:  Country Rock

Sounds Like: Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt

Little Memphis began as Dan D. and The Burning Love, an Elvis Presley tribute band that performed a faithful recreation of the King’s Hawaii television special. Claremont natives Dan LaPorte and musical partner Todd LeBlanc branched out in 2007 with an album of country rock originals, produced in Nashville by Scotty Turner.

With radio-ready songs like “Cutie Patootie” and “Sugar Daddy,” Let Me Down Easy received local airplay, and the band played out at places like Shenanigans in White River Junction.  LaPorte on vocals and LeBlanc on bass are constants in the band, along with a local crew consisting of Tom Nagy on drums, keyboard player Nathan Robbins, Jim Eibner on pedal steel and Pete Henault on lead guitar.

Earlier this year, their song “Hot Date” debuted at number 72 on the Power Source Country Music Chart, and the band recently appeared live in the studio on local country station KIXX-FM. The band recently posted a new song for purchase on their www.littlememphisband.com web site. “Get in This Car” was written by local singer/songwriter Ed Leavitt, who also wrote “The Nights the Lights Went Out In Graceland” for the band.

Upcoming local gigs:

Friday, March 19th – 9:00 PM Shenanigans, White River Junction

Friday, April 30th – 9:00 PM Shenanigans, White River Junction

Friday, June 11th – 9:00 PM Shenanigans, White River Junction

Saturday, July 10th – Wounded Warrior Project Benefit Show, Mt. Sunapee Ski Resort, Sunapee

This week’s Compass

Horizon – Mark your calendar

What: Eilen Jewell

Where: Boccelli’s on the Canal, 46 Canal St. in Bellows Falls

When: Friday, February 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $16/advance, $18/door available at Village Square Booksellers and other outlets, and online at http://www.brattleborotix.com.

More: www.vermontfestivals.com

Though Boccelli’s closed at the end of last year, it still hosts an occasional show.  This one, featuring the timeless music of Eilen Jewell, is special because it will include dinner service.

The dipped in amber quality of Jewell’s 2006 debut, Boundary County, immediately established her as a talent to watch on the New England Americana scene, a reputation she cemented in 2007 with Letters from Saints and Sinners.  Her appearances at the 2007 and 2008 Roots on the River Festival were among the most well-received for both years, and she’s gone from new sensation to certified star in a very short time.

The demure singer-songwriter has also dabbled in country gospel with the Sacred Shakers and leads a Loretta Lynn cover band, Butcher Holler, which expects to release an album later this year.  Jewell’s last studio effort, Sea of Tears, is a departure from the Appalachian-flavored folk of her earlier work, taking its cues from Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Burnette brothers’ rockabilly.

Beyond – Worth driving out of town

What: Mindy Smith & Peter Bradley Adams

Where: Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA

When: Thursday, Feb 25, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $15

More: www.iheg.com

Distance: 69 Miles

Mindy Smith, well known for her version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and the aching, autobiographical “One Moment More,” is the headliner for this show, but Peter Bradley Adams is worth the price of admission.

The Nashville-based singer-songwriter is one of the more neglected musicians working today.  He’s made four albums of beautifully understated folk-pop, including the Robbie Robertson produced Eastmountainsouth, but for some reason he’s forever flying beneath the radar.  His third album, Traces, yielded his biggest song to date –  “For You” a ballad of love and patience that mirrors what Adams must be feeling as he waits for the rest of the world to catch up with his artistry.

Most recently, he recorded “In the Air” with Vienna Teng for the television show Brothers and Sisters.  To check out Adams’ music, go to www.peterbradleyadams.com to download a free three-song EP.  A fourth track, “Los Angeles (Winter ’09)” can be had with a subscription to his e-mail newsletter – a very small price to pay.

Players – Local Music Spotlight

Who:  TranScenT

What:  Alternative metal

Sounds Like: Slayer, Tool and Pantera

Founded in 2001 as a garage band led by Justin “Buzzy” Brown, TranScenT has undergone several changes since Brown’s tragic death in 2006. The band still honors the memory of its former driving force by yelling out “Buzzy” at some point during every performance. TranScenT has appeared locally at the Claremont Moose, Imperial Lounge and Electra, as well as Milly’s Tavern and TJ’s in Manchester.

Fronted by singer Chris Wentworth, the band includes Kevin Barth on bass, drummer Mark Kennett, Dan Gelina on rhythm guitar and lead guitar phenom Antonio Damiani, who also plays keyboards. The band says it began to seriously focus on professionalism when Damiani and Wentworth joined in 2007.

Last year TranScenT played over 60 shows, relying almost exclusively on original music.  Lately, they’ve started working covers into their repertoire, from bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Plunge and Bullet For My Valentine. They are nearing completion of an album recorded at Element Of The Machine leader Chris Mack’s studios in Springfield.

On Sunday, February 21 at 8 p.m., the band will be interviewed on the WFRD 99 Rock Home Brew show.  They were featured on Chris Garret’s Rock ‘N’ Go Morning Show last July.

Upcoming gigs:

Saturday, March 6 – East Buffet, Pleasant Street in Claremont, with Soul Octane Burner and Element Of The Machine ($10 cover charge).

Local Rhythms – Listening room etiquette

There are a few things I can’t tolerate.  Gum chewing during phone calls, people who drive below the speed limit on two-lane highways and idiots who talk in listening rooms.

The other night I went to a club in Manchester to hear Amy Petty and three other singer-songwriters do their thing. Charlestown native Jandee Lee Porter, who belts out country songs like a young Linda Ronstadt, blew me away.

She’s a star in the making.

It was a great night of music – at least the part that I could hear clearly.

For too much of the evening, some schlub at the bar had a long and loud conversation with a few of his friends.  Finally in frustration, I walked over and told him through gritting teeth that I came to hear the music, not listen to him talk all night.

He finally shut up.

Did reality television make this dolt believe his ordinary musings were more important than what was happening on stage?   It was appalling, particularly because it happened at an event that people paid to get into.

It’s much worse at no cover clubs.

So I have a few suggestions for the next time you’re around live entertainment.

1.     Learn the meaning of “stage whisper” – if you must talk, don’t shout.

2.     The longer the conversation, the closer the talkers should be – don’t yak across the table.

3.     If you’re not there for the music, don’t sit next to it.

4.     Remember if you’re at a comedy show, the guy with the microphone is the one being paid to talk.

5.     If you buy a ticket and don’t like what you hear, don’t ruin everyone’s night by staying.

The lack of respect for musicians is ridiculous.  I’m waiting for the day some guy asks a guitarist to hold a beer so he can use both hands while kissing his girlfriend.

Come to think of it, the silence might be worth the trade-off.

At least if his tongue is in her mouth, it can’t be employed to talk about cell phones, car repairs or his latest Facebook status.

I understand that you didn’t come for the music, but there’s no reason that your prerogatives should completely subjugate mine.

Talk all you want, but at a decent volume.

For ticketed events at places like Boccelli’s or the Flying Goose, please take it outside.

Have a good time, but don’t ruin mine.  Is that so hard?

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Feb 18: Jason Cann, Harpoon Brewery – Salt hill Hanover opened a day too late for Jason’s Local Rhythms-picked appearance two weeks ago, but he’s now a Wednesday regular there. The singer/songwriter, who mixes cool originals with reinvented Michael Jackson songs and a cover of “Please Come to Boston” that’s’ better than Dave Loggins’ version, also plays every Thursday at the Windsor brewpub.

Friday, Feb. 19: Talkin’ Smack Band, One Mile West – A cozy restaurant with a great bar expands its musical offering with a mix of decades-spanning rock and blues.  Lead singer Rich Cortese has a voice that’s equal parts sandpaper and sheen. Their selection of material is especially good.  I can’t remember if I’ve ever heard a cover band tackle Robin Trower’s “Day of the Eagle,” and that’s just one of many nuggets in a typical set.

Saturday, Feb. 20: Ross Robinson, Pleasant Valley Brewing Co.  – Just a short drive beyond Bellows Falls, this pub/restaurant books a steady flow of talented original artists, including this Massachusetts picker, who cut hi teeth busking in Cambridge, and specializes in finger-style and slide guitar. His cover of Hot Tuna’s instrumental gem “Water Song” thoroughly impressed me, but his vocals are also stellar.

Sunday, Feb. 21: IZ Style Winter Tour, Mt. Sunapee Resort – The Pete Kilpatrick Band provides musical entertainment for the concluding day of this weekend event, which is all about the ways winter sports enthusiasts can reduce their environmental footprint. The Reverb Eco-Village features local, regional, and national environmental non-profit groups helping to educate skiers and snowboarders in planet-friendly behavior.

Monday, Feb. 22: The Status & The Bay State, 802 Music – Fans of alternative bands like All-Time Low and Boys Like Girls will like this indie double bill.  I’m particularly intrigued with the Bay State, which began as an acoustic project a few years and back and features the throaty Susanne Gerry on vocals and bass and, surprisingly, Evan James playing viola.  It’s power pop with a difference.

Wednesday, Feb. 24: Eileen Ivers, Hopkins Center – Anyone interested in the intersection of Irish and American culture will enjoy this show. The founding member of Cherish the Ladies and original Riverdance star performs Beyond the Bog Road, a multimedia show that explores the experience of Irish immigrants’ journeys to America, and what Ivers calls their “brilliant transformation from desperate refugees to cultural forces to be reckoned with.”

This week’s Hippo

Alana Susko got into comedy in an unlikely way:

Alana Susko always wanted to be a stand up comic.  Her friends encouraged her, but she couldn’t work up the nerve.

“I’d rather have a colonoscopy or a small car accident,” she says. “It was my greatest fear.”

Then one day, Susko found a way to beat her stage fright – sex toys.

She began hosting living room parties for women, selling ‘novelty items’ for consenting adults.  “It’s like Tupperware, only with romance enhancements,” says Susko.  “I thought if I could get comfortable with the terminology, I could say anything.”

Soon, phrases like “pure instinct pheromone cologne,” “bendable buddy” and “hot licks edible lotion” were rolling off Susko’s tongue, and it was so long, public speaking phobia.

From Lamont Smooth to Otis Jones – a new Concord band starts playing out:

There’s a bit of kismet in the stories of most bands, but Otis Jones came together due to quite a few happy accidents. Guitarist Andy Laliotis started the Grateful Dead tribute band Blue Light Rain after a long run with Concord jam band Lamont Smooth, which broke up at the end of 2007.

And this week’s Nite Roundup looks at a Haiti benefit in Chester, a local jam band’s after party activity, and more.

Local Rhythms – Post-Millennial Valentine’s music

For my money, the most romantic song ever is “Save the Last Dance For Me” – because of the story of how it came to be written.

Doc Pomus was stricken with polio as a child. So the songwriter, who penned classics like “This Magic Moment” and “Lonely Avenue,” stood at the altar on crutches as he married Willi Burke in 1957.  Later at their reception, he encouraged his new bride to dance, even though he couldn’t.  She did and he watched, admiring of her beauty and amazed at his good fortune.

A few years later, he found a wedding invitation in a hatbox. Remembering the way he felt that night, Pomus began to write on the back

“You can dance every dance with the guy who gives you the eye, let him hold you tight.

He ended with:

“Don’t forget who’s taking you home, and in whose arms you’re gonna be; darling, save the last dance for me.”

60 years later, those sentiments still resonate. But where are the similar songs by today’s artists?

Every year, I make a playlist for Valentine’s Day.  It’s invariably top heavy with old songs, and inevitably the exercise leaves me feeling fossilized.

So this time around, I challenged myself to focus on the modern, and choose ten songs released in 2000 or later.

Does this generation have a Van Morrison?  Has anyone written a song in the last 10 years to rival “Someone Like You”?

Soul music gave us Al Green and Teddy Pendergrass once upon a time, but the genre has surrendered to hip-hop’s baser instincts

Country, on the other hand, has put down the beer car and picked up the torch, and when it comes to songs about staying together, none can compare to crooners in cowboy hats.

A lot of singer-songwriters made the list, though admittedly a couple of choices might not mean anything to anyone but me.

There’s one dinosaur, too – but trust me, the Henley song’s a gem.

Here’s my list of the last decade’s best love songs:

1.     Alan Jackson, “Remember When”

2.     Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”

3.     Peter Bradley Adams, “For You”

4.     Vienna Teng, “City Hall”

5.     Chris Smither, “Time Stood Still”

6.     Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly”

7.     Matt Nathanson, “Come On Get Higher”

8.     Brad Paisley, “Then”

9.     Don Henley, “For My Wedding”

10.   Michael Bublé, “Everything”

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Feb 11: Proctor Academy Music Ensembles, Flying Goose Pub – Thursday nights in New London are back in a big way, with upcoming shows from Vance Gilbert (2/25), Catie Curtis (3/25) and Willy Porter (4/25). Tonight, however, is devoted to the stars of the future, with young musicians from the Andover prep school showing their stuff on trumpet, guitar, flute bass, drums and vocals.

Friday, Feb. 12: Haiti Benefit, Hanover High School – The Gully Boys, Daley Double, Cindy Geilich and Hanover High a capella groups perform a special “Valentine for Haiti” variety show to raise money for Partners in Health, an organization that’s been helping poor countries for over 50 years, that sprang into action soon after the earthquake struck Port-Au-Prince.  Tickets are $10/adults and $5 /students.

Saturday, Feb. 13: Mardi Gras & Valentine Ball, 33 Bridge Street in Bellows Falls – Two Vermont-based bands playing Louisiana inspired music are featured in a benefit for local independent radio station WOOL-FM.  Lil’ Orphans Cajun Express and the Black Sheep Brass Band’s appearances can only be heightened by the afterglow of the New Orleans Saints’ stunning victory in the Super Bowl. $15 tickets include a Cajun buffet and beads.

Sunday, Feb. 14: Pete Merrigan, Digby’s – Pete spent the week in Florida playing some of his old haunts, and returns to the Granite State for an après-ski party indoors at the bar/restaurant where he holds down Sundays during the summer months.  Hopefully, he’ll bring a warm weather glow to the Valentine’s Day revelry; I’m craving sunshine these days.

Tuesday, Feb. 16: Open Mic, Benning Street Bar & Grill – Hosted by Jim Ruffing and Mike Benoit, this is the latest open mic to start up in the area.  Most music at this West Lebanon complex happens in back at Electra, but this happens in the main room, where there’s plenty of good food and TV in case the talent wears thin, or if you’re nervous while waiting your turn to play.

Wednesday, Feb. 17: Rubblebucket Orchestra, Green Mountain College – A musical collective recently likened to a musical love child of Brooklyn and New Orleans, Rubblebucket specializes in hypnotic rhythms and has won many accolades in the short time they’ve been together, including the most recent Boston Music Awards live act of the year.  This show is a bit of a drive, but worth every mile.

This week’s Compass

Players – Local Music Spotlight
Who: Crashgirl
What: Alternative rock covers
Sounds Like: Post-millennial Heart
Crashgirl is a relative newcomer to the local music scene, but the band has built a steady following with frequent appearances at the Imperial Lounge in Claremont, along with other venues around the state, including their hometown of Keene.
Fronted by Kelly Darling-Snow on lead vocals, Crashgirl’s experienced musicians are well versed at making familiar material sound fresh. The band includes Neil Moxham on guitar, Roy Brown playing bass, drummer Jeff Costello and Paul Occhiaro on keyboards.  Each member also sings, and Occhiaro add another dimension with an occasional saxophone solo.
Crashgirl recasts classic rock songs with a modern sheen.  A good example of this is their cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” which is much bluesier and decidedly more upbeat than the original. A typical Crashgirl set includes several modernized chart-toppers like this from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, along with revamped versions of today’s pop hits with a rock style.
Upcoming gigs:
Friday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. – Imperial Lounge, Washington Street, Claremont
Saturday, Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. – McCues Billiards and Sports Lounge, Keene
Friday, March 5 at 10 p.m. – Gusto’s in Barre, Vermont
Horizon – Mark your calendar
What: Hey Mama
Where: Salt hill Pub, Lebanon
When: Friday, February 19 at 9 p.m.
More: 448-0400 or go to http://www.heymamamusic.com
Among the many stellar performances at the recent Lebanon Opera House Local Legends, none excited the crowd quite like Avi and Celia, a young duo who met as freshmen at the University of Vermont, and have been performing rootsy Americana together for the past 7 years.  Celia Woodsmith’s raw, bluesy voice, reminiscent of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt, rolled over the stunned audience like a tidal wave, and the pair sold out their merchandise in the lobby when their set ended.
Avi & Celia recently hooked up with bass player Ben Kogan and drummer Jared Seabrook to form Hey Mama.  As a duo, the pair (not romantically involved, in case you were wondering) relied on spare elements for their sound – acoustic guitar, washboard and hand percussion and, of course, Celia’s powerful pipes.  With a rhythm section, they chug along like a freight train, as evidenced on the band’s eponymous first album, made last fall with Grammy nominated producer Jack Gauthier.
This is the Hey Mama’s first Upper Valley club appearance, though it should be noted that Avi & Celia will be playing as a duo using the Hey Mama name.  There’s no cover charge, but it’s a good idea to bring an extra 10 or 20 bucks for a CD purchase.
Beyond – Worth driving out of town

What: Jeffrey Foucault & Anders Parker
Where: Hooker-Dunham Theatre, 139 Main St. in Brattleboro
When: Saturday, Feb 13, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15
Distance: 48 Miles
“Northbound 35,” a great tune about the end of love and how wearying it can be, is reason enough to pay attention to Jeffrey Foucault.  But that’s just one favorite among many. The Wisconsin-born singer/songwriter, who nowadays calls Western Massachusetts home, has a lot in common with John Prine.  Like Prine, Foucault’s songs often reveal flawed characters with human pain searching for redemption that’s not completely out of reach, but very close to it.
So it makes sense that Foucault made Shoot the Moon Between the Eyes, a loving tribute to Prine’s music released last year.  He’s currently working on a follow-up to his last studio album, 2006’s Ghost Repeater, with help from pal Peter Mulvey and longtime producer David “Goody” Goodrich, and will likely play a few new selections at the Brattleboro show.  Also appearing is Anders Parker, a talented songwriter who’s been making critically acclaimed music for the past 15 years.
The Hooker-Dunham is an intimate space that seats a little over 100 people; it’s the perfect venue for Foucault and Parker’s music.

Local Rhythms – Don’t get fooled at the Super Bowl

Pete Townshend once wrote, “I hope I die before I get old.”

I won’t go that far, but I wish he’d retired, sparing me the agony of having to watch him and Roger Daltrey perform Who songs at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

It’s wrong on a few levels.

First, why has the Super Bowl become the venue of choice for every dinosaur rock star aching for a second look?  The game itself now seems to be just one ingredient in a bloated media stew, with every attention junkie in the world jockeying for screen time.

A better food analogy is a baked potato – fattening enough with butter and sour cream, loading it up with bacon, cheese, chili and anything else you think to chop up is overkill.

Why does this game have to be a conduit for a million other distractions? How about just 60 minutes of football and a few overpriced beer commercials?

Isn’t that enough?

There is true athletic drama on the field this year.   The city of New Orleans has never produced a world champion in professional sports, and it’s been just a few years since Hurricane Katrina. The whole world is pulling for the Saints.

The other Super Bowl team is led by Peyton Manning, one of the most gifted athletes in the world, who happens to be the son of the Saints’ former star quarterback.

How much more drama do you need?

Make no mistake – I love rock and roll as much as anyone. But what does the music of the Who have to do with any of that?  Besides, they’re English – when someone says football, Pete Townshend thinks of soccer.

In any case, the Who isn’t a band – it’s a brand name, now owned by two surviving members of the legendary group.  A case could be made that it ended when Keith Moon died in 1979; John Entwistle’s passing left no doubt.

If Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr tried to tour as the Beatles, would anyone believe them?

This whole mess began when Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem before the 1990 game and turned it into a hit record.  A few years later, Michael Jackson appeared with 3,500 kids (isn’t that ironic?) and three body doubles to sing “Heal the World.”

It’s been spinning out of control ever since. Let’s call an end to the ridiculous excess.

Just play the game – please.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Feb 4: Lannen Fall, 802 Music – In a world of minimalist pop bands, Boston-based Lannen Fall bring a big sound to the stage, influenced by modern rockers like Blink-182, Fall Out Boy and A-list producer Butch Walker.  The five-piece band plays tuneful songs with memorable choruses, tight harmonies and solid instrumentation. This is a good excuse to hit an off-night show at the downtown Springfield venue.

Friday, Feb. 5: Saylyn, Salt hill Newport – Saylyn is the area’s hometown reggae band, an authentic sound that always makes me think of summer. The band is best enjoyed under the stars on a hot night, but since the elements have other plans, at least for the next few months, indoors at Newport’s most bustling nightspot will have to suffice. Fronted by two brothers born and raised in Jamaica, this band is the genuine article.

Saturday, Feb. 6: Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen, Plainfield Blow-Me-Down Grange – Folk music in Plainfield – what a treat.  Check out Gillette, a                terrific songwriter, performing “Darcy Farrow” on YouTube with Mangsen, and see if you don’t wonder like I did – where’s the other guitar?  When Gillette and Mangsen weave their tapestry of music, with deft playing and lovely harmonies, the result is spellbinding.

Sunday, Feb. 7: Celia Sings Sinatra, Canoe Club – The Super Bowl plays on a 91 inch high def screen in the bar, while one of the area’s most popular doppelgangers performs on the other – a pleasant schizophrenia, indeed, especially when factoring in the Chinese box effect of the game broadcast, with half of the viewers wondering how far the Go Daddy Internet ad will go and the other focused on Peyton Manning’s passes

Tuesday, Feb. 9: Open Mic, One Mile West – The Sunapee restaurant recently changed ownership, and plans to expand the music offerings are in the works.  The weekly open mic continues, hosted by a rotating crew of the Moore family, George Johnson and Steve Currier. The beer menu and the vibe of the room, covered with old concert posters, are both great.

Wednesday, Feb. 10: Jason Cann, Salt hill Pub Hanover (Grand Opening) – The Tuohy dynasty expands into downtown Hanover with a formula much like the Newport and Lebanon locations, comfort food, perfectly poured pints of Guinness and a great music lineup.  Opening night features one of the area’s best singer/songwriters – Cann, who will continue to appear every Wednesday.

This Week’s Compass

Beyond – Worth driving out of town

What: Slam Free or Die with feature poet Diane Haas

Where: Bridge Café, corner of Bridge and Elm Streets, Manchester

When: Friday, Feb 5, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $3

More: www.myspace.com/bridgepoetryopenmic

Distance: 70 Miles

There’s a growing poetry scene in New Hampshire, and not the kind that one time resident Robert Frost could have comprehended.  Every other week in downtown Manchester, poets gather to read, or rather perform, their work.  It’s slam poetry, where words and attitude receive equal emphasis.  This is also competitive verse – each month, poets vie for a chance to attend the national slam poetry event, to be held this August in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This week features a Valentine-themed erotic poetry open microphone, capped by a feature reading by Diane Haas, whose appearances are equal parts poetry, burlesque and rock show.  Haas is building a big regional buzz for her often-provocative work – double entendre laced poems like “Honey,” “Not the Girl Next Door” and “Jessica Rabbit.”  The Derry poet is a Lady Gaga of verse, too – wearing outfits to match her R-rated words. The Bridge Café is an intimate venue, so patrons are encouraged to arrive early – it fills up fast.

Players – Local Music Spotlight

Who:  Last Kid Picked

What:  Covers, with an emphasis on modern rock

Sounds Like: Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls

More: www.lastkidpicked.com

You have to love a band that owes its existence to a Warren Zevon song.  On Halloween night 1996, they played first show, performing as the Werewolves of London. The following year, the band became Last Kid Picked, building a steady following with a set list of classic and modern rock songs. In late summer 1997 they had a big night opening for Mountain and Blue Oyster Cult.

The band has had a few lineup changes over the years; original members Mark & Deb Bond met and married while in the band; Carey Lee Rush was also a founding member.  Last Kid Picked front man John DeGange is a LKP constant, bespectacled and given to occasional rubber chicken stunts.  Their set list ranges from Aerosmith to Buckcherry, with an odd Neil Diamond or Dixie Chicks song tossed in to mix things up.

The band’s crowd-pleasing antics make their annual hometown Halloween party at the Newport Opera House a certain sellout, and they have been the feature band at Winter Carnival for several years running.  Current band members include DeGange on lead vocals, guitar and harmonica, Kyle Flewelling playing drums, Jason Ricci on guitar and vocals and bass player Mike Sherman.

Upcoming gigs are:

Friday, Feb. 5 at Electra Nightclub in West Lebanon

Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Derryfield in Manchester

Saturday, Feb. 13 at Newport Winter Carnival

Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Rusty Nail in Stowe, VT

Horizon – Mark your calendar

What: Mike Gordon

Where: Lebanon Opera House, 51 North Park St. in Lebanon

When: Sunday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $35/$25

More: 448-0400 or go to www.lebanonoperahouse.org

After a concluding a massive reunion tour, Phish bass player Mike Gordon embarks on a brief 8-date swing through the Northeast that includes a rare Lebanon appearance.  Gordon’s solo projects have been quite eclectic – a pair of duet albums with acoustic guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke, and a tour with the jazz-fusion Benevento/Russo Duo which yielded a 2-disc live set containing a few significantly rearranged Phish songs.

He also played for a while with the Dead spin-off Rhythm Devils; typically, when Gordon strikes out on his own, it’s a left turn into uncharted territory.

But Gordon’s Lebanon show will likely draw from his most recent release, The Green Sparrow.  The 2008 album is a more straightforward affair, with funk, groove and jam elements, along with guest help from Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, Chuck Leavell (Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones), Ivan Neville and fellow Phish member Trey Anastasio.

Gordon’s band includes Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski, jazz drummer Todd Isler, UVM teacher and pianist Tom Cleary and percussionist Craig Myers.

Today’s Hippo – Marky Ramone coming to Tupelo Hall

Marky Ramone wasn’t the first drummer of the seminal punk rock band the Ramones, but he played a key role in the early New York City music scene prior to joining them in 1978. The former Mark Bell, who changed his last name to replace Tommy Ramone, made his first record with the proto-metal band Dust while he was still in high school.

“I was going on 16,” the drummer said recently from his home in Brooklyn. “We could play on the weekends but we couldn’t tour … my parents wanted the diploma on the wall, ya know. I mean, education is important.”

After graduation, Marky dove into to emerging punk milieu. “I started hanging out at CBGB, and that’s where I met Wayne County, Richard Hell, Dee Dee Ramone, Joey Ramone, Debbie Harry. I auditioned for the New York Dolls.”

After a stint in County’s band, Marky joined Richard Hell and the Voidoids in 1976, playing drums on the band’s first EP, which included “Blank Generation.” The song eventually made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 most influential” list.

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