This Week’s Hippo

Elisha’s adds music to the menu:

“I know nothing about music,” said Alex LoVerme the other day as he prepared to open his Milford restaurant for lunch. Alex and his wife Kelly bought Elisha’s Fine Food and Spirits in 2004; the previous owners opened it in the mid-1970s.

The restaurant is located a half mile from the town oval, in the former family homestead of Elisha Towne, who built it in 1770 when Milford was still known as Monson. Elisha’s specializes in American fare — steak, seafood, pasta and burgers — and also operates a tavern with a full bar and pub food.

Earlier this year, the restaurant added music to the menu.

Meadowbrook kicks of 2010 season with Americana Lollapalooza:

This year, Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in Gilford began its show season earlier and will end later than past seasons. The lineup, expected to eventually include 25 shows, blends classic and cutting-edge rock with country, pop, music and comedy and begins Memorial Day weekend with an Americana Lollapalooza.

This week’s Hippo

Jessica Prouty Band – not acting their ages

Sometime last November, Katherine Prouty sent her 16-year-old daughter Jessica to her room. That’s not an uncommon occurrence for many teenagers.

But here’s the difference. Jessica went not to her bedroom but to a rehearsal space with the members her band — Cam Pelkey, Andy Covino and Cody Nilsen. She had a stern directive from her mother, who also happens to be the manager of the Jessica Prouty Band. Come up with some new music, she told them.

“We were in a time crunch, because we had to go into the studio, and we needed songs,” Jessica Prouty said recently from her home in Marblehead. “So my mom locked us in our band room, and we wrote songs. We chopped them out.”

The hard work led to their second album, Time to Escape, and even more accolades for a band that’s steadily amassed them since forming three years ago.

James Cotton’s night, courtesy of James Montgomery

When harp player James Montgomery was finding his way as a musician, he met James Cotton. It was the late 1960s and Cotton, who’d recently left Muddy Waters’ band, was redefining the blues, introducing new elements to the raw sound that Waters and others had brought from the country to the city.

“He really paved the way,” said Montgomery from his Newport, R.I., home. “If a blues musician wanted to move forward and branch out from blues to soul and R&B, Cotton was the template for that.”

Hippo cover story – You in the spotlight

Musicians, singers, poets and comics get their moment at open-mike nights

Got a performing itch you’d like to scratch, but don’t know where to begin? From the Seacoast to the Lakes Region, there’s a microphone waiting every night of the week. There’s nothing like a live audience to provide that moment of truth — pickers, poets, vocalists, even comics and storytellers have a bevy of options available across the state to give their newfound talent a public turn.

You just need to know where to look.

Local Rhythms – God’s own iPod

Until recently, if someone said “squeezebox” I’d think of an accordion, thanks the Who song of the same name.

Now I know it’s the greatest tool a music fan can own.

The Logitech Squeezebox is a Wi-Fi enabled device that connects to a world of entertainment. I recently purchased the Squeezebox Duet, a shiny box that connects to my stereo system, and RF remote control with a 2×3 inch screen that acts like God’s own iPod.

With it, I can call up online radio stations, net streaming terrestrial radio, satellite radio, and musical subscription services like Rhapsody.

A year ago, I raved about how everyone would eventually be reading electronic books on devices like the Kindle.  With the hot competition between the Kindle, Apple iPad, and e-readers from Sony, Barnes & Noble and others, I’d say my prediction came true.

Think of that when I tell you this: you must buy a Squeezebox.

Right now I’m listening to political discussion on Sirius POTUS.  Earlier, the reissue of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street, complete with 10 unreleased tracks, played while I kicked myself for buying it the day before.

You see, Rhapsody has almost all the records I care about, and the list of back catalog stuff grows larger each day.

The remote control screen is so easy to navigate. If I like an album, I can add it to my library and call it up later.  This works anywhere – pick a record at Rhapsody’s web site, add it, and pick up the Squeezebox.  Presto! It’s there.

Get to the end of the disk with a whetted appetite, and from the remote you can choose more by the artist, or play a radio station with selections fans of a particular band might like.

For example, play Phish Radio, and you’ll hear selections from Guster, Wilco and moe.

How awesome is that?

Well, if you feel the need to share your joy, push a couple of buttons and post it to Facebook.

The Squeezebox Duo sells for $300-$400 depending on where you buy it (Amazon has a pretty good deal).

Of course, services like Sirius and Rhapsody are additional, but the monthly fees for each is less than the cost of a CD.

Weirdly, I’m listening to more terrestrial radio – when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, my favorite station was KFOG.  With Squeezebox, it still is.

I also don’t have to struggle to tune into alt rock WEQX.  Even a local station like WCNL is delivered crystal clear on my Squeezebox.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, May 20: Bluegrass Jam, 5 Olde Nugget Alley – Adam Buchwald leads a group of musicians, many from the Vermont Instruments School of Lutherie, where he teaches.  This is a new venue to me, but a quick check indicates that the basement bar has been doing this for a while.  Definitely worth checking out.

Friday, May 21: Barnaby’s Bluegrass Blowout – Day one of a fantastic musical weekend.  Where do I begin?  Rockspring from Manchester is amazing and Jatoba is a fantastic band. Hot Day at the Zoo close out Friday and Saturday nights, and local girl Jandee Lee Porter provides the finale on Sunday. Go to www.barnabysbackroadjamboree.com for more.

Saturday, May 22: Andrew Wheeler Benefit, Claremont Moose – Revampt, Roadhouse and Little Memphis perform to celebrate the life of an 11-year old Claremont boy who was killed in a farm related accident last month. From a press release:  “The past weeks have been very difficult and incredibly expensive for the Wheelers. And while many of the medical and burial expenses have been satisfied there is still the issue of a headstone for Andy, and the cost of day-to-day life for a family wrought with grief.”

Sunday, May 23: Pete Merrigan, Digby’s – OK, now I know it’s officially summer, as permanent resident Pete is back in the Sunapee traffic circle playing good time songs to contented fans munching nachos and drinking cold beer and margaritas. There’s a new stage and an expanded 1600 square foot deck, as well as a new chef.  This is the 10th anniversary of the weekly event, which runs from 4-7 p.m.

Tuesday, May 18: Irish Sessions, Salt hill Lebanon – The weekly sessions continue in Lebanon, a mainstay, with a changing cast of musicians sharing a circle in the center of the room, playing whatever feels natural. It’s a perfect after work destination, with an early (6:30) start. Chris Stevens, Roger Burridge and Dave Loney are regulars, with interesting guests often stopping by.

Wednesday, May 19: Does Hip-Hop Hate Women? A forum/discussion, Dartmouth College  – This sounds interesting.  A panel discussion featuring Duke Professor Mark Anthony Neal; award-winning author Joan Morgan; Detroit rapper and activist Invincible; rapper Blitz the Ambassador; and moderated By Bakari Kitwana, journalist, activist and political analyst world music. Held at Filene Auditorium, contact Cristen Brooks, 603-646-2722 for more.

Local Rhythms – Hello Old Friend, Goodbye Compass

Claremont? Yes, Claremont. For a long time, the words were a wish, not a pronouncement.

But when Bistro Nouveau arrived in 2003, that boast took a tangible form.  It’s funny how something as simple as scampi, a good glass of wine and maple baked Alaska can change a town’s outlook

But believe me, it did.

A few years later, even though that restaurant had moved from its cramped quarters to Eastman, “Claremont fine dining” was no longer an oxymoron, and a new attitude permeated my little town.

With Sophie & Zeke’s in the newly renovated Brown Block and the Common Man the new jewel of a transformed Mill District, everything was moving in the right direction. Carmella’s took over the old Sophie’s location, and out of town visitors were suddenly reading our own hopeful words back to us:

Claremont? Yes, Claremont.

Live music emanated from multiple locations along Pleasant Street, and while it wasn’t a return to the heyday of 30 or so years ago, downtown was jumping

Then the economy turned.  Sophie & Zeke’s shut down, as did Carmella’s. The empty storefronts felt like a rebuke.

But only for a short time.

Last week, Bistro Nouveau owners Doug and Isabel Langevin opened New Socials in the old Sophie & Zeke’s Brown Block space.

Walking around the place, I was struck by how spacious it felt.  The solid trim atop the half wall dividing the bar and restaurant has been replaced by glass.  What once felt closed off is now unified.

There are other subtle but significant changes.  When live music returns tomorrow night, Jason Cann will perform a few feet away from the tavern door.  Previously, bands worked closer to the main entrance, and if you were on the wrong side of the wall, it was hard to see or hear anything.

Something else I’m excited about is a plan to present comedians and other non-music late night entertainment.  Over in Manchester, the comedy scene is booming, and I can’t wait for some of that talent to make its way here.

Beyond that, the food tastes just as good as it did on Washington Street – though I do wish baked Alaska would return to the menu

On another note, this is my last column for the Compass, as I scale back writing about nightlife to try and have an actual life.

Henceforth, my work will appear in the Manchester-based Hippo Press (the Compass’s parent publication) and online at http://www.localrhythms.com

To the readers who’ve supported me over the years, I offer my sincere gratitude.

I especially want to thank the musicians, venue owners and promoters of the area. Without them, there’s nothing to write about. They deserve your support.

My final picks will highlight a few of those people and places

As always – on to the rest of the week:

Thursday, May 13: Pete Merrigan, New American Grill (Rutland) – Pete’s a one-man booster society for the local music scene.  Heck, he’s been around for as long as there’s been a scene.  He’s also playing a luau show at the Newport Moose on Saturday – a bit closer to home.

Friday, May 14: Club Soda, Imperial Lounge – Cher Aubin hosts karaoke nights in Claremont and West Lebanon, and sings with her pop band Club Soda, which doesn’t do a lot of club shows, so this one’s worth catching.  Kudos to Steve Zhang at the Imperial for booking both original and cover bands.

Saturday, May 15: Talkin’ Smack, East Buffet – The more the merrier.  This downtown Claremont restaurant is the most recent entrant in the live music game, presenting bands like prog-rockers Spectris and this one, led by the tireless Rich Cortese, another veteran of the scene

Sunday, May 16: David Westphalen and elizabeth!, Canoe Club – There’s music in downtown Hanover 363 nights a year thanks to John Chapin, who doesn’t always crank it up, but routinely brings in wonderful original performers to do their thing – including this talented jazz singer who usually works the NYC club circuit.

Monday, May 17: George Nostrand, Killarney Pub – George Nostrand is a talented open mic host who is also an advocate for the mentally ill, something I know because Dave Clark at Yellow House Media brought it to my attention in an email the other day. I HAD to work a mention of Dave into my final column. He’s a prince.

Tuesday, May 18: Irish Sessions, Salt hill Lebanon – Inveterate music lover Josh Tuohy introduced me to a bunch of new bands over the years. One great Pub moment was when the Dublin City Ramblers joined a session at after their LOH show. Magic emanated from the circle of chairs at the center of the room that night.

Wednesday, May 19: World Music Percussion Ensemble, Hopkins Center  – If you want eclectic music, there’s one guaranteed place to find it. Not every show the Hop does is to my taste, but the nonprofit arts organization pushes the envelope like no other. This evening’s show features local talent playing world music.

Local Rhythms – No just the opening act

While surfing around on YouTube this morning, I stumbled onto a video of Mary Chapin Carpenter performing at the 1990 CMA show.  She did an unreleased song, so bawdy that she had to change a few words and cut three verses to get past the network censors.

These days, awards show performances are tightly choreographed versions of a big hits or new singles. Taylor Swift recently brought out Stevie Nicks and sang – badly, I might add – a Fleetwood Mac song.

It’s safe, predictable and boring.

Chapin chose a song that no one knew and likely wouldn’t hear again – “Opening Act,” a hilarious skewering of the tendency most audiences have to ignore any performance that comes before a big star’s set.

“For 37 minutes I sang out my heart, I was so damn nervous I just wanted to barf,” she laments before conceding,  “you don’t know me – I’m the opening act.”

She’d probably opened for at least one or two of the country hitmakers in the audience that night, so it was a pretty gutsy move.

No wonder she didn’t last long in country music radio.

A few years later, she’d transformed herself into a star on her own terms and left country behind.

It got me thinking – has the opening act simply become an excuse to arrive late for a show?

Fortunately, Ray Massucco doesn’t think so.  This Sunday, the lawyer/promoter brings Cowboy Junkies to town for a Mother’s Day show at the Bellows Falls Opera House.

But the singer/songwriter opening the show, Chris O’Brien, is worth the price of admission.

O’Brien’s new album, Little Red, is a gem.  I can’t figure out which song on it I like the most.  The buoyant “I Don’t Know You” rivals “Rosa” from his first record; it’s a tune you’re singing along with by the second chorus.

I love his vivid images – “Hurricane Love” conjures up “a girl so fine she hurts the light,” while “This Old Town” recalls the “Friday glory and Monday pain” of small town high school life.

Of the latter, O’Brien emphatically states, “you never got me to care … I’m as ready now as I will ever be to go my own way.”

The standout “Blood Like Yours,” an achingly brilliant song about being an alcoholic’s son, hit me especially hard.

So be there on time Sunday night, lest you miss a tremendous talent due to a bad rationalization.

He’s not just the opening act.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, May 6: Jason Cann, Harpoon Brewery – With the warm weather finally here, it’s time to hit the brewpub after work and enjoy this fine singer songwriter. Jason’s a Wednesday regular at the new Salt hill in Hanover, where he teams up with Bonnie Waters of the Dream Band for a duet performance this Saturday night.  In the meantime, have a pint and some pub fries, and enjoy the music.

Friday, May 7: Pariah Beat, Salt hill Pub (Lebanon) – The wonderfully crazy band is now three core members – Billy Sharff, Emily Eastridge and Nick Charyk. They just posted a bunch of new material on MySpace that represents an evolution for them. It’s a bit more restrained and reflective, particularly on the title track from the forthcoming album, “Bury Me Not.”  They can still rave it up, but they can also get bruised.

Saturday, May 8: Lisa McCormick, Claremont Opera House – Sit on stage with this Vermont singer songwriter, who recently posted a video of a brand new song literally moments after it was born.  The ‘crazy beautiful’ “Levitate” is also something you can easily learn to play it, because the tab sheet is included with the music.

Sunday, May 9: Cowboy Junkies, Bellows Falls Opera House – Never has sorrow sounded so lovely. Trinity Session conjured up visions of lovers asleep at midday in tenement apartments with the windows thrown open, in the middle of a heat wave. At press time, there were a few premium tickets left that include a Mother’s Day meal at Boccelli’s on the Canal.

Monday, May 10: Dartmouth Glee Club, Hopkins Center – Something a bit more civilized – from a HOP press release, “the lightness and joy of spring takes musical form in this concert of romantic Viennese vocal music by Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Johann Strauss.”  This is a 40-voice choir with serious singing chops, something even non-classical fans will enjoy.

Wednesday, May 12: Second Wind, Marshland Farm – An early 6 p.m. start and a great menu provide the perfect excuse to duck out of work early and head over to Quechee to catch this tuneful duo.  Terry Ray Gould and Suzy Hastings will be a prominent part of the upcoming Claremont Farmer’s Market, and Terry tells me he’s got a diva fest planned for Newport later in the year. Good sounds, beautiful setting – what are you waiting for?

This Week’s Compass

Beyond

Worth driving out of town

What: Dierks Bentley and the Travelin’ McCourys

Where: Calvin Theatre,

When: Sunday, May 9 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $29.50

More: www.iheg.com

Distance: 80 Miles

Rising country star Dierks Bentley can really rock; he came close to stealing the show from guitar hero Brad Paisley a while back at Meadowbrook.  But on his current tour, Bentley steps away from the big sound of recent efforts like Feel That Fire to play bluegrass with legendary picker Del McCoury’s band, sans the patriarch. Bentley will preview tracks from his forthcoming Up on the Ridge album, an edgy work that includes a cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with Del McCoury singing harmony.

Bentley’s roots are in bluegrass, and he’s correct in noting that the genre is often more willing to push the boundaries of music than country.  He’ll be plugging in soon enough, so don’t miss this chance to follow Dierks Bentley back to his beginnings. The wryly-talented Hayes Carll, who wrote the hilarious “She Left Me For Jesus” a while back, opens the show.

Horizon

Mark your calendar

What: Roots on the River a/k/a FredElevensmith

Where: Various locations in and around Bellows Falls

When: Thursday, June 10 through Sunday, June 13

Tickets: Full weekend $99-$150 and $25 for single day tickets on June 10, 11 & 13 (June 12 – $40)

More: www.rootsontheriver.com

With the addition of the amazing David Bromberg to the all-day Saturday show, the lineup for the 11th edition of Fred Fest, named for burly Fred Eaglesmith, is now set.  Premium packages with VIP seating, goody bag and other niceties are selling at a brisk pace, with the two top levels already snapped up.

It kicks off Thursday, June 10 at the Bellows Falls Opera House, when Zydeco king Michael Doucet plays with Beausoleil, along with breakout Americana band Joy Kills Sorrow.

There’s a free show Friday, June 11 at the Bellows Falls Farmers Market with Traveler and the Johnson Boys, and a ticketed set at the Everyday Inn with the smoking hot Sarah Borges and her band the Broken Singles, Hot Mustard, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Fred Eaglesmith’s first show of the weekend.

The all day Saturday, June 12 show features Eaglesmith, Bromberg and his quartet, the Ginn Sisters, Starline Rhythm Boys, Roger Marin, Audrey Auld, festival favorites Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Will Kimbrough & Tommy Womack performing as DADDY and the Angel Band.

The unplugged Meetinghouse show on Sunday, June 13 features the heart-stopping Mary Gauthier, and of course Fred.

Players

Local Music Spotlight

Who:  Arthur James and Northbound

What: Blues-rock

Sounds like: Stevie Ry Vaughn, Jay Geils

Consisting of Arthur James on guitar and vocals, bass player/singer Gil Rand and Alan Phenix on drums, Arthur James and Northbound can go old school or up to date with their blues. James his band specializes in “a contemporary nuevo-retro reworking of the blues, with smatterings of irrelevance, quasi-psychedelic-mystical reinterpretations of the good old 1/4/5 idiom that is the backbone of the blues.”

Last weekend, guitarist James sat in at the long-running Sunday afternoon blues jam at Goffstown’s Village Trestle. Maybe he was looking for yet another band to join.  In addition to Northbound – James also plays with Electric Marmoset, as well as unplugged with Acoustic Mayhem (he’ll also go electric with the latter band, calling it Unacoustic Mayhem.

Upcoming gigs (Arthur James & Northbound):

Sat, May 8, Salt Hill Pub, Lebanon

Sat, May 15, Sunset Grill, Campton, NH