Local Rhythms – You Shoulda Been There

tierneysutton3.jpgI wanted to write about the Grammys this week. I was pleased by the Academy’s awkward yet spirited defense of free speech evidenced in the Dixie Chicks sweep of all their nominations. The only thing worse than stealing music, they said, is trying to stop musicians from creating it. They closed ranks around the Chicks – a noble thing.

But I lost interest in the broadcast the moment the Police finished playing “Roxanne.” Don’t feel bad if you missed it.

You should have seen Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda’s set last Saturday at the Heritage, however. Those who did enjoyed an inventive and thoroughly original band.

I’d heard some of their MP3s, but really wasn’t sure what to expect of them live. Their most recent EP, “Happy Song,” is smoother than 20 dollar gin. In particular, “The Myth” blusters with Lucretia McEvil horn charts; Pete Pidgeon holds down the center with wicked guitar triplets and fifth-gear-on-an-icy-road vocals.

On record, they take all that’s great about melting pot Americana music and add a few drops of high-energy hot sauce. But what if it was all overdubs, multitracking and multiple takes? How would they sound in a bar, surrounded by pool tables, milling patrons and NASCAR beer lights?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. My first indication that Arcoda has a knack for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat was their arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.” Most everyone does it as a slow growling blues. Arcoda gave it their own stamp by turning it into a booty-shaking jump shuffle.

Pidgeon plays guitar like a roadhouse Pat Metheny, with a dash of prog-rock spiderfingers thrown in, on a big, hollow bodied Gibson six-string more typically seen in the hands of guys working behind monogrammed bandstands.

He has the easy, natural touch of George Benson combined with the frenetic fret-ranging of Yes’s Steve Howe.

My favorite number of the evening was “Funk #49,” a James Gang song from 30 years back. Arcoda gave it their own shape, playing the 4/4 intro as a Jimi Hendrix burlesque, then shifting into blistering solo trade-offs between Pidgeon and talented second guitarist Kurt Schellenberg.

Don’t miss them on their next trip to town. Here are a few more hot choices:

Thursday: A New Kind of Blue, Sophie & Zeke’s – The musical lineup’s been shuffled a bit at this downtown Claremont eatery. Piano man Matt McCabe now alternates Thursdays with New Kind of Blue, who are branching out and playing places like Canoe Club and the Quechee Inn. Coming up at Sophie & Zeke’s next Saturday night (February 24) is a special after hours blues dance show with Kid Pinky and His Restless Knights. There’s no cover, but reservations, I’m told, are recommended.

Friday: Aloud w/ Fireflies, India Queen – A band that’s gotten a lot of attention in their home town of Boston, Aloud combines the slashing wall of sound guitars of early U2 with CBGB’s-era Blondie courtesy of lead singer Jen de la Osa. If Tom Snyder still hosted the Tomorrow show, he’d book this band. Fireflies opens the 9:30 show with moody glam rock – could it be any more 1979? India Queen is on the main drag in Hanover, in case you were wondering.

Saturday: Benefit Rock Show, Newport Moose – Six area bands – Sun King, Saylyn, D’Brotherhood, Smoke & Mirrors, Vision and headliner Stonewall – play to raise money for Andy Dickinson, a Newport man paralyzed in a motorcycle accident last Thanksgiving. Money from this show will be used to equip Dickinson’s house so he can come home from the hospital. The show runs fron noon till way past dark; before six is all ages.

Sunday: Tracy Grammer & Jim Henry, Hooker-Dunham – Grammer is an ace songwriter who’s attracted fans like Mary Chapin Carpenter, who sang backup on her last album, and Richard Shindell. She lost longtime musical partner Dave Carter to a heart attack in 2004, but she seems to have struck the right balance with Jim Henry, a fine guitarist with a long list of his own folk releases.

Tuesday: Tierney Sutton, Iron Horse – A jazz singer with a voice custom-made for a David Lynch movie. Sutton sings “Get Happy” like she’s serenading a jumper on a ledge – eerie and hypnotic. She’s not completely morose, though; Sutton does another version of “Get Happy” that jumps like Jiffy Pop on a stove.

Wednesday: James Cotton, Ascutney Mountain Resort – Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cotton headlines, but this is a blues summit, with James Montgomery and ex-Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau joining in. Cotton trading harmonica licks with Montgomery, who doesn’t look a day younger than when he burst upon the early 70’s New England scene, should be very special.

 

 

 

Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda Deliver The Goods

barcoda.jpgChagrined that I’d gotten the date wrong in the previous week’s column, I made a point of being at Heritage Saturday for Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda’s set. I’d heard some of their MP3s, but really wasn’t sure what to expect of them live. Their most recent EP, “Happy Song,” is smoother than 20 dollar gin, with throwback arrangements that would make Al Kooper smile and nod in appreciation.

In particular, “The Myth” blusters with Lucretia McEvil horn charts; Pete Pidgeon holds down the center with wicked guitar triplets and fifth-gear-on-an-icy-road vocals, featuring goofy lines like “Every time I open my mouth I get misinterpretated.”

On record, Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda take all that’s great about melting pot Americana music and add a few drops of high-energy hot sauce. But what if it was all overdubs, multitracking and multiple takes? How would they sound in a bar, surrounded by pool tables, milling patrons and NASCAR beer lights?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. My first indication that Arcoda has a knack for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat was their arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.” Most everyone does it as a slow growling blues. Arcoda gave it their own stamp by turning it into a booty-shaking jump shuffle. So far, so good.

Pidgeon plays guitar like a roadhouse Pat Metheny, with a dash of prog-rock spiderfingers thrown in, on a big, hollow bodied Gibson six-string more typically seen in the hands of guys working behind monogrammed bandstands. He has the easy, natural touch of George Benson combined with the frenetic fret-ranging of Steve Howe. I’ve never seen anything like it, with the possible exception of Robben Ford one night in 1979, when he was trying to upstage Bob Weir in a Palo Alto bar.

Arcoda has apparentely employed more drummers than Spinal Tap. On Saturday, with longtime bassist Seth Rivers holding down his end, including a couple of wild and wooly solos, the only reason I knew they had a new rhythm section was because Pete said so. Unfazed, these guys could and did make it up on the spot, nailing a rough but ragged pre-Grammy cover of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” at a fan’s request.

My favorite number of the eveing was “Funk #49,” a James Gang song that introduced me to kick-ass rock and roll nearly 30 years ago. Pidgeon & Arcoda of course gave it their own shape, playing the 4/4 intro as a Jimi Hendrix burlesque, then shifting into blistering solo trade-offs between Pidgeon and second guitarist Kurt Schellenberg, who is no slouch either.

Their rip-roaring, and horns-free, version of “The Myth” closed the night, leaving me smiling and looking forward to their next trip to the area.

Download some of their music and you’ll know what I’m talking about:

happysongepcoverart.jpg

Happy Song

The Myth

Local Rhythms – Ditch The Arenas

cheatseats.jpgPeople will line up to see Bob Seger until the day he can’t remember the words to “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” Why wouldn’t they? He’s a working class hero who can play guys half his age under the table.

The fifth song Seger performed last Saturday night in Boston was “Old Time Rock and Roll.” There are but a handful of players with deep enough catalogs to drop such a big number that early and still be able to deliver more. He did – gems like “Turn the Page,” “Night Moves” and “Against the Wind.”

Barring a miracle, the next time I hear any of those songs, it’ll be a bar band playing them. I’ve had my fill of the cynical business that’s turned rock and roll into a commodity, and its most passionate fans into dupes. Music was never meant to be played in a cavernous barn like the TD Banknorth Garden – or whatever it’s called next week (they really should fasten sponsor names to the building with Velcro).

But here’s the worst of it. Last November I bought tickets the moment they went on sale. For nearly 200 dollars, I got two seats in the last row of the top balcony – barely in the same zip code. Like most arena concerts, every ticket sold for the same price. Show promoter Live Nation must figure star struck fans will pay anything, and won’t care where they sit.

If you did care, Live Nation had the answer. In the middle of December, Ticketmaster (their parent company), sent an email offering me really, really good seats, which they’d kept from retail sale. All I had to do was pay three times face value at auction.

Lately, Ticketmaster is pushing for legislation to outlaw ticket reselling operations like StubHub and EBay, but that’s just so they can have a monopoly on scalping.

I’ve got nothing against making money, but I’m opting out of this game. There’s plenty of good live music that doesn’t require me to bring cotton for nosebleeds, or do business with the Ticketmaster mafia.

I don’t believe for a second that my small protest will dent the ambitions of, say, Van Halen, who still hate each other but are going out this summer to milk their minions. Nor will it slow down the Police’s upcoming Stewart Copeland Annuity Tour, or stop Mick Jagger from making his child support payments.

No matter. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell – if you want me, I’ll be in the bars. Speaking of which:

Thursday: Dave Alvin & The Guilty Men, Boccelli’s – Great music lives in Bellows Falls, and this is one of the best “gets” in a long time. Alvin fronted the Blasters and played with mid-80’s punk standard bearers X as well. Lately, he’s putting his own special stamp on Americana. The West Coast native’s latest project is compilation of California songwriters. He’s comfortable in Bakersfield, South Central, and all points in between.

Friday: Comedy Connection with Mike Siscoe, Electra – At this West Lebanon nightspot, first Fridays are all about comedy. Siscoe’s material ranges from familiar topics like teenage hormones and novel attention disorder treatments (hint: they’re not legal), to character bits featuring the public access show “Hookah Time,” with a Borat-type host and cheesy production values. It’s pretty funny stuff.

Saturday: Stonewall, Christophe’s (Ludlow) – Oops, I had Peter Pidgeon and Arcoda listed here, but it’s actually next week.  Since both the Heritage and Stonewall are Martin Hansen joints, I’ll replace my mistake with a plug for the best power trio in the Twin State region, and maybe points beyond.  Check out their MySpace site to listen to their latest Exsubel Records release.

Sunday: Josh Ritter, Latchis Theatre (Brattleboro) – A star in Ireland, he’s finally starting to catch fire stateside. Ritter has matinee idol looks, a wildly infectious voice, and catchy songs. Really, he’s the whole package. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this show sells out, even if it is Super Bowl Sunday. Dejected Patriots fans looking to pick up their sorrows could do a whole lot worse than this. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, a singer-songwriter led combo from Boston, open the show.

Monday: Opening Day, Salt hill 2 – The town of Newport has waited patiently for this night, and the Tuohy brothers will undoubtedly deliver the same blend of charm, service and comfort food that’s won them a loyal clientèle on the Lebanon Green. Josh and Joe say they chose Monday for a “medium” opening, but my guess is they won’t be holding much back. Live music will be coming – but not tonight. You’ll know when I do.