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.

Today’s Free Download – Oneside

oneside2.jpgI linked to a Oneside video a few months back, but this is a band-authorized MP3 of “Chinatown,” a song that’s equal parts jazz, jam band and psychobilly.

Upper Valley region fans have two chances to check this Boston-based quartet out in the coming weeks – Friday at Salt Hill Pub and a week from this Saturday at the Heritage.

Live, they prove something I’ve told a few bands in the past – it’s possible to play mostly original material in a bar without losing the crowd. They only think they want to hear “Cocaine” for the 10,000th time.

Oneside has played at SxSW and the Kennedy Center to attentive audiences. Someday soon this band will turn the corner and you’ll be kicking yourself for not seeing them when you had the chance.