Local Rhythms – Greening St Patrick’s Day

p1011584The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration on this side of the pond happened in Boston in 1737, 19 years ahead of New York.

It’s satisfying to know that, even if NYC has a bigger parade.

Here’s another fun fact: though it’s been a public holiday in Ireland since 1903, the religious focus of the observance – Patrick was a saint, after all – kept Irish bars closed on March 17 until 1970.

It’s safe to say that we approach the “wearing of the green” differently, which explains why Guinness is pushing to make St. Patrick’s a US holiday with their “Proposition 3-17” effort.

There are probably more Irish-Americans than Irish, and they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with gusto, pouring dye in rivers (Chicago), canals (Indianapolis) and fountains (Savannah), while painting traffic lines and sometimes entire blocks Kelly green.

Our streams are too frozen for such antics, but there’s still plenty of local Irish energy.

If you can’t bear to party on a weeknight, Celtic Crossing plays the Chandler Music Hall Sunday night, but the real action is on Tuesday.

Good Celtic bands are doing double duty this year.  Over at Okemo, Gypsy Reel is at the resort’s pub in the afternoon; later they serenade The Killarney, a lovely slice of the Emerald Isle.

Reaganta, a talented trio from Exeter, appear at the Holy Grail in Epping (2 PM) and Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough (7 PM).

O’hanleigh plays both Salt hill Pubs – 4 PM in Newport and 7 PM in Lebanon – as does the Chris Stevens Band.

Of course, St Pat’s at Salt hill is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  So it’s multiple days of fun at the Lebanon location – an Irish-themed open mike on Thursday, the 8th annual Shamrock Shuffle 5K after-party Saturday, and a special evening of Irish music with Longford Row on Sunday.

Salt hill also hosts a traditional Irish breakfast at 9 AM Tuesday, which includes the raising of the first pint.

Colcannon, with Samantha Moffatt on hammered dulcimer and accordion, and Patricia Stebbins on harp, perform at Canoe Club.

Less traditional but just as fun is Mark and Deb Bond’s 3rd annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Walpole Village Tavern.

Local heroes Yer Mother’s Onion will electrify the first ever Sophie & Zeke’s SPD soiree.

So there are several good excuses to cut loose on a Tuesday.

Or, you could just wait until next Friday and catch the Saw Doctors in Northampton.

What else is happening?

Thursday: Lucinda Williams, Capitol Center – Her cigarettes and whisky drawl could make the “Star Spangled Banner” sound sultry.  Williams rocked pretty hard at last year’s Green River Festival, closing with an AC/DC song.  The trend continued with the release of “Little Honey,” her ninth and most upbeat album.  There’s hardly a razor-gazer on the disc – it’s nice to see Lucinda lighten up a bit.

Friday: Comedy & Music, Bistro Nouveau – Boston comic Paul Nardizzi headlines, while Pete Merrigan (who can cut up with the best of them) provides the music.  Nardizzi likes to riff on sports, changing steroid poster child Alex Rodriguez’s nickname to “A-Needle” on his blog.  I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say about the upcoming Sox season and the Celtics acquisition of loopy Stephon Marbury.

Saturday: Ninja Monkey, Heritage Tavern – Ezra Veitch and Josh Maiocco’s call their latest project “SouthernVT Rock” – a dash of Elvis (Costello), a dollop of Fred Eaglesmith and a slice of Greg Brown, mixed with elements of their own various bands.  Ninja Monkey’s a monthly fixture at PK’s in Bellows Falls and they’ll be greening up next Tuesday’s St. Pat’s celebration at Harvest Moon in Saxton’s River.

Sunday: Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Stonewall Farm – A first rate Americana show presented by Orange Earth, promoter of the occasional Sunday folk shows at Armadillo’s Burritos.  Arbo made amazing music with Salamander Crossing in the mid-90s.  “Big Old World,” the third Daisy Mayhem album, is a gem.  It’s full of spirit and hope, along with good singing and playing.   Stonewall, a back-to-basics Keene dairy farm, sounds like a good place for a show.

Monday: Bobby K & the Peace, Bentley’s – Citing Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dave Matthews and Tupac as influences, you know this combo is out of the ordinary.  They’ve dubbed their music “folk-hop,” and this Vermont trio gets the crowd involved when they play. Since it’s an open mike night, audience participation is de rigueur.  No, seriously, bring your guitar and get in on the action.

Wednesday: Second Wind, Green Acres Café – Let’s coax spring with a wine tasting and music from this fine local duo, who regularly perform at the Claremont Farmer’s Market.  This Opera House Square café/grocer is a perfect place to enjoy gourmet food and good conversation.  Terry Gould and Suzi Hastings reach across the musical spectrum, moving between Heart, Springsteen and Lyle Lovett with ease.

Local Rhythms – Green Again

375px-shamrocksvg.pngWhen I married a Irish-blooded girl named Patty with a March 17 birthday, I surrendered my right to question the American fascination with St. Patrick’s Day.

Still, don’t you wonder why you’ve never seen a “Kiss Me, I’m German” badge? Why isn’t everyone Mexican on Cinco de Mayo? All this green Gaelic gaiety makes little sense, but why quibble with it, particularly this year?

The beer’s great and the music even better. Why not make the first full weekend of daylight saving time a three-day affair? Make that four – many venues are doing just that.

The fun starts Friday, with Gypsy Reel at Skunk Hollow Tavern, and the Irish Rovers at Keene’s Colonial Theatre.

On Saturday, the Claremont Opera House kicks up the clover with Woods Tea Company, who are proficient in Celtic music as well as sea shanties, bluegrass and old-fashioned storytelling.

The same night, Boys of the Lough, as genuinely Irish as it gets, take the stage at Lebanon Opera House.

Lord of the Dance extends its long run at Lowell’s Memorial Auditorium on Sunday. The step dance opera, created in 1996 by Riverdance expatriate Michael Flatley, now has four separate troupes touring the world.

The serious offerings on Monday all start with a traditional Irish breakfast at sunup – Killarney in Ludlow, Strange Brew and Wild Rover in Manchester, and Salt Hill in Lebanon.

In some cases, though, that’s impossible. The Saw Doctors, who tore the house down in Lebanon last year, play at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre. Maybe the bar in front opens at 6 AM, but I doubt it.

Salt Hill has a typically full slate, with music at both locations beginning at 3:00. O’hanleigh, the fine Middlebury combo that played Lebanon last year, starts things off in Newport and then moves over to the Green to take things into the night.

The Tuohy brothers have also invited Guinness reps to hand out goodies, like a logo snowboard. At the end of the night, someone will win a trip for two to Ireland. It’s the best Irish the area’s got.

Gully Boys celebrate at Firestones, with a promise to drink while they work and keep things loose. The Quechee restaurant isn’t exactly famous for their corned beef, but hey, everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, right?

Here’s the rest of the week:

Thursday: Karan Casey, St. Anselm College – Founding member of Solas, vocalist Casey will give those seeking an even earlier start to the green weekend exactly what they need. She was born in County Waterford and schooled at Dublin University, but as a youngster she took her cues from Ella Fitzgerald. It was only when she came to NYC in 1993 that she latched on to traditional Irish music. In addition to her Solas work, she contributed to “Seal Maiden – A Celtic Musical” in 2000.

Friday: Lydia Gray, Bistro Nouveau at Eastman – The bossa nova singer surprised us with an album of pop music, including surprising choices like Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” and “In Your Eyes,” as well as a few Beatles songs tastily re-worked (my favorite is the skiffilized “Something”). Bistro is one of the better places to see Lydia and long-time accompanist Ed Eastridge, whose nimble guitar touch complements Gray’s voice like Grenache pairs with Chocolate Decadence.

Saturday: Joe D’Urso, Blow-Me-Down-Grange – A folk rocker in the mold of Petty or Springsteen continues the successful Plainfield concert series (last month’s Molly Cherington homecoming was a sellout). D’Urso has shared the stage with Springsteen, and he also chares his charitable instincts, raising money at last October’s “Empty Bowls” show in Meriden for World Hunger Year and the Claremont Food Pantry. Kansas singer-songwriter Jenn Adams opens

Sunday: Dropkick Murphys, Paradise Boston – Without a doubt, the hottest ticket in town this time of year is this band of Celtic punk rockers’ Boston area shows. Tickets for their hometown sets, at the Dorchester IBEW and Paradise, were gone in seconds. So the band scheduled two shows at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena, which holds an exponentially larger number of fans, but at press time they were sold out too. Still, if you want to look for tickets your chances are definitely better here.

Tuesday: Tift Merritt, Iron Horse – Merritt’s third album, “Another Country,” is aptly named. With each outing, the Americana chanteuse finds new directions, this time with Eagles-flavored country pop (“Something to Me”), the gospel-infused “I Know What I’m Looking For Now” and the irresistible “Broken”. Tift deserves a bigger audience; hopefully, her new hometown (New York City) and record company (Fantasy) will help deliver it.

Wednesday: Wise Rokobili & Tad Davis Open Mike, Skunk Hollow: The economy may be in recession, but there’s no shortage of opportunities for budding musicians to expose their talent. This weekly gathering in Hartland Four Corners has been around quite a while; the current hosts are sort of new. So pick up your guitar, Casio keyboard or blues harp and come join the fun.