Local Rhythms – New Venues, New Bands

photo_021707_002.jpgThis week, I’m happy to report a few additions to the local arts scene. That’s what makes life exciting for me: new venues, and new bands to discover playing in them.

Last Friday India Queen, tucked behind Hanover’s International DVD and Poster shop on Lebanon Street, emanated curry, saffron, tequila and sweat, as the restaurant made its first venture into live music.

You’d be forgiven if you mistook the entrance for a backstage door. To get a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar, one had to first tiptoe around Jen De la Osa’s bobbing silver Telecaster, as she and her band Aloud pounded through a high-energy set.

Aloud combined the Pretenders’ sass with U2’s sonic fury on songs like “Battle of Love” and a clever cover of “Baba O’Riley.” Fireflies, a New York City band reminiscent of “Cool Places”-era Sparks, opened the show. Their final number, “It’s A Party, You Can Dance If You Want To,” completely caught the DIY energy of the night and the bar.

India Queen owner Bhavnesh has a try-anything-once approach to entertainment. He pointed out snapshots on the wall of celebrities like Jack White enjoying the food, and talked excitedly about upcoming events – belly dancing (2/23), a “Nice-Up” reggae-tone dance party (3/9) and yes, more live bands.

The place has a great late-70’s punk rock vibe. If IQ continues to get great talent like Aloud and Fireflies (not to mention a decent PA system), there are promising times ahead.

When La Dolce Vita recently opened for dining in New London, owner Charlene Jerome took a cue from former employer Sophie & Zeke’s. The Claremont restaurant she used to manage has had great success with live music – regular guests the Spiral Farm Band have even released a “Live at Sophie & Zeke’s” CD.

Beginning tomorrow night, Kid Pinky and His Restless Nights will belt out the blues at La Dolce Vita on a biweekly basis. Whether this leads to more music on Thursdays and Saturdays remains to be seen.

In any case, it’s gratifying to welcome another home for live music to the area.

Finally, Newport’s Salt Hill also announced some plans the other day. March 16, right before St. Patrick’s Day, the Woodkerne Celtic Band will pluck some Irish cheer as a lead-in to the big day. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

Speaking of which, what’s coming up this weekend?

Thursday: Vieux Farka Toure, Collis Common Ground (Dartmouth) – This week’s eclectic entry. When this Mali singer/guitarist decided to follow in the footsteps of his musician father, he got a lot of resistance. Dad thought he should be a soldier because musicians were so poorly treated. Farka Toure pressed on anyway – “Farka,” after all, means “donkey” in Mali – and ultimately received his father’s blessing.

Friday: The Squids, Gusanoz – Always a crowd-pleasing band, the Squids played their first set at this Woodstock Mexican eatery last month and were immediately asked to return. If you like to dance, you’ll enjoy this band. Speaking of dancing, there’s salsa with Black Beans every other Saturday at Gusanoz, if you like it muy caliente.

Saturday: Kid Pinky, Sophie & Zeke’s – An after-hours dance party starting around 9. S&Z’s celebrated their first birthday at the end of December by clearing away a few tables, and turning up the music energy level a few notches. They liked the results so much they decided to do it again, this time with a Concord-based blues band led by a guy with a 20-year reputation for heating up a room.

Sunday: Suicide City, Claremont Moose – Bobaflex was originally scheduled for this afternoon metal show, but had to cancel. Suicide City toured with Hexerei last summer, so this pairing almost makes more sense. Hexerei will play a set before the headliner; A City Divide, Trancent, Starefall, Soul Octane Burner and Escape to Everything also perform. The show runs from noon till five, so the music (mostly metal) will be packed.

Monday: Jello Biafra, Iron Horse – A spoken word performance by one of punk rock’s most dangerous individuals, at least in the eyes of those who would silence him. “Holiday in Cambodia” is a masterpiece; the opening bars still sound as sinister today as they did in 1980. Nowadays, Biafra combines a street theatre sense of the absurd, using the stage pseudonyms Osama McDonald and Count Ringworm, with a committed progressive political stance.

Tuesday: Acoustic Coalition, Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm – Dave Clark recently uploaded an hour’s worth of material from the February 6th installment of this weekly jam session. Check it out on yellowhousemedia.com – there’s some great stride piano from Raphael Gulazzi that sounds like it came out of a 1920s speakeasy, and a nifty bass solo from author/musician Lisa Rojak. Or go see it live; it’s worth the trip.