Pariah Beat is the Upper Valley’s own Broken Social Scene, a musical collective fed by a constellation of friends and stylistic influences. The band’s been around for a few years; the current five-member core evolved through a series of open mike nights last year at Skunk Hollow and Middle Earth Music Hall.
It’s a musical potluck. “Each member brings their own side and their music,” says fiddler, guitarist and songwriter Billy Sharff. “We all write and sing songs – no one person is running the show.”
They made their first album in their current configuration with vocal help from Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band and steel guitar from area punk mainstay Jonee Earthquake, among others.
“Pariah Beat Radio” is a lively stew of Americana, punk, sacred harp, western swing, beat poetry, crusty blues and eastern European klezmer music.
Really – it’s all in there. If Borat had inherited Morphine from Mark Sandman, it might sound like Pariah Beat. Or cross the Clash with the Klezmatics, or imagine Dan Hicks hooked up with the politically inconvenient love child of Pharoah Sanders and Bobbi Gentry or…
Oh, forget it. Trying to pinpoint the place all of this comes from is like nailing grits to a wall. Good luck.
The band commemorates their artful prestidigitation this weekend with “Pariah Feat,” a three-day whirlwind CD release event, touching down in seven locations across three states.
They’ll begin Friday night with a show at Plough and Stars, a club near their current home base of Boston. From there, it’s back to Hanover, where they’ll be busking for tips in front of Stinson’s Village Store from noon till four.
After that, they head to West Lebanon to set up in Music Matters, the independent music store where, says singer/bass player Emily Eastridge, most of the band bought their music in high school. The Grand Mandibles, a group that includes Emily’s brother Chico, will join them.
The Music Matters show also feature a one-time reunion of the Yarbles, a band that Pariah Beat guitarist Nick Charyk played with as a teenager.
“It was part of a rowdy little scene we started,” says Emily Eastridge. “Parties, basement shows, Elks clubs and all ages shows at Thetford Academy, Black Box Theater, Shark Tank – any venue we could get our hands on.”
At 8 PM, they’ll tune up and play White River Junction’s Main Street Museum, one of the band’s frequent haunts, along with the Jonee Earthquake Band (another of Charyk’s former affiliations) and unabashed Pariah Beat fan Mark Vogal.
All this moving around presented a logistical challenge. “There’s a lot of scrambling,” says Eastridge. “We’re using three different PA systems.”
On Sunday, they’ll host a “Pariah Brunch,” featuring pancakes cooked by drummer and chef James McHugh, at the Thetford Community Center. Recent Thetford Academy graduate Will Whitcomb will be serenading diners, with band members waiting tables.
“It’s very cool because the whole thing is very community oriented,” says Eastridge. There’s a raffle, including prizes donated by White River fashion boutique Revolutions and lighting designer Lampscapes.
They’re counting on seeing many familiar faces, as both Eastridge and accordion player Justin Bendel are Thetford natives.
With barely a moment to catch their breath, the band will de-camp and head to the Upper Valley Events Center in Norwich, where they will share the bill with A Farewell in Stereo and the Denton Affair.
Later, they’ll play and party at the India Queen in Hanover, the indoor equivalent of Stinson’s Alley – with hookahs.
After this massive PR blitz, they’ll return to touring. Over the past year, they’ve played blues clubs in New Orleans, Bulgarian bars in New York, and funky little folk clubs in Asheville, North Carolina.
“We’re pretty warmly received wherever we go,” Emily says. “We realize that music is a big connecting factor.”
Last spring, they customized an Enterprise rental van with shelves for sleeping and headed out for a three-week tour.
“All night driving, crappy gas station food … we love it, we want to do more,” says Eastridge. “It was great – disgusting and great.”
Fans who want to check out “Pariah Beat Radio” can do so at the band’s MySpace page, or buy the album online at pariahbeat.com. Most of the “Pariah Feat” weekend shows are free, with the exception of the Main Street Museum appearance ($5 for non-members) and the all-you-can eat buffet, which costs $10.00.