Local Rhythms – Check Out Middle Earth’s YouTube Site!

chrisjonessml.jpgRegular readers of this column are familiar with the travails of Middle Earth Music Hall, the fine little basement club in Bradford, Vermont. Although owner Chris Jones successfully beat back legal attempts to shut him down, his vigorous defense, aided by musicians and fans far and wide, came at a cost. “When something like this happens, it is pretty easy to let your resolve dissolve,” Jones said recently.

Fortunately for those of us who care about music, Middle Earth is both surviving and thriving.

The club just announced expanded hours and, with the hiring of chef Bobbi Alibozek, a new food menu. “As things settle in, we’ll further expand our hours with the eventual goal of being open, once again, 7 days a week.

Best of all is the club’s foray into cyberspace. Along with a MySpace site, Jones has set up a page on YouTube – youtube.com/user/Folkhero01 – and started posting videos from the Middle Earth’s best musical moments.

I spent the better part of a day marveling at their quality of talent. There’s almost 200 videos posted, with performers who make up the heart of the local scene. Local folksinger Josh Brooks duets with Colin McCaffrey on the stunning “Rosetta,” McCaffrey fronts the Stone Cold Roosters with Ted Mortimer and Linda Boudreault. There’s Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem and regional legends Aztec Two-Step.

And so much more.

I’ve heard a lot about Session Americana but never seen them live; now that I’ve witnessed their spontaneous beauty courtesy of Mr. Jones, I can assure you that I won’t miss their next Vermont visit. Six, sometimes seven players crowd around a table (which appears to be covered with glasses of beer) and play the hell of great tunes by Townes Van Zandt and the Band, among others. It’s inspirational – and the camera work is pretty good, too.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the Bradford Shire, their YouTube home should pique your interest enough to make the drive up there. At a minimum, it will provide insight into the quality of our area musicians, many of whom can be heard in watering holes all over the region.

Speaking of which, what’s worth wetting your whistle for in the upcoming days?

Thursday: Lydia Gray, Norwich Gardens Amphitheater – A superb bossa nova singer who dabbles in pop (Beatles, Elton John, Norah) celebrates the release of her new CD. She’s quite the vocal stylist, as anyone who caught her at Bistro Nouveau can verify. The venue is nestled in the woods off Route 5, and the show is part of the Open Air Summer Family Concerts, featuring music, magic, salsa and puppet shows.

Friday: Bill Wightman with Richard Gardzina, Sophie and Zeke’s – The Spiral Farm Band was scheduled to perform this evening, as they have done every third Friday since last summer, but the Vermont bluegrass combo called it quits recently. Too bad, I really enjoyed them. But I enjoy pianist Bill Wightman too, and tonight he’s bringing along his saxophone player from the JOSA band. Should be a real treat.

Saturday: Green River Festival, Greenfield (MA) – One of my favorite days of summer features an exceptional array of talent and a lit balloon launch at sundown, weather permitting. This year bluesman extraordinaire Buddy Guy headlines, but it’s Neko Case who has me most excited. I’ve been waiting years to see this indescribable singer-songwriter. Also on hand are Southern Culture on the Skids, Rani Arbo, James Hunter and the elfin Erin McKeown.

Sunday: Jennings Concert, Saint-Gaudens – I don’t normally tout “serious music” here, but any excuse to wander the grounds of this Cornish treasure is a good one. Award-winning musicians Andrew and Gail Jennings play violin and piano. Sunday’s program is entitled “Circle of Friends,” and includes works by Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms. The music starts at 2, and is included with admission to the historical site.

Tuesday: Irish Sessions, Salt Hill Pub – The Celtic version of Session Americana is in its third year, a rousing pick up band featuring some of the area’s best fiddlers, pickers and pennywhistlers. Dave Loney, Chris Stevens and Roger Burridge anchor the circle of chairs at the center of the room. If you’re craving Irish music sooner than Tuesday, you should check out Longford Row at the Pub tomorrow night.

Wednesday: Tammy Jackson Band, Ben Mare Bandstand – Sunapee is the place to be come summer, and this band, led by the husband/wife team of Cliff and Tammy Jackson, are regular harborside guests. They pack a one/two punch of Telecaster and twang, with a familiar song list (Reba, Patsy, Hank and Emmylou) punctuated with some fine originals and a few surprises. Betcha didn’t know Creedence’s “Green River” and the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” were country songs.

Local Rhythms – Live Free Or Die

lrnewsmall.jpgAdapted from a previous post

There’s nothing like seeing your town on the big screen, and for many in attendance at the “Live Free Or Die” premiere Monday night at the Claremont Cinema, that was the main draw.  It isn’t for all tastes; there are more F-bombs in the film’s 90 minutes than a lot of the audience had probably heard their entire lives.

But seeing Shirley’s Donut Shop and Lambert Supply on the big screen made it all worthwhile.

The film’s profanity may be shocking, but that’s the way a real guy like fast-talking loser John “Rugged” Rudgate would operate.   To their credit, co-directors (and former “Seinfeld” writers) Greg Kavet and Andy Robin didn’t flinch when creating him, and Aaron Stanford’s star turn as Rugged is, to use the character’s favorite phrase, “shit hot.”

The small-time criminal blusters with every breath, plotting low-margin scams and paying his rent with ill-gotten rebate checks. All the while, a real crime wave grows around him in a seemingly parallel universe; it’s a neighborhood that Rugged will, of course, ultimately stumble into – and at just the wrong time.

Stanford’s good, but Paul Schneider (”Family Stone,” “Elizabethtown”) is even better, quietly stealing scene after scene as Lagrand, Rugged’s dimwitted sidekick.  With each toss of his hair, Schneider gives the film a “Napoleon Dynamite” meets “Blood Simple” charm.  It has the Coen Brothers’ sensibilities, but without the wood chipper that turned happy-go-lucky “Fargo” into Midwestern Gothic.

Contributions from top-notch character actors like Judah Friedlander (”American Splendor”), who has a memorable turn as a foul-mouthed hardware store owner, and Ultimate Fight Club wannabe Alex Gazaniga, played with equal parts stupid and sinister by Ebon Moss-Bachrach (”Mona Lisa Smile”), could well lift “Live Free or Die” from a cult sensation (it won Best Narrative at the last years SXSW) to a solid smash on a par with “Clerks” or “Garden State.” The writing’s certainly good enough, and the performances are dead-on.

I only wish Zooey Deschanel (”Elf,” “Failure to Launch”) had gotten more on-screen time as Lagrand’s sister Cheryl.  She’s apparently the only competent adult who isn’t a police officer in the fictional town of Rutland, New Hampshire (Rutland? THAT bit of dramatic license sure drew some chortles Monday night).

What I’m ultimately saying is that you should go see “Live Free or Die” when it opens tomorrow – not just because it was filmed in Claremont.

See it because it’s a shit hot funny movie.  Now, what else is going on this weekend?

Thursday: Jason Cann, Brown’s Tavern – Sadly, this in-demand singer/guitarist’s busy schedule precluded him from playing a farewell set at Claremont’s Bistro Nouveau.  He’ll be performing at the new locations in Springfield and Eastman later in the month.  Jason’s built quite an Ascutney following with his easy on the ears catalog of songs that include the Dead, Dave Matthews and Dan Loggins.

Friday: Roland Yamaguchi Band, Sophie & Zeke’s – The music lineup at downtown Claremont’s favorite dinner spot changes a bit in the coming weeks.  Tonight, it’s a reconfigured New Kind of Blue, sans vocalist Emily Lanier.  There are some new faces in April, including upcoming Thursday dinner sets from the Norm Wolfe/Peter Concilio duo, and Draa Hobbs with sax player Michael Zsoldos.

Saturday:  George’s Back Pocket, Boccelli’s on the Canal – Listening to Rutland singer/guitarist George “G.V.” Nostrand’s music on his web site, I’m reminded of bluegrass skiffle bands like Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks or Asleep at the Wheel.  Nostrand played and recorded a well-received set at the Windham before it closed last year.   Tonight, he’s at Bellows Falls’ newest music venue.

Sunday: Green Mountain Shuffle, Middle Earth Music Hall – Since we’re discussing indie films, it’s worth mentioning the first movie from Vermont musician and writer Michael T. Hahn, which gets a 2 PM screening today.  Starring Heather Fitch, Adam Desautels and Derek Campbell, “Green Mountain Shuffle” is described as “an unforgettable tale of passion, deceit and redemption.”  It also features performances by Hahn’s eponymous band.

Tuesday: Taylor Hicks/Toby Lightman, Avalon (Boston) – As the current “American Idol” circus lurches through another season, last year’s winner proves there’s no guarantee of success beyond the title.  He’s no Carrie Underwood in the record sales department, and the Avalon isn’t the EnormoDome either.  The best thing about this show is Toby Lightman, the Philly chanteuse who could have been an Idol if she’d wanted to.

Wednesday: Lunasa, Chandler Music Hall – Randolph, Vermont’s jewel of an opera house was born from, of all things, a church merger in 1907.  Renovated in the 1970s, it’s hosted both local and international talent. Tonight, it’s a fine Celtic band, rich in tradition but with state of the art playing skills.  It features members of the Waterboys, Donal Lunny’s Coolfin and the Riverdance band.

Local Rhythms – Middle Earth’s Dark Days Ending

chrisjonessml.jpgFive months filled with lawsuits and countersuits, delayed court dates and mounting attorney bills haven’t made Chris Jones an optimist. But the Middle Earth Music Hall owner was buoyant enough last Monday to declare that “jackhammer season is over” for the Bradford club.

The reason for his cautious jubilation was an Orange County District Court decision handing Shiloh’s Restaurant back to landlord Vincent Pacilio for non-payment of rent. For the time being, Jones can concentrate on what he does best – bringing great music to the basement establishment he’s run for the past five years.

“We’re not done,” say Jones. “I expect a suit for failure of the business,” a prospect that mostly upsets him because “it will hurt the landlord.” But, he says, “the threat of an injunction to shut us down is off the table.”

This battle may be won, but because Shiloh’s owners have ten days to file an appeal, Jones is reluctant to declare an end to the war. So the legal defense fundraisers and the milk cans by the bar filled with dollar bills will be around a while longer.

“I don’t believe it’s over, and the best defense is a good offense,” Jones says.

The good news for music fans is that the court victory has cleared the way for Middle Earth to firm up several tentative dates. The coming months will welcome performances from Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, Cheryl Wheeler, banjo master Tony Trischka, Garnet Rogers and Chris Smither. With the legal cloud hanging over them, Jones couldn’t afford to commit to shows as far out as May (Arbo).

He remains wary of Victory in Jesus Ministries, and their leader, whom Jones cites as the primary force behind the suit. “Knowing (David) Lund, he’ll appeal,” he says, adding “if you give him a crack, no matter how small, he’ll stick his foot in it.”

Overall, his outlook’s good. “In the long run, we’ll come out on top,” says Jones. “But it’s time-consuming, and expensive. I just got the bill today.”

He’s most heartened by the support he’s received from the music community. Bands like Amity Front, Boston’s Session Americana and Nobby Reed all performed to raise much-needed cash.

“But the publicity has been priceless,” Jones says. “I’ve seen a lot of new faces in here over the past few months.”

What priceless toe-tapping experiences await music fans this weekend?

Thursday: Harvey Reid, Four Corners Grille – Missing from the area music scene this fall, the Flying Goose Music series is, according to the restaurant’s website, a one-night affair this year. Lucy Kaplansky, however, is advertising a show there next month. Reid is an acoustic guitar master, and along with wife Joyce Andersen, he made a great Christmas record last year. He and Andersen perform selections from it tonight.

Friday: Junk in the Trunk, Salt Hill Pub – Richie Cortese has been an Upper Valley fixture for a long time now, and his latest combo was quite well received when they played outdoors at Sunapee in the summer. This is the first Salt Hill appearance for Junk in the Trunk, which plays classic rock and boogie driven by Cortese’s singing, which can bend the treetops.

Saturday: Yer Mother’s Onion, Seven Barrels – I caught these guys at a pretty crazy party recently, just across the Unity line. Everyone was in costume, and let’s just say I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the subculture in these parts. I’m also impressed by this band, who play a few originals, but can also knock out powerful covers by everyone from Carlos Santana to Cake – check out their take of “Building A Religion.”

Monday: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, NBC – This is a well-written drama, not a musical performance show. If you’re all about music and nothing else, you can wait until the last 10 minutes of the episode to watch a superlative performance by a band of New Orleans horn players led by 20-year old Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Their version of “O Holy Night” has replaced “Little Saint Nick” as my favorite Christmas song.

Tuesday: Toby Lightman, Iron Horse – One of the reasons I think the Grammies are a joke is that Mariah Carey is still getting nominations, and truly soulful singers like Lightman are overlooked. She’s made two excellent records, the most recent of which, “Bird on a Wire,” runs the gamut from charged up gospel to passionate torch songs. Her time will come, and when it does, Grammy will probably pick the wrong album to honor.

Wednesday: Carlos Ocasio, Canoe Club – Frontman for Gusano and other area bands, Carlos stretches out at Canoe, playing restrained, intelligent blues and showing off his elegant guitar style. As always, get a seat near to the stage if you want to listen closely.

Local Rhythms – For Love Or Money

celiasml.JPGAdapted from an earlier post:

If I were a decent guitarist (not even close), I’d probably be like a friend of mine, who spends his every spare minute playing in a band. Most of the time, though, he can be found providing counsel on paint and caulk selection at an area building supply store.

That’s his day job. Darn near every musician I know has one.

I write about music, an avocation with a time-to-dollar ratio that’s likely on a par with the money my friend makes on the coffee house/private party circuit. Computer software consulting pays my bills, but music stokes the bank of my soul.

Looking at box office receipts from bands like the Stones and Aerosmith, you’d think the music business is an easy path to catered backstage parties, with overflowing bowls of brown M&M’s everywhere. The truth is that most musicians are like my friend, playing for love and barely breaking even after expenses like gas, meals and guitar strings are tallied up.

Thus, I was amused when asked recently why Chris Jones, the embattled owner of Middle Earth Music Hall, seemed content to operate at a loss. “What kind of person,” this person mused, “is proud that he’s never made money?”

This was no doubt in reference to news stories quoting Jones saying his club had “never been profitable.” Jones also said he viewed Middle Earth as a refuge for people who’d “given up on the bar scene” but still wanted to listen to good music.

Jones, for the record, began promoting shows so he could see his favorite bands locally. In the last four years, he’s presented some wonderful, often unheralded, talent to music lovers everywhere.

To its’ fans, Middle Earth is a church, and what emanates from it cleanses their souls. Jones may not be making money, but believe me – he’s turning a profit.

Al Kooper created Blood, Sweat and Tears and discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd, but didn’t get rich in the process. “I came in for the love of music,” he wrote in a recent e-mail, “and when the sharks smell that, you’re through financially.”

Passion for music is all most would-be jukebox heroes need. God bless ‘em.

Now, what’s happening for music lovers this weekend?

Thursday: Open Mike Night – A place where many an aspiring musician begins, and more than a few practicing ones go to hone their craft, is the venerable talent night down at the local pub. Tonight, there’s Salt Hill, with Will Michaels (a/k/a “The Singing Bartender”) hosting, or the free-for-all at Royal Flush in Springfield. Firestones in Queechee does theirs later this month. Sunapee Coffeehouse, alas, is on indefinite hiatus while it looks for volunteers.

Friday: Madeline Peyroux & Jill Sobule, Lebanon Opera House – She channels the likes of Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughn. A throwback to the days of smoky jazz clubs, Peyroux’s so convincing, the first time I heard her I thought it was a 78-RPM record with the sound cleaned up. Opener Jill Sobule deserves her own spotlight, with giddy, frothy thinking person’s pop.

Saturday: Stonewall, Royal Flush – Another CD release party from Exsubel Studios and producer Shamus Martin. Hopefully, they’ve worked out the kinks with their disc duplicator, which caused Ingrid’s Ruse (who Martin drums for) to hold a party two weekends ago without any product to sell. One of the tracks from Stonewall’s 3-song demo, “Blessings For Pearls,” is up on my blog for anyone wanting to give the band a listen.

Sunday: Celia Sings Sinatra, Canoe Club – Phil Celia led a spirited set the other night in Bradford, sticking to a funky groove some of the time, and mining his singer-songwriter heart of gold as well. Tonight it’s something completely different, when Phil joins the Bob Merrill Trio to play some silky smooth evening music, with arrangements by Nelson Riddle, Count Basie and others.

Tuesday: Peter Rowan & the Rowan Brothers, Iron Horse – Talk about genre hopping! This guitarist played with Bill Monroe early on, fronted a band (Earth Opera) that opened for the Doors in the 60’s, and wrote hits for New Riders of the Purple Sage, one of the first outlaw country bands. Tonight, it’s acoustic Americana with siblings Chris and Lorin.

Wednesday: Broken Social Scene, Lupo’s – It’s a long drive to Providence, but this Toronto collective is worth it. They remind me of a more upbeat Joy Division, if that’s possible. The personnel include core duo Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning and whoever’s in town. They closed the recent Virgin Festival with part-time members Emily Haines (Metric) and Amy Millan (Stars).

Finally: Two Claremont fine dining establishments now welcome every turning of the calendar page with the same familiar faces. Al Alessi handles first Friday chores at Sophie & Zeke’s, while Jason Cann greets each month’s leadoff Saturday at Bistro Nouveau.

Middle Earth – It Ain’t About The Money

chrisjonessml.jpgIf I were a decent guitarist (not even close), I’d probably be like my friend Brian, who spends his every spare minute playing in a band. Most of the time, though, he’s helping people select lumber or providing counsel on paint and caulk selection at the local building supply store.

That’s his day job. Damn near every musician I know has one.

I write about music, an avocation with a time-to-dollar ratio that’s likely on a par with the money my friend makes on the coffee house/private party circuit. Computer software consulting pays my bills, but music stokes the bank of my soul.

Looking at box office receipts from bands like the Stones and Aerosmith, it would appear that the music business is a no-brainer road to catered backstage parties, with overflowing bowls of brown M&M’s everywhere. The truth is that most musicians are like my friend Brian, playing for love and barely breaking even after expenses like gas, meals and guitar strings are tallied up.

Thus, I was amused when someone asked me recently why Chris Jones, the embattled owner of Middle Earth Music Hall, seemed content to operate at a loss.

“What kind of person,” he mused, “is proud that he’s never made money?”

He was no doubt referring to a Valley New story where Jones admitted that the club had “never been profitable.” Jones went on to say that he viewed Middle Earth as a refuge for people who’d “given up on the bar scene” but still wanted to listen to good music.

Interestingly, the person asking the question about the club’s profitability is affiliated with an ostensibly charitable organization. He, of all people, should know it’s possible to think of “profit” in non-financial terms. Chris Jones got into the music business for an altruistic reason I can entirely appreciate. In an interview, he told me:

We were at a show one weekend and I liked the band. It was the New Nile Orchestra. I wanted to see them in Bradford, so I asked around and found a way to book them myself. We did it in a 300 seat auditorium. One thing led to another, and every two weeks I’m doing shows in the auditorium.

Eventually, he had to move the shows from the auditorium (Bradford’s town hall), and opened Middle Earth in order to have a permanent location. In the last four years, he’s presented some wonderful, often unheralded, talent to music lovers everywhere.

To my mind, it’s as much a church as a club. What emanates from it cleanses the soul.

Via Lefsetz, Al Kooper weighs in on a career that’s been satisfying for him in spite of the way it worked out financially:

FYI, I don’t get any artist or producer royalties for Child Is Father To The Man, Super Session, Live Adventures, I Stand Alone, (They didn’t even give me a friggin’ gold record for Oddesey & Oracle). No royalties for Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama, Gimme Three Steps, etc. Obviously I didn’t come into the biz for the money. I came in for the love of music and when the sharks smell that, you’re through financially.

It ain’t about the money, it’s about the music. People who are passionate about it understand. People who aren’t don’t – or worse, as Kooper indicates, they’re in the business of screwing money out of people who are.

Middle Earth Music Hall and Shiloh’s Head To Court

middleearthbarsml.jpgUpdate: Middle Earth wins court case

What started as a promising cohabitation has become an increasingly bitter dispute between the Middle Earth Music Hall and its upstairs neighbor, Shiloh’s Restaurant. Each has filed suit against the other, and the spat threatens the future of both Bradford, Vermont businesses.

Shiloh’s claims the music from Middle Earth is so loud that it’s driving away customers. Owners Nicole and Miranda Fenoff began withholding rent last July. When landlord Vincent Pacilio sued, the Fenoffs counter-sued, naming both Pacilio and Middle Earth owner Chris Jones as co-defendants for what court documents allege is “constructive eviction” – a concerted effort to drive them out of business.

Nicole Fenoff claimed in an interview that she was “set up” by Pacilio, who “wanted us to do renovations and then take over.”

As for the Middle Earth’s music volume, Fenoff says, “Vince never, ever said it was going to be a problem.” She claims “people told us it was just bluegrass,” but admits that she never actually listened to the sound levels prior to opening Shiloh’s.

“This is not about music,” counters Chris Jones. He says the noise is a “phantom issue” being stoked by David Lund, leader of Victory In Jesus Ministries, who he claims “pulls all the strings” for Shiloh’s, even though he’s not the owner. Jones has named Lund as a co-defendant in his own suit against Shiloh’s.

Jones claims the real purpose of Shiloh’s suit “is to cause as much financial harm as possible” to his business in an attempt to force them out. “I don’t think they ever wanted to run a restaurant, they had eyes on the building,” he says.

Both Nicole Fenoff and David Lund deny Jones’ claim.

“He didn’t realize the strength of the community,” says Jones. “It’s international.” An e-mail appeal sent to Middle Earth patrons has generated a lot of financial support. Two benefit shows to raise money for their legal defense fund have been very successful, with more planned.

“When this first hit the fan, I thought we’d just give up,” says Jones. “But everyone stepped up. There’s gonna be so many benefits, people will get sick of them.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” he adds, noting the encouragement comes from “not just performers, but the community itself, even people who haven’t been our customers. They recognize that it’s an asset to the community.”

On Saturday night, as Phil Celia and Friends jammed onstage, a customer from Norwich approached Jones and handed him a wad of twenties. “I took up a collection at work,” he said. Mike, a bartender who doubles as a sound technician, stuffed his tips into a ceramic vase with a “Legal Defense Fund” card taped to it. “They usually go in there,” he said.

David Lund is a polarizing figure in Bradford. Some in the community claim Victory in Jesus is a religious cult; others praise Lund for his charitable work on behalf of Haitian orphans.

Lund started his evangelical organization in the mid-1980s. He also began a construction company, Nikao Concepts, to provide jobs for his congregants, whom Lund refers to as “fellowshippers.” The company filed for bankruptcy in January 1992, leaving over $200,000 in unpaid bills. Lawsuits stemming from Nikao’s demise, and Victory In Jesus’ hasty relocation to Hollywood, South Carolina, have fueled much of the local ire against Lund.

David Lund insists that his personal history should have no bearing on the Fenoff sisters’ attempt to run a business.

Of his problems 14 years ago with Nikao Concepts, Lund says simply, “this town destroyed the company. The Attorney General of Vermont went over the case with a fine tooth comb and found nothing wrong.”

“The game is that Dave Lund’s got a bad reputation so let’s hang it on him,” he says. “I’ve never fought back and I don’t believe in retribution.”

What’s really at issue, says Lund, is that “people don’t want to eat when that sound is going on. “

Lund said in an interview that he has no financial stake in Shiloh’s. His name doesn’t appear on corporate documents for the business or for First Trust Construction, the company formed by the Fenoffs to build the restaurant.

“Those girls’ names are on the certificate and they can do whatever they want,” he says. But he does allow that he designed the business for them, has been a mentor throughout.

“I was involved with this restaurant, that’s no secret,” he says. “We designed the soups, set up cooking and training their help. We also provided spiritual counseling.”

If they’re successful, he hopes they will contribute to his work in Haiti, though he says they haven’t yet.

“They’re taught to give to the church. We work with each other because we believe in giving, and they,” he says, referring to Jones and others in Bradford, “try to slander us.”

Behind the legal issues, which are due to be heard in Orange Country Court on November 6 after being postponed from last week, are a series of escalating skirmishes which have made amicable reconciliation all but impossible. The Bradford Merchants Association offered to intervene, but was rebuffed.

Both Shiloh’s and Middle Earth claim the other defaced their common entryway. Lund accuses Jones of deliberately producing an odor “like boiled sneakers” to drive customers away from Shiloh’s. Jones denies it, but says someone from the restaurant put up a sign in the entryway that read “The Stench Comes From the Middle Earth.”

Last April, an electric hammer being operated in Shiloh’s interrupted a performance by Solas and led to an angry confrontation between Jones and Lund. Lund claims there was planned construction, and attributes the dispute to a misunderstanding with the contractor. Jones insists it was a deliberate attempt to disrupt the show.

What everyone seems to agree on is that a hoped-for synergy, akin to “Cheers” and the Hampshire House in Boston, has been irretrievably lost. Early on, Nicole Fenoff considered providing food to Middle Earth patrons, an idea she says Vince and Chris suggested.

“Before the whole situation happened, we would send people down there,” Fenoff adds. “We wanted to promote Bradford.”

Chris Jones is less circumspect. “They really had a chance to be part of something special,” he says, “and they blew it.”