Local Rhythms – Music Rising

music-rising.jpgThe spectacle of U2 and Green Day joining forces to mark the return of NFL action to the Superdome a year after Hurricane Katrina, was an inspiring display of solidarity in support of one of the capitals of American music.

It also showed just how enmeshed rock music and sports have become; it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Longtime Saints quarterback Archie Manning stood on the sidelines, while two bands’ worth of punk acolytes and a horn section caroused in the center of the field.

The Saints are Coming,” the late 70’s Skids song that Bono and Billie Joe chose to co-cover, exuded English soccer more than American football. The tune’s lead-in riffed “House of the Rising Sun,” and the re-worked verse, “there is a house in New Orleans, that’s called the Superdome,” provided some waiting-to-exhale comic relief.

There are many Gulf houses much smaller than the Superdome still in ruins; rebuilding a sports stadium is simply a gesture, the dome but a symbol. Symbols are powerful things, though, to a city in need of all the hope it can muster.

I doubt that any celebration marking New Orleans’ soggy rise could happen without music, and the league deserves praise for putting the city’s party for itself and the world in the proper context.

Turning the event into a showcase for Music Rising, the charity begun by U2 guitarist the Edge, was another classy move. Much has been made of the fact that the downtown tourist district, which includes Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, mostly survived the storm’s fury.

Unfortunately, many of the musicians who perform in that storied area lost all of their equipment to the swelling levee waters. Music Rising raises money to replace the many horns, guitars, drums, and amplifiers claimed by the storm.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and not have my guitar,” says the Edge. Since late last year, the organization has helped over 2,000 musicians regain their livelihood.

Fans can get involved by downloading “Here Come the Saints” from Rhapsody, making an online donation at http://www.musicrising.org, or even purchasing a $600 limited edition Les Paul Custom guitar festooned with Music Rising art.

How can you support local music this weekend? I’m glad you asked:

Thursday: Spectris, Lowell Brewery Exchange – Speaking of music foundations, one of the area’s best progressive bands is performing a show presented by the New England Art Rock Society, or NewEARS. Their goal is to “create a community of music enthusiasts dedicated to sharing and promoting progressive rock” throughout the region. Fans of Yes, Pink Floyd, Dream Theater and Nektar – are you listening?

Friday: Aimee Mann, Lebanon Opera House – Whatever quirky charm “Magnolia” had was in no small part due to Mann’s contribution to the film’s soundtrack. The wan singer writes with disarming simplicity, but go beneath the surface of songs like “Amateur” and “Driving Sideways,” and you’ll find a dangerous world.

Saturday: Little Big Town, Eastern States Expo – The band’s hard luck story makes for great press releases, but their music is what keeps them vital. “Boondocks,” their debut album, is simply good country pop, an easy melding of shimmer and sawdust. Watch for their “CMT Crossroads” turn with Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham in December.

Sunday: Sunapee Chowder Challenge, Sunapee Harbor – Regional eateries put their best bowl forward from noon to three. Bistro Nouveau won last year, and they’re back again, along with Sophie & Zeke’s, the Old Courthouse, the Ship and others. A quaint lighthouse quilt is up for raffle, there’s music and kid’s activities. The event is located right on the harbor, with tents spreading up the hill to the bandstand.

Tuesday: Tool, Verizon Wireless Center – One of a handful of hard rock bands with the star power to fill arenas like this. Their most recent album, “10,000 Days,” was five years in the making, though lead singer Maynard James Keenan spent some of that time fronting A Perfect Circle. They combine hardcore and grandeur, with their best songs clocking in at over 10 minutes.

Wednesday: Michael Civiello, Old Courthouse – The ambience at Newport’s finest dining establishment is subdued in a quaint and charming way. The food is first-rate, and Civiello’s piano playing serves to accentuate the overall experience rather than call attention to itself. Look for jazz standards like “Mood Indigo” along with a few modern classical pieces. A artisan meal and a fine glass of wine deserve a good soundtrack.

Finally: After the Chowder Challenge, make sure you’re at Claremont’s Opera House for Hal Ketchum, and be on time. The opening performer, Liz Carlsle, is a rising country star in her own right,