This week’s Hippo – Ya gotta laugh

A guy walks into a bar …

At a weekly promotion at Mottley’s Comedy Club in Boston, anyone who shows up on a Wednesday night with a pink slip, unemployment check stub or some other proof of joblessness gets into the club for free. Mottley’s calls it a “Comedy Bailout” — when everything else fails, all that’s left is laughter.

“You can’t be sick, sore or tired if you’re laughing,” said agent and comedian Mike Smith, whose Laugh Riot Productions books shows throughout the region, at venues including Tupelo Music Hall and the recently opened Boynton’s Taproom.

Rob Steen is a stand-up comic and promoter, operating Headliners clubs in Manchester, Gilford and Newington, along with locations in Portland and Auburn, Maine. With 14 or 15 New Hampshire venues, including an annual series at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts, Steen said business is booming.

Read more…

15 Minutes with a rock God – Ian Hill of Judas Priest

Ian Hill, founding member of Judas Priest

Whatever your opinion of Judas Priest’s sturm und drang music, you’ve got to love lead singer Rob Halford – for his common sense, if nothing else.

A 1990 lawsuit accused the band of inserting subliminal messages into their songs, and driving two disturbed young men to suicide.   Bollocks, was Halford’s retort.  Urging fans to kill themselves is counterproductive.  Better to secretly urge them, he said, to “buy more of our records.”

Sunday, ‘Priest’ hits Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in Gilford for the final night of their American tour with headliner Whitesnake.  The show will feature a complete performance of the band’s most successful album, “British Steel.”

Bass player and founding member Ian Hill spoke recently spoke with Michael Witthaus:

MW: Any favorite moments on the tour?

IH: We’ve done so many places; the main thing is the show, which we always enjoy.  Days off are few and far between.

MW: You’re ending in Gilford.

IH: Beautiful part of the country, New Hampshire, it’s our first time playing in Gilford. We’re looking forward to somewhere with a bit of scenery.  Last time around, we went to Lake Champlain in Vermont.  We rented speedboats and motored from one end of the lake to the other, peered through people’s back windows.

MW:  How has the response been to the nightly performances of British Steel?

IH:  Fans know what to expect, which is great.  Though really, it’s something we’ve never done. Someone pointed out it was the 30-year anniversary; when you play the songs every night, you tend to forget which album it came from.  British Steel was the first one we had a U.S. tour with where we were the headliner.

MW: When did you first come to America?

IH:  In 1977; in 1980 we opened for REO Speedwagon. Then we were special guests with Foghat and Journey. We began British Steel as special guests with KISS – damn good start that – and then went on our own.  We must have done something right.

MW: How did you start the band?

IH:  We were both about 17 when we started playing together in 1969. Kenneth [guitarist K.K.” Downing] and I weren’t really close friends until we realized our common interest in music. We formed what was really a school band, with a chum called John Ellis.  Judas Priest was another band. Their lead vocalist, Alan Atkins, came round and asked to sing.  Family commitments caused him to leave, but we kept the name.

MW:  What were your influences?

IH:  Honestly, I listened to white boy blues – Eric Clapton, John Mayall.  But my big influence was Jack Bruce, and Cream.  I thought their live recordings were stand up.  I still listen to Wheels of Fire today.

MW:  You moved away from finger picking your bass in recent years.  Why?

IH:  Clarity, really – it’s a cleaner, sharper sound.  When you have a couple of distorted guitars, you need that clean sound to put it through.

MW:  How has the second time around with Rob Halford been?

IH:   All was well when Rob came back.  Everything clicked into place like an old jigsaw puzzle.  We did some good material with Tim (“Ripper” Owens, who replaced Halford from 1996-2003).  He’s a great vocalist, great bloke.  But being a fan of the band, he could see the sense of it.  In every interview, we were asked if Rob was coming back.

Blues News

August 2 is a busy weekend, but blues fans should check out the “Barnful of Blues Festival” at the New Boston Fairgrounds, located near Route 13 a few miles south of Weare, New Hampshire.

It’s an all-day affair featuring two stages – acoustic and electric – and a dozen area blues bands, including Sunapee favorites Roxanne and the Voodoo Rockers, all for a mere 10 bucks.

Headliner TJ Wheeler mixes musical knowledge into his performances, taking audiences on a journey from Delta blues to New Orleans jazz.  Boston’s Love Dogs bring a Dixie vibe to a rocking blues sound that recalls the Fabulous Thunderbirds, with horns.

Singer/guitarist Bruce Marshall played with Toy Caldwell of the Marshall Tucker Band, and has a lightning touch on the fretboard.  He’s also playing the Newbury Bandstand this Thursday (July 24) if you need a fix right away.

The event is sponsored by the New Boston Blues Association, and benefits Webster House, which helps kids ages 8 through 18 who need to live away from home.  All of the NBBA’s efforts are focused on raising money for Webster House, whose work is focused on “providing stability to a child’s life and rebuilding family relationships leading towards family re-unification, foster placement or independent living.”


Barnful of Blues Festival – August 2, 2008


National Anthem          12:00 PM     12:05PM
Chris Bonoli                 12:45 PM     1:00 PM
Arthur James                1:45 AM     2:00 PM
Jackie Lee                     2:45 PM     3:00 PM
Francine Calo               3:45 PM     2:00 PM
Arthur James                4:45 PM     3:00 PM
RAFFLES                       5:45 PM     6:00 PM
RAFFLES                       6:45 PM     7:00 PM


Michael Vincent &
Double Shot                  12:05 PM     12:45 PM
The Hayes Brothers       1:00 PM     1:45 PM
Sweet Willie D &
the Continental Walk    2:00 PM     2:45 PM

Bruce Marshall             3:00 PM     3:45 PM

Lisa Marie &

All Shook Up               4:00 PM     4:45 PM
The Love Dogs            5:00 PM     5:45 PM
Roxanne &
the Voodoo Rockers    6:00 PM     6:45 PM
TJ Wheeler                   7:00 PM     8:00 PM

JOSA Returns December 9

The 16th annual Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon series commences December 9, and runs every other week through April 6 (except for a 3-week break after Christmas).

The shows are held at Bistro Nouveau at Eastman.  The restaurant’s award-winning appetizers, entrees, drinks and desserts will be available for all performances, which begin at 4.

This season’s lineup includes familiar faces from past years, along with some exciting newcomers.   

Dec. 9             Al and Elizabeth Alessi – Jazz Vocalist & Entertainer and his talented   daughter. making her JOSA debut
Dec. 23          Jody Ebling – Captivating Jazz Vocalist
Jan. 13           Greg Abate – International Saxophonist
Jan. 27           Fred Haas & Sabrina Brown – Saxophonist & Vocalist Extraordinaire
Feb. 10           Cercie Miller – Jazz Saxophonist 
Feb. 24           Tiger Okoshi – International Trumpeter
Mar. 9             Shawnn Monteiro – International Vocalist
Mar. 23           Steve Marvin – Jazz Vocalist & Entertainer (Easter Show)
Apr. 6              Richie Cole – World-Class Alto Saxophonist (Season Finale) 


All performers are backed by the JOSA Ensemble:


Pianist, Bill Wightman, from Sunapee, NH, is the Instrumental Music and Music Technology Director at Proctor Academy.  He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and, since the mid 1970s, has been performing, teaching, directing and producing in music and theatre both in education and for the public throughout New England and New York.  

Bassist, John Hunter from the Portsmouth, NH area has performed from coast to coast accompanying such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Art Farmer, Milt Jackson and Joe Williams to name a few.  His playing is always highly intuitive, his repertoire extensive, and he’s a great listener and all around human.  The Rockingham Gazette says, “[John is] fast emerging as one of the most respected bass soloists in the country.”

Percussionist, Tim Gilmore from Lebanon, NH, attended Berklee College of Music, and studied with both drum legends Max Roach and Alan Dawson.  Having performed with such jazz greats as Mary McPartland, Dick Johnson, and Warren Vache among others, Tim is a recipient of the Presidential Arts Scholarship.  He brings to JOSA an up-beat and delightful attitude, and is known for his occasional, intricate and sometimes epic (never to be missed) drum solos. 

Reedman and flutist, Richard Gardzina from Barnstead, NH, has a BA and MA. in music composition from both the University of North Texas and UNH.  His performances include dates in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New England with such jazz greats as Red Garland, David “Fathead” Newman, Little Feat, and “Blue” Lou Marini to name a few.  With two CD releases to his credit, Richard brings consistent freshness and innovation to JOSA with solos that support and compliment the performance of each featured artist.