Local Rhythms – Still a small town

MariaMuldaur25web-25This week’s column begins a bit off-topic, but stick with me.  It gets back to music eventually.

Though I try to steer clear of politics in this space, a meme circulating after last week’s resounding win by pro-growth forces in local elections forces me to weigh in.  The results, say the losers, prove that Claremont isn’t a small town any more.  If we talked more and knew each other better, they say, things would have turned out differently,

The opposite is true. This was Claremont’s first Facebook election, and it proves we’re more connected than ever.

The pro-growth S.O.S. group used Facebook very effectively to support their positions and debunk their opposition – practically in real time.  I don’t diminish the power of a letter to the editor – heck, I write for a newspaper.  But the immediacy of information during this election cycle, coupled with an ongoing comment dialogue, was a very energizing force.

Back in the 1990s, these conversations happened slowly and selectively, at church coffee hours or during civic gatherings.  The very nature of the meetings limited participation.

Today, it’s possible to be out of the room but still in the loop.  I learned much more about this election from written exchanges than face-to-face conversations.

Here’s the important part – it brought me closer to the action.

Ubiquitous technology is a powerful and democratizing force.  The pro-growth forces understood this, and used it to carry the day.  Their constant campaign networking went beyond anything I’ve seen in the 30 or so years I’ve been in Claremont.

Without Facebook, Nick Koloski wouldn’t have stood a chance.

The new council member used it to announce and promote his candidacy.  Before the election, I was reasonably acquainted with Nick, but it was only after we connected online that I really got to know him.

One negative in all of this is the potential for too much information.  But while choosing a side in the health care debate is like drinking the ocean, picking a mayor is more akin to floating down a river.

I’ve taken this approach with music for a long time, turning a network of possibilities into a power grid of connections that cumulatively provides me with all I need, but never stops growing and giving me more.

The net effect (no pun intended) is that there has never been a better time to be a music fan than right now – except for perhaps tomorrow.

On to the rest of the week:

Thursday, Nov. 12: Loose Cannons Acoustic, Silver Fern Grille & Bar – These guys rock pretty hard for an all acoustic band, covering guys like Clapton and the Beatles, as well as grooves from Bob Marley and Stray Cats rockabilly.  Eclectic is the word that best describes them, with a musical outlook spanning decades and styles.  Silver Fern has a great beer selection, with several draft choices and a few big Vermont craft varieties.

Friday, Nov. 13 Acoustic Truffle, Salt hill Newport – Their name comes from the Beatles song, “Savoy Truffle,” and they’ve been wowing Seacoast audiences since the mid-80’s with their blues-infused, up-tempo rock. Truffle has two incarnations; the acoustic version leaves out the drums, but keeps the energy level high on stripped-down versions of songs like “Developer’s Blues,” a tune the Dead could have called their own.

Saturday, Nov. 14: Maria Muldaur, Bellows Falls Opera House – She’s best known for her early 70s hit “Midnight at the Oasis,” but Maria Muldaur has traveled the world of music, from her early Greenwich Village folk days, when Dylan was still playing pass the hat shows, to her current combo. the good time Garden of Joy Jug Band which features a banjo, a real washtub and, of course, Muldaur’s singularly soulful voice

Sunday, Nov. 15: Celia Sings Sinatra, Canoe Club – This downtown Hanover restaurant has great food, an inventive beer list and interesting drinks.  But none of that matters to me as much as Canoe Cub’s commitment to live music, 363 days a year.  Nights like this one with Celia are particularly special – he’s a dead ringer for the Chairman of the Board, and a lot of fun to boot.

Tuesday, Nov. 17: Adam McMahon, Windsor Station – Good blues from a nice guy who’s also an Iraq veteran, while enjoying tasty bar food, a party vibe on Tuesday night and the occasional drone of a train lumbering by.  How many more reasons do you need to head to the Station to see Adam McMahon play?

Wednesday, Nov. 18: Mark & Deb Bond, Ramunto’s – Now in residency at my favorite place to get a pint and a slice (or calzone) is this musical dynamic duo, who pack a big sound into the little corner fronting Puksta Bridge.  They’re best with dreamy pop rock like Peter Gabriel or the Beatles; their pirate karaoke version of Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” is audaciously good too.

Local Rhythms – Conventional Music

Politics and music make strange bedfellows – well, for one party anyway.  When fellow Georgians the Allman Brothers played to raise money for Jimmy Carter in 1976, it made complete sense. Linda Ronstadt singing for Jerry Brown was another no-brainer.  The two were dating at the time.

But when Ronald Reagan’s campaign tried to appropriate Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” in 1984, all I could think was – has anyone actually listened to this song?

The same thought crossed my mind when John McCain brought Reggaeton phenom Daddy Yankee to a rally the other day.  I don’t think “Gasolina” means what you think it does, Senator – not to mention “zorra.”

Perhaps McCain’s too crazy by half.   “A ‘genre’ of music with exactly one beat … the same song, over and over, and only the faces and presentation change,” wrote blogger Adam Serwer.  “Which is perfect for a campaign and a candidate who are offering more of the same.”

This brings me to the currently ongoing political conventions.  If you think the two parties can’t agree on health care, then check out their differences in music.

The Democrats brought the Black Eyed Peas to Denver, along with Rage Against the Machine and hemp spokesman Willie Nelson.  They will entertain a crowd that’s on average 20 years younger than their Republican counterparts who meet next week in Minnesota.

“I don’t think we can party as hard as they are now, but 20 years ago we could,” said a GOP convention talent organizer.  That explains their decades-old headliners: Styx, Sammy Hagar and the Beach Boys.

For the Dems, “old school” means Moby and Melissa Etheridge, both of whom play convention after-parties.  The Republicans?  Maybe Wayne Newton wasn’t available.

That’s not totally fair – the right does have a cutting edge of sorts.  Smashmouth plays St. Paul, but their biggest hit was a Monkees cover.  Country music, both new and old, is still reliably in the Republican corner, though, with LeAnn Rimes and the Bellamy Brothers topping a “Keep Florida Red” concert.

The GOP has “Redneck Woman” Gretchen Wilson, while the left’s convention parties include “Punk Rock 2008” and “Naughty Pierre’s Burlesque and Comedy Extravaganza.”

“Rock the Vote” didn’t even bother to send a band to the Twin Cities. That about says it all.

There’s a glimmer of bipartisan hope, however.  Colorado native son Big Head Todd is playing both conventions – a true independent.

How do things look closer to home?

Thursday: Mike & Mike, Lebanon Farmer’s Market – This duo play “progressive acoustic folk,” which could mean anything.  My recommendation isn’t about music – eating locally grown food is important.  It’s a small gesture in a world of mega-stores, but a vital one nonetheless.  Right now, the quality of produce available at Farmer’s Markets like this one – and others, in Claremont, Hanover, Bellows Falls – is superb.  You owe it to yourself to partake while the calendar still says “summer.”

Friday: Amity Front, Salt Hill Pub – Since this roots-rocking combo from Western Massachusetts cancelled a planned visit to Lebanon last spring, the Pub’s been trying to get them back.  They have a new album, “Border Towns,” with some real gems – the honky tonkin’  “Leave It All Behind” and the rave up “Cold Steel Bars” in particular.  It’s a fuller-sounding work that’s probably awesome live.

Saturday: Pariah Beat, Main Street Museum – Much to my regret, I missed the Northeast Kingdom Music Festival due to prior commitments. Pariah Beat and the aforementioned Amity Front performed at the mud-soaked affair, as did 12-year old musical prodigy Jason Meese, who joined PB for a bang-up version of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm.” They then invited him to tonight’s show in White River Junction.  The Beat is celebrating the end of its recent East Coast tour.

Sunday: New World Music Festival, Chandler Music Hall – Cape Breton fiddle master Jerry Holland has been in town recently, giving seminars.  Today he performs, along with another 20 or so bands, at this all-day (noon till midnight) extravaganza.  The festival features Celtic and French Canadian music and dance performed on five stages.  Performers include John Doyle, Triptych and Yankee Chank (described as “Cajun and Creole dance music Vermont style”).

Tuesday: Hot Tuna & David Lindley, Higher Ground – What began as a Jefferson Airplane spin-off is still going strong forty years later.  Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady were Americana before anyone knew it was called that, weaving many musical threads together into something truly unique.  David Lindley, who can play anything with strings, could and does headline all the time, making this show a real bargain. (Also Thursday @ Calvin, Northampton)

Wednesday: Hunger Mountain Boys, West Whately (MA) Chapel – A few miles south of the Vermont border, something called “Watermelon Wednesday” has been happening all summer. Today, a twangy trio that pleased fans at Lebanon Opera House a few years back, settles in for an evening of retro fun.