Local Rhythms – The New Gilded Age

A little over 100 years ago, Thorstein Veblen published “A Theory of the Leisure Class,” and introduced a new term to the popular lexicon. “Conspicuous consumption,” wrote Veblen, happens when rich people spend their money simply to get attention.

That pretty much sums up the big concert market, where idiots routinely drop 500 bucks on tickets, and then spend most of the show sending cell phone videos to their friends who couldn’t get in.

Then there are the foie gras-gutted hedge fund managers attending the London/Liverpool Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, jamming at Abbey Road with Jack Bruce and Bill Wyman – for a mere 16 grand.

Travel’s not included, but of course the souvenir DVD is.

Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, along comes Social@Ross, a series of five concerts set for this summer in East Hampton, New York

“Everyone’s a VIP here,” coos the ad. Seats are limited to 1,000 for each performance by Billy Joel, James Taylor, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty and Prince, and sold only one way – in blocks of five, at an unheard-of $15,000 each.

Talk about staying one step ahead of StubHub.

The web site talks vaguely of “social consciousness,” but with a background of Porsche grilles and polo players clad in bicep garters, it’s hard to believe such charity is anything more than bringing the leftover hors d’oeuvres to the local soup kitchen after the party.

The promoter has made it clear that he’s in it to raise money for himself. One only hopes that the musicians believe their payday is worth the price of their integrity. That a guy like Petty is participating is nothing short of appalling. He once refused to let MCA release “Damn the Torpedoes” because they wanted to raise the list price by a dollar. Now this?

Of course, the rest of the hoi polloi will pay prices that are a little closer to earth when these artists come to the football stadium – if we want to. I sure don’t.

$15,000 only buys proof that you’re stupid (or rich) enough to waste that kind of money, not intimacy or credibility.

You want to get up close and personal with rock and roll? Jump into a Hexerei mosh pit sometime, or hit the dance floor when the Gully Boys start to jam. That’s real- as is this:

Thursday: Battle of the Bands Finals, Shenanigans – I took a bit of heat for supporting this club’s decision to switch up their live music, but still stand by my words. Tonight three bands compete for a cash prize and a bigger payday as Saturday’s headliner. Word is that there’s another competition planned for June. More local music – that’s my priority. You can read what the people who disagree with me think on my blog. It is, after all, a free country.

Friday: Blue Monday, Salt Hill Pub – To inject a little heat into the cold winter, the Tuohy brothers began offering a Monday night blues jam last January. The chemistry of those eveninigs led to the formation of this band, which includes members of other area groups. Next Thursday, the weekly sessions begin anew at Salt Hill. Here’s a taste for those who can’t wait.

Saturday: Joe Stacey & Ezra Veitch, Boccelli’s – A founding member of Ingrid’s Ruse and a permanent fixture at the Windham when it was open, Ezra tried to leave town last year. Fortunately for area music fans, Arkansas didn’t agree with him, and after nursing a hand injury that sidelined him for a bit, he’s back playing local stages. Stacey’s a fine songwriter who has performed with Ezra going back to 2001, so they should click nicely.

Sunday: Memorial Day Picnic, Heritage – Ten dollars buys some great barbeque and performances from three of the area’s best bands. Stonewall (who may be a bit winded if they win the Shenanigans battle mentioned above), Sun King and erstwhile local champs the Highball Heroes all play. Hopefully, the sun will shine, as it’s an outdoor affair. The Charlestown restaurant will raffle off prizes, and probably hand out a few free beer cozies.

Monday: Strange Creek Campout, Greenfield – Big fun for the tie-dyed. This three-day event begins Saturday, with an array of talented jam bands like Max Creek, Strangefolk and the Ryan Montbleau Band. 42 performers for 85 bucks – take that, Tom Petty. There’s a little bit of everything for everybody.

Wednesday: Colin McCaffrey, Canoe Club – His band, the Stone Cold Roosters, just celebrated a CD release party at Skunk Hollow last Friday, and Colin kicks out the jams with his Zydeco combo at Middle Earth in a couple of weeks. But tonight, the KUA grad strips things down their essence, playing songs from his solo efforts. Fans of Tom Rush and James Taylor won’t be disappointed.