Local Rhythms – Upper Valley CATV Adds “Homegrown” Music

Back before I started writing this column, I received my first inklings of the local music scene via videotaped performances from the Orford River Jam, an annual summer event held at the Pastures Campground along the Connecticut River.

The Claremont public access channel played it at odd times – an hour or so of first-rate bluegrass music, country rock or folk songs. Good times, great players – right in my own backyard.

This year’s River Jam series begins Saturday, June 14 with Second Wind, and showcases several of the area’s best bands before it winds up at the end of August. The full schedule is on the web at http://www.thepastures.com.

But that’s not what I want to talk about this week.

Community television stations, fortunately, don’t have to be limited to city council meetings and school events. I’ve always thought of my local channel as a primitive YouTube, hosting content from anyone brave enough to submit it.

Yellow House Media is far and away the local music scene’s best friend, and recently they began producing “Homegrown” for community access television in the Upper Valley. The first installment focuses on New Hampshire native Jeremiah McLane, accordionist and keyboard player for the Celtic roots band Nightingale. It includes clips from the group’s recent Lebanon Opera House performance, and a sit-down chat with McLane, Effie Cummings and Yellow House founder Dave Clark.

I’m starting to suspect that Dave Clark is a rural version of the Michael Keaton character in “Multiplicity” – how else can one person maintain the region’s best music web site, produce a television show and play in five or six different bands (including Juke Joynt, mentioned below)?

And that’s not even his day job.

He can and does, and we are richer for it. A second installment of “Homegrown,” featuring the recent “Blues Summit” at Salt Hill Pub with Johnny Bishop, Ted Mortimer and Ed Eastridge, is complete and should air soon.

Many’s the time I’ve left that club thinking, “I wish this performance could be shared” – now it can.

Last Saturday, Dave’s long-time band the Gully Boys recorded their set at Bentley’s for a future show.

If you don’t receive Upper Valley CATV Channel 8, you can watch “Homegrown” on the web via video-sharing site Vimeo, or at yellowhousemedia.com.

You can also ask your local public access channel to carry it – that’s what I plan to do.

As for the coming weekend, here are some choices to consider:

Thursday: David Thorne Scott, Elixir – The Upper Valley is, I’m finding out, a veritable magnet for learned talent. In a couple of weeks, Enfield is hosting a trumpet summit with top young talent from Julliard, the New England Conservatory, Oberlin and other schools. In White River, David Thorne Scott is both a Berklee professor and a singer who can “swing like Sinatra and scat like a horn player,” according to one review.

Friday: High School Musical, Claremont Opera House – Few works have had the impact of this television musical – on ‘tweens, that is. The Disney juggernaut swept through suburban homes like a tsunami. Tonight and tomorrow, local kids who bopped to this update of “Grease” on television bring it to the stage. The Performer’s Playground presentation features talent from Newport and Claremont singing and dancing in harmony.

Saturday: Red Hot Juba, Salt Hill Pub – Zoot suit riot at the Pub! This Burlington-based band is like the Squirrel Nut Zippers with a shot of good Irish whiskey poured in the glass. They break out of the swing mode every now and then to good effect. This band best exemplifies Josh Tuohy’s willingness to take risks when booking bands, one of the reasons both Salt Hills remain obvious choices for adventurous live music fans.

Sunday: Juke Joynt, Quechee Library – Take one part Foghat and one part Buddy Guy, mix it with a bodacious X factor that results from the chemistry of three players who do itinerant musical work all over the area, and you have this band. Juke Joynt focuses on original music inspired by the blues (when they were real) and classic rock (before it got cheesy). They perform as part of the Covered Bridge Marathon road race.

Monday: Dark Star Orchestra, Higher Ground – Bill Kreutzmann’s new project, KBR, and Bob Weir’s Ratdog are doing area shows, but if you’re looking for a Grateful Dead experience, this ultimate cover band may be the best choice. DSO selects a set list from a Dead performance, and re-create the show in its entirety – the hardcore fans usually know which night it is.

Tuesday: Justin Townes Earle, Iron Horse – He’s the son of Steve Earle, and his middle name comes from one of Americana’s undeniable legends, Townes Van Zandt (who shepherded his father early on). Thus, the bar is set pretty high, but the younger Earle delivers quite effectively on his debut, a throwback that’s a shade or two removed from Dad’s work.

Rhythms of the River Brings Music, Awareness to WRJ

A series of concerts featuring area musicians and benefiting local charities continues this weekend at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction. Saturday’s show at the Hartford Band Stand features the Gully Boys, Kind Buds and the Black Moon Bear Drum Ensemble.

“Rhythms of the River” kicked of May 27th, when Wise Rockobili played. Proceeds went to the White River Partnership, a community-based environmental group. Saturday’s performance benefits Advance Transit. Admission is free, however. Money is raised primarily through donated concession stands, though several civic-minded businesses also help out.

Two more concerts are scheduled: Bow Thayer with Juke Joynt on September 2nd, and a September 29 finale, with a yet-to-be-named lineup.

The shows are the brainchild of Dave Clark, who saw an opportunity to showcase the park’s band shell and call attention to the Upper Valley music scene. The latter is an ongoing cause for Clark, a writer, publicist, and musician. He manages an email list that reaches over 1,000 live music fans. Since its launch a year ago, Clark says the “Music Lover’s List” has made a big impact on the burgeoning local scene.

“Our web traffic has doubled over the past six months,” he says. Clark’s yellowhousemedia.com site sports a performance calendar, covering dates from Burlington down to Brattleboro, and points in between. There are song samples from several performers as well, from the rootsy Bow Thayer to the Celtic-tinged Sam Moffatt. There’s also plenty of Clark’s own work from Acoustic Coalition and the Gully Boys.

“If you want to hear what’s going on locally, there’s no place to do it,” says Clark, who sees Yellow House as a “central place to sample local musicians.”
It’s a great way to get people thinking about live music, he says. “Once people know there’s a lot of good stuff out there, and it’s going on all the time, they might turn off their television sets.”

“A good musician needs an audience,” he continues. “It works for the venues too, because if they see 60 people instead of 10, then they feel a lot better about bringing music in.”

The ever-multitasking Clark also sees Rhythms of the River as a chance to call attention to more than his hometown. “The issue of our life is low carbon, how do we live in a sustainable way,” he says, and the shows will feature exhibits showing how citizens can act personally to that end.

Think of it as Live Earth at the local level.

“That’s the underpinning of my message,” he says. “It feels good to bring some awareness to the local community.”