Local Rhythms – Greening St Patrick’s Day

p1011584The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration on this side of the pond happened in Boston in 1737, 19 years ahead of New York.

It’s satisfying to know that, even if NYC has a bigger parade.

Here’s another fun fact: though it’s been a public holiday in Ireland since 1903, the religious focus of the observance – Patrick was a saint, after all – kept Irish bars closed on March 17 until 1970.

It’s safe to say that we approach the “wearing of the green” differently, which explains why Guinness is pushing to make St. Patrick’s a US holiday with their “Proposition 3-17” effort.

There are probably more Irish-Americans than Irish, and they celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with gusto, pouring dye in rivers (Chicago), canals (Indianapolis) and fountains (Savannah), while painting traffic lines and sometimes entire blocks Kelly green.

Our streams are too frozen for such antics, but there’s still plenty of local Irish energy.

If you can’t bear to party on a weeknight, Celtic Crossing plays the Chandler Music Hall Sunday night, but the real action is on Tuesday.

Good Celtic bands are doing double duty this year.  Over at Okemo, Gypsy Reel is at the resort’s pub in the afternoon; later they serenade The Killarney, a lovely slice of the Emerald Isle.

Reaganta, a talented trio from Exeter, appear at the Holy Grail in Epping (2 PM) and Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough (7 PM).

O’hanleigh plays both Salt hill Pubs – 4 PM in Newport and 7 PM in Lebanon – as does the Chris Stevens Band.

Of course, St Pat’s at Salt hill is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  So it’s multiple days of fun at the Lebanon location – an Irish-themed open mike on Thursday, the 8th annual Shamrock Shuffle 5K after-party Saturday, and a special evening of Irish music with Longford Row on Sunday.

Salt hill also hosts a traditional Irish breakfast at 9 AM Tuesday, which includes the raising of the first pint.

Colcannon, with Samantha Moffatt on hammered dulcimer and accordion, and Patricia Stebbins on harp, perform at Canoe Club.

Less traditional but just as fun is Mark and Deb Bond’s 3rd annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Walpole Village Tavern.

Local heroes Yer Mother’s Onion will electrify the first ever Sophie & Zeke’s SPD soiree.

So there are several good excuses to cut loose on a Tuesday.

Or, you could just wait until next Friday and catch the Saw Doctors in Northampton.

What else is happening?

Thursday: Lucinda Williams, Capitol Center – Her cigarettes and whisky drawl could make the “Star Spangled Banner” sound sultry.  Williams rocked pretty hard at last year’s Green River Festival, closing with an AC/DC song.  The trend continued with the release of “Little Honey,” her ninth and most upbeat album.  There’s hardly a razor-gazer on the disc – it’s nice to see Lucinda lighten up a bit.

Friday: Comedy & Music, Bistro Nouveau – Boston comic Paul Nardizzi headlines, while Pete Merrigan (who can cut up with the best of them) provides the music.  Nardizzi likes to riff on sports, changing steroid poster child Alex Rodriguez’s nickname to “A-Needle” on his blog.  I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say about the upcoming Sox season and the Celtics acquisition of loopy Stephon Marbury.

Saturday: Ninja Monkey, Heritage Tavern – Ezra Veitch and Josh Maiocco’s call their latest project “SouthernVT Rock” – a dash of Elvis (Costello), a dollop of Fred Eaglesmith and a slice of Greg Brown, mixed with elements of their own various bands.  Ninja Monkey’s a monthly fixture at PK’s in Bellows Falls and they’ll be greening up next Tuesday’s St. Pat’s celebration at Harvest Moon in Saxton’s River.

Sunday: Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Stonewall Farm – A first rate Americana show presented by Orange Earth, promoter of the occasional Sunday folk shows at Armadillo’s Burritos.  Arbo made amazing music with Salamander Crossing in the mid-90s.  “Big Old World,” the third Daisy Mayhem album, is a gem.  It’s full of spirit and hope, along with good singing and playing.   Stonewall, a back-to-basics Keene dairy farm, sounds like a good place for a show.

Monday: Bobby K & the Peace, Bentley’s – Citing Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dave Matthews and Tupac as influences, you know this combo is out of the ordinary.  They’ve dubbed their music “folk-hop,” and this Vermont trio gets the crowd involved when they play. Since it’s an open mike night, audience participation is de rigueur.  No, seriously, bring your guitar and get in on the action.

Wednesday: Second Wind, Green Acres Café – Let’s coax spring with a wine tasting and music from this fine local duo, who regularly perform at the Claremont Farmer’s Market.  This Opera House Square café/grocer is a perfect place to enjoy gourmet food and good conversation.  Terry Gould and Suzi Hastings reach across the musical spectrum, moving between Heart, Springsteen and Lyle Lovett with ease.

Local Rhythms – Middle Earth’s Dark Days Ending

chrisjonessml.jpgFive months filled with lawsuits and countersuits, delayed court dates and mounting attorney bills haven’t made Chris Jones an optimist. But the Middle Earth Music Hall owner was buoyant enough last Monday to declare that “jackhammer season is over” for the Bradford club.

The reason for his cautious jubilation was an Orange County District Court decision handing Shiloh’s Restaurant back to landlord Vincent Pacilio for non-payment of rent. For the time being, Jones can concentrate on what he does best – bringing great music to the basement establishment he’s run for the past five years.

“We’re not done,” say Jones. “I expect a suit for failure of the business,” a prospect that mostly upsets him because “it will hurt the landlord.” But, he says, “the threat of an injunction to shut us down is off the table.”

This battle may be won, but because Shiloh’s owners have ten days to file an appeal, Jones is reluctant to declare an end to the war. So the legal defense fundraisers and the milk cans by the bar filled with dollar bills will be around a while longer.

“I don’t believe it’s over, and the best defense is a good offense,” Jones says.

The good news for music fans is that the court victory has cleared the way for Middle Earth to firm up several tentative dates. The coming months will welcome performances from Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, Cheryl Wheeler, banjo master Tony Trischka, Garnet Rogers and Chris Smither. With the legal cloud hanging over them, Jones couldn’t afford to commit to shows as far out as May (Arbo).

He remains wary of Victory in Jesus Ministries, and their leader, whom Jones cites as the primary force behind the suit. “Knowing (David) Lund, he’ll appeal,” he says, adding “if you give him a crack, no matter how small, he’ll stick his foot in it.”

Overall, his outlook’s good. “In the long run, we’ll come out on top,” says Jones. “But it’s time-consuming, and expensive. I just got the bill today.”

He’s most heartened by the support he’s received from the music community. Bands like Amity Front, Boston’s Session Americana and Nobby Reed all performed to raise much-needed cash.

“But the publicity has been priceless,” Jones says. “I’ve seen a lot of new faces in here over the past few months.”

What priceless toe-tapping experiences await music fans this weekend?

Thursday: Harvey Reid, Four Corners Grille – Missing from the area music scene this fall, the Flying Goose Music series is, according to the restaurant’s website, a one-night affair this year. Lucy Kaplansky, however, is advertising a show there next month. Reid is an acoustic guitar master, and along with wife Joyce Andersen, he made a great Christmas record last year. He and Andersen perform selections from it tonight.

Friday: Junk in the Trunk, Salt Hill Pub – Richie Cortese has been an Upper Valley fixture for a long time now, and his latest combo was quite well received when they played outdoors at Sunapee in the summer. This is the first Salt Hill appearance for Junk in the Trunk, which plays classic rock and boogie driven by Cortese’s singing, which can bend the treetops.

Saturday: Yer Mother’s Onion, Seven Barrels – I caught these guys at a pretty crazy party recently, just across the Unity line. Everyone was in costume, and let’s just say I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of the subculture in these parts. I’m also impressed by this band, who play a few originals, but can also knock out powerful covers by everyone from Carlos Santana to Cake – check out their take of “Building A Religion.”

Monday: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, NBC – This is a well-written drama, not a musical performance show. If you’re all about music and nothing else, you can wait until the last 10 minutes of the episode to watch a superlative performance by a band of New Orleans horn players led by 20-year old Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Their version of “O Holy Night” has replaced “Little Saint Nick” as my favorite Christmas song.

Tuesday: Toby Lightman, Iron Horse – One of the reasons I think the Grammies are a joke is that Mariah Carey is still getting nominations, and truly soulful singers like Lightman are overlooked. She’s made two excellent records, the most recent of which, “Bird on a Wire,” runs the gamut from charged up gospel to passionate torch songs. Her time will come, and when it does, Grammy will probably pick the wrong album to honor.

Wednesday: Carlos Ocasio, Canoe Club – Frontman for Gusano and other area bands, Carlos stretches out at Canoe, playing restrained, intelligent blues and showing off his elegant guitar style. As always, get a seat near to the stage if you want to listen closely.