Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Summertime Venues

Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high...

Who says that there ain't no cure for the Summertime Blues? Oh yeah, it was Eddie Cochran (later covered by Blue Cheer and The Who). But they were all wrong. There are some great Summer only concert series in New England that may just be the ticket for some summer fun, both indoors and outdoors. Most announce their line-ups in early spring. 

See my Music Calendar and Music Festivals pages for upcoming shows in New England

  • Prescott Park Arts Festival: - Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH hosts a Wed night concert series in a beautiful waterfront park in the lively seaside town. The selections have been more folk, blues, bluegrass than rock in past years, but it makes for a very nice night out. There are great places to eat nearby, but I suggest setting up a blanket early and having a picnic dinner in the park. In addition to the concert series there are weekend Folk, Jazz, American and Roots festivals, as well as chowder and chili festivals. Prescott Park Festivals: ShowcaseFolk and Americana festivals and others 
  • Hampton Casino Ballroom: - This club is about the same size as the House of Blues in Boston capacity-wise, but I like this room better. It's got a more open and airy feel (with 60 foot ceilings) and a great sound system. The bands are more mainstream for my liking, but they do host some good shows. I've seen The Strokes and Black Crowes there in recent years, as well as The Ramones and The Talking Heads "back in the day". Plus it's at the beach.
  • Lowell Summer Music: - This is held in a downtown park in Lowell. The park slopes to the river, creating a natural amphitheater. They do get big acts and the prices are not necessarily low, but it is a nice venue and the sound is good. I think the key is to arrive early and place your blanket down, then walk downtown for a drink or bite. They do have great (ethnic) food vendors, so a picnic in the park is also a good idea. The city also hosts the annual (free) Lowell Folk Festival (end of July). 
  • Meadowbrook Pavillion: - The Meadowbrook Pavilion in Gilford, NH was once known as Meadowbrook Farm, is a beautiful outdoor pavillion. There is both fixed seating under a roof, as well as a lawn area where you can bring your own chair. There's a Samuel Adams pub and several beer tents.
  • Bank of America Pavillion: - This is a large concert venue right on the water in Boston. If the weather's nice and the band is right, it can make for a great night out. They do sell beer (not cheap) and have a nice outdoor area overlooking the water. Definitely check that part out during the intermissions.
  • Comcast Center: - This is a nice venue and I have some great memories here, but it is a haul and dealing with the traffic can be a pain, so I haven't been there in years. I remember seeing Elvis Costello there on a nice summer night. I was also at one of the early Lollapalooza shows there (1992, with Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, more). During that show, those crazy kids ripped up the sod and created huge bonfires with it. Needless to say, that concert series never was invited back.
  • Rock and Blues Cruises: - Rock on a boat. The cruises leave from the World Trade Center Pier in the Seaport District at 200 Seaport Blvd, Boston and are usually three hours. They board at either 2pm or 7pm and are 21+ with a cash bar.
  • Club Passim Summer Concerts: - Free lunchtime concerts held on Wednesdays noon-1pm in Kendall Square and Thursdays 1pm in Harvard Square
  • Concerts in the Courtyard @ MFA Boston: - Concerts are held in the beautiful Calderwood Courtyard at the MFA, late June through August. The events are paid, general admission (bring your own chair). Shows start at 7:30, typically on Wednesday nights, and are moved to the auditorium in bad weather.
  • Harborwalk Sounds at ICA Boston: - Thursday night concerts on the harborwalk in front of the ICA. The events run July through August and feature performers from Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. Grandstand seating is first come, first served. Admission is free.
  • The Beachcomber of Wellfleet: - This is a summer shack/concert club high up in the dunes of Wellfleet. If the beach by day or the views by night aren't enough, they have an eclectic summer series that runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you're staying on Sunday, or driving back late, check out the Incredible Casuals, who have had a Sunday afternoon residency there for years (and years).
  • Hampton Seashell Stage: - A brand new Seashell State opened in 2012, as part of a $14.5 million redevelopment project on Hampton Beach. The shows here are mostly mainstream and family oriented, but it's a nice venue and admission is free. And it's at the beach. The new stage has three stages,  750 seats, three stages and state-of-the art sound and lighting.
  • Cocheco Arts Festival: - The annual festival kicks off on the 4th of July in Dover, NH. It includes a Friday night Headliner concert series that highlights local talent. There's also a children's and lunchtime concert series.
  • Picnic Concerts at Crane Estate: - A Thursday night concert series on the beautiful Grand Allee of the Crane Estate (Crane Beach) in Ipswich. Admission is charged by the car. Gates at 5pm and the shows run 7-9pm
  • L.L. Bean Summer Concert Series: - Concerts are held at L.L. Bean's Discovery Park at their flagship store in Freeport, ME. Shows include national and local acts and admission is free. Bring your own chair.
  • Governors Inn of Rochester, NH: -  Three months of great music in the gardens of a 1920 Georgian Colonial with a very comfortable tavern. The series runs June into September and features up to 40 bands and 12 beer selections. The Sunday concerts feature roots and Americana music and are held from 4-7pm, rain or shine. Admission is free. 
  • 3S Loading Dock Concerts: - A summer long concert series at the upcoming 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH. The series will feature some of the best local and regional talent every other Friday night, 6-8pm (Note: 2012 series info)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Alex Chilton

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round

Like so many music fans, I was saddened by Alex Chilton's passing on St Patty's Day 2010. I personally found out about it on twitter and tried in vein to debunk it as a mistake or hoax. I finally believed it when I found the story on I don't think I can add much to what's been written about him, so I'll include some of the articles that I found most interesting. 

"He stepped up to the mike and clicked his heels four times. That was it. I don’t know who my fragile busted up little psyche’s influences were at the time; Neil Young, Joe Strummer, David Bowie, Tom Verlaine? They all went out the window at that moment; floated up into the ether and stayed put. Alex has remained. I have forgotten many heroes along the way. Put on “Bangkok” and you’ll begin to understand why this man, this rock and roll song and dance man, can’t be tossed aside. Ever."

Chuck Prophet did a blazing cover of Alex's "Bangkok" at his recent Lizard Lounge show and also performed at the SXSW Big Star tribute show. [Review from] 

"Yeah, December boys got it bad, as “September Gurls” notes. The great Alex Chilton is gone — folk troubadour, blues shouter, master singer, songwriter and guitarist. Someone should write a tune about him. Then again, nah, that would be impossible. Or just plain stupid."

Paul Westerberg wrote the song "Alex Chilton", as the lead singer of The Replacements.

NPR: "Big Star: The Unluckiest Band In America"

"The statement, usually ascribed to Peter Buck of REM, that only a thousand people bought the Velvet Underground's albums in the 1960s — but every one of them started a band — also holds true for a Southern band whose albums in the 1970s sold even fewer copies, but whose posthumous reputation is just as large."

Peter Buck played in the Big Star tribute show at SXSW

"Perhaps fittingly, Chilton’s final performance was not the much-anticipated Big Star showcase at South by Southwest, but a hastily organized Jan. 24 benefit for Doctors Without Borders at the Big Top, the funky art gallery/performance space on Clio Street. Chilton declined to rehearse or even discuss the set list in advance.

“He said, ‘We’ll wing it,’” recalled Anthony Donado, the benefit’s organizer. “He liked music on the edge.”"

Keith Spera is a music writer in New Orleans, where Alex Chilton lived

Known as a musician's musician, his songs have been covered by many over the years and will certainly be covered by many more in the future. Here are some covers that you can listen to online.
Some great tributes that I heard myself included Rhett Miller covering "September Gurls" (Regattabar 27-Mar-2010) and Wilco covering "In the Street" (CCANH 7-Apr-2010). 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Record Store Day 2010

THIS coming Sat (Apr 17) is Record Store Day. I encourage you to go out and visit your local indie record store. Vinyl records are making a comeback, so consider buying one or two (or a new-fangled CD, if you'd rather). For participating shops in your area see: There is also a list of RSD exclusives (mostly vinyl) described in RSD_2010_RELEASES_WEBSITE.pdf

RSD Challenge:  Go out and buy at least one cool vinyl disk, even if you don't have a record player. Vinyl is good for the soul. And if you're a photographer, please visit your participating store and get some shots to share. The idea is to help these independent dealers to survive in a changing music marketplace.

If you don't have a record player, you could always spin your new disk at Sunday Spins at Toad. Here's the info:

Vinyl Lovers Unite! 3-8pm every Sunday Sign up on the list and play three songs each turn. Toad's own, Josh Buckley, says "It's a great way to hear new music from other people's collections and keep the tradition of listening to records alive."

NPR music had a great article for RSD: Records And Stores We Love. They asked the following three questions, which lots of people have left replies:
  • What was the first independent record store that shaped, inspired or merely catered to your musical tastes?
  • What was the first album that changed your life?
  • What is one of the most prized albums or singles in your collection?
My answers would be: Newbury Comics, Led Zeppelin II, "Signals, Calls and Marches" by Mission of Burma

While there probably are cooler indie stores in the Cambridge area, Newbury Comics made Paste's list of "The 17 Coolest Record Stores". They have a lot going on for RSD 2010, including in-store performances, free stuff and exclusive RSD disks. I'll probably end up there, since I have one close to me. [Click here to read the details]

On a somewhat related note, Burlington-based Rounder Records (the record label) was acquired by LA's Concord Music Group, after 40 years as an independent record label. The press release is here:

The Bowery in Boston (Royale)

This looks like an interesting development in the Boston music scene. Looks like it could give some competition for House of Blues and Paradise.

Royale (formerly the Roxy) the newly renovated, state-of-the-art nightclub on Tremont Street is working with New York City’s The Bowery Presents to book the finest up-and-coming music acts plus established names. This will be one of the best things to happen to Boston’s music scene in years.

NOTE: The Bowery Presents in NYC promote shows the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge and other venues.

Upcoming shows at Royale include:

5/4-5 Public Image LTD
6/4 Broken Bells w/ The Morning Benders
8/13 Deerhunter