Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy NYE!

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone. The skiing last night was fine and had fun checking out Fred Ellsworth and the House Shakers for the first time (more on them before they return to the Coppertop on Feb. 4).

Late-night skiing, fireworks, a Glenn Stewart concert..... seems like the mountain has you covered tonight (and for years the tradition in my house was to start a "Simpsons" DVD marathon upon return from the slopes).

Here's to great skiing and riding in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's funny to think of New England as a country-music capital, but truth is country-music tours do better in the Northeast than just about anywhere else in the U.S. Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Toby Keith and the like are happy to saddle up in Massachsetts every summer and draw record crowds to Gillette Stadium, Comcast Center, and the like.

The situation with country is similar to what was going on with hard rock in the mid-90s. Limp Bizkit, Korn, and the Deftones were brewing up a new sound that caught on big in these parts. The local scene responded by pushing Godsmack and Staind into the national spotlight. Nightclubs, show promoters, and radio stations got behind the local heroes, and, well, you know the rest of the story.

"I don't think it's been the same for country artists," says Glenn Stewart, whose tough-edged country sound is in line with current trends. "I remember WAAF getting behind Godsmack and Staind, but country radio here isn't getting behind local artists the same way. And the rock clubs that will book a country band usually book bands playing an old-school sound."

The Coppertop knows a good thing when it sees one though, and is welcoming Stewart a few times this season after his band's crowd-pleasing performance at the mountain's BBQ fest in the fall. Stewart's Wachusett run begins New Year's Eve, when his band hits the stage at 9 p.m. The Coppertop has Stewart back for a 4 p.m. show Sunday Jan. 22 and a Saturday night show Feb. 25. And remember, there's no cover charge at the Coppertop, which seems pretty popular with music-loving skiers and riders (and especially with skiers' and riders' tag-alongs).

Stewart too is happy to be moving indoors at the Wah.

"There was a lot of BBQ smoke the last time I played there," he recalls. "It was one of those days when I wished I was the bass player again and not the singer."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Blizzard of music

This is the week when the Coppertop officially heats up for the season, and perusing the schedule put together thus far makes for some pretty fresh reading, music fans.

There are lots of new faces and pleasant returns to the mountain this season, starting with Fred Ellsworth and the House Shakers delivering danceable blues to the Coppertop this Friday. The acoustic duo Drunken Uncles (featuring Joe Rockhead front man Tom Hurley, who is the star of today's video pick) comes to the mountain Jan. 5, and Jay Graham, one of my favorite Central Mass guitar players whom I first caught playing in the Arthur Dent Foundation and more recently enjoyed listening to in Soulstice, brings his solo act to the Coppertop Feb. 19. Chris Reddy's intriguing, electronic  loops-enhanced guitar performance was a hit at this fall's Wachusett Musicfest and he'll bring his unique sound to the Coppertop on Feb. 9.

Some old faves are coming back too, so you'll get a chance to catch Sean Fullerton (Jan. 13), Chris Stovall Brown (Jan. 21), Dr. Harp (Feb. 11), and others who have made the trip to Princeton in the past. And as mentioned earlier, Glenn Stewart returns to ring in the new year Saturday with his kickin' country sound.

I'm seeing reggae, country, rock, blues, and acoustic acts already inked into the Thursday-through-Sunday music schedule, and also hearing good things about a new series of late-afternoon apres-ski shows in the works. So yeah, come for the skiing and riding, but be sure to catch some of the music.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Glenn Stewart's Rocking Country

     Dig out a copy of Motley Crue's kiss-off "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" and forget for a minute that the guys performing the song have teased-out hair and are wearing make-up. Cool down the beat to more of a shuffle, toss in a drawl on the vocal and imagine some twang on the guitar and boom, you have a country song.
     The similarities between modern country and '80s arena rock are not lost on Glenn Stewart, a powerhouse singer who started out in rock bands and is now a popular draw along the country circuit. Stewart has a big year planned, and it starts with his appearance New Year's Eve at the Wah.
     "When I started doing country, I went to Nashville and I was told, 'Well Glenn, this is really rock 'n' roll. Just because you're wearing a cowboy hat doesn't make it country,'" Stewart recalls.
     The Auburn resident was just a bit ahead of the curve when he started combining down-home sentiments with revved-up guitars. And now Stewart's brand of country is all the rage _ just check out the monster hits by Jason Aldean and Eric Church. Stewart  has a batch of songs ready to record, starting with "Good on Me,"  that fits right in with country's current trend.  The singer says he'll be in the studio early in the new year and get as much work done as he can before the busy spring and summer touring cycle starts.
     The Ragged Impresarios will back Stewart on NYE, and he takes the stage at 9 p.m., so there's plenty of time to get in runs and grab a bite before checking out Stewart's country that kicks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Out of the gate

Snow and music pair well in my head. Last winter, I started bugging Wachusett Mountain to make a big deal about the array of music it was booking into the Coppertop lounge. We're not talking doe-eyed gals or bearded dudes strumming Eagles tunes, but bands_ rock bands, blues bands, jazz bands, pop bands_ mixing original tunes in with familiar fare. The Wah is also a popular destination for nationally touring bands making promo stops (the video is from Stone Sour's Coppertop visit last season). So the mountain let me revive online the music column I used to write for the T&G newspaper. This season, we're spreading out the coverage across the week on the Wachusett Entertainment Blog (or WEB). So check back, leave comments about your own snow-music ideas, and happy skiing, riding and listening.