Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nome that tune

Musicians find success in many different ways, but how Athol's Derek Drowne parlayed a stint as a popular performer in Alaska into having one of his songs placed in a high-profile daytime soap opera is one of the more interesting versions of career connect-the-dots.

Drowne had been playing in various rock bands around Central Mass and working at radio station WAAF when an opportunity arose in 1990 to head to Alaska where his sister was starting an entertainment company.

"I brought karaoke to the Aleutian Peninsula," he jokes. But more importantly, Drowne met a lot of musicians, some who specialized in the region's native folk music, others who were simply good players.

"In Alaska, I was a sponge that took it all in. Native drumming, throat singing, you name it. It really opened me up as a musician," he says. "I even built an electric guitar because I was bored."

Drowne makes his first appearance at the Coppertop on Friday playing from 3 to 5 p.m. during the Pass Holder Appreciation activities slated for the mountain that day.

His time in Alaska led Drowne to Nome, where he played six nights a week with a band that held down the house gig in a trading post saloon.

"In Nome, you can play music, drink, and go to church," Drowne says. "I didn't go to church."

But he became a pretty skilled musician.

While in Alaska, Drowne recorded two CDs of original material. The song "Breakfast in Paris" caught on as a regional hit. Drowne performed around the state and opened for members of the Beach Boys when they toured in the region.

Through a series of connections the singer-songwriter made touring and working with radio stations, Drowne's songs came to the attention of the music director for a few of ABC's soap operas, who flew the singer to New York to see what they could work out. That's how "Breakfast in Paris" landed in a scene of "All My Children" in 1998.

In 2001, Drowne moved back to Massachusetts. He developed a solo-acoustic show that mainly features his interpretation of popular songs. He is also writing material for another CD.

"When people go out to a club show, I think they like to hear songs that they know. But I've learned a bunch of songs from all different genres and put my own spin on them," Drowne says. "For me, if the song has a good hook, I'll usually love it and learn it."

He even surprises himself sometimes with songs that find their way into his set.

"I hated Bon Jovi's  'Dead or Alive.' When I worked at 'AAF, the song was so overplayed that I just got sick of it," he says. "But now I love playing it live. And when you hear me, it's definitely my own version."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pass holder party and sneak peek of breakout artist

Pass holders have a party in their honor this week and a perennial performer returns, though on this trip to the Coppertop she is on the brink of a big career breakthrough.

Bruce Jacques kicks off the Coppertop shows this week, bringing his energetic routine to the mountain Thursday for an 8 p.m. show.

On Friday, Wachusett has bargains on food, drink, gear and lift-tickets for friends for all Century Pass holders, as well as two shows. Derek Drowne will perform a solo set from 3 to 5 p.m., and Trebek is on tap starting at 8 p.m.

Saturday has another two-fer with Brian and  AJ playing the afternoon apres session and Katrin Roush performing at 8. Katrin, as she is more commonly known, has played many times at the mountain, even after she shifted her base from Central Mass to Boston. Her years of hard work are paying off with the release of a stellar new CD called "Frail to Fearless," which already has a lot of buzz around it due to the heavyweight players involved in its production. We'll have more on Katrin later this week, but check her out in the video above.

And it looks like blues band Rugged Road is taking the Sunday afternoon slot after a scheduling snafu with a previously booked act. Again, check back to make sure this is ironed out.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Men at Work to Metallica

Josh Briggs works in the restaurant business, but he never lost his appetite for being a working musician too. The band he sings in and plays guitar for, Five on Friday, has been staying busy in the area, and as a solo artist Briggs recently released the CD “Back to Bliss.” It’s as a solo performer that Briggs returns to the Coppertop Sunday for a 4 p.m. show. Briggs answered a few questions about his concert-going experiences, and reveals a bit of his eclectic tastes. Here’s what he had to say:

What was the first concert you saw and what do you remember most about it? “Harry Chapin in ’82 or ’83. I was 9 or 10, and really the only thing I remember is that everyone was smoking ‘funny smelling’ cigarettes, and I thought it was weird that he just sat on a chair the whole time. As opposed to my second concert Men AT Work! I was on my father's shoulders the whole show and decided right then and there that I had to play the saxophone. I spent about one year trying that until I realized that bass guitar was cooler.”

What was the best concert you’ve seen, and what made it the best? “Without question, it was Fishbone at the Berkshire Performing Arts Center. I had never really seen a band put every ounce of energy into performing while at the same time just being absolute masters on their instruments. I still think about that show when I go to concerts.”

What was the worst concert you’ve seen, and what made it so bad? “I guess I have two that really stand out. The first is when I went to see The Cult open for Metallica at the old Centrum.  I was a huge Cult fan and didn't really know or care about Metallica. The Cult were so terrible, however Metallica blew me away. I think that night changed me forever. I had a similar experience when I saw the Smashing Pumpkins at Lollapalooza. I thought they were going to kill it, but they followed The Beastie Boys on the ‘Check Your Head’ tour and they just couldn't come close to comparing.”

If you could see any artist from any time, who would you pick to see? “This one is tough. I have so many shows that I would have liked to see, but I guess if I had to pick one, I would like to have seen Jimi Hendrix perform the night that ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’ came out. I guess Sir Paul and Eric Clapton were in the audience and Hendrix played the title track. I'm sure that was pretty fantastic.” 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Country singer's rock roots explored

Glenn Stewart is back in the Coppertop Saturday night at 8 to deliver his “country that rocks.”  Like other Coppertop performers this week, Stewart answered questions about his own experiences seeing live music. And now it's clear where the "rock" in his sound comes from. Here’s what he had to say:

What was the first concert you saw, and what do you remember most about it? “Kiss was my first concert. It was the 1983 ‘Creatures of the Night’ tour. I remember sitting there blown away. Now remember, this was before the Internet and the modern day computer, so we had to rely on MTV and Hit Parade magazine to get our rock and roll gossip. I remember sitting there thinking to myself, ‘Did Ace Frehley change his make up?’  Later we found out he was fired and Vinnie Vincent was the new guy. This show was at the Centrum in Worcester.”

What’s the best concert you’ve seen, and what made it the best? “The Kiss reunion show, seen from the front row. Of course for this one I was a bit older than the ‘83 show. I felt like a little kid all over again. I was looking at this band on stage, back in make-up, and all the chrome so super shiny, and the crowd losing their minds over four old men in make-up and high heels. Sounds like something from ‘RuPaul's Drag Race’ lol!!”
What’s the worst concert you’ve seen, and what made it so bad? “Worst concert had to be a Scorpions' 1989 Love at First Sting show. I remember the lack of energy from the band. They were just standing there. Hell, one of them was even yawning. Total waste of my time, and totally disrespectful to the audience who paid the 20 dollars for the show.”

If you could see any artist from any time, who would you pick to see?  “I would love to have seen Johnny Cash and his concert at Folsom Prison. It’s classic.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fullerton recall

Sean Fullerton is an in-demand solo artist whose audience has grown as his own musical journey has matured. This week, artists playing in the Coppertop are weighing in here on their own experiences seeing live music. Fullerton, who performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, has this to say:

What was the first concert you saw, and what do you remember most about it?  “My very first live concert was Janet Jackson at the Worcester Centrum, I believe around 1990.  Not my first choice, but a buddy of mine and his sister had an extra ticket and invited me.  I was amazed at the whole concert experience, and actually seeing a Jackson live, but it still wasn't my first choice for a concert. Then she performed her rock hit ‘Black Cat,’ and after that, I was a fan. What a song!”

What’s the best concert you’ve seen, and what made it the best? “ I've seen a ton of great shows _ Van Halen, Paul McCartney, John Mellencamp, Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Chicago with Earth, Wind & Fire_ but hands down the best concert I ever saw was a solo acoustic performance by my modern-day blues hero John Hammond, Jr.   My favorite music is the old Delta style blues, one singer, one guitar, maybe a harmonica, maybe light percussion. I'd been playing and writing rock/pop tunes for 12 years professionally up to this date.  After this show, I knew what direction I wanted to go musically. Besides being blown away by the show, I got to meet Mr. Hammond afterwards, and he was over-the-top gracious with his time and attention to my seemingly endless questioning of him. I play the blues and the harmonica because of him.”

What was the worst concert you’ve seen, and what made it so bad? “Although the line-up was all-star caliber_ Amos Lee, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan_ the show wasn't to my liking at all.  The best part of the night was Amos Lee. I was psyched to see Elvis Costello, but he played acoustic through amp, and the distortion covered a lot of the words. Finally, I just couldn't understand one single word Bob Dylan sang with his electric band.”

If you could see any artist from any time, who would you pick to see? “I would've loved to have seen The Beatles last official concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, August 29, 1966.  Their last ever concert show before recording ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.’"

Fullerton also notes a personal best from his career, saying, “Besides having people enjoy my performances, I had the opportunity to open for my ‘80s hero Colin Hay of Men At Work back in 2004 at his performance at the Lucky Dog Music Hall in Worcester.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

No vacation for returning performers

February Vacation Week is a favorite time of year for skiers and riders, and the Coppertop has some of its favorite performers coming back in to entertain throughout the week,.

Things begin on a one-two shot of blues, as Sean Fullerton plays Thursday night and Hoodoo Revelator hits the Coppertop stage Friday night. Both shows begin at 8 p.m.

Though blues in the base, Fullerton and Hoodoo (shown in video) head off in different directions. Fullerton is a solo performer with a feel for the rootsy, country side of the blues, while Hoodoo Revelator likes the big chug of electric blues.

Glenn Stewart brings his rocking brand of country back to the mountain on Saturday. And Five on Friday front man Josh Briggs does a solo show at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Now, since these artists have been previewed in this space before, something different will unfold this week. Because this is all about enjoying live music and being out and about, this week's performers will share some recollections of their own experiences in the audience and talk about great (and not-so-great) shows they have seen.

So check back (you're on vacation, you have the time) before coming up.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Carrying it all

Jay Graham never knew how good he had it playing in a band until he started doing solo acoustic gigs. During a period in between being in the Arthur Dent Foundation and taking his current spot playing guitar in Soulstice, Graham developed a solo acoustic show.  He honed his act with a long-running Thursday residency at Funky Murphy's in Worcester, playing 40 to 50 tunes over the course of a night.

"It made me realize how much work it is to carry a song 100 percent. But it made me a better player and singer, and it made me a better teacher," says Graham who also teaches guitar at Union Music. "Now I can better explain to my students what needs to be done to carry a song 100 percent."

You can catch Graham carrying the ball Sunday afternoon in the Coppertop, starting at 4 p.m.

While Graham has some original material that he is preparing for a CD now being mapped out, the guitarist and singer says he prefers to be an interpreter of others' songs with his solo show. And rather than cover the usual fare from the singer-songwriter canon, Graham champions more contemporary sources.

"I'll plays songs by Ray LaMontagne and David Gray, and do some Radiohead and Kings of Leon," he says. "But I do older songs too, like stuff by the Beatles and Johnny Cash."

Graham says he has been surprised_ and pleasantly so_ by the reaction to his set lists, and thinks the whole notion of "standards" may be expanding.

"I  was playing in this little townie bar, and I went in expecting to be playing classic rock all night," Graham recalls. "But it wasn't the case at all, and people were requesting these modern songs all night. So you  never know at all what you're walking into."

But this vet of the Central Mass club circuit has covered a lot of ground, playing jam-band material, soul and R&B classics, reggae, and rock as well as the acoustic material. So it's safe to say he's ready to handle whatever curves are thrown his way.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Don't mean a thang without that twang

Kier Byrnes hears it all the time: "Oh, I don't like country music, but I like your band."

That band is Three Day Threshold, a fast-pickin', hard-drinkin', hell-raisin' sort of troupe some call "Americana" because the musicians aren't old geezers, and  others simply like to call good ol' country music. No matter what it's labeled, Three Day Threshold's music has a distinct twang in its Boston accent.

Three Day Threshold really jelled when given the opportunity to be the Thursday night house band at the old Mama Kin club on Lansdowne Street. The band has gone on the rake in all sorts of "best of" accolades, and not just around home.

"We were flown to Kentucky by Fred Noe, the master distiller at Jim Beam, to play at a private party for him. He had no idea where we were from. He just heard our music and liked it," Byrnes says.

With a bunch of songs about whiskey, and even more about being under the influence of whiskey, it's easy to hear what in Three Day Threshold's music caught Jim Beam's ear. But beneath the hijinks is a band with some serious chops.

Byrnes plays banjo and guitar, and the group also includes washboard, bass, drums, and, at times, fiddle, all of it wielded with precision and authority.

"Finding the right musicians is like finding the right girlfriend," Byrnes says. "Fate plays a role in finding the right ones."

But he knows what he's looking for, saying, "Personality comes first, but they also need a high level of musicianship. We're playing at breakneck speeds."

You can see for yourself when the Three Day Threshold does a special bluegrass set Friday in the Coppertop. And by bluegrass Byrnes means fleet-fingered picking with no less attitude compared to when the band is fully plugged in. Show time is 8 p.m.

Three Day Threshold spent so much time touring last year_ including shows in the Middle East where it entertained U.S. troops_ that the band is just now getting down to putting together material for the follow up to the raging "Straight Out of the Barrel" CD.

Byrnes says he may try out some of the new tunes at the Coppertop. New or old, though, he knows what he wants out of a Three Day Threshold song.

"I love music that tells a story and that is lively," Byrnes says. "And that's what this music does."

And that's probably why no matter what it's called, a lot of people are liking it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

All bases covered

From calypso to country, the Coppertop has you covered in what may be the most diversely booked week of music yet this season.

Island Breeze performs Thursday, making up a date that was scuttled by rain earlier in the season. The calypso trio features Kelley B, leader of the reggae band Hot Like Fire, on keys and vocals with steel pan player Charleston Sarjean, and guitarist Ron Butler. Here's the original piece on Island Breeze for a brush up

On Friday, Three Day Threshold brings its raucous country show to the Coppertop, where it may be tough to duplicate the scene from the above video shot at a somewhat larger nightclub. But nobody will stop you from trying.

This week also marks the return of two-show Saturdays. The acoustic duo Fern & Rita handles apres-ski duties from 3 to 5 p.m. Then the popular blues man Chris Stovall Brown returns to the Coppertop for an 8 p.m. show.

Soulstice guitarist Jason Graham (whom jam fans of a certain vintage will remember from Arthur Dent Foundation) does a solo show at 4 p.m. Sunday .

Pretty much this is the musical equivalent of an "all trails open" sign.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Highest highs

Tall Heights_ the duo of Tim Harrington and Paul Wright_ really found its sound little more than a year ago when it eased into a melodic acoustic setting that wove together pop and folk music influences. That natural-sounding pairing of Harrington's guitar and Wright's cello reflects a growing trend among contemporary artists to emphasize fine craftsmanship in both songwriting and playing _ music that is quiet but not soft.

Tall Heights, which returns for an encore performance in the Coppertop on Sunday afternoon, supplied a list of essential "folk-rock/acoustic-rock" listens that fits its own mindset:

"For Emma, Forever Ago" by Bon Iver - It changed the scene forever.  Production value and song structure alike, Justin Vernon paved the way for our EP, "Rafters," along with so many others (the video is of Tall Heights performing the song "Skinny Love" from this record).  
"This Empty Northern Hemisphere" by Gregory Alan Isakov- With some help from his friend Brandi Carlile, he just nailed it with this record.  His melodic structure and, at times, cryptic lyrics continue to influence us.  From "Big Black Car:" "Heartbreak, you know, drives a big black car, I swear I was in the backseat just minding my own."  
"I Speak Because I Can "by Laura Marling- So pleasantly British.  Her voice is softened margarine. 
"Shallow Grave" by The Tallest Man on Earth-  His song "The Gardener" fascinates us in the way its extremely major key and melody maintains a very dark quality (it is, after all, about a man who kills all who know of his infidelities in order to preserve a positive image of himself in his lover's eyes).
 "Fleet Foxes" by Fleet Foxes- This record brought reverb and beards back into the mainstream, and I thank them.
"Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen - Mood.  I feel that he makes me feel exactly what he wants me to feel in this record.  For my money, you can't beat the opening verse of Thunder Road: "Screen door slams.  Mary's dress waves.  Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays Roy Orbison singing for the lonely, hey that's me and I want you only don't turn me home again I just can't face myself alone again."  He really just brings me there, and keeps me.  So good. 
Tall Heights hits the stage at 4 p.m. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Talking big songs with Trebek

So the "essentials" lists keep coming in. Trebek, who returns to the Coppertop Friday night, weighed in on rock anthems _ you know the big songs that get fists pumping and heads banging. Singer Matt Dionne (shown tackling one of his picks in the video below) sent along these "essential rock anthems": 

"Faithfully" by Journey - Best ballad ever written.  The crescendos and decrescendos in the song pull the listeners in and keep them wanting more.  This song also has the best climax due to Steve Perry's flawless vocals.

"Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen - It just makes you want to punch someone from the first note on.  This song owns you and it is impossible to not love it  It is a simple structure, yet has technical aspects in it as well.  This is not your typical radio rock of today; it is what the radio should be seeking out, however.  

 "We Will Rock You" by Queen - Such a simple theme from a crazy dynamic band.  The point of the song is so basic, but with Freddie Mercury at the head of this ship it takes a great song over the top with greatness.  Hard to reproduce.

"Highway to Hell" by AC/DC - The importance of a simple riff is so ridiculously evident from the start.  Most guitarists can listen or learn this song and think, "Why can't I put something like this together?"  Get past the guitar riff and immediately recognizable drumming, and you hear the vocals kick in and you almost immediately clench your fist.

"Sympathy for the Devil" by Rolling Stones - A great song that features some cool drumming, backing vocals, messages, and overall vibe.   Great tune by an amazing band.

Tomorrow, Tall Heights provides some pointers on essential folk rock (and you may see some overlap from other lists).

View into the blues

Most doctors don't hold Saturday night office hours; Dr. Harp is not like most doctors.

This doctor_ known to some as Dennis Martin_ is a harmonica-playing veteran of the regional blues scene, and his Dr. Harp's Blues Revue has lit up both the Coppertop and music festivals at the mountain.

Dr. Harp and his Blues Revue hit the Coppertop stage again Saturday starting at 8 p.m. Dr. Harp traces his career back to a stint touring as the harmonica player in Big Joe Turner's band. Most recently, Dr. Harp recorded an acoustic album with his band and produced a blues program for the public-access television station in his neck of the New Hampshire woods.

In keeping with this week's theme of finding out what music moves musicians, Dr. Harp provided a list of "essential blues" (no surprise that it's heavy on harmonica players):

Little Walter- "'My Babe.' That harmonica lick is really one of a kind."

Jimmy Reed- "He wasn't  just a great musician but also a great writer. I love his songs 'Baby, What You Want Me to Do,' 'Going to New York,' and 'Bright Lights, Big City.'"

Sonny Boy Williamson- "'Keep it to Yourself' is a great song but wasn't as popular here as it was in England."

James Cotton- "'Cotton Boogie.' That song was a big influence on rock 'n' roll. I was also influenced by the album 'Harp Attack' with Billy Branch, Carey Bell, Junior Wells, and James Cotton, and 'Hard Again' with Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter and Cotton.'"

Kim Wilson- "Even though  the Fabulous Thunderbirds were more of a rock band, I like what he did on  'Tuff Enuff.' As far as guitar players go, I like (original Thunderbirds' guitarist) Jimmie Vaughan. He has a nice clean sound."

Charlie Musselwhite- "I love the John Lee Hooker boogie influence in his playing."

Paul Butterfield- "'Born in Chicago' is such a great song. He played with a rhumba feel and really filled out the sound."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Take your picks

So this week, the Coppertop features artists who have already made a splash at the mountain. Chris Reddy, who was featured at the Wachusett Mountain MusicFest in September, is in the Coppertop Thursday. Trebek comes back Friday. Dr. Harp brings his blues band into the room Saturday night, and acoustic rockers Tall Heights do an encore performance at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

So rather than rehash some of what I've already told you about these musicians, I instead asked them about their favorite music. Reddy is an outstanding guitar player who has created a unique solo show that incorporates live looping. In short, he accompanies himself. The sample above is from Reddy's last CD "2 Sides 2 Every Story." As you can hear, Reddy has an ear for blending progressive and traditional strains of guitar work. So I asked him to supply a list of "essential guitar music," and this is what he came up with:

Jeff Beck:  "Still my favorite,  every recording and every show I’ve seen just makes me go 'wow.'  My favorite albums are 'There and Back,' 'Wired,' and 'Guitar Shop.'”

Eric Johnson: " 'Cliffs of Dover.' When I heard the second album by Eric, I knew he would be one of the greatest guitar players ever."

Van Halen: " " Mean Street,' from my favorite VH album ('Fair Warning'). Definitely my favorite guitar tone album from the good ol' days."

King's X: "Anything. Ty Tabor’s tone, technique, and song writing are soulful and technical."

XTC: "Anything. Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory were the best pop guitar team around for two decades,  the Beatles of the '80s and '90s."

Greg Howe: "Brilliant guitar player. Any guitar player who can cop his riffs should be able to handle anything."

Adrian Legg: "Changed my view of acoustic guitar and received the most standing ovations when he opened the first G3 show at the Orpheum with Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, and Steve Vai."

Steve Morse and The Dixie Dregs: "Best instrumental band I’ve ever seen, and I could listen to Morse play all day."

Pat Metheny with Lyle Mays:  "Some of the most beautiful music written. Every CD is an experience."

George Lynch: "Mind-boggling solos. Anything from Lynch Mob is a metal treat."

Allan Holdsworth:  "My favorite solos of all time are by this guy!"

Jimi Hendrix: "What can be said? Imagine what he’d be playing now?"

Hear for yourself how Reddy works these influences into his own music when he hits the stage at 8 p.m. Thursday.  Stay tuned fro more "essentials" this week.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Shaking it up

Listen to Fred Ellsworth and The House Shakers

Guitarist and singer grew up playing country music, been a member of and leader for country music bands in the area, and even spent considerable time in Nashville honing his writing and playing in the nation's Country Music Capital.

But Ellsworth likes his rock 'n' roll and blues, too. So he formed the House Shakers, a trio consisting of bassist Mike Sisto and drummer Rich Blake. The band is back in the Coppertop Saturday starting at 8 p.m.

"It's powerful, but tasteful," Ellsworth says of the skilled combo.

When Ellsworth brought the House Shakers to the mountain earlier in the season, the trio pulled out all sorts of tunes from the proverbial hat. One minute the band was charging through Tom Petty's  "You Wreck Me," and the next Ellsworth was feeling the blues on a Delbert McCLinton song.

"With the House Shakers, I don't put myself in any one box," says Ellsworth. "We cover a lot of bases, and these guys have been playing for a while, so we know a lot of songs."

As much fun as he's having playing with a rhythm section of the House Shakers' caliber, Ellsworth does admit how being in a trio proves to be a bit more demanding than when he plays in some of the larger country bands he belongs to.

But he found a good way to train for the job.

"I was doing a solo acoustic thing for radio station WKLB, and that was great practice. I was in front of a crowd for four hours, doing all of the playing and singing," Ellsworth says.

The House Shakers continue to be a growing portion of Ellsworth's music career. The band has made  a CD and continues to expand its turf. Which makes Saturday's gig an especially welcome one for Ellsworth, who lives in Westminster.

"I never get to play this close to home," he says.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Captain's log

Chris "Captain" Coombs has been performing in the Coppertop for as long as the room has been offering music.

"Back then it was Kelly and Captain," notes Coombs.

But for the past eight or so years, it's been Brian and Captain, and the acoustic duo returns to the Coppertop Friday at 8 p.m.

Coombs recalls the night he was playing in Fitchburg when Brian Bautor asked if he could sit in for a song. Batour kicked into a ZZ Top number, and that was enough for Coombs to throw in his cards with a new project.

The two stick to an acoustic format, but can cover a wide array of rock and even swing into hip-hop and country. 

"The growth in popularity for country has been the biggest trend lately," Coombs says. "And there has been an evolution in the country genre. It has a lot more rock and pop influence in it."

Coombs estimates that the duo has learned about 400 songs ober the years. And they mix old and new, knowing that the hot song today can easily cool off, while there's always an audience for, say, a vintage Van Morrison song.

"That's why they call them classics," Coombs says.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rainy Day OK

Usually, word of a rainy day is not welcome up at the mountain. But in this case, we're talking about the band Rainy Day Activities, and these young dudes from Ashburnham and Westminster are well worth checking out.

Rainy Day Activities will pack itself into the Coppertop Thursday night at 8.The guitar-bass-keys-drums combo features Jordan Racine, Matt Pinault, Trevor Wolanske, and twins Henry and George Condon.

"Henry will only bring part of his drum set up, and we're not playing any of the heavier stuff," Racine says. "We'll keep it tame with some Allmans, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin."

Covering such bands, you'd think Racine was a child of the ''70s, which is hardly the case. He is a senior at Oakmont Regional High, and most of the others are also students there (Pinault graduated from Oakmont last year and now attends Fitchburg State University).

"My dad was always listening to music in the house. I must have been in 7th grade when I started discovering all of those bands," says Racine, who notes that he also likes contemporary bands ranging from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Zac Brown.

The roots of Rainy Day Activities go back to when Racine formed a duo with another student while in 8th grade. Growing into its current configuration, the band has found a foothold in several of the region's music rooms, and performs at various civic events and band showcases.

In addition to knowing a boatload of cover tunes, Rainy Day Activities puts to use theory it learned in music classes and writes its own songs.

"I'd say our own style is kind of crunchy," says Racine. "We're working on a new one now that has a Spanish feel, like a Santana song, and others have a sound like Dire Straits. We take the techniques of artists we admire and see what we can do on our own."

Not a bad activity at all.