Thursday, February 28, 2013

OldJack swings into Coppertop

Dan Nicklin sounds like he doesn’t try to overcomplicate things.

“Any time you have two guitars, a bass, and drums, you get rock ’n’ roll,” he says, and that’s what is at the heart of OldJack, the band Nicklin sings and writes for. Playing around Boston for the past few years, OldJack has been described all sorts of ways, but Nicklin says it all boils down to basic rock ’n’ roll.

Of course it looks like Nicklin isn’t trying to keep things simple, either, as OldJack in full force consists of eight members.

“I always loved a wall of sound,” he says. “The more people on stage doing what they are supposed to do, the better.”

Given this big-but-basic sound and Nicklin’s broad songwriting, OldJack has room to roam_ hence the various ways people categorize the band. “Green,” for instance, has a country twang to it, while “Hey Miss” is all rock ’n’ soul swagger.  (And for a sense of raw showmanship, I tossed in the cover of the Black Crowes' "Sometimes Salvation" performed above with Will Dailey.)

Now there’s no way all of OldJack can pack itself into the Coppertop, so Nicklin will show up with a couple of pickers, a drummer, and maybe another singer when the band plays from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday. There are plenty of occasions, Nicklin says, when not everybody can make it to a gig, so OldJack is good at adapting.

OldJack has been at work on a full-length album due for release in the fall. Like many independent bands, OldJack is crowd-funding the project and putting together different incentives for contributions, so check back on its web site to see what’s shakin’ as the project moves forward.

Old Jack has already released an E.P. and some singles, working with various producers around Boston over the past couple of years.

“We’ve been touched by a lot of musical minds,” Nicklin says. “We’ve learned a lot from other people, now it’s time to try our own thing. It’ll either be great or break us up.”

In this case, I trust Jack.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A new Jack and Straightjacket

Old Jack and Straightjacket Slumber Party are a couple of fresh bands in the spring mix playing at the Coppertop this week. They’ll be joined by some returning faves, starting Thursday when Bruce Jacques sets up shop in the ’Top starting at 8 p.m.
Old Jack hits the mountain Saturday (Michael Basu photo)

Hoodoo Revelator will serve one more shot of the blues Friday night. Then it’s a double header Saturday. Old Jack, an explosive old-school rock 'n' roll band that’s been playing around Boston the past few year, makes its Wachusett debut with an afternoon set starting at 3 p.m. Saturday. We caught up with Old Jack singer and songwriter Dan Nicklin and are crunching his thoughts into a post for later in the week.

Five Hole then takes the reins Saturday for the 8 p.m. show.

Straightjacket Slumber Party typically plays around the beaches of Cape Cod during the summer time, but mountain and band alike felt the ski and board crowd would also dig this group’s primal groove. Find out when Straightjacket Slumber Party checks into the Coppertop at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Classic considerations from MCats Band

MCats Band
The MCats Band specializes in classic rock, or more accurately songs with classic sensibilities, so you see some Jet and Black Keys in a repertoire heavy on Who, Tom Petty, and Stones. Keyboard player Erik Heels, bass player Eamon Tighe, saxophonist Bob Adams, drummer Josh Stein, and guitarists Jon Oltsik and Paul Greenspan joined forces in 2006 to play a fund-raising show for the McCarthy-Towne School (MCT) in Acton, where all of their kids were students at the time. .

They stuck together and raise a ruckus around the Acton-Boxboro area. Ahead of the MCats show Friday in the Coppertop, we put some classic-rock queries to the band, and Heels provided the following responses

1) Imagine you're in charge of the MCats-Stock music festival, and you can book any band from any era. Who are the top five acts?
Tom Petty
The Rolling Stones
Pink Floyd
The Who
Not necessarily in that order!

2)If MCATS could perform a whole album live, which would it be?
"Full Moon Fever" by Tom Petty (1989)

3) Best song to open a show?
"Good Lovin'" - The version we do is a mash-up of the versions by The Rascals and Grateful Dead.  It's a good song to sound check on, and we often open with it if we're pressed for time, which is admittedly an odd reason.  It also has a defined ending, unlike many songs.

4)Best song for the big finish?
" Runnin' Down A Dream" by Tom Petty.  Because of the epic guitar solo.  Tough solo to top.

5) Complete the sentence, "Man, I wish I wrote...."
 Man, I wish I wrote "Use Me" by Bill Withers (from his 1972 album "Still Bill").  Smooth tune, smooth vocals, smooth lyrics.  Did I mentions smooth?
MCats go on at 8 p.m.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fairhaven: a modern classic

For a young band, Fairhaven has some strong ties to an older generation of rock. The band’s manager used to handle tours for Boston and the Doobie Brothers. Jeff Watson, the original guitarist for Night Ranger (you remember “Sister Christian,” right?) produced Fairhaven’s excellent “Plan A” album, which came out last year.

It makes sense for these “big rock" vets to get behind Fairhaven, as the Providence-bred band has the hooks and the sweep of those popular bands while managing to put its own modern, alt-pop spin on its songs.

“It was a good fit working with (Watson),” says Fairhaven singer Alan Connell. “We were in a really creative space up in Mill Valley (CA). It was really relaxing, and we just worked on the music.”

Following the release of “Plan A,” Fairhaven made its first national tour and is already sketching ideas for its next batch of songs.

“That tour really opened my eyes. I saw many parts of the country for the first time, and as the vocalist and main lyric writer, that tour gave me a lot of ideas. It was also a great experience for the whole band chemistry,” Connell says.

Hear for yourself when Fairhaven performs from 8 to 10 p.m. Tuesday in the Coppertop. The show will feature the core band of Connell, keyboard player Trevor Gould, and drummer Brian Moura (on bigger stages, Fairhaven swells to a five-piece).

“The songs have a big sound and lot of emotion. We’ll get creative,” Connell says of the stripped-down show.

Fairhaven songs run from the bright “The World is Waiting” to edgier “Fear,” the latter gaining some decent radio play.

Connell says a spring tour of the East Coast is on tap, so take a tip and catch this band in the intimate ’Top setting while you can.

More snow, more shows

With a busy school-vacation week on tap, the Coppertop is adding shows to further entertain the skiers and riders heading to primo conditions at the Wah.

Jason Graham is back in the Coppertop Monday, playing an early set that starts at 3 p.m.

Fairhaven is a big add for Tuesday. This rocking indie-pop trio out of Providence has pretty good buzz around it following the release of its “Plan A” album. Recommended for fans of Kings of Leon and Muse. Fairhaven goes on at 8 p.m.
Fairhaven plays Tuesday

Hit the Bus pulls in for a Wednesday night show that starts at 8 p.m.

Rich Murphy and Gary Girouard are two solo performers on tap at the ’Top. Murphy is playing from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, while Girouard is on stage from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

On Friday, the MCATS Band is set deliver a couple of hours worth of classic rock starting at 8 p.m.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wild ride with Road Kill Orchestra

When you hear the word “orchestra,” you tend to envision a rather large group of musicians.  The Road Kill Orchestra, however, suggests that an “orchestra” can get away with just five members as long as they are willing to think big.

And that’s exactly what this Worcester combo does, mashing up blues jazz, funk, and primal rock ‘n’ roll in concoctions that run from funny to dark all the while aiming for the provocative.

“The band has a unique style and we wanted to do more than one-offs about the Turtle Boy statue or walking on Main Street,” says J. Stuart Esty a/k/a Dr. Gonzo T. Nightcrawler, of the RKO's reputation for mulling Wormtown in song.
J. Stuart Esty in Dr. GT Nightcrawler mode

Esty and drummer Austin Beliveau have had the RKO running in one fashion or other for 18 years. In addition to playing keys and singing with the Road Kill Orchestra, Esty is the creator of Dr. Gonzo’s condiments and opened a store for his products in downtown Worcester about four year ago. The band took to playing at Esty’s salsa and relish emporium and word spread about this boogie woogie sensation brewing in Worcester. The RKO moved from the shop to be a featured artist at the annual Paulie’s NOLA Jazz N Blues Festival in Worcester and  a regular in the regional clubs.

The RKO makes its Coppertop debut Friday playing from 8 to 10 p.m.  Sax player James Bennett, bass player Brian Sampson, and guitarist Mark Leighton are the current members of the orchestra playing alongside the group’s founding fathers. Esty says the new lineup has spurred the RKO into new areas and the band has been sharing bills with jam bands, punk troupes, and ska outfits.

“We really are playing to all ages. At one show there was an 80-year-old break dancing,” says Esty, the surreal never far from his reach.

Though the RKO can cross genres, its sound is an identifiable, swampy brand of rock that carries with it sharp lyrics. “Nigerian Lottery Rag,” for instance, is a wry jab at the greedy couched in the humor of someone falling for one those online scams.

“‘Reminiscing with Perfect Strangers’ is our Traffic-meets-Santana-meets-Tom Waits song. The lyrics are pretty angry, but you’d never know it from the music,” Esty says.

Making the most out of  things not being what they seem, the RKO is at work on a new CD and will be on tour this summer.

“I’ve gone through a lot of changes with the band,” Esty says. “But every time there’s a change, things just seem to get better musically and venue-wise.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jazzy Valentine's Day

Jean Mancini Gough is a classically trained singer, and some may recognize her from her longstanding role as a featured vocalist at the First Unitarian Church in Worcester. But about 10 years ago Gough decided to explore the jazz scene in Worcester and was told that a good place to start was the weekly jazz jam guitarist Jay Tyer was at the time running at the Java Hut .

“I was surprised,” Gough says looking back. “Just because I was trained in classical, I didn’t know what I was doing in the jazz setting, especially about the improvising. It opened my eyes.”

But the experience didn’t turn her away from jazz. Gough studied with Tyer and attended summer programs at the Vermont Jazz Center.

By the time came to record her CD “With Friends,” Gough had plenty of experiences working a jazz repertoire throughout Massachusetts with a good bench of fellow freelance players.

“With the CD, the master plan was not detailed.  I just trusted the players I chose to do their own thing,” she says.

And she did hers; Gough sings with a precision and control that simply enhances the emotional resonance of her performances. She can take the well-trod “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” for example, and turn it mesmerizing.

Gough admits to a fondness for melancholy songs, but promises an appropriately cozy performance for her Valentine’s Day show at the Coppertop. The music starts at 8 p.m. Thursday, and Gough will have a keyboard player, drummer, guitarist, and bass player joining her

“I like happy-go-lucky songs too,” she says

Monday, February 11, 2013

Romance to rock 'n' roll

How about some romantic jazz standards on Valentine’s Day? Or how about some hard-core-party-music-’cause-your-baby-dumped-you for the day after Valentine’s Day?

Either way, you’re covered this week at the Coppertop. 
Jean Mancini Gough in the studio

The Jean Mancini Gough Jazz Group is performing Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m. Gough is a versatile vocalist whose work spans gospel to opera to jazz. Her jazz CD “With Friends” puts a fresh spin on such staples as “Caravan” (perhaps best known as an instrumental) and “Cry Me a River."
J. Stuart Esty of Road Kill Orchestra

The Road Kill Orchestra is the ongoing musical adventure started by keyboard player and singer J. Stuart Esty and drummer Austin Beliveau. While the remainder of the lineup has been a work in progress, the RKO has stuck to a fierce brand of primal rock 'n' roll yet is pretty adventurous in the songwriting and jamming departments. We spoke with Esty and will have his updates and musings written up here ahead of the band’s show Friday night.

Now & Then is in the Coppertop Saturday night at 8 p.m., and Evan Goodrow returns Sunday at 4 p.m.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Funk for your flow

Paul Caraher

Well now it looks like winter. And not only is there fresh powder on the trails but also some fresh sounds in the Coppertop on Sunday.

Guitarist Paul Caraher will make his ’Top debut with a 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. set on what will likely be a busy Sunday.
Caraher is a member of Funkatronic, a band that fuses improvisational jams rooted in funk and jazz with electronic flourishes. And in his solo shows, Caraher tries to capture that same broad spirit.

To achieve what he describes as “Funkatronic craziness,” Caraher uses live looping and octave pedals to augment and manipulate his guitar sound. It’s a technique that fans of
Keller Williams or Wah regular Chris Reddy will recognize.

Caraher further stretches out with his repertoire.

“There are some original jams, and my jams run from bluegrass to funk,” he says. “And there’s a lot of songs people will recognize. I love the ’80s and have some Hall and Oates in there, and I have a bunch of ’90s stuff, like Sublime and Oasis.”

Caraher says he has always been all over the musical map, starting as a kid learning guitar in his native Nashville, where he practiced classical guitar and Randy Rhodes licks.

Caraher and his brother Justin, a drummer, moved to the Northeast for its music scene and made Providence a base of operations for Funkatronic and their other endeavors.

Caraher may be a jazz player at heart, but he also loves playing a strong, memorable melody, and will keep a popular song intact. At least until it comes time for a solo.

“That’s when I express myself,” he says.

Sort of like the way picking a line makes even the most familiar trails feel a little different every time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Richard making the rounds

I have no idea what’s going to be happening amid the storm, but if plans hold, here’s a little update on Friday’s Coppertop happenings:
Brian Richard
Brian Richard is mixing good tunes with good work.

The popular North County singer and guitarist is the go-to guy when the Greg Hill Foundation needs entertainment. Unsurprisingly, Richard is also a frequent performer for events hosted by WAAF-FM (107.3), the FM rocker where Hill is the morning-drive guy. And that’s the case Friday when ’AAF presents Richard in the Coppertop starting at 8 p.m.

The Foundation works directly with families in need, and the fund raisers typically are who’s-who gatherings of Boston sports and entertainment stars. Though, Richard isn’t one to get star struck; Richard after all welcomed former Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page on stage for impromptu collaborations during a WXLO Christmas party.

Richard released a CD of his songs a few years back and has a stack of pop and rock faves. His latest endeavor_ which sounds like a player’s dream_ is working R&D at Giles Guitar in Franklin. When Richard plays with his trio, he busts out a Giles electric (and he’ll have one of those gigs in July playing a Boston Harbor cruise for the Hill Foundation… see how this all loops?) .

But on his own, with acoustic guitar, Richard ably gets the job done.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Irish, blues, and more

Mick Carr

Why wait until March to get in some Irish pub songs? Mick Carr will be in the Coppertop Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m., kicking off this week’s run of shows that will provide a soundtrack to (hopefully) a fresh dump of snow.

Brian Richard returns to the ’Top Friday, followed by blues-guitar ace Chris Fitz on Saturday. Jazz/pop/funk guitarist Paul Caraher will play in the Coppertop from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Carr grew up in Scotland, but his parents emigrated there from Ireland, and brought along their music.

“My background is all Irish. I had no relatives in Scotland and we’d go back to Ireland every year to visit aunts and uncles,” says Carr.

Carr studied guitar as kid and joined youth bands that performed around Ireland.
Looking for the proverbial “greener grass,” Carr moved to Boston in 1991 and started playing in the Donegal Cords. His solo career took root in the pubs of Allston.

While Carr is well-schooled in fare such as “Wild Rover” and “Fields of Athenry,” he says he also enjoys playing country songs as well. He’s got a mean version of the Billie Jo Spears hit “57 Chevrolet,” for instance, that you can check out on his Web site here

“The Irish songs always have a story behind them, that’s why I like them,” Carr says. “Country songs are like that too, so I started learning some of those. I do a lot of the Irish songs, but maybe 40 percent of the set can be anything from country to Eagles.”

At least that ratio works until March rolls around.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Acoustic rock pre-Bowl show

Heidi-Jo Hanson, left, performing with Fern Parker

Don’t let the acoustic guitar fool you; Heidi-Jo Hanson is a rock chick. She likes Zeppelin, Seger, the Mac and has the sort of earthy, bluesy voice and full-bodied guitar tone to pull it off _ alone.

“I never want to do a song like you hear it on the radio. I like to take a song and put my own little flavor in it. You can’t say, ‘Here’s a song I wrote by Van Morrison,’ but you can give it some of your own personality,” Hanson says.

Hanson, her guitar, and her personality will be at the Coppertop Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m.  While we can’t vouch for what you’ll see during the Super Bowl half-time show, we can assure there won't be lip-synching at this gig happening before kick-off.

Hanson started playing out 20 years ago, gaining a name as a member of Moonstruck before going solo. She released an album of original material ten years ago and is building material for follow up to “I’m Still Me,” which garnered some airplay around Massachusetts.

Hanson carried on with shows that keep her hopping around the North County and a regular summer gig in Maine at Old Orchard Beach. She’s opened for Jonathan Edwards and helmed open-mic nights, and lately been playing duo sets with up-and-coming guitarist Jesse Graves. And for a real left turn, Hanson started playing drums in the Angry Debutantes (think combat boots, pretty dresses, and Black Sabbath).

You get the picture_ Hanson likes to keep things interesting. She’s even ready to get another album of her own songs together.

Though that may mean fewer pub shows and more trips to the coffeehouses, where  Hanson can test out new material.

But don’t expect Hanson to ditch her covers catalog.

“I play songs that I love,” she says. “It’s all stuff I grew up on, and it seems to connect with people from 10 to 60.”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Acoustic, but not quiet

What could Carly Rae Jepsen’s sugary “Call Me Maybe” and Rage Against the Machine’s furious “Killing in the Name” possibly have in common? Simply, the band Five Hole.

Those are just a couple of songs the popular North County band added to the repertoire over the past year. Besides being a talented group of players, the guys in Five Hole are pretty open-minded about trying to do songs they know people want to hear. But they also give those songs a twist of their own. And with its broad range, Five Hole can find common ground for Sean Kingston’s “Fire Burning” and the old Red Hot Chili Peppers’ gem “Suck My Kiss.”

“That’s how we roll,” singer Ken Berry shot back in a note when his list of new tunes drew a “whoa” on this end of the conversation.

On Saturday, Five Hole will shake it up even further with an acoustic set at the Coppertop. Just like its regular plugged-in shows, Five Hole won’t limit itself to songs you expect to hear done acoustically. You can see Berry and guitarist Rick Brown acoustifying "Billie Jean" in the Jan. 30 post.

Berry assures that Five Hole will bust out an acoustic “Baby’s Got Back,” the rap hit Five Hole has already once revamped as a hard-rocking show fave.

And from there, anything goes.

Show time is 8 p.m.