Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jaques Brel quite well in Newburyport production

The producer, an old friend, sent me an email about "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris," informing me that it is a "musical for people who don't like musicals." It was, a course, a taunt, a challenge, because I famously dislike musical theater. Even the name irritates me, reminding me of oxymoronic phrases like soft rock or utter abominations like lite beer, with its actually moronic spelling — and both constructions where the adjective renders the noun either meaningless or impotent. I like music, I like theater. I just don't like mixing them. But I took the bait because I like a good argument — and because I was intrigued by the somewhat incongruous fact that they were staging it at the Actors Studio, a venue best known for its focus on original work or edgier productions, and which, to the best of my knowledge, has never broken into song. The fact that Michael Wainstein, former executive director of the Firehouse, had returned to town after an absence of nearly a decade to get the show up and running certainly added to the production's intrigue factor. The fact that the post-show reception would be catered by River Merrimac executive chef Michael Tache did not figure into the equation at all. Critics aren't that way at all.

"So," my producer friend asked at the reception, between the brioche and mussels, "what did you think?" And I had to be brutally honest with her: "Brel" is a wonderful show— smart, funny and beautifully crafted with sharp, crisp and, at times, absolutely spell-binding performances by actors who, unbelievably, had never worked together before but seemed to click effortlessly (a testament to Wainstein's backstage efforts) and made an immediate connection with the audience. But it most certainly is not a musical or even a "bookless musical," another often-employed label, a tautology like the previously mentioned soft rock. It's a collection of songs written by Jacques Brel, a Belgian-born songwriter who hit his creative stride in the'60s as a French-language troubadour a la Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. Even considered broadly, they don't approach an actual storyline, and that is the joy of the play, which premiered in 1968 and ran for five years: Freed from the drudgery of plot, these songs — almost entirely in English — live fully on their own, exploring themes of love and loss seen through a prism of despair, rage and, unconsciously, grief. The songs are brooding and bitter, funny and ironic, yet, through it all there is a sense of transcendence, a hopefulness and catharsis that is so French.

The current production, which runs through July 12 at the Actors Studio, differs in significant ways from the original, but remains true to the concept and is presented, instead, as an homage to Brel and his milieu. Traditionally the show has two male and two female roles. This show, for whatever reason, is cast with three women and one man, which puts a whole lotta spotlight on Elliot Johnston, a Seacoast actor making his Newburyport debut, who rose to the challenge and nailed some of the splashiest numbers, "The Bulls/Les Taureaux," the sadly funny, vibrantly written bleak assessment of the eternal struggle — for love, for fulfillment, for ... ever? Or equally ironically upbeat "Jackie/Les chanson de Jackie" — the clear-visioned assessment that it is possible to succeed in anything, everything, if you could be "cute cute cute in a stupid-ass way." But there were no shortages of memorable performances by a cast that has an instinctive feel for the emotional arc of the material — for the weary passion that is informed by loss and hindsight: Adrienne Lesser’s “I Loved/J’aimais,” a regretful reminiscence of a love so all-consuming at the time, so complete, whose name she no longer remembers; Jenney Dale's explosive "My Death/La Mort" and sad, nostalgic "Marieke," speaking to family, to country, to what was; Elizabeth Talbot's gritty, unpleasant and perhaps too real "Amsterdam."

But perhaps the greatest surprise of the production comes from the biggest deviation from the original production, the addition of a fifth actor, Allyn Warner Gamble, who provides historical and biographical context about Brel and his time in her role as owner of a French nightclub, and, in her two solos ("Alone/Seul" and "Fannette/La Fannette") makes a riveting, almost unnerving connection with the audience — so much so that the rest of the cast, the rest of the audience, disappears. Utterly mesmerizing, the 30-year Las Vegas stage veteran — and Newburyport resident — is obviously a witch.

The performances are fueled by spot-on performances of a three piece-band led by musical director Cheryl Lynne Stromski.

So yeah, Adair, we did enjoy the show, which most certainly was not a musical — until the finale "If We Only Have Love/Quand on n'a que lamour," which has "reprise" written all over it. Catchy tune, though. And those chocolate tortes they served just before throwing us out of the River Merrimac, simply marvelous.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" runs through July 12 at the Actors Studio, located in the Tannery, 50 Water St., Newburyport. Tickets are $25, $20 for students and seniors. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Call 978-465-1229 for reservations and directions or buy tickets online through MKTix.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Barrence Whitfield back at the MAC in Newburyport

Barrence Whitfield has been something of a hired gun over the past decade, bouncing among wildly divergent projects ranging from the unique rockabilly country soul work with Tom Russell to the rootsy Americana collaboration with ex-Radio King axman Michael Dinallo and Nordic bluesman Vidar Busk known as the Mercy Brothers, to the straight-up JB funk of his continuing collaboration with the Boston Horns. Lost in the musical shuffle, at least on the recorded side of the equation, has been the stuff that made the singer his bones — the soul-informed garage-rock shout-fest of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. Until now, that is.

The Beverly-based singer is out with his first collection of Savage-like tunes since, if you can believe this, "Ritual of the Savages" back in 1995. Released last month on Blood Red records, "Raw Raw Rough" serves up exactly what the name (which, spoken quickly, sounds like a dog barking) promises. It's a tenacious album that sinks its teeth into you and will not let go, a killer collection, Savage in everything but name (it is, strictly speaking, a Barrence Whitfield album) filled with the kind of tunes that fueled the band's high-energy, and some might say transforming, shows from back in the day: material from the dusty corners of funk history, like Nathaniel Mayer's "I Want Love and Affection Not the House of Correction," lost garage classics like the Sonics' "Strychnine" or the Kingsmen's "Long Green" and obscure, sax-driven rave-ups like Barry Darval's "Geronimo Stomp" — as well as some blasts from the past for fans with long memories, like the rocker "Kissing Tree," part of the band's sets for years, but never recorded until now.

As different as the material is for the North Shore singer, in a back-to-the-future kind of way, it also underlines his unique position as part musicologist and as the slightly off-kilter Frank Sinatra of the boomer era, an impeccable interpreter of the great-but-obscure American rock 'n' roll songbook — a comparison that amuses him, but he accepts. Essentially, he says, the music "is my record collection — the music that grabbed me by the neck and wouldn't let go until I absorbed it." The album was recorded three years ago, but has been collecting digital dust while the Portland, Oregon, label sorted out publishing details and dealt with the usual headaches and delay. It was officially released in April.

Now the bad news. If you're hoping to see him, you've got to move quick. He'll be playing a July 4 date with the Mach-2 edition of the band — saxophonist Dave Sholl, guitarist Milton Reder, bassist Dean Casell and drummer David Roy — at the Maudslay Arts Center in Newburyport. After that, he's off for a tour in Finland and a recording date — as a hired guy — with the Spanish band Petti. His next local date will be Sept. 19, playing with the Savages in a fundraiser for the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival. That date, however, will be the first public performance of material from "Raw Raw Rough," which has a complietely different line-up. The Newburyport show will be "a Barrence's greatest hits thing." Which isn't all that bad. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you might be able to locate a copy of the new album.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Barrence Whitfield and the Savages perform July 4 at the Maudslay Arts Center in Newburyport. Tickets are $20 for patio seating, $18 for a spot on the lawn. Children age 12 and younger can can watch from the lawn for free. The gate opens at 6 p.m. The music starts at 7 p.m. Call 978-499-0050 or log onto http://www.maudslayartscenter.org for tickets or directions. You can buy "Raw Raw Rough" at www.cdbaby.com or the iTunes store. For more information, log onto www.myspace.com/barrencewhitfield or www.barrencewhitfield.com. The MAC is located just past the main parking lot for Maudslay State Park, Curzon Mill Road, Newburyport.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some kind of wonderful

They noticed us, the folks at my alma mater, which I still call Merrimack Valley Sunday, although nobody's called it that in years, and which they insist on calling the Newburyport Current — to which Dennis Metrano, former editor of Port Planet, would always say "Nice name, Current," having operated a paper with a remarkably similar name some years ago. Anyhow, here's what they had to say:

"John Lockwood recently launched a blog called Newburyport Arts, and if you’re an artist, an art lover, or if you just want to read some lively and interesting reporting on art, then you are going to want to bookmark this one. Lockwood, or as his friends are apt to call him, J.C., has been writing about the local art scene for, oh, let’s call it 20 years, and he now has moved online to create a blog devoted exclusively to local arts. Unlike other arts writers who tell you who’s performing where and how much it’s going to cost you to get in, Lockwood takes you backstage to meet the band or up to the front row to chat with the director. Writers, painters, dancers, rockers, composers, poets - he knows them all, or most of them, and he’s known them for a long time, which means things get put in perspective. So if you’re looking for a well informed and entirely original view of the local art scene, check out newburyportarts.blogspot.com."

Which, with some difficulty, we pass along without comment — except note that this is some of the most astute arts writing we've seen in the paper in a while. We’d pass along the link, but they haven’t posted yet. It’s only in the print edition.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Beach party bang-o

We don't get up to the beach much: Don't like the traffic or the crowds, don't like paying for parking or dealing with parking tickets, don't like tracking beach sand into the truck. So our rare excursions to Salisbury usually take place on the late side of a dreary, rainy day — after the parking attendant has closed shop. There’s never much going on, which is fine. There are no lines for fried dough or beach pizza and we pretty much have Joe's Playland all to ourselves. And after years of feeding quarters into games, we finally saved enough tickets to "buy" the stupid lava lamp we had been lusting after since "the boy" was a boy. Though, to be honest about it, we'd still be saving tickets in that old shoe box if it weren't for the generous contribution of ex-Firehouse honcho and then Salisbury Beach resident Jeffrey Ortmann, who's apparently a whiz at skee-ball or something. Yeah, it's been a while. Saw the Brew play there last year — a hot under-the-tent set on yet another dreary summer day ... Hmmmm?

But that will change this year, assuming I can tear my eyes away from the languid serenity of the lava lamp, thanks to what promoters should be calling Beach Party Bang-o — copyright pending, you vultures. They’re calling it Surfside Live … yawn. Sorry, that was more fallout from the lava lamp. But, call it what you want. This is a pretty explosive schedule: The series opens on Saturday with James Montgomery, who has been working his mojo on New England for decades and has the place completely under his spell, and closes two months later with a reunion of late-'80s monsters Farrenheit. In between, there’s tons of sweet sonic stuff — like goofball legends the Fools, up-and-comers (and afore-mentioned hometown heroes) the Brew and Ernie and the Automatics, a “nameless band” filled with big, um, Boston names that is thoroughly steeped in the whole Beantown thing. And these are free concerts, folks, starting every Saturday night at 7. But, please, please, don't tell these guys that they’re just the warm-up acts. The big star — and this is where the bang-o comes in — is the fireworks display, which will light up the skies at 10 p.m. And that’s the racket you’ll only hear, not see, if you don’t find your way across the Gillis Bridge, like we will.

But, considering our track record, maybe you should be praying we stay at home, transfixed by that lava lamp. Because if we show up, it’s probably going to rain, and Iwe wouldn’t want to dampen your spirits. You can check out the complete Surfside Live schedule at http://www.beachfests.org/surfsidelive/schedule.html

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Live and Brel

And speaking of "Jacques Brel is Alive and Well" ...
The Actors Studio kicks off its production of the memorable musical with an Jacques Brel opening night fundraiser on June 25. The event kicks off with a 7 p.m. curtain call. A reception just down the Tannery hallway at the The River Merrimac Bar and Gill. Expect light fare with a French/Belgian flare and live music by Stewart Lewis — that's him, on the left — whose music has been featured on shows like "Ghost Whisperer," MTV’s "Laguna Beach" and "Dawson's Creek." Dig deep. Tickets are $50. But feel good about it. All proceeds benefit the Actors Studio. And half of the ticket price is tax deductible. The Actors Studio, of course, is located at the Tannery, 50 Water St., Newburyport. Call 978-465-1229 for reservations and directions.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Michael Wainstein, Jacques Brel: Alive and well in Newburyport

Hey, wait a minute ... That guy over there. See him? Yeah, looks familiar. Sort of. You know? But who is it? Wait a second, wait .... Yeah, I've got it: It's Michael Wainstein, remember? The executive director of the Firehouse Center all those years ago — over a decade. During the glory days, when, if you stood between the Market Square venue's front door and an open date, you'd probably get trampled to death by a theater company trying to fill the void. Yeah, that's definitely him, a little older, a little thinner and sporting a shaved head, tramping the streets of the city again.

"Yeah, I'm back in Newburyport getting my 15 minutes of fame — again," says Wainstein, now professor of performing arts at Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, Georgia, and, for this month, anyhow, a hired gun. He's been in the city for the past two weeks to beat a new Actors Studio production of "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" into shape and then beating it out of town after opening weekend. To do the same thing for the Blowing Rock — no, I am not making up the name and there's nothing strange about it at all — Stage Company's production of "Bye Bye, Birdie." Wainstein, who managed the Firehouse from 1994 to 1998, won't even see that show open. The day he's done, he's gets ready for some down time in London, then it’s back to Savannah, which is an "all right" place to live, he says, not very convincingly. "It's a very pretty town," he says, "but not the most interesting place to live."

He ended up at Savannah, where he developed the college's music performance program, in 2007, after closing the curtain on a nine-year run as producing artistic director of the Naples Dinner Theatre, a professional company that, with a monster $6 million budget, put on up to 10 big, splashy productions a year — through the best of the boom years of the Florida real estate market. The theater was on leased land, which was just too tasty to be left alone. The theater owners sold out from right under them. They had an option to buy, but passed. The market crashed hard in Florida less than a year later.

"It was a good decision," says Wainstein. "We closed on top. We got out just in time. We would have been dead."

It's been kind of any early Yankee Homecoming for Wainstein, who arrived in the city at the beginning of June. "It's amazing how little it's changed," he says. "It's the same as when I left." He's been doing a fair amount of schmoozing, catching up with old friends and colleagues, but once he gets to the black box stage, it's all business. "I never had a chance to watch him work during his years at the Firehouse, but it's pretty impressive," says co-producer Adair Rowland. "He knows what he wants and he know how to get it." Wainstein has never done “Jacques Brel,” but "has always loved it and always wanted to do it," he says. "The music is glorious and powerful and wonderfully evocative."

The show first opened at the Village Gate in Manhattan in 1968 and ran for four years. It's a bookless musical that features 25 songs by the Belgian singer dealing with themes of love, death and war, performed by two male and two female vocalists — to which Wainstein added a fifth voice: Allyn Warner Gamble, a Las Vegas chanteuse and Miss America runner-up who did a USO tour of Viet Nam. The cast includes Eliot Johnston as Brel’s alter ego; Jenney Dale, a New York-trained actress and singer who works in Newburyport; Adrienne Lesser, who was cast on her graduation day from the University of New Hampshire, and Elizabeth Talbot, who received the casting call the hour after her Performers Showcase in Atlanta ended and began rehearsals three days later. The show features a three-piece band with music director Cheryl Lynne Stromski, widely known in Seacoast theatres and director of the 10 Percent Chorus.

Interested? "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" will be staged June 25 to July 12 at the Actors Studio, located in the Tannery, 50 Water St., Newburyport. Tickets are $25, $20 for students and seniors. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sundays. Call 978-465-1229 for reservations and directions, or buy tickets online through MKTix.com.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Adieu: Vardan Ovsepian leaving Newburyport

Vardan Ovsepian is off to southern California. Not to bask in cool afterglow of the completely undeserved victory of the Los Angeles Lakers. He's not even quite sure who the Lakers are. The Armenia-born musician follows only one sport: What he calls football, something that makes most people in this country yawn — or would, if we thought about it at all. This fact was driven home yet again this weekend, when the jazz pianist found himself running all over Newburyport trying to find someplace, any place, that had the qualifying matches for the World Cup on the tube — with no luck, of course. "I was so mad," says the Berklee-trained pianist and arranger. "I felt like I was in the wrong place, maybe the wrong continent." But the bad news in all this is not our totally justified attitude toward soccer. (Sorry, Vardan.) It’s that Ovsepian doesn't have a television in his home. Or a landline, or much of anything, for that matter. That’s because he’s got a one-way ticket: The trip is permanent.

The reason is partly personal, but mostly professional: He’s been promising his parents and sister that he would make more time in his life for them. They live in Los Angeles, and Ovsepian, the bad son and brother, only makes it out there about once a year — for a week. He’s seen them a little more this past year, since he’s been collaborating with ex-Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine, who is based out left. He’s penciled-in a year for family, teaching and checking out the local scene. It could be longer — depends on how it plays out, so to speak. But the plan calls for him to pull up musical stakes again for the Big Apple. And, family aside, that’s what the move is about: location, location, location. “I love Newburyport, but when I look back I see at one project after another that I couldn’t do because I was so far from New York,” he says. “It’s definitely a career move.”

Ovsepian, who also has a fall tour of Estonia (where he studied in the 1990s) in the works, moved to Newburyport after taking a teaching job at The Musical Suite, in 2000. He has performed with artists such as George Garzone, Mick Goodrick and Tim Miller, and has released four jazz albums with the Barcelona-based Fresh Sound- New Talent label since his 2001 solo piano debut, "Sketch Book." In 2006, he independently released VOCE, the Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble, an intriguing disc that combined jazz and art songs with a chamber music sensibility, after Fresh Sounds decided it was a little too far outside its comfort zone. He tested the Cali-Cali waters last October, when he and long-time bassist Joshua Davis teamed up with Erskine and Los Angeles singer Takako Uemura for a performance at the Pasadena Jazz Institute, and followed that up in April by playing the sessions for Uemura’s still unreleased album.

Ovsepian will leave in July. He’s lived in Armenia, Estonia, Finland and the United States, but says the new move be a bit of a culture shock — not the California part, but the vast-urban-jungle-that-is-Los-Angeles part. “The city is not the favorite place,” says Ovsepian. “It will be difficult at first, but I’ll focus on my thing, the music thing, and try to get out of LA when I can — do some hiking, whatever. I’ll check out the scene and see what comes next.”

You can keep in touch with him vardanovsepian.com or myspace.com/vardanovsepian.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Improvised NCMF fundraiser satisfying — musically

It may not have been exactly what organizers had envisioned. Okay, it definitely wasn’t: A fundraiser that doesn't rake in the dough wasn’t what all the meetings and all the strategy sessions were about. But it's hard to believe anyone felt less than sigh-and-snuggle-before-rolling-over-and-lighting-up-a-smoke satisfied after the Trio Epomeo's June 6 performance for the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. Except, perhaps, for the Schnittke fans, who, once they got a taste of the Moderato section of the Russian composer’s String started growling for the Adagio — a kind of musical blood lust. But it was not to be. A last-minute adjustment of the program had the trio — violinist Byron Wallis, cellist Kenneth Woods and violist David Yang, who is also NCMF artistic director— jettisoned the Adagio to make room for Beethoven's Trio in C minor, Opus 9, in its entirety. The program had originally called for closing with just a taste of the Maestro, playing the Rondo and calling it a night.

Was it a good trade-off? Opinions vary, even among Schnittke fans. The Newburyport performance, the penultimate stop of Trio Epomeo’s three-country, two-continent tour, had been conceived as musical tapas, of sorts, giving the audience a taster’s menu, a variety of works to sample, a selection of moods and colors, rather than complete works. But, even within this context, the emphasis was on the modern, and the mood tilted toward darker hues: Hans Krasa’s chilling “Tanz,” which opens with a waltz and ends with oblivion; Alan Hovhaness’ ethereal, otherworldly Trio, the musical manifestation of a deep, mournful sadness that seems to exist on a cellular level; Gideon Klein’s “Based on a Moravian Theme,” a concise and unforgettable emotional musical rollercoaster; and, finally, closing the first half of the performance with Schnittke’s alternately lulling and jolting crash-bang String Trio.

Within this context, the Beethoven seems a little out of place historically, musically and even geographically, given that the work presented had an eastern Europe perspective — even the encore, a Kodaly Intermezzo. At the same time, it was comforting, steadying, closing with Beethoven, a lovely piece — lyrical, expressive, an incredible vehicle for exploring possibilities of the instruments. And, again, when you encounter such inspired playing —wonderfully executed and, at times, absolutely breathtaking performances by players at the top of their game, up close and personal— all this talk about the what’s what of the program becomes mere sport. So, again, within this context, the decision to go Ludwig becomes a fielder’s choice.

It was a magical evening — seriously under attended, but magical. The trio, which came together last year at the Festivale d’alla Musica da Camera d’Ischia in Italy to explore the possibilities of just one piece (the Schnittke Trio, natch) and discovered that they clicked musically, sounded like they had been playing together forever. The performance space (the Carriage House, a marvelous listening room fashioned out of an 19th-century out-building on the Lord Timothy Dexter Estate by NCMF patrons Julia Farwell Clay and Walter Clay) is a delight, as was the after-party — the social aspect, the schmooze, has been an important part of festival since its inception. There was plenty of food and wine and a chance to chat up musicians. We heard stories about Wallis’ recent tour of North Korea, of all places. Or the time when he and Wood, who worked together during a musical interlude in Arkansas, wandered into a rock and roll club. Wallis kind of hung back, but Woods, who performed in a rock band back in his Indiana University days, jammed with the band, playing guitar behind his head, a la Jimi Hendrix. But the best news we got, before the last of the wine had been poured, was that trio plans to record the Schnitkke. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Port playwrights Pullins-Powell crazy busy

Don't worry, you're not going crazy. If it seems like Ron Pullins and Leslie Powell are staging something or having one of their shows put up at some festival somewhere or winning some award for one of their shows every time you turn around, well, that’s because they are. It's not your mind, they are everywhere: Even when you don't count their efforts with local groups like the North Shore Readers Theater Collaborative, a monthly play development series at the Tannery. Or Random Acts, an insane write-and-stage-an-original-play-in-an-day blowout at the Firehouse. Or with groups like “Writers and Actors, Ink,” a collaboration of writers and actors dedicated to the development of new plays.

Yeah, they've made a cottage industry of this whole playwriting thing over the past several years. They’re not making any money or getting especially famous from it. Who does? But they are getting noticed and produced and, in theater, this side of Tom Stoppard — probably the only playwright in the world who could make household names (in some households, anyhow) out of the Plastic People of the Universe — that’s pretty good.

But the past year has been especially busy for the husband-and-wife team. The short list finds Powell's play "Soldier Boy" being selected for the Boston Theatre Marathon, their collaboration on the hilarious "Movie Mogul in His Mama's Muumuu" grabbing a spot at the New England Fringe Festival, Boston (and, later, in a local debut at the Actors Studio) and, another collaboration, "Mrs. McAlaster's Plot," getting a spin off Broadway at the American Globe Turnip Festival, which is a pretty big deal despite its very silly name. And the early reviews point to another very productive year: Pullins' "The Science of Love" got a reading at the Fort Point Theatre Channel in February, and his short play "The List" found a spot at the Brockport Short Play Festival a couple of weeks after that. The production, which won the Producers' Award at Brockport, will be featured in this year's Playwrights' Platform Festival of New Plays, June 18 to 20 at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. It is one of nine plays on the bill — and second up, so don't be late.
This new production will star actress Zillah Glory, pictured above in character, looking lovely — a lot lovelier than Mr. Pullins, whose picture we probably should have used — if slightly (okay, completely) unhinged. She most recently played the starring role of Eurydice at the New Rep theater in Watertown. The director is Meg Taintor from Whistler in the Dark productions in Boston.

"The List," in case you were wondering, is a monologue from a compulsive list-maker who has committed a terrible crime. Her latest list gives her strength and helps her steel her nerves so she can emerge from this moment of horror. Curtain is at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $17, and $14 for seniors, students. For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or go to http://www.bu.edu/bpt.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Detour disturbs the peace in Amesbury

You can breath easy now, Carriagetown. The perpetrator has been apprehended and is now, as we speak, winding his way through the criminal justice system. Rest assured, civil society has zero tolerance for disturbers of the peace,  people who disregard the standards of good, decent, God-fearing folks and, well, play loud music at 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, when they should, um, I don't know, be watching reruns of "Murder, She Wrote" or something.  

No, it wasn't quite Altamont. The average age of the people attending was, let's be generous, the wrong side of fifty  — old enough, just barely, to know what Altamont is or was. No hopped-up Angels, no Rolling Stones. Just Gary Shane and the Detour playing at a private party in a tony Amesbury subdivision with a spectacular view of pretty much everything. 

It was a lovely evening, but, behind the apparent calm, there was an undercurrent of danger and fear. Like Altamont, where concert-goers said (in retrospect, of course) that they knew someone had to die that evening, there was a palpable sense of foreboding in Carriagetown: You just knew someone had to disturb the peace that night. You knew it right from the start, from the seemingly endless vamp at the beginning of "Gonna Storm," necessary because, gasp, the bass player broke a string before the performance even began.

Things went smoothly for the next couple of hours. The too-old-to-rock-and-roll/too-young-to-die crowd drank white wine and eventually, yikes, started dancing. We sat on an comfortable leather couch on the deck enjoying the evening because we felt like we were old enough to know what Altamont is/was. By the time the Detour finished playing the big hits — "Shadow World" and "Johnny's Coaltrain," which Shane announced as the last song — shortly after 9 p.m. , we were on our way home to watch "Murder, She Wrote," and the band was about to play an encore. A couple of minutes later, all hell would break loose — or, at least, what passes for all hell breaking loose in sleepy Amesbury.

No, we're not going to get in the middle of this since we weren't there, but we do have "some" experience with this sort of thing — experience we gained around the time Mick and Keith's helicopter touched down at the speedway: You don't argue with cops, even if you're right. You'll just end up being led away in handcuffs and get your name in the newspaper the next day, like the host of the party — something that might be embarrassing the next day if you, like Mr.Jagger, are on the wrong side of sixty.

For the record, the party was a rehearsal for the Detour's June 13 date at Club Bohemia, 738 Mass Ave., Cambridge. And a word of warning — the band doesn't go on until midnight, so a pre-concert nap may be in order. The Boize, Third Rail and The Brigands open. The music starts at 9 p.m. For more information, call 617.482.4920