Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh, say, can you hear ... Sunchuck?

Oh, say can you see ... Sunchunck? Singing, well, not the "Star Spangled Banner," as this piece seems to indicate, but "God Bless America," the tune that should be the National Anthem. At Fenway Park? Yeah, you can. On July 10. When the hometown team dispenses with the bottom-dwelling Baltimore Orioles. It's a thrill, of course, playing at Fenway, something  Sunchunck bassist Mike Bertolami dreamed about when he was a kid, although the Plum Island resident "never thought it would be as a musician." Of course, at this point, the Port-based power pop band is so at home with the tune that they call it "GBA." The revved-up rock version of the patriotic classic has been the emotional core of the band's performances since they came together nearly a decade ago. "GBA" was on their debut album, "On the Map," back in 2005. They've played it at every single live show since coming together in 2002. And they've performed it live at the Patriots-Dolphins game at Gillette Stadium in 2009, and during the seventh inning stretch at LaLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, during the Spinners' celebration of America's troops at their home-grown Americana Festival in 2010. This time, however, they won't be able to hide behind their instruments: They'll be doing it a cappella. Who knows? Maybe they'll give you a taste of the a capella version when they play the Grog on July 1. C'mon, dare 'em. The show runs from 9:30 p.m. until close. There's a $5 cover. Check out the Middle Street venue for more info in the show. Check out the Sunchunck web for more about the band. You heard they have a new album, right? And the game? Nah, you'll have no trouble finding that.

NCMF: The sounds of summer ... barely

Okay, Memorial Day has come and gone, and so has the solstice, meaning, at least for  crusty, fatalistic New Englanders, that summer, which officially arrived a couple of days ago, although you certainly can't tell by the weather, is almost over and we can move on to other things, like that big 10th anniversary season for the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, and, on the horizon, the impending winter. The festival, which runs from Aug. 13 to 20, just before the cold winds blow, will bring back the popular Baroque concert, which has been sidelined for the past couple of seasons. The program has not been announced, but will feature hot-shot performers like harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, from the renowned New York early music group Rebel, and violinist Leah Gale Nelson, who specializes in historical performance. The festival will also celebrate the centennial of composer Samuel Barber, putting the spotlight on two of his most beloved works — the String Quartet Opus 11, which includes the famous "Adagio for strings," and "Dover Beach" for string quartet and voice. Also on the program is Beethoven's String Quartet in C# Minor, Opus 131 and Janacek's String Quartet No. 1, the Moravian composer's "neurotic quartet," as NCMF Artistic Director David Yang puts it, first performed by the NCMF quartet five years ago, and Ravel's Sonata for violin and cello, which Yang calls the composer's "sexy and jazzy duo." 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fickett's green dreams reach new audiences

Usually the MO for actors is to get to the bright lights/big city, get noticed, get work, and get bigger and bigger roles until you're a part of something gargantuan, and, important lesson here, not to get all bummed out if you're not making a big splash right away. It's a tough business — competitive and fairly cutthroat. But that's not the way Hal Fickett is playing it. Not exactly, anyhow. The Port actor is thinking smaller and, well, greener, strange as that may seem in an arts context, especially in a city whose carbon footprint could stomp out life in all five boroughs solely on the spectacle of one production — "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," with its $70 million budget, so far, and its $300 tickets. That's the idea. "We're the anti-Spider-Man," says Fickett, executive director and artistic producer of Green Theatre Collective,  a Brooklyn-based company that will stage a no-frills production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" next month at Maudslay State Park. After the Port performances, which will be Fickett's first proper production in the city since he performed in Greg Moss's "Yoo-Hoo and Hank Williams" eight years ago, the company will move on to six shows in three New York locations. From there, the company will start thinking about its 2012 season, which will include a three-month engagement in India, of all places. More on that later, but first ... green theater?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Classic Albums ... Live ... in Salisbury

Nah, you probably don't know their names. Which is fine, says Craig Martin, who founded the band Classic Albums Live eight years ago. They aren't important anyhow. The names, that is. "We're a faceless bunch," he says. Expanding upon the theme, they're a faceless bunch of top-notch musicians from the Great White North, all of whom have been in tribute bands in the past. Which, in itself, isn't exactly a recommendation, seeing how the world already has to endure  "a slag heap of budget tribute bands fermenting in the wings, licking their lips in anticipation for their chance to desecrate the legacy of the greats." That's what Martin, who used to run a Stones tribute band called the Midnight Ramblers, writes in his blog — a great read, by the way, covering everything from the political economy of swag at concerts to fanciful,and definitely imaginary fishing trips with Bob Dylan. Don't take it the wrong way. They're all deep into the so-called classic rock era — Beatles, Stones, Floyd — almost to the point where an intervention may be required. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Robin Lane: The song does not remain the same

OK, so here’s the dirty little secret: Nobody ever taught Robin Lane, the woman who will be teaching the songwriting class at Whole Music, how to write a song. She hung out with people who were doing the songwriting thing during the laid-back flower-power days on the left coast and Lane just assimilated it. At least that’s how she remembers it. She had always wanted to write songs, and one day they just “started popping out of me,” she says. Just started popping out, you might ask? Um, just like that? Yeah, she knew a few chords and, then as now, had a strong sense of melody and, maybe the crucial thing, things were happening to her, emotional pain being steroids for artists. Whatever the case, she had tapped into something. Soon she was deep in the Los Angeles folk-rock scene, which led to a time when she began informal collaborations with the band Crazy Horse and Danny Whitten, who Lane cites as a critical force in her development as an artist — and which led to her formal debut: Singing on the Neil Young/Crazy Horse album “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.” This was the run-up to her move to Boston, where she met ex-Modern Lovers players Asa Brebner and Leroy Radcliffe, resulting in Robin Lane & The Chartbusters, where the hippie-chick vibe became infused with a garage-y, new wave sensibility, and at the dawn of the MTV era. The band released three albums to critical acclaim — and had one of the first videos on MTV, "When Things Go Wrong." 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Other Stages: Nikole Beckwith, emerging

Who's that, emerging on the New York theater scene? Nikole Beckwith, probably best known locally for her work with the edgy (and much-missed) Independent Submarine, Gregory S. Moss's production company. She moved to the Big Apple almost a decade ago and has been writing writing writing, her work being read at Ensemble Studio Theater, LAByrinth Theater Company and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, among other stages.  The Port actress, a member of the YoungBloods' playwright group and the Striking Viking Story Pirates,  also earned a 2010 Innovative Theater nomination for her role in Joshua Conkel's hit "MilkMilkLemonade." And this year she's been named to the Emerging Writers Group, a NYC-based troupe designed to target up-and-coming playwrights. In addition to snagging bragging rights, the 11 emerging artists will have a staged reading of one of their plays during the Spotlight Series at The Public Theater. Beckwith's piece, called "Stockholm, Pennsylvania," gets its first test drive at the end of the month.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Roasting Newburyport: A 'Forbidden' treat

For reasons I've never fully understood, they always involve a bit of a dance, these advance pieces, a struggle between enticing a potential audience and giving away the game, often ending up with vague or, worse, clever descriptions, whose sole charm is that they are short enough to fit on a program, but don't really tell readers anything useful about a show they, at least in theory, might like to see. Understandable, perhaps. You don't want to spoil it, but, hey, there aren't any big secrets in Shakespeare any more, but people still go out to see the Bard. So, gotta say it was nice to find out that Suzanne Hitchcock Bryan was willing to spill the beans about "Forbidden Newburyport," a satirical musical that takes colorful local personalities and hot-button political issues and serves them up Broadway style, as splashy production numbers, celebrating the city and all its quirks, and, as local folks know, there are many, and ... fair enough, maybe we should dial the premise back a bit. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Get your 'Goat' at the Actors Studio

It's a tough production to talk about, and pretty intimidating — intellectually, emotionally, to sit through, let alone to talk about. Go ahead, call your Mom or, even better yet, drop in for a visit (you really should visit your mother, regardless) and try explaining it to her: Well, Mom, it's about a successful guy, an architect, a family man who loves his family and who, um, falls in love with someone who isn't his wife, who isn't even his species. Who is, well, a goat. Yes, a real goat — fur and all, bleating like Stevie Nicks. Well, not quite that bad, but you get the idea. And we're not talking about the way you love your little kitty cat either. We're talking tripping the lights fantastic, full-on romantic love, the kind of affair that will land you in jail in pretty much every place on earth — in addition to, at least in theory, result in the ugliest grandchildren conceived. And, assuming she doesn't slap your face or clutch her chest and keel over, she might ask what "this abomination" is called. That would be "The Goat, or Who is Silvia?" And the "pornographer" responsible for it? Well, Edward Albee wrote the play. You know, the guy who wrote another play whose name ends with a question mark,  "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" And before you say another word: Yeah, yeah. The one with "that hussy," the one who abandoned that delightful Eddie Fisher and threw herself at the Englishman. They're staging it next week at the Actors Studio. And, thing is, if you get past the initial inappropriateness, unpleasantness of the subject matter, you've got the rest of the show to deal with as you sit, increasingly numb, but riveted, as you watch what was once a happy family go up in flames.