This is an article I wrote for Worcester Magazine’s 11/17/2011 edition with additions made after deadline and right up until the shows.
The holidays are a great time for reuniting with friends and family, and Thanksgiving is the king of them all. Widely considered the best club weekend of the year, bands and owners look forward to packed houses and reconnecting with old friends. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of area shows (see Worcester Magazine’s club listings), but a sampling that suggests the range of opportunities.
Thanksgiving weekend is a great opportunity for both artists, owners, and music fans, as so many venues – from palatial rock halls to humble neighborhood watering holes – feature live music.
Helen Beaumont, Worcester’s gospel-influenced, modern-day Patsy Cline, sees Thanksgiving Eve as the perfect occasion for a good show. “Thanksgiving Eve is such a great night – because people travel home to visit their friends and families, and Thanksgiving day is usually spent with your close family – so the night before is for fun with your friends.” She also sees it as a time for “benefiting others on a day we are thankful for.”
Helen and fellow roots stylist James Keyes have teamed up to bring what might be the banner event in Worcester on this Thanksgiving Eve, a two-stage event (with overlapping 1-hour sets starting every 30 minutes) at Kelley Square’s Hotel Vernon, featuring bands and artists. Called the 2nd Annual Festival of Sight and Sound, the $7 show ($5 if you bring a canned or non-perishable canned good) includes several local powerhouses, like Whalebone Farmhouse (reunited with longtime vocalist Keri Anderson); Helen’s traditional Americana band, Farmer’s Union Players; the “neo-traditionalist punk” of James Keyes’ The Numbskulls; and Stu Esty’s Leon Russell-meets-Tom Waits, Roadkill Orchestra, among others; and, from Maine, The Mallett Brothers, who Helen assures “with their banjos and great sound…will be a new sound to the elements of the night for Worcester people.” In addition to a night of music, local artists Scott Holloway, Annie Libertini, and Rose LeBeau, will display their art.
For those with a flavor for Phish and a good-time jam, Mocha Java, who’ve re-emerged in recent years on the Worcester scene, play at Worcester’s new home for jam bands, Beatnik’s, on Park Avenue. This four-piece are sure to take their high-energy approach to the stratosphere on at least a few numbers, and it should be a great opportunity for the dancers in town.
Save the money for Guns ‘n’ Roses tickets for the DCU and, instead, check out Worcester’s “’80s glam slam kings,” Mullethead, who celebrate the raunch and roll of the Sunset Strip’s unabashed libido and all things ‘80s hard rock, from 8:00-2:00, at the Lucky Dog Music Hall, on Green Street.
If you like things wild, wild wild, but maybe from a different era, Jerkus Circus (an offshoot of The Steamy Bohemians, featuring local chanteuse, Niki Luperelli) will perform a “Spanksgiving” show, of the “neo-Vaudeville” musical improv cabaret stage act that they’ve performed throughout the northeast, at Ralph’s from 9:00-2:00.
If you like something more laid-back, a little less edgy, “Human Jukebox” Andy Cummings will strum his Guild and provide the smoky vocals for the Swingabilly Lounge at the quaint Nick’s, on Millbury Street, starting at 9:00.
Dig jazz? Then check out Three Works, led by local 7-string jazz guitarist Charles Ketter, backed by Jim Allard, on sax and flute, and George Dellomo, on drums, as they play “jazz-inspired Motown” at Sahara, on Highland Street, from 10:00-1:00.
If you like hip-hop and Wu Tang Clan, stop by The Raven, on Pleasant Street, in Worcester, for the “dubstep/hipstep” stylings of Elijah Devine, whose “Divine Intervention” LP-release northeast tour stops in Worcester, with support acts Dizzy Disasta, Tom Brown, Billy Gunna, and DJ’s Yohon Di and Treeman.
Huck will play acoustic power pop, featuring tunes from throughout their long, multi-CD history, from 9-close at Vincent’s, on Suffolk St., in Worcester, as a warm-up to their set on Saturday at Ralph’s, a 50th birthday bash for soundman Steve Merrow, during which they have decided to perform their 2002 CD “Motorbike Fire Lovesong in its entirety.
Your holidays are the musicians’ working dates and so the music making continues on Thanksgiving night, with several theme acts. Flock of Assholes plays its weekly show of the best pop of the ‘80s on its home turf at the Lucky Dog Music Hall, on Green Street (and again on Friday night at Jillian’s, on Grove Street). Meanwhile, The Gardner Ale House, on Parker Street, in Gardner, hosts Audio Wasabi, an aggregate of musicians who come together each week with a different musical theme.
If acoustic music is your thing, then there are a few offerings, both in and out of town. For singer-songwriter, vocal based tunes, there’s Jay Graham (of Soulstice, Craig, and Arthur Dent Foundation) playing his weekly solo acoustic slot at Funky Murphy’s, on Shrewsbury Street, from 9:30-1:30; and Sam James playing his acoustic tunes on Belmont Street, in Northborough, at the Celtic Tavern, 8:00-1:00.
For another type of acoustic show, check out Chris Reddy’s “acoustic loops from hell,” which features complex original songs layered live with a digital delay, at The Mill, on West Boylston Street, in West Boylston.
Local drummer and impresario, Duncan Arsenault, always provides a night of great music in his rotating weekly lineup at The Dive Bar, on Green Street, in Worcester, whether it’s rootsy acoustic originals or covers, soul, or hill country blues.
On Friday, head over to Nick’s for a reuben and some rockabilly with Worcester’s Leon Redbone-esque, pre-war songsmith, Clayton Willoughby and his Claytones, from 9:00-2:00.
And on Saturday, Worcester’s “Home of the Blues,” Gilrein’s, on Main Street, hosts a great blues fundraiser for community radio station WCUW, from 8:00-1:00, with Shakey Jake and the Blue Vibrations, Charley Dee and The Blues Doctrine, Shakey Ground with Rick Percuoco, and an All Star Jam to close the show (plus a buffet and 50/50 raffle). ($10 minimum donation)
If you live north of the city, head over to Athol and Twohey’s Tavern at the King Phillip Restaurant, on State Rd, to hear acoustic tunes by longtime area musician (of Beatles for Sale fame) Dan Kirouac, with bassist Al Dusoe.
Critical darlings, Little Big Wheel, bring their rootsy, multi-genre barroom rock to Sahara Restaurant, on Highland Street, 10:00-1:20.
And what better way to wrap up this reunion weekend than with a big homecoming show by Boston’s up and comers, The Wanda’s, to close the loop on their northeast mini-tour in support of their alternative-pop, critically acclaimed self-titled CD, at Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner, on Grove Street, Worcester, with support acts, Radio America, Aloud, and Blackboard Nails, 9:00-2:00.
As you can see, there are a lot of shows to choose from, and more than a few reasons to give thanks this Thanksgiving. So, pick one or two, grab some friends, and get out on the scene!