Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Parker Hill Road at the New Hampshire Building, Springfield MA 9/22/07

New Hampshire bluegrass band Parker Hill Road played a couple of sets in the back of this old brick building packed with concession stands selling maple products, pottery, NH lottery tickets and the band’s two cds. This show was part of the Eastern States Exhibition, a state fair that’s supposedly the largest one in New England and has been since 1910 when the local fair gobbled up a couple of their neighboring competitors. Each New England state has its own building here. Since country and bluegrass have for decades been much more popular in the Granite State than in the rest of New England, it wasn’t surprising to see this group here.

The quintet (guitar, upright bass, fiddle, mandolin and banjo) competently ran through a mix of old standards (Orange Blossom Special, etc.) and covers of songs by Dylan and Sam Cooke, as crowds of people slowly made their way past, a few stopping in the sweltering heat to take in the show. As could be expected, the traditional stuff was best. The band seems to be led by the twin brothers who play mando and bass. The banjo player – whose eyes were Bob Marley-esque red slits all afternoon long – seems to be the wild card in the group. The mando player told a funny story about being on the way to a gig, watching a car in front of them lose control, leave the road and flip over. The band pulled over and walked down to the wreck, to find that the driver, a minister, was ok. The minister told the banjo player that the Lord was riding with him, to which the banjo player replied, “You’d better let him ride with us from now on because you’re gonna kill him.” That’s a very New Hampshire joke: traditionally the poorest of the New England states and #2 in the nation in per capita alcohol consumption (Wyoming is #1), the humor up there is very black. To their credit, the mandolin player didn’t tell the joke with his tongue seemingly between his molars, the way oldtimers speak up there, ay-yuh.

The fair was a good excuse to leave behind the neverland that is New York and get a firsthand look at how the other half is living. Not so well, it seems. Supposedly the nationwide obesity epidemic has reached mammoth proportions, and if the people here were any kind of representation, that estimate is correct. It’s partly the adults, but the kids especially, lots and lots of eight-year-olds the size of twelve-year-olds but without a sixth-grader’s height. The food here may explain something. An average-sized drunk guy in his twenties outside the NH building was bragging to his friends about his overconsumption last year: “A burger, onion rings, funnel cake, candy apple, caramel apple, cotton candy, popcorn and beer, and then I was sick for two days. So I’m going to have a caramel apple and another beer and then I’m gonna leave.”

Admittedly some of those bellybombs are delicious. Somehow I survived a deep-fried whoopie pie (which was probably a Little Debbie thing dipped in batter, served with whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and a surprisingly generous cardboard carton of deep-fried pickles (Vlasic dill spears, I’m guessing), not as good as the ones that Rodeo Bar serves, but they hit the spot on a day like this. If you dare to do this to yourself, do yourself a favor and abstain until after you’ve been upside down and subjected to the strenuous g-forces of the Orbiter or Lady Fireball or the rest of the rickety Wall of Death style rides here, all run by high school kids who aren’t the most attentive minimum-wage employees you’ll ever meet.

Even though this was a weekend, the crowds didn’t reach mass proportions until after the brief 5 PM parade of vintage cars, farm tractors and 4H kids who seemed anachronistically down-to-earth and bright, in stark contrast to the Lindsay Lohan wannabe crowd that takes over lower Manhattan on the weekends. Part of the fair is straight out of Life Magazine, 1941: quilting competitions, oxen pulls, horse shows and cooking demos. The rest of it seems to hail from around 1975 except that the music is 1995: Pearl Jam drools and oozes from the speakers on most of the rides. And the typical ride is $3 or more, with no discount for kids. As the crowd grew, the space between the concessions and the rides became nearly impassable. Western Massachusetts has been depressed for a long time, a fact clearly borne out by the tired young couples blocking traffic with their strollers. Nobody here seemed to be able to afford a babysittter.

And guess who was playing the main stage here at night, for free? The teenage daughter of a well-known WWF wrestler and character actor, the sixtysomething former lead singer of 70s top 40 pop act Three Dog Night, and a couple of American Idol contestants. Memo to all you American Idol types: this is where you go after your 15 minutes are up, not Madison Square Garden. The best you can hope for will be a second-stage gig at the county fair after the crochet-a-thon is over.

September 24, 2007 - Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Well done, great blog and great posts!!!

    Comment by Carro Aluguel Loja | September 24, 2007 | Reply


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