As I understand it, when Unity Hall’s next musical guests were first rehearsing as a group and the subject of picking a band name came up, someone posed the question of how did their “group sound” impress each member. Without hesitation, someone quickly offered, “Well, it’s better than bowling”, and a new star started to shine in the nighttime sky.
Better Than Bowling. Sez a lot (especially for bowling fans), but leaves a lot of room and points in many directions – and that suits this band to a T. Eclectic repertoire, plenty of space for musical prowess, a fun (and funny) elective activity. But such prowess has to be mindful of how to hold and release the ball, how to send it down that center isle and then connect with enough force to highlight that wonderful multi-sensory smashing moment (makes me want to cross my legs). Better Than Bowling comes to the Unity Hall stage on Friday, February 28 at the usual 8 o’clock showtime featuring a great electric guitar player, tight rhythm section, impressive shared vocals (you go, Sharon!), and the mellifluous pedal steel guitar of George Newton that sustains and carries the overall sound like a big safety net. Van Morrison, Tom Petty, Crosby, Still, and Nash. And wait a minute… did they just play Walk, Don’t Run by the Ventures?
As I write this, I’m captured by the similarity of these descriptions to what Unity Hall aims to deliver to its audiences on a regular basis. Quality. Playfulness. Good company in the context of a like-minded cultural community (yes, rock n’ roll is a legitimate cultural event when it’s done well. With winter winding down it’s time to open our calendars and once again mark the dates for Unity Hall’s upcoming concert calendar, to start the fancy footwork that makes for a cadence of fabulous weekends.
Here’s the skinny list:
Friday, February 28: from Syracuse, NY – Better Than Bowling
Saturday, March 14: from Woodstock, NY – Professor Louie and the Crowmatix
Saturday, April 11: Unity Hall’s tribute to The Eagles and Jackson Browne (featuring Unity Hall’s Last Waltz Tribute Band, The Justice McBride Band, The Burns and Kristy Trio, and Two of Us)
Saturday, May 9: from Ithaca, NY, the oh-so-fabulous Burns Sisters
If I don’t write these things down, I tend to forget, so take some notes. And as always, in the spirit of the Hairy Coconut, expect the unexpected!
As always, more info about the bands, video previews and advance tickets are just a couple of clicks away at unityhall.com and facebook.com/HistoricUnityHall
November 15, 2019
As best as II can remember, the last time I asked someone to trust me was nine months exactly
before my son was born. And yet, here I go again!
I’ve been writing press releases and promotions for bands for a long time, for at least thirty
years. If you’re involved in making choices and booking a calendar of performance events for
an organization, it’s inevitable that after a while you can’t fully convince yourself that every band
you book is as “astonishing” as you’ve described them. Still, people aren’t as likely to turn out
for a show if you describe the performers as “pretty good, “not bad”, or just “better than most”. I
believe I’ve been pretty lucky over the years that most of the acts I’ve invited to play are crowd
pleasers, but I must confess that some of the time the audience liked them more than I did. I
guarantee that they all looked impressive in print, but hey, what other tools does one have with
which to sell tickets?
But once in a while, when the stars were lined up, I’ve run across a band that’s the Real
Schlemiel. And pretty consistently I’ve liked the band so much that I’ve gone out of my way to
see them again, usually in places where the crowds know and love them. That’s particularly
exciting because there is no learning curve for the audience’s excitement. They are there
because they know the music will be “astonishing”.
So, last February, immediately after two feet of snow fell, I trudged my way up to Montreal to
attend a Music Conference in hopes of finding some great acts for Unity Hall. The purpose of
the conference was to give both well-known and up-and-coming performers the chance to play
short sets in front of hundreds of presenters -- people who had traveled from all over the world
whose job was to book music for their venues, from coffeehouses to concert halls. The larger,
better known acts got to perform on stages in good-sized conference rooms. But most of the
hundred or so acts played in hotel rooms with the beds removed so that 10, 20, or 30 people
could squeeze in to hear their stuff (the event took up most of a large downtown Montreal hotel).
After an exhausting few days I returned home with a few acts that I thought would be a good fit
for Unity Hall. But one band floated to the top of the list, a Boston-based band called Session
Americana. I heard them first in a good-sized conference room with an impressive audience
turn-out. After consulting the night’s schedule, I saw that they were also scheduled to play
around midnight in one of the small upstairs rooms. An unbelievably tight fit, because there are
six players in the group and they had invited some other vocalists to join them on a few songs.
They played without amplifiers on guitars, an old field organ, a mandocello, blues harp, and an
accordion, and used a suitcase as their kick-drum. They sang beautifully together and were
tasteful on their instruments (one of the guys used to play with the J. Geils Band). They played
some original songs and some familiar tunes from the classic Americana songbook. But what
impressed me the most was how comfortable they made all the listeners feel, in both the big
conference room and in this cramped hotel room with people placing their drinks on the dresser.
It was like being at a really great house party at which the musical guests turned out to be – well
I never thought this band would be accessible to book at Unity Hall. Too far for them too travel,
too expensive, too big a group to put up for the night. But they were as friendly and genuine on
the phone as they seemed to be on stage, and we’ve made it work. I had to chuckle when I was
writing their press release. One of their recordings was reviewed by Rolling Stone magazine
who described them as “either a rock band in a teacup, or a folk band in a whiskey bottle”.
I thought that fit them just right.
Take a chance and join us for an exciting night of music. Session Americana hits the
big Ed Rosenburgh stage at Unity Hall at 8 PM on Friday, December 6th. Trust me.
Before I sign off, I also want to make sure that you’ve heard about our big Open House/
Thank You music night scheduled just one week before, on November 30 the Saturday
after Thanksgiving. The Town of Trenton has recognized our efforts with a grant to do
something nice for the community. This is our response. A full night of free music!
We’ll have three consecutive bands, both upstairs and downstairs with our friend E.E.
Norris and keyboard player Joe Perry, followed by a great Beatles (and more) tribute
band called The Two of Us, and crowning it off will be Nick Piccininni with his trio
project, Follow the Muse. AND IT’S ALL FREE. The music starts at 7:30 and
refreshments will be available. Stop by, even if it’s for a little while.