The first day was Friday, August 12th.
It was, as you readers know, my wedding anniversary and, after a delicious and leisurely dinner at the Blue Latitudes restaurant in downtown Dover, my wife and I strolled over to Henry Law Park for the Cochecho Arts Festival’s final concert of their 25th season.
The Spectras were the act performing that night and they are among our favorites. A local, nine-piece (including a horn section) classic rock cover band that has been around since the 1960’s, I could tell this was going to be a good night by the way they launched into their opening number, Chicago’s “25 of 6 to 4.”
Having not seen them in a couple of years though, we were quite surprised when, half way through the first set, on came four young women (three in matching glittery black dresses) introduced as the “Spectrelles.” Well, well, the Spectrelles (Meghann, Brenda, Jess and Sajin) were really something. With the addition of these outstanding vocalists the now-13-piece ensemble really kicked into high gear and delivered a wide array of songs including superb renditions of the Aretha Franklin version of “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman,” the B-52’s “Love Shack” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
The second day was Saturday, August 13th.
My wife and I love to dance and a few years ago we discoverd a fabulous local band called “Soulmate.” This hard working, six-piece cover band does Motown, Soul, Disco and Funk and is fronted by Mona Lisa Comeau, a dynamic vocalist and exuberant performer.
We knew they were playing at the temporary pavilion on (literally) Hampton Beach, NH, that night and, after a busy day around the house, we mustered the energy for the the 40-minute drive down to the seacoast.
Well, we were very glad we did. Through two 50-minute sets, we danced and danced and danced some more as this incredible band poured out song after song of rocking, good-time, party-all-night energy. The weather was perfect, the crowd on the dance floor was into it as much as we were and we didn’t stop until the very end. “Respect,” “My Girl,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Love Train,” “Brick House” and many more. Soulmate has never let us down and they were awesome once again.
The third day was Sunday, August 14th.
The Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth, NH, gets better and better every year.
Starting in early July, they have a mid-week “Concert Series,” each show featuring an individual act. On the weekends, they have their “festivals.” First was the Showcase Music Festival, then the Tommy Gallant Jazz Festival, the Americanna Festival, the Folk Festival and on the 14th, the last one: the Roots & Rhythm Festival.
The announced acts were: Dala, Catie Curtis and Redhorse. I went because of Dala.
Dala had performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 2009. I saw them there on Sunday, August 2nd. Because of the success of their small-stage, morning show, they were invited to do a “tweener” on the main stage, in between afternoon sets by Neko Case and Arlo Guthrie. I remember that suddenly they appeared on stage, sang their hit song “Levi Blues” to the 10,000-or-so of us and were gone.
“Levi Blues” is one of those stick-in-your-head kind of songs, but I love it and find it irresistible to sing along with in the car, or anywhere.
Dala is a duo: songwriters Sheila Carabine (vocals, guitar, ukulele and piano) & Amanda Walther (vocals, guitar and piano). They have beautiful voices individually, but they blend and harmonize those perfectly-complementary voices together into a sound that is nothing short of breathtaking.
They sang “Levi Blues” in Portsmouth on Sunday in a stunning set that also included their songs “Marilyn Monroe” and “Sunday Dress” along with a gorgeous, slowed down version of “Both Sides Now” written by their fellow Canadian musician, Joni Mitchell.
I bought their latest CD, a live-in-concert recording called “Girls From The North Country” (it contains all the songs mentioned above) and waited in line to get them to autograph it. Pretty cool.
The other “highlight” of the afternoon came when Redhorse, the Folk super-group trio of Eliza Gilkyson, Lucy Kaplansky and John Gorka, were playing the traditional classic “Wayfaring Stranger” at the end of their set. During the song, the air exploded with the roar of fighter jets (in town for an air show at the Pease International Tradeport) flying in formation overhead. It was one of the oddest juxtapositions of sounds I’ve ever heard.
Three music-filled days in August: Friday the 12th, Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th, 2011.
P.S.: On this day, August 15, in 1969, a series of four music-filled August days got started: the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, NY. “We are stardust, we are golden…”