Music

From Bluegrass to Bon Jovi

Making music at the Mount Baker Theatre

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Before we get into what is happening at the Mount Baker Theatre on the near-term horizon, we should probably talk about what isn’t—that being the Jan. 5 show featuring Appetite for Deception, the “premier Guns N’ Roses tribute act,” has been cancelled. Chalking it up to “unforeseen circumstances,” the show—which was also to feature BlindFate and Voyager (and a rare chance to see two local openers for a show at the Baker)—will not go on, a sad circumstance that hits me right in my GnR-loving heart.

But the historic downtown Bellingham theater has far more than just that trick up its sleeve, and the coming weeks feature a duo of wildly disparate but worthy shows.

If you thought the Guns N’ Roses tribute show was going to be your only opportunity in the coming weeks to take a trip down the hair-rock highway at the Mount Baker Theatre, oddly enough, you couldn’t be more wrong. Come Wed., Jan. 16, the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages” will hit the stage in a big, bombastic way.

To dispense with the elephant in the room: This is the same “Rock of Ages” that Hollywood did its level best to ruin with a big-screen rendition that came out during summer of 2012 and featured the misguided casting combo of Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, and Julianne Hough.

Yes, it is that musical… and it isn’t.

I’m of the opinion (now shared by many after seeing the celluloid version) that “Rock of Ages,” while a theatrical endeavor that might seem suited to a cinematic treatment, is actually best suited to be seen the old-fashioned way: in a live-action theater, rather than the movie variety.

The story itself is the stuff of a thousand Broadway plays and musicals: small-town girl comes to Hollywood to chase her dreams. And, since most musicals involve a love story of some kind, before long, girl meets boy, sparks fly and romance ensues.

What gives “Rock of Ages” its Tony-nominated allure is not so much its plotline, but the fact that this Sunset Strip love story is set to some of the biggest hair-rock hits of the ’80s. The bar is called the Bourbon Room and it is where Drew meets Sherrie in 1987. The two fall in love to the likes of Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, and more.

“Rock of Ages” is noteworthy for more than just its all-star track list, however. It also—refreshingly—refuses to take itself as seriously as most efforts that make it to the Great White Way, relying on humor and an overall lighthearted sensibility to show audiences, first in New York City and now worldwide, a rollicking good time.

It’s possible, however, that you have no desire to relive the ’80s. If that’s the case, perhaps you’d find some top-notch bluegrass to be more to your liking? Well, you’re in luck, because the Baker can scratch that itch for you as well.

Just a few days after “Rock of Ages” packs up its spandex and sequins and hits the road once again, the duo of Dailey & Vincent will bring a slightly more low-key but nonetheless entertaining night of music to Bellingham, on Sat., Jan. 19.

Dailey & Vincent is, more specifically, Jamie Dailey (who sings and plays guitar and bass) and Darrin Vincent (responsible for vocals, mandolin and guitar), and they’ve been playing and singing and touring together for the past half decade or so. Along the way, they’ve released five albums and earned a mind-boggling 23 awards from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, 13 awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and a Dove award. This dynamic duo can even boast a Grammy nod among its many, many accomplishments.

Clearly, these bluegrass boys mean business.

But that should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the origin of both Dailey and Vincent. The former comes to this project via a decade spent with Bluegrass Hall of Famer Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and the latter from the mighty Ricky Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder. As professional credentials go, theirs are nothing if not impressive and authentic.

Dailey & Vincent are characterized by vocal harmonies so flawless they have to be seen to be believed, and no small amount of what appears to be effortlessly nimble finger-picking. A time-honored “high lonesome sound” (a term coined by bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe) combined with years of experience make this group perfect ambassadors for this musical tradition.

So, come for the hair-rock and stay for the bluegrass—either way, the Baker aims to please.

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