Weekend Best Bets

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2001

This weekend kicks off the fall entertainment season in style with two concerts and CD release party for The Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band.

A Germanborn musical innovator named Rudiger Oppermann takes the stage Saturday night at Northern Light United Church. I listened to four or five of his CDs this week, and his imagination, his mastery of his instrument and his talent for improvisation are impressive.

Oppermann is a harpist, but his playing is more akin to virtuoso guitar work. On a selection of tunes, he offered what sounded like rippling classical guitar lines on one cut; precise, melodic jazz on another and adrenalinecharged electric riffs on yet another. He can make the harp sound like a hammered dulcimer, a keyboard or a blues guitar, but often it sounds like a harp just not playing "harp music."

Oppermann paid his dues and learned the rules before he made a career of breaking them. He's won awards in Ireland for his mastery of Celtic harp styles, he studied the kora (an African harp) on the Congo River and traveled the Middle East with Sufi harpists playing their traditional music. He's recorded 19 CDs with collaborators or with his regular band and performed on a score of other recordings.

Oppermann is bringing three or four harps to Juneau and his performance will encompass a range a styles. He plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, and tickets are $14, $7 for kids ages 7 to 12.

The Panhandle Crabgrass Revival Band celebrates the release of its debut CD "How 'Bout Now?" with a couple performances this weekend at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar. The new CD contains 18 songs and about half are originals penned by the band members.

"There's a couple straight bluegrass songs and we have 'Forked Deer' and 'Sandy Boys' on there, which are pretty much straight old time, and the rest are our own interpretations or our own stuff," said bassist and singer Maridon Boario.

The band includes Boario's husband Sean Tracey on harmonica, banjo player Erik Chadwell, guitarist Johnse Ostman, mandolinist Ethan Abbott and fiddler Andy Ferguson. All six band members sing and four are strong instrumental soloists.

Best of all, they have stage presence and a great sense of humor. Their goodnatured, downhome persona is authentic but deceptive; Boario is a classically trained vocalist, Ferguson studied music in India and is an accomplished sitarist and multi-instrumentalist and Tracey was a dedicated horn player before he focused on the harmonica.

This lively acoustic band plays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. tonight and Saturday.

Finally, three talented musicians join forces tonight for a concert at Northern Light United Church. Buddy Tabor and the Glacial Erratics will offer original acoustic music beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Tabor will open the concert with a set of songs drawn from his four CDs, probably focusing on his most recent work. Tabor is an exceptional songwriter. Twenty years ago he wrote what's become the unofficial anthem of the Iditarod, "Get Up, Dogs," and he's continued to push himself as a musician and lyricist. He has a wealth of material and at least a half dozen artists have covered his songs over the years.

The Glacial Erratics have played music for children so often the band has risked typecasting, but the members are by no means limited to that genre. The Erratics concert tonight is a chance for the band to debut material they've prepared for an upcoming tour of the Lower 48.

Normally a four-piece, new kids and commitments have tied up the two Canadian members of the group. Martha Scott and Betsy Sims will still give Glacial Erratics fans their money's worth. The group has always used the rotating frontwoman format, with the others taking turns with harmony and back up, and this gives Scott and Sims a chance to highlight their work. Scott has written some fine songs and I'd go just to hear her play. Admission is $10, $5 for kids under age 12.

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