Entertainment Highlights: W. Kamau Bell Confronts Race As It Is Lived

Thursday, September 11, 2014
Comic’s honor: W. Kamau Bell will resist profiling you as, oh, let’s say “Ivy League,” if you join the audience for his stand-up show at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium on Tuesday night.

“I don’t go in with a preconceived notion about the place I’m playing,” Bell said in a telephone interview this week from San Francisco. “Not till I’m onstage for maybe five minutes, and get a feel for the audience. When it’s a college or a university, it’s about who invited me to come, and how the college prepares the students for what they’re going to see ... how they set the table for me.”

The Hopkins Center, which is billing this rendition of The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour as the kickoff to its lineup of performers for the 2014-2015 season, should be fine as long as Programming Director Margaret Lawrence doesn’t introduce him with two particular words.

“Michael Brown (of Ferguson, Mo.) and Eric Garner (of Staten Island, N.Y.) were both more than 6-foot-4 and both more than 200 pounds, and they were both described as ‘gentle giants,’ ” the sturdily-built Bell said of the unarmed African-Americans who died in confrontations with police this summer. “I resemble that remark.”

While those incidents, which re-ignited the ever-smoldering debate about racial profiling, will play into next week’s show at Dartmouth, Bell doesn’t expect them to dominate it.

“(The Bell Curve) was always designed to be adjustable to current events,” Bell said. “And there are always moments in race news when the country rallies around an aspect of race relations that very much crystallizes the discussion. But the fact is that black people for years have been talking about how the authorities have been rough on us. Now you’ve got eyewitnesses and video, and it’s back in the forefront again. … But it’s not going to be an hour of jokes about Ferguson. It’ll be one of the smaller parts of the show.”

One of the bigger parts of The Bell Curve, which he started touring in 2007 — its title a swipe at assertions and assumptions and implications of race-based differences in IQ in the controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life — is his marriage to a white woman. During a clip in a video promo at wkamaubell.com/the-w-kamau-bell-curve/ he evokes laughs that range from guffaws to nervous titters from the unseen audience with the observations, “We’re gonna try to make some more Obamas.”

“Even that one had to change, because now I’ve got a daughter in school,” Bell said. “There are sensitivities to consider on your kids’ part.”

As for sensitivities of the audience, Bell — whose television credits include hosting the former FX-network series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell — will only commit “to go wherever the moment dictates.”

Including, to some extent, the demographics in the hall on a given night.

“We all perceive this information differently,” he said. “If the black student union was part of bringing me in and it’s more of a mixed audience, it could go one way. If it’s a little less diverse, well, the show becomes more like court testimony.”

W. Kamau Bell will open the 2014-2015 season at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center on Tuesday, with a performance in Spaulding Auditorium on Tuesday night at 7. General-admission tickets are $10 to $25. For patrons who bought tickets for the show that was originally scheduled for Oct. 2, and cannot attend on Tuesday, the Hop is offering full refunds. For more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Best Bets

The New Black Eagle Jazz Band will perform music from jazz’s golden age of the 1920s and 1930s on Saturday night at 7:30 in Colby-Sawyer College’s Sawyer Center Theater in New London to close out the Summer Music Associates’ 2014 season. Among the band’s 40-plus recordings is the Grammy-nominated On the River. Tickets cost $5 to $25; for more information, visit summermusicassociates.com.

∎ For a second weekend, the BarnArts Center for the Arts will present Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller/comedy The 39 Steps, at the King Farm Barn in Woodstock. The acting ensemble features Daniel West of Quechee, Jona Tuck of East Barnard and Lebanon residents Shu-nan Chu and Corey Armstrong, under the direction of Jarvis Green. Shows are set for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 5 p.m. For tickets ($10 to $15) and more information, visit barnarts.org or call 802-332-6020.

∎ As a benefit for youth programs at Claremont’s parks and recreation facilities, 12 acts will perform at the Arrowhead Music Festival on Saturday. The lineup of individual performers and bands scheduled to play at Arrowhead Ski Area from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. includes Brooks Hubbard, Second Wind, Mike Spaulding, Dark 4 Days, Praud, Waterhammer, Spectris, Rattye McGee, Kennedy Drive, Santa Croche, Saving Throw and Roadhouse. Admission is $5 to $10, and free for ages 7 and younger.

∎ Classicopia will open its 15th fall season of chamber music this weekend, with the piano duo of Philip Liston-Kraft and Daniel Weiser performing three times in two days on the theme of “Four-Hand Rhapsody,” a parade of works from Mozart, Moszkowski, Ravel and Gershwin. On Friday night at 7:30 p.m., the keyboard tandem will play at the First Congregational Church in downtown Lebanon, with tickets ranging from $10 to $15. And on Saturday, Liston-Kraft and Weiser will perform at 4 p.m. at the United Church of Strafford (tickets $15-$20), followed by a house concert in Hanover, at 7:30 p.m. To reserve a ticket ($40 a person) for the house concert, send email to marcia@classicopia.com or call 603-643-3337.

∎ The inaugural Uncommon Jam festival comes to the common in Newbury Village, Vt., on Sunday afternoon, with Mountain Money leading off at 2 and passing the torch to the Stone Cold Roosters at 3:15, before Session Americana takes the stage at 5:15. Between acts, fiddlers from around the region will keep the rhythm going. Food and refreshments will be available on site, and the Newbury Village Store will be offering discounts to ticketholders for the event. To encourage families to attend, the organizers are offering free admission to kids ages 12 and younger, and are allowing no alcohol sales and no BYOB, Tickets for ages 13 and older cost $17 in the days leading to the festival and $20 at the gate. For more information, visit alumnihall.org.

Looking Ahead

As a benefit for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, an army of Upper Valley bands will perform a “Blue Beetle Concert” on Sept. 19, a week from Friday, at Freight House Hall (the former Tupelo Music Hall) in White River Junction. The title is based on the album of Beatles’ covers that Tod Moses and his band, Fujita 5, recorded in a blues-y style not long before doctors diagnosed Moses with prostate cancer. Musicians joining the show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., include Bow Thayer, Ted Mortimer of Dr. Burma, the Gully Boys, Barson Bartholomew of The Moores, and the Red Hat Band. The neighboring Elixir restaurant and Big Fatty’s BBQ will donate a portion of dinner bills for concert-ticketholders to the cancer center. For tickets and more information, visit todmoses.com.

∎ The New Riders of the Purple Sage — including original members David Nelson and Buddy Cage — will lead more than a dozen bands onto the grounds of the Page Farm concert venue in Croydon over the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20, for the third annual Autumn Equinox Festival. Also performing will be The Garcia Project, Roots of Creation, Hot Day at the Zoo, Skyfoot, Otis Grove, the Beatles-cover band Studio Two, Mad Kings, Mango Bobsled, the Kind Buds, the Charlie Keating Blues Band and Waynard and Rainbow Full of Sound. Tickets ahead of time cost $50 for the 20th only and $85 for the weekend; at the gate $60 for the 20th only and $100 for the weekend. Camping and parking are available on the 68-acre farm. For more information, visit autumnequinoxlive.com

Theater/Performance Art

The Parish Players will perform four short stories, in the format of National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts program, this weekend at the Eclipse Grange Theater on Thetford Hill. The theme is “Sci-Fi Exploration,” with Berry Wenig, Darby Hiebert, Michael Duggan, Bailey Ray and Kevin Fitzpatrick reading from stories by Isaac Asimov (The Immortal Bard), Leslie Stone (The Invasion of Gola), Fredric Brown (Knock), Ray Bradbury (The One Who Waits) and Eileen Gunn (No Place to Raise Kids). Shows are set for Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30. Tickets cost $10 to $15; for reservations, call 802-785-4344.


Maine-born, Boston-seasoned singer-songwriter Ellis Paul opens the new series of musician visits at New London’s Flying Goose Brew Pub at 8 tonight, in support of his 19th album, Chasing Beauty. While grounded enough in the 20th-century folk ethic to sport a tattoo of Woody Guthrie on his arm — even to write a song around Guthrie’s previously-unpublished lyrics with the blessing of the Guthrie family — Paul sports a deep catalog of his own songs, each of which he delivers with a voice that soars from idle to the heavens in a matter of seconds. For more information, visit flyinggoose.com/music/.

∎ Classical guitarist Claude Bourbon kicks off the fall season at the Sunapee Community Coffee House on Friday night at 7, with a set that will range across jazz, blues, and stylings Spanish, Middle Eastern and Russian. For more information, visit sunapeecoffeehouse.org.

∎ Leading off the New Hampshire Humanities Council’s 2014-2015 series on music history and appreciation, West Windsor’s Adam Boyce will present “Old Time Rules Will Prevail: The Fiddle Contest in New Hampshire and New England,” on Saturday night at 7 in the Unity Town Hall. In addition to playing tunes on his own instrument, the 10th-generation Vermonter, who won the Vermont division of the Northeast Fiddlers Contest in 2000, will play recordings from live competitions.

∎ As part of the tour celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Canadian supergroup Barenaked Ladies comes to Lebanon Opera House at 7:30 Sunday night. Tickets cost $59.50 to $75. For more information, call 603-448-1400 or visit lebanonoperahouse.org.

∎ The Freelance Family Singers of Woodstock will begin weekly rehearsals this coming Tuesday night, in preparation for the ensemble’s Dec. 6 and 7 holiday concerts of secular and sacred music. The Tuesday night rehearsals, w hich will run from 7 to 9 p.m. at the first Congregational Church on Elm Street, are open to all ages. Fees to participate range from $10 to $15, with scholarships available.


The Second Saturday series of monthly contradances at Norwich’s Tracy Hall will begin on Saturday night at 8. Northern Spy will perform under the direction of guest caller Adina Gordon. A walk-through and an introduction for new dancers will start at 7:45. Admission costs $5 to $8. Bring a clean change of shoes. Subsequent dance opportunities are scheduled for Oct. 11, Nov. 8 and Dec. 14.


Colby-Sawyer College in New London begins its Favorite Films series on Monday night with a 7 p.m. screening of the 1971 road movie Two-Lane Blacktop, starring James Taylor (yes, the James Taylor around the time of his hit Fire and Rain) and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys as, respectively, a wayward driver and a mechanic. Colby-Sawyer Associate Professor of Humanities Mike Jauchen will introduce the 101-minute movie (rated R) and lead the discussion that follows..

Bar and Club Circuit

In a break from their studies at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, guitarist John Wheelock and pianist Matt Prescottano will play at the Canoe Club in Hanover tonight from 7 to 10. Following them to the Canoe Club microphone over the next week are Phil Singer and Laurianne Jordan (singing blues and ballads to guitar) on Friday, pianist Randall Mullen on Saturday, the La Guinguette duo of Samantha Moffat and Kerry DeWolfe on Sunday, jazz guitarist Billy Rosen on Tuesday, and jazz guitarist Ted Mortimer on Wednesday. Also, Marko the Magician will perform his weekly sleight-of-hand on Monday night between 5:30 and 8:30.

∎ Carlos Ocasio of Frydaddy plays a solo set of acoustic rock at Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday night at 9, and at the same time on Saturday, country musician Grayson makes his first appearance in New Hampshire.

∎ On Friday night at 9, the Sullivan Hanscom Davis Band covers classic rock of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in the Skunk Hollow Tavern at Hartland Four Corners.

∎ Seth Barbiero and Lane Gibson lead The Tricksters into Lebanon’s Salt hill Pub at 9 on Friday night. Saturday night at 9, the stage belongs to the dance band Still More Cats.

∎ The alternative American band Pitch Black Ribbons visits Jesse’s in Hanover on Friday night at 5.

∎ The weekend of music at Salt hill Pub in Hanover starts Friday night at 9 with Flew-Z taking the stage an hour into the pub’s Octoberfest Stein-Hoisting Contest, and continues Saturday night at 9 with acoustic rocker Dave Bundza.

∎ Dr. Burma will play the Steamboat Lounge of the Lake Morey Inn in Fairlee at 8:30 Saturday night.

∎ The Four Hoarse Men perform at Windsor Station on Saturday night at 9.

Open Mics

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

∎ At Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.

∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock, on Mondays at 8:30 p.m.

∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit holds an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.

∎ The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic on Wednesdays, beginning at 8 p.m.

∎ Jim Yeager hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.