Claremont Opera House Celebrates 250th with Randy Smith, Charlie Farren and The Chad Hollister Band

CLAREMONT, NEW HAMPSHIRE – The Claremont Opera House recently celebrated its 250th anniversary with a stellar triple-bill music event featuring Boston legend Charlie Farren (Joe Perry Project, FARRENHEIT) and Vermont favorites Randy Smith (8084) and his Band of Merry Men and the recently re-vamped up Chad Hollister Band. It was an exciting performance through-and-through and featuring some of the most talented musicians of Northern New England.
Charlie Farren opened the show with an amazing one-man performance, just the F-Man and guitar in all his glory, as he played several songs from both his solo repertoire and days with FARRENHEIT. This writer has seen Charlie perform several times over the years and the man never fails to give the audience his best effort, offering up a vibrant blend of singer-songwriter class with a touch of rock-and-roll flair.

Article and Photos by Joe Milliken 1. Randy Smith 2. Charlie Farren 3. Smith and Roy Brown 4. Chad Hollister 5. Hollister and Steve Benson

Farren truly has fun on stage and connects well with the crowd, always telling little stories and rousing the crowd with spurts of audience participation. A fantastic performer who has been around the music block many times, Charlie truly appreciates your presence and it Tuesday release, including “Hold Me Down and Love Me” and the title track really stood out. Yes, Charlie proved once again why he is a favored son of New England.

Next up was Randy Smith and His Band of Merry Men featuring front-man Randy on guitar and vocals, Roy Brown on bass and backing vocals, Rich Abel on guitar and backing vocals, Scott Campbell on fiddle and guitar and making his debut with the band, Keith DaSilva on drums and percussion. In fact, Randy would declare during the show that the band and Keith had only been able to rehearse but a couple times before the gig, which was a surprise to this fan, as Mr. DaSilva quickly settled into the pocket quite nicely, thank you very much!

Formerly the singer of Burlington, Vermont rockers 8084, Smith relocated to North Carolina and has now been performing as a solo artist (and with the Merry Men) for several years. This lively set featured several songs from Randy’s previous solo CD titled Bittersweet, which the band performed tight as a drum; pristine lead vocals, wonderful harmonizing from Brown, Abel and DeSilva and all cleverly accented through the fantastic fiddle works of Campbell... who just so happens to be a member of the U. S. Fiddler’s Hall of Fame... did I forget to mention that little nugget?

Add in a Roy Brown lead vocal for the 8084 favorite “Rosita” and a killer version of the Kansas classic “Dust in the Wind” – featuring a Campbell fiddle solo that was absolutely dead on – and it all equals an hour-plus set full of passion, emotion, a few laughs and some stellar musicianship. Yes, Randy and the Merry Men deliver the goods each and every time they hit the stage and this was certainly no different.

Last but not least came the new souped-up version of the Chad Hollister Band, who came down from Northern Vermont to show off this shiny new line up, which is now a nine-piece affair featuring a three-piece horn section and percussionist. Although I had interviewed Chad a couple times (via the internet) for articles and not too long ago a reviewed his Chad CD release, I had never seen the man or his band in person and let me tell ya, this ensemble simply tore it up with a melting pot of genres and styles that had the place hoppin' and rockin' from the get-go!

Featuring Chad on guitar and vocals, Jeff Poremski on guitar, Jared Johnson on bass, Steve Benson on steel guitar and mandolin, Tommy Diehl on drums, Yahuba Jose Garcia-Torres on percussion, Christopher Peterman on sax, Lloyd Dugger on trombone and Tom Morse on trumpet, this outfit combines so many different styles in one set its almost hard to believe how cohesive it all sounds from one song to the next. We heard everything from rock, funk and jam-band fluidity, to rhythm-and-blues, reggae, calypso and African rhythms.

The band performed several tracks from Hollister’s aforementioned Chad CD including “Grow,” “The Answer,” “Alive” and “One World Free” and with all the additional musicians on-hand, these live versions brought a whole new dimension to the arrangements. Each song had a life of its own, flowing into these incredible impromptu jams before reeling it back in for the next adventure.

In seeing this band for the first time, one thing that was surely obvious to me is the amount of fun Chad and the boys have onstage... they are clearly in their element and doing what they love most, playing music for the people and generating enough positive energy to bring the folks out of their seats and onto the make-shift dance floor. You feel truly alive when standing before these gents... hey, wasn’t that the last song of the night?

Three great performances taking place within a truly historic New Hampshire venue, by some amazingly talented musicians who also happen to be some of the nicest and gracious people you will ever meet... can't ask for much more than that, folks. Editor's note: Coming very soon, please be on the look out for additional SRO photo galleries of each performance, with many more images to enjoy!