A Sunday Afternoon Of Blues

A Sunday Afternoon Of Blues
Hanging Out At The Village Trestle In Goffstown, New Hampshire

By Bill Copeland
August 2009

The Village Trestle in Goffstown, New Hampshire is one of the New England blues scene’s best-kept secrets. Part of southern New Hampshire’s blues landscape for nine years, The Village Trestle hosts bands every Friday and Saturday night.

There is also a special gem at the Trestle. On every Sunday afternoon from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. the blues room hosts the Wan-Tu Blues Band’s open mike and jam. When I arrived a little after 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, I found the Wan-Tu Blues Band in strong form. This house band already had a powerhouse sound going on. The dual guitars of Brian James and Mark St. Laurent were cranking out a lot of high pitched screaming blues notes, chords, and riffs.

The Wan-Tu Blues Band also features Dave Guilmette on bass, Rick King on drums, and band leader-sound man-zookeeper “Slutty” Pete Zona on harmonica. Zona told me later that he is nicknamed “Slutty” because he is “easy.”

Zona blasted strong melodic phrases out his harmonica while blues guitars screamed out their soulful joy behind them. They were eventually joined by a trio of saxophone players who call themselves the Sunday Horns. Occasionally the Trestle’s owner, Steve Pascucci, might step up to play harmonica, drums, trombone, or spatula. Pascucci used to be active in the Boston blues scene, but he moved to Goffstown 27 years ago, and he opened the Village Trestle nine years ago.

Pascucci is called the “Honorable Steven Pascucci” because every election year, he puts out a make shift ballot box in the Trestle with his name as the only candidate for Mayor Of Goffstown on makeshift ballots. He’s been elected “Mayor” four yeas in a row, even though there is no such elected position in this small town that only has a board of selectmen.

Pascucci told me two weddings and a renewal of vows has taken place in his Trestle. He even dresses up like the Pope for these events. Pascucci’s wife, Lorraine, is also an active partner in the Village Trestle, and she helps out with most of his events.

It seemed like everybody at The Village Trestle is an enthusiastic blues fan. Almost everyone I chatted with was still talking about the Lisa Marie and All Shook Up show from the night before. Everyone I talked to also mentioned the upcoming Barnful Of Blues Festival on Saturday, August 1 on route 13 in New Boston. But getting back to the Blues Jam at The Trestle I had attended. The afternoon jam pulled in players in from miles away. A guest guitarist named Al Cupples from the Lakes Region of New Hampshire got up to jam with his red, V-shaped guitar. Cupples left after his few songs because he lives two hours north of Goffstown.

The Village Trestle has a comfortable neighborhood bar atmosphere. Pool tables, electronic dart boards, and sports trophies are part of the interior, and people are very friendly, like we find at most upscale blues rooms. Nancy the bartender kept refreshing my Coca-Cola and Brenda the bartender offered to buy me lunch. I saw quite a few tough looking biker dudes in the room. But not to worry. They’re all gentlemen. They’re just built that way because they work very hard for a living.

There were a lot of other interesting people hanging out who were offering to introduce me to the players. A stunning and thoroughly clever blonde biker lady, Melanie, from England told me, in her thick Birmingham accent, how she used to promote music events back in Great Britain, and she recalls drinking with drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s late drummer John Bonham.

The musicians, though, were the highlight. Eventually, a local guitarist who calls himself Jerry Ray Vaughan went up to take his place in the band for a few numbers. Jerry wears a similar hat to his namesake, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, and he plays his guitar in a style obviously inspired by the late great. “Shaky Ground” is one song he pulls out of the hat with aplomb before he moves on to “The Sky Is Crying,” where he really gets to show off his chops. The Jerry Ray Vaughan guitarist got a lot of able assistance from guitarist Joe Pero from The Fuzzboxx, a band out of Concord, New Hampshire. Both guitarists together made “Willie The Wimp” flow out of the amps like the funky blues tune it was written to be.

Another popular local, Chris Noyes, got up there with his axe to play the early Elvis Presley hit “Tiger Man.” For that number, drummer Rick King created a train beat with his shuffling groove as Noyes wound his slide melody around the beat. Noyes, during his lineup, also turned in a decent rendition of Neil Young’s classic rock staple “Cinnamon Girl.”

Later in the set they played a slow blues “You Just Can’t Leave Her Alone” with “Slutty” Pete Zona blowing a wild, wiry melody. Eventually, sax player Jerry Page, a legendary figure up north for a long while, walked up mid-song to play along. Then, a second sax player, Pat Herlehy, joined the sound.

This was the first time I ever saw sax players walk into the band area and start playing mid-song. But such antics are probably nothing new for those guys. They said they sometimes sit in their chairs and play from their table. A third member of the Sunday Horns, Gary Calderone, was also on hand.

A 20 year resident of the area, Bill Ingalls, took over on bass for a few numbers, and, a Manchester guitarist named Brian Ducharme wielded his axe on a couple of numbers. It was Ingalls on lead vocals and Herlehy blaring on sax that made “Soul Man” come alive. Drummer Wally Nichols, another local celebrity musician, played a wild drum solo that impressed as much for its blues underpinnings as it did for it technique.

Four hours goes by quickly in the Trestle because the fun is nonstop. Zona keeps the pace brisk, never allowing any dead air at the two microphones. I don’t think I’ve ever seem a jam run so smoothly before. Usually, I get bored when jam hosts scratch their heads as they try to guess who should go on next. The Trestle jam had more of the vibe of a single band playing for three hours because it didn’t have the dispersing, distracting pauses between players that I usually find annoying about most jams.

The Village Trestle pulled in quite a number of people for a Sunday afternoon in July. Because the jam gets over at 7:00 p.m., a lot of the players have enough time to drive over to the 9:00 p.m. jam at The Strange Brew Tavern in neighboring Manchester. Anybody checking out the southern New Hampshire blues scene would be doing themselves a favor by dropping into the Village Trestle in Goffstown, New Hampshire between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. 25 Main Street, Goffstown Center, route 114. 603-497-8230


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