The Heart of Saturday Night

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The Rippin’ E Brakes plug in. (photo by Joe Coulombe)

The music of the iconic barroom troubadour Tom Waits was on full display Saturday, Feb. 7, as New Hampshire musicians gathered at The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant in Manchester for a concert to benefit Maggie’s Beat, a charity that helps causes that were close to Maggie Philbrook’s heart, as well as raise childhood cancer awareness.

Musicians covered songs that spanned Waits’ entire oeuvre, from his early barfly ballads on “Small Change” and “Closing Time” to tracks off his more experimental albums such as “Rain Dogs” and “Mule Variations.”

“He’s one of the greatest,” said Jasmine Mann, a Houston-native who played acoustic renditions of “Hope I Don’t Fall in Love You” and “Blue Skies.” The show had particular resonance for Mann, whose father passed away from cancer and whose mother is a cancer survivor. “Every artist has their Waits’ songs,” she said.

The event was organized by Rob Azevedo, who hosts “Granite State of Mind,” a weekly radio program on WNHN in Concord that features local artists and musicians.

“I was listening to Tom Waits and came up with an idea to raise money,” Azevedo said.

Azevedo’s daughter, Danielle, suggested the charity Maggie’s Beat, having known Maggie Philbrook, a 13 year-old New Hampshire girl who lost her battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, in February 2014.

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Jen Whitmore opens the Tom Waits’ Tribute show on Feb. 7 in Manchester. (photo by Joe Coulombe)

The evening kicked off with Derry-musician Jen Whitmore playing “Alice” and “Come on Up to the House.” She chose the latter thematically.

“The song makes me think about the permanence on earth and how short life can be,” said Whitmore.

Keith Sanders, a 28 year-old musician from Epsom, was introduced to Waits’ music through his parents’ record collections.

“I remember my parents playing ‘Closing Time’ on vinyl,” he said. Sanders chose two songs from the album, “Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)” and “Grapefruit Moon.”

Jersey-native and Springsteen-enthusiast Paul Karinja also contributed with a soulful cover of the Waits’ classic “Jersey Girl.”

In an evening that brought acoustic guitars and a spattering of stand-up comedy from Paul Landwehr, Joe Mitchell and James Mullen, Hopkinton’s Rippen’ E Brakes plugged in and brought some drums to the stage and played “Hold On” and “Jockey Full of Bourbon,” setting up 17 year old Concord High School senior Delanie Pickering.

With a cover of “Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night,” Pickering brought the curtain down on an event that that netted $1500 for Maggie’s Beat.

“It was a great evening, full of music and fun that Maggie would have loved,” said Moira Philbrook, Maggie’s mother.

Azevedo believes the show was an apt tribute to its namesakes.

“To love and inspire and devote your self to whatever cause, for whatever reason, is an ageless act,” Azevedo said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 38 or 88 years old, you have—to quote Tom Waits—‘get behind the mule’ and make it happen for as long as you can. We honored two Hall of Famers: Maggie Philbrook and Mr. Waits.”

For more information on Maggie’s Beat and upcoming benefit shows, visit the website: http://www.maggiesbeat.org/