Capital Sounds: Live band karaoke is where it's at

Putney-based Planet Zydeco brings its upbeat music of the Cajun/Creole bayou country to an outdoor house concert in Middlesex Saturday (Provided photo)

Most people think that, as the writer of this column every week, that I must see tons of live music, and over the years, I certainly have. I've booked and presented hundreds of acts personally, and probably get closer to four digits worth if you count what I've seen as an audience member. These days, however, I'm more like many of you; my other work schedule prohibits me attending most nighttime events, at least until they are almost over. And though I have Sunday and Monday nights, they aren't exactly big nights for musical events. There is always an exception, of course, and live band karaoke at Sweet Melissa's on the corner of Elm and Langdon in the capital remains firmly exceptional. It continues to draw a diverse, multi-aged and enthusiastic crowd, and the amazing incarnation of talent known as The Butcher Blocks backing up the amateur singers continues to impress with its ever-expanding repertoire and serious chops. I've written extensively about live band karaoke at Mel's, and continue to highlight it with good reason. It is currently the most consistent and popular scene in a very inconsistent live-music landscape in the capital these days, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Every Sunday night at 8:30 p.m., Sweets is the place to be. Sweet Melissa's also could be the place to be this Saturday night when it host its street festival. Starting at 12:30 p.m. and running until late at night, the event will present acts on two stages. I would love to regale you with details on said acts, many of whom will probably be local faves, but the lineup had not been released as of press time. I personally give them a pass on that; running an establishment full-time while putting together something like this is, as I know from experience, a daunting task. But I would never doubt SM's ability to throw down a great party. Tonight,'Sweets will host The Callahan-Schiller Jazz Trio starting at 8 p.m. On Friday night, Medicine Tribe brings their rock and blues sounds to the black box stage. Expect a nominal door fee on weekends.  Central Vermont is home to a great number of small hamlets nestled in the hills, some of which have their own music series and festival events with their bucolic settings as the backdrop. One is happening this weekend in Peacham, on the fringes between central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. The Peacham Acoustic Music Festival is pretty much what you'd expect it to be, with a solid lineup of local and regional eclectic, folk-oriented acts alongside a healthy smattering of nationally known talent. Some highlights include Jonathan Edwards, whose career has spanned four decades now. The dude's 1974 mega-hit “Sunshine”will forever bring me back to summer days riding in the back seat of my parent's Chevy Impala. “Del Rey, who plays a syncopated style of guitar based on prewar blues and barrelhouse piano traditions, is one of the best fingerpickers of this or any generation" (Ian Zack, Acoustic Guitar). And speaking of quirky, The Cranky Show, featuring the legendary Tom Banjo and his sons Ethan and Jesse, is a charmingly antiquated form of folk entertainment that is a fave of mine. Other acts include Annie and the Hedonists and Doug Perkins. For a complete listing, tickets and details about the Saturday and Sunday event, visit www.pamfest.com. Note that the family friendly event is alcohol free.  If you are looking for some entertainment that includes adult beverages, there is even more to be had right here on Friday in Montpelier at Positive Pie II on State Street, and it can be accompanied by some stellar music. Barika is a funked-out, dub-drenched West African-flavored stew that is bound to move your mind along with your body. A special guest, Rob Compa of Dopapad fame, will join the band for what should be an excellent show from one of our state's finest acts starting at 10 p.m. for a nominal cover.  If you are looking for some hip-hop, you can get it in gritty, up-close style at Charlie O's Friday night when the Will Rap for Art tour passes through, featuring Jarv (yeah!), Mr. Burns, Eyenine, Dillon, and special guest Sed One of Boomslang fame. The show benefits a youth art program, so get down for a good cause in the back of the barroom starting at 9 p.m. On Saturday night, O's switches gears when it hosts The U.S. Americans alongside Cosmonaut Radio. The pairing of the genres is as juxtaposed as the names, with the former being edgy rock with a punk tinge, and the latter being soul and R&B driven with pop overtones. Perhaps Trump and Putin will make guest appearances with each band (maybe they'll even play together ... or are they already?). The show starts at 9 p.m.  In closing, I don't often cover house concerts due to their private residence nature, but I saw so many posters for this one that I reckoned the folks from Frog Moon Hollow just off Shady Rill in Middlesex would welcome the exposure. Planet Zydeco is a New England-based band, and they play the fun, upbeat music of the Cajun/Creole bayou country. Should be a fun one out on the lawn (bring a chair or blanket if you like) starting at 7 p.m. Saturday. Suggested donation is $15 per person, but give what you are able - profits go to the musicians. There are lots of options I didn't get to this week as well. The only missing ingredient is you, so get on out and see live music.  Ed DuFresne has produced concerts and events (which he prefers to call shows) in and around central and northeastern Vermont since the late '90s. He is grateful to live in Montpelier with an exemplary Renaissance man as a housemate.

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