I often talk about walking into a place and unexpectedly discovering a new band. Just such a thing happened last weekend when I entered Charlie O’s and caught the last few songs in the set from Wild Leek River. From the name, you might expect a folk or country act that is more on the easier -istening side of things, but you would be way off the mark. The band played a loose, twangy and aggressive version of country music that definitely veered toward the rockin’ side of things. I only caught a few tunes, so I had a small sample size, but I look forward to seeing more from this local outlaw country outfit.
It’s a big birthday weekend at Sweet Melissa’s on the corner of Elm and Langdon in the shadow of the currently again-golden dome. Not only is the venue itself celebrating a birthday, the venue’s namesake and one of its primary house musicians, as well as a local organization, are also celebrating theirs. On Friday night, it’s Justice for All’s fifth birthday party, with local soul and blues man Dave Keller providing the soundtrack starting at 6 p.m. Thereafter, it’s Sweet Melissa’s (the venue itself) birthday party featuring the blues and soul sounds of the Eames Brothers Band starting at 10 p.m.
On Saturday night, the party continues as Titien and Melissa celebrate their shared birthdays, with two of the former’s bands providing the entertainment. Progressive post-punk act Coquette will be joined by its alter-ego, the always fun Guano Loco for what is sure to be a high-energy, super-fun night of rock ‘n’ roll. Come on down and help ‘em celebrate starting at 9:30 p.m.
Tonight you can catch Thomas Gunn in the early slot at 6 p.m., with Humble Hero taking the black box stage at 8:30 p.m. On Sunday, Lily Smith plays the early slot at 6 p.m. followed by the weekly installment of live-band karaoke with The Butcher Blocks starting at 8 p.m.
It’s notable how Melissa’s has managed to build itself into a fixture of the Montpelier nightlife scene, developing a regular crowd, in addition to the folks who show up exclusively for the music. This has a lot to do with Mel herself, as she sets the tone and atmosphere of the place, and her excellent staff. Happy birthday to Melissa, Titien, Sweet Melissa’s, and any others who may be celebrating one this weekend. You know where your party’s at.
Another kind of party is taking place this weekend in Cabot, and it’s to celebrate the release of local musician and producer Ben Dunham’s latest, “Collaboration.” The project is a followup to the highly successful “Backline Collective,” which debuted to critical acclaim last summer. The musicians include Dave Gutter, Sara Grace, Rob O’Dea, Robinson Morse, Andrew Suits, Gabe Halberg, Alex Gill, Jonas Eno-Van Fleet, Brandon Klarich and (of course) Ben Dunham. The album release party will be hosted at prominent actor Luis Guzmán’s house, 495 South Walden Road in Cabot, 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday. The party is open to the public with a $10 cover charge at the door.
Charlie O’s gets back into the swing of things this weekend featuring metal bands on Friday night. Our local bar for nice people loves to book the genre, but has not had a metal show recently. That changes Friday night when Hessian, Seax and Reckless Force collaborate on a head-banging triple bill. Rock out starting at 9 p.m. Chicky Stoltz plays the early slot at 6 p.m.
On Saturday night, O’s switches gears when folk-punk act Tail Light Rebellion takes the back of the barroom by storm. Born out of another folk-punk outfit, the Swaggering Growlers, The TLR has a rowdy, raucous sound that is sure to get the pints swingin’ with their tales of the road, whiskey, poverty and hard livin’. This one should be a lot of fun starting at 9 p.m.
ZenBarn over in Waterbury Center continues its steady programming this weekend when it presents lo-fi new folk act Tough Old Bird on Friday. The Zen has a knack for finding under-the-radar talent, and this duo out of Fillmore, New York, might just fit that description. Check ‘em out starting at 9 p.m. for free.
The Zen also hosts an acoustic Grateful Dead night with Zach Nugent, one of the finest purveyors of the Jerry Garcia sound performing today. That happens every Wednesday night, sometimes with special guests. If you’re searching for the sound, there it is.
Finally, if you’re looking for something a bit more high-end, you can catch Grammy-winning troubadour Rodney Crowell at the Chandler in Randolph Saturday night. In addition to his own tunes, the country music icon has written songs recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Van Morrison. Tickets range from $36-$50, and those and more information can be had by visiting www.chandler-arts.org.
That wraps up this week. Celebrate birthdays and make new discoveries. Go 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.