Every once in a great while, a local musician around these parts assembles a project that features a myriad of our local talent, a local “supergroup” if you will. Central Vermont-based bass player and singer-songwriter Ben Dunham has done just that with his latest, Backline Collective. The recording that, came out this past year, features a number of our finest local talents, including Sara Grace, Jay Ekis and Katie Trautz, among others.
The band will play a very special show Friday night at Positive Pie II on State Street in Montpelier. (Note: P-Pie’s website lists a different band, but I have word from Ben personally that Backline Collective is playing.) No word on which of our local luminary musicians will be in on this one, but rest assured there should be a fine assemblage of talent to pull off Ben’s compositions live. Expect a nominal cover at the door for the 9 p.m. show.
What is the hottest venue in our neck of the woods? Well, if you ask me, it is most definitely Zen Barn over in Waterbury Center. The Guptil Road hotspot has been booking a wide variety of awesome talent and shows no signs of slowing down.
On Friday night, local dance-trance electronica outfit Madman and Me takes the Zen stage. Formerly Mad Man 3, the band has added a female soul singer to the mix in one Jasmine White, thereby adding another layer to their sound. The highly danceable fun starts at 9 p.m.
On Saturday night, the Zen welcomes delta blues master Robert Lighthouse. The native of Sweden has taken an interesting road to success, traveling around the U.S. to absorb the roots of the genre in places like Chicago and New Orleans. He eventually landed in D.C., and after gaining a cult following as a street musician, landed a steady gig in a blues club that launched a more formal performance career.
His work on the guitar and harp has been lauded as being an authentic channeling of the old masters, so this one should be a treat of a show, starting once again at 9 p.m. for $5 at the door.
There’s not much of a live-music scene over in the Granite City of Barre, but Mingle nightclub does host live DJs nearly every weekend. On Friday night, DJ Riot spins eclectic tunes for every taste starting at 9 p.m.
On Saturday, Mingle hosts a “dress to impress” event with DJs Gagu and JAWZ, being warmed up by DJ Bay 6 starting at 9 p.m. According to the club’s Facebook page, these guys pack the dance floor at every appearance, so expect a good crowd. Both nights are a $5 cover at the door.
Back over in ol’ Montpeculiar, Charlie O’s has a touring act coming through on Friday night. The DiTrani Brothers hail from Washington state, and play old-time / ragtime / Gypsy jazz and other old-school styles with a new-school twist. They’ll take the back of the barroom by storm starting at 9 p.m. Recently hired bartender and roots musician JJ Cyrus, who has added an impressive female fiddler/vocalist to his outfit, plays the early slot at 6 p.m.
On Saturday night, O’s hosts a double-bill with Some Hollow and Gold Tooth Gator starting at 9 p.m.
Sweet Melissa’s has developed its own following as a barroom and eatery, but live music is and always has been the heart of the operation, and to that end they host live acts nearly every night of the week. Tonight you can catch pianist Dave Langevin in the early slot at 6 p.m. Later on, punk singer-songwriter Bishop Level plays the 8 p.m. slot.
On Friday night, Mel’s switches gears when it hosts Viva Vermont Burlesque for a risqué variety show starting at 9 p.m. On Saturday night, it’s a triple bill of solo performers with Eli, Django Suolo and Jason McCue playing at 6, 8 and 9 p.m., respectively. Finally, on Sunday, Lilly Smithy plays the early slot at 6 p.m., with the awesomeness that is live-band karaoke with The Butcher Blocks starting at 9 p.m.
The foliage is at full peak right now, but won’t be for very long. Before Daylight Savings Time comes along and earlier darkness comes along with it, it would be a great time to take a scenic drive up the County Road from the capital and check out a show in the intimate Whammy Bar, tucked in the back of the Maple Corner Store. Tonight you can try your talents at open mic starting at 7 p.m.
On Friday night you can catch swingin’ jazz act Cookie’s Hot Club at 7:30 p.m. Finally, on Saturday night, classic cover act Umlaut plays familiar rock tunes for a Democratic fundraiser, once again at 7:30 p.m. All shows at the Whammy are by donation.
That wraps up this week. Enjoy the fall colors and 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.