It’s no secret that our area is considered a small market as far as the live music business goes, despite that fact we have a rich and diverse local music scene with a wide variety of talented artists plying their craft. There are only so many musicians around, however, and in order for a scene to stay relevant, talent from outside the area needs to augment our excellent local musicians.
That’s not always easy due to the small-market nature of our area, but some are doing a good job of bringing in talent from the larger markets to our south and east, none more so than ZenBarn in Waterbury Center. The Guptil Road hot spot has been showcasing a mix of local and regional programming that is some of the best the area has to offer.
On Friday night, that trend continues when the Zen hosts Northampton, Massachusetts-based Bella’s Bartok. The band has evolved from their early days as street performers to become a tour de force of folk-punk madness by mixing the traditional sounds of their immigrant grandparents with a post-punk pop sensibility and a vaudevillian flair. The band features electric instrumentation alongside brass and accordion, letting them meld more traditional sounds with a modern rock ‘n’ roll ethos. Rest assured this one will be fun starting at 9 p.m. Montpelier-based fem-rockers Yestrogen open the show, adding the local flair alongside the regional touring talent. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
Tonight at the Zen, deadheads are in luck as another touring act, Rainbow Full of Sound brings its Grateful Dead tribute show to the resto/venue. The band will be playing the classic Dead album “Terrapin Station” in its entirety, plus other material from the late, great Jerry Garcia and his cohorts. That one is also $12 in advance and $15 at the door.
Finally, on Saturday night, the Zen switches gears when it hosts a dance party with DJ Dakota providing the soundtrack. That one is free, starting once again at 9 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit www.zenbarnvt.com.
If you just can’t get enough Grateful Dead, you can pop into Sweet Melissa’s on the corner of Elm and Langdon in the capital on Saturday night to catch local Dead tribute act The Dark Star Project. I’ve caught their act before, and though they lack a natural Jerry-vocal lead, they do an admirable job with the instrumental side of the material and are worth checking out for any fan of the Dead’s music. They’ll kick things off at 9 p.m.
Tonight at Mel’s, it’s bluegrass night featuring Caleb Elder, who I imagine will have some of his cohorts a pickin’ and a grinnin’ alongside him starting at 8 p.m. On Friday night, another one of those touring acts comes through town when Los Angeles-based all-female rock act No Small Children takes the black box stage. The acclaimed trio are elementary school teachers by day, but they seriously rock out at night, with some of their material getting radio airplay coast to coast. The rare marquis show for Montpelier starts at 9 p.m., with locals Tin Talisman providing support. Expect a nominal cover at the door on weekends at ‘Sweets.
Around the corner at Charlie O’s, the live music is bumpin’ this weekend as well. On Friday night, you can catch longtime local blues act Left Eye Jump doing its thing in the back of the barroom. On Saturday night, Liz Beatty and the Lab Rats bring their soul-inspired sound to the land beyond the pool tables. This is a new backing band to support Liz’s considerable vocal talents — the gal can sing. Support a rising local star and have your ears thrilled in the process. Both shows start at 9:30 p.m., and as always at O’s, there’s never a cover.
Finally, if you’re looking for something more high-end, you can head down I-89 to Chandler Music Hall Friday night to catch a family-affair show with Loudon Wainwright III, Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche. The ex-partners and their daughter play alone and together, mixing familial harmonies with their excellent songcraft to create a thoughtful and entertaining show. Tickets range from $34 to $48, and those and more information can be had at www.chandler-arts.org.
That wraps up this week. Whether supporting local, regional or touring artists, keep doing so by going to 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.