Welcome to mud season! Our state’s fifth season (sixth if you count stick season in November) is not much fun for most folks, but it is generally tolerated being that it coincides with the temperatures warming up. Hopefully that will be happening this weekend, and here are some things you can do to “break the ice.”
On Saturday night, metal fans can rejoice that Charlie O’s has four different metal and punk acts playing in the back of the barroom. Local and regional metal acts Fed Ash, Gorcrow, Crystal Methodist (band name of the week) and Black Axe will play sludge/crust/power metal with some heavy punk thrown in for good measure. Expect a leather-clad crowd with lots of patches in the land beyond the pool tables starting at 9 p.m.
On Friday night, Fern Maddie plays old-time and Americana in the early slot at 6 p.m., followed by The Mangroves’ funk/jazz fusion at 9 p.m.
Around the corner at Sweet Melissa’s, you can start your weekend off early tonight with some outlaw country from Barre’s own Tim Brick. He’ll bring it starting at 8 p.m. On Friday night, Dead Sessions Lite takes the black box stage, with what I assume is an acoustic version of the Dead Sessions electric tribute to the iconic psychedelic ‘60s act. That party gets started at 9 p.m.
On Saturday night, Sam Acus plays the early slot at 6 p.m., followed by Groove Philter at 9 p.m. On Sunday, as always, it’s live band karaoke with The Butcher Blocks taking the stage to back you up starting at 8:30 p.m. Expect a nominal cover at the door on weekends.
If you are willing to brave the mud-season roads, a number of our more rural venues are active this weekend as well. The Den at Harry’s Hardware, in the heart of the village of Cabot, has been idle in the live music department for a bit, but that changes this weekend. Tonight at the convenient after-work time of 5:30 p.m., you can catch a double bill with Vermont-born pop-rockers Chad Hollister and Primo. Chad’s sunny, positive-message pop-tunes have garnered radio play coast to coast, and if Primo lives up to his name, this could be a great way to kick off the weekend.
On Saturday night, Sugarhouse Run brings its appropriately-named for-the-time-of-year act to the cozy bar. Expect harmony-driven bluegrass from this local string-band trio starting at 7:30 p.m.
You really don’t have to brave any dirt roads to get to Cabot, but not so with Calais, where another cozy, back-of-the-store barroom lies in the Maple Corner Store. The Whammy Bar generally has programming Thursday-Saturday, and tonight it’ll kick things off with its weekly open mic night starting at 7 p.m.
On Friday night, Big Hat No Cattle bring their Texas swing sound to the diminutive barroom. Finally, on Saturday night, The Picklebacks will perform. A pickleback, as I know it, is a shot of whiskey chased with a shot of pickle juice, and it’s a surprisingly good combination. If the band lives up to its name, this should be a good one as well. The latter two shows start at 7:30 p.m., and all shows at the Whammy are by donation, with all of the proceeds going to the artists.
Hopping over to the Granite City, Gusto’s Bar usually hosts cover bands, but is foraying into some early-evening singer-songwriter performances as well. On Friday night you can stop in after work and check out acoustic artist Jamie Carey. Her set starts at 5 p.m. Later on Friday night, Gusto’s hosts one of the above mentioned cover acts when rockers Mirage take the barroom stage.
Then, on Saturday evening, another acoustic act performs when Stefani Cappazi plays starting at 6 p.m., followed by DJ Kaos spinning remixes of faves both old and new starting at 9:30 p.m. Here’s to hoping Gusto’s continues the trend of hosting more varieties of live music.
Another granite city venue I’ve not touched on in awhile, Espresso Bueno on Main Street continues to host live music and comedy events a few times a month. On Saturday night, it’s another kind of live band karaoke, this one known as Jazzyaoke. Pick one of your favorite standards and belt it out in front of a live jazz band. Channel your inner Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald starting at 7:30 p.m. for $5 at the door.
Hopping over to Waterbury Center, ZenBarn, on Guptil Road just off Route 100, continues to do what it does best. That is to bring in some of the best regional talent the Northeast has to offer. Upstate, a band out of New York’s Hudson County, is a seven-piece Americana act with three female lead singers and an electrifying acoustic sound that’s been called “toe-tapping, contagious and fun” (The Alt). Vermonter Abby Sherman provides support for tonight’s festivities that start at 9 p.m.
On Saturday night, a local guy and his band who’ve seen no small amount of success on the regional and national blues circuit play the Zen when the Dave Keller Band plays the spacious room. There are usually covers at the Zen, and they are worth it for the top-notch talent. For those and more information, visit www.zenbarnvt.com.
In closing, if you’re looking for something more high-end, you can head down the mudless highway of I-89 to Randolph to Chandler Music Hall. There you can catch iconic progressive bluegrass band The Seldom Scene Friday night. The group has been doing its thing for over four decades after starting out as a weekly jam session, and has developed into one of the most enduring acts on the folk and bluegrass circuit today. Tickets range from $25-$35, and those and more information can be had at www.chandler-arts.org.
That wraps up this week. Don’t get stuck in the mud ... 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.