It’s always great to see a band develop. Over the past weekend, I wandered into Charlie O’s and caught the last half of Lake Superior’s set. The band had been around a few years as a duo, paying homage to the rust-belt rock ‘n’ roll sound of their hometown of Detroit. They’ve since expanded to a trio by adding bass player Jason Pappas, who has filled out the sound with syncopated playing that augments drummer Jeff Thomson’s Detroit-inspired phat-backed rhythms. Add in Pete Rahn’s inspired guitar playing that pays homage to the roots of the blues genre without sacrificing the post-punk energy of the band, and you’ve got a winning formula that is at once reminiscent of Detroit acts like MC5, as much as it is more contemporary ones like The Black Keys. It takes a lot of practice and determination for a band to progress, and these guys seem to be coming into their own. Keep your eyes (and ears) out for Lake Superior as they continue to develop into 2019.
Heading out of the capital proper for the moment, Chandler Music Hall down in Randolph doesn’t book a lot of contemporary rock shows, but it does on occasion. I caught a great one a number of years back when the Avett Brothers played a show there just before they became superstars. Donna the Buffalo has not quite achieved those heights, but is a firmly established roots-rock band known for their blend of old-time fiddle music, reggae, Cajun, zydeco, folk and country. The road-seasoned act has toured the country for nearly three decades and shows no signs of slowing down. They’ll be supported by the Gary Douglas Band, a roots-rock act led by a trial lawyer who fights environmental injustice through litigation when he’s not rocking out on stage. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance range from $28-$38, and those and more info can be had at www.chandler-arts.org.
Sticking out of the capital for the moment, The Zen Barn over on Guptil Road in Waterbury Center continues its strong programming this weekend with a great show on Friday night. Central Vermont supergroup The Backline Collective, whose members represent a who’s who of the local jazz, roots and rock scenes, will perform alongside The Stash Band for what promises to be a dynamite double bill. The Collective will also play Montpelier City Hall on New Year’s Eve, so I’ll have a more extensive feature on them in a few weeks. The Stash Band has been called a “sonic kaleidoscopic of weirdness and wonder” (The Boston Globe) for their unique mixture of bluegrass, heavy metal and spaced out psychedelic sounds. This great double bill gets my pick of the week starting at 9 p.m. for $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For tickets and more info, visit www.zenbarnvt.com.
Hopping back into Montpelier, Charlie O’s has some strong roots programming Friday night when old-time act Valentino and ragtime act Rust Bucket are joined by outlaw country outfit Wild Leek River. WLR really impressed me with their edgy yet authentic sound the last time I caught them in the back of the barroom, and I’d imagine they’ve only gotten better in the ensuing months. On Saturday night, O’s switches gears when classic rock band The Fellowship takes the back of the barroom. Both shows start at 9 p.m.
For those of you who like to get your Grateful Dead on (regular readers will know that I do), you can check out Dark Star Project on Friday at Positive Pie II on State Street. Though lacking a natural Jerry on vocals, the band does an admirable job instrumentally on the material, and is well worth the price of admission for any Deadhead. That’s especially so as it’s only $5 at the door. Get your Dead on starting at 9 p.m.
Positive Pie occasionally has music at its other locations, this weekend at the original resto in Plainfield. On Saturday night, Kava Express brings its self-described “highly euphoric” sound to the heart of the quirky little village starting at 8 p.m.
Back in Montpelier, Saturday brings an early show to town, and I mean really early. Michael T. Jermyn and the Aristocratic Peasants will perform at the T.W. Wood Gallery at 46 Barre St. from 1 to 3 p.m. No word on a cover charge at press time.
Back in downtown Montpelier proper, Sweet Melissa’s has got it goin’ on as usual this weekend. You can check out aforementioned old-time act Valentino in the early slot at 6 p.m. tonight, followed by established local blues-rocker Blue Fox at 8 p.m.
On Friday night, it’s an entirely different flavor when Viva Vermont Burlesque takes the black box stage for a night of vivacious and frisky fun starting at 9:30 p.m. On Saturday night, it’s holiday-themed tin pan alley-style swing with Red Hot Juba hosting starting at 9 p.m. Expect a nominal cover at Mel’s on the weekends.
Finally, speaking of holiday themes, you can head on up the County Road to Calais tonight to catch a Christmas carol sing-along with June Morse starting at 7 p.m. On Friday night, singer-songwriter Marc Delgado takes the diminutive stage starting at 7:30 p.m.
And last but most certainly not least, alt-rockers Anachronist hope to pack the room for their show Saturday night, with all collected proceeds going to the Vermont Food Bank. A great show and a great cause starting once again at 7:30 p.m.
Until next week, support your local developing talent, 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.