As spring slowly and reluctantly raises its head (it sure was nice at the beginning of the week, wasn’t it?), we are all obviously champing at the bit to get on with it. The green has finally revealed itself on the trees, and the sun is shining more, even if the temps (and rain) keep rearing themselves. There is a great cure for the early spring doldrums, and that is to go see live music. Here’s what’s happening.
Charlie O’s on Main Street in the capital may not be everyone’s favorite spot to catch live music, but it does book as consistently as anyone here in the Capital City. That trend continues this weekend, starting Friday evening at 6 p.m. when Jackson Haught plays acoustic rock in the back of the barroom for your listening pleasure.
Later on in the 9 p.m. slot, Chris Killian and the Vermont Brigade take the land beyond the pool tables by storm. The band is your typical straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band, but with a twist. Most of their 30 or so original compositions are inspired by letters sent home by Vermonters during the Civil War. One might expect a litany of folk ballads from this type of inspiration, but the Brigade performs in the genres of rock, reggae and funk as well as folk, pulling their influence from the likes of Neil Young, Wilco, Phish and The Grateful Dead. They’ll get their unique historically inspired party started at 9:30 p.m.
On Saturday night, O’s hosts my pick of the week when outlaw country outfit Wild Leek River returns to our venerated dive for nice people. I’ve been increasingly impressed with these guys each time I see them. They started out playing established material by outlaw country legends like Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, but have increasingly augmented that platform with their own outlaw country songs, as well as significant roots, blues and rock ‘n’ roll elements. These guys play with an attitude and stylistic aplomb, and are well worth checking out for fans of outlaw country or roots/Americana music in general. Highly recommended starting at 9:30 p.m.
Hopping over to Waterbury Center, Zenbarn continues its strong programming as spring develops, and will be a great spot to check out for live music in the coming weeks as it has a roomy deck and outdoor area to augment its excellent small yet spacious venue.
On Friday night, Troy Millette and the Fire Below bring their brand of ‘90s twang-rock to the Zen, starting at 8:30 p.m. for $5 at the door. On Saturday night, a powerhouse double bill happens at the Zen when local “supergroup” High Summer is joined by Brooklyn-based Walk Talk. High Summer features a who’s who of longtime central Vermont and Burlington-based musicians who have been steeped in groove, funk and jazz for a decade or more, including Andric Severance on keyboards and Miriam Bernardo on vocals.
Walk Talk is a duo that emerged from the dynamic dance band The Pimps of Joytime, who offer a fresh take on everything from boogaloo funk to classic hip-hop to high-life Afro rhythms and stormy R&B. This should be a great double bill and a highly danceable good time starting at 9 p.m. for $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For tickets and more information, visit www.zenbarnvt.com.
Getting out of the capital for the moment, it’s a great time to take a trip on some of our back roads now that mud season is winding down, and one great destination is The Whammy Bar, nestled cozily in the back of the Maple Corner Store in the bucolic village of Calais. Their weekly open mic starts tonight at 7 p.m. (be sure and show up early to sign up if you want to perform).
On Friday night, you can catch The VT Bluegrass Pioneers at the Whammy. The band features Banjo Dan and Willy Lindner of Mid-nite Plowboys fame alongside Danny Coane from The Starline Rhythm Boys. These guys have been playing authentic bluegrass and roots music for decades around these parts, and are still some of the best our area has to offer. The down-home hootenanny starts at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday night, Second Wind closes out the weekend, once again at 7:30 p.m. All shows at the Whammy are for donation.
Another rural venue that is active right now is The Den at Harry’s Hardware, located in the heart of the village of Cabot. On Saturday night, Turnip Truck, a five-piece string band hailing from the area, will play the diminutive barroom. Expect bluegrass, swing, gypsy jazz and old-school folk starting at 7 p.m.
It seems string-based music is all the rage this weekend, and back in Montpelier at Sweet Melissa’s, that trend continues tonight when Gold Sky Bluegrass takes the black box stage at the corner of Elm and Langdon streets in the shadow of the golden dome. I could not find anything definitive online about them; Greensky Bluegrass is a very well known national act, and Old Sky Bluegrass is an act out of Burlington, so perhaps Mel’s calendar had a typo and accidentally threw a ‘G’ in front of the name, but you’ll just have to show up to find out starting at 8 p.m.
On Friday night, Soulstice returns to Mel’s with their reggae/ska sound in tow starting at 9 p.m. On Saturday night, George Murtle plays the early slot at 6 p.m., followed by The Ulloo, a local act playing self-described “psychedelic indie-rock” at 9 p.m.
On Sunday, it’s live band karaoke with The Butcher Blocks backing you, should you choose to perform at the popular weekly happening. That one kicks off, as always, at 8:30 p.m.
That wraps up this week. Hold on for the warmer weather and sunshine, and in the meantime, warm up by going to see live music. Cheers!
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.