There are the usual suspect venues in Montpelier, and then there are the unusual ones. Three Penny Taproom only does musical events on occasion, usually just one or maybe two a month at most. They do have a very nice room for it, however; their wood paneled dining room provides warm acoustics and a great atmosphere.
Tonight at 8 p.m., you can catch a very special show with formerly local gal Myra Flynn as she starts out on her “Summer of Soul” tour. Myra splits her time between the east and west coasts these days, but still returns to the area periodically to perform at some of her old local haunts. Her indie/soul/folk sound has always been well received here, and I’d expect no less tonight starting at 8 p.m. No word on if there is a cover or not as of press time.
I couldn’t tell you what was going on at Charlie O’s last week, but this week I’ve got their full schedule at hand. You can get the weekend started early tonight with solo artist Thomas Gunn at 8 p.m. On Friday night, Bishop Levey plays acoustic in the early slot at 6 p.m. Later on at 9:30 p.m., things ratchet up in the back of the barroom when a trio of synth bands take over the land beyond the pool tables. Synth-punk act Magic User will be joined by synth-pop act Dune Hunter and solo-synth act Pleasure Vice for what sounds like a unique night of music. And O’s isn’t done yet. On Saturday night, it’s a hard-rockin’ double bill with grunge-rockers Astrocats being joined by Queen City-based rock ‘n’ rollers Dino Bravo. That one also kicks off at 9:30 p.m., and as always at O’s, there’s never a cover.
One of the usual suspects in town is not hosting live music as often these days. It’s somewhat of a mystery as to why Positive Pie II on State Street has ceased booking acts despite having one of the most prominent stages and largest rooms for it in town. I do know that their old talent coordinator, Matthew Slaughter, has moved on, so that might have something to do with it. If I find out more info, I will pass it on, but it sure would be nice to see that room utilized more regularly, as it used to be.
There’s no such slow-down at Sweet Melissa’s, on the corner of Elm and Langdon streets. Tonight they’ll host Barre-based outlaw country purveyor Tim Brick starting at 8 p.m. On Friday night, it’s Dead Sessions Lite, an acoustic version of the popular Grateful Dead tribute act Dead Sessions. That gets rolling at 9 p.m. On Saturday night, Umlaut plays the early slot at 6 p.m., followed by a very special double bill to celebrate ‘Mel’s co-owner Jason Jack’s birthday. Jason’s own band, Guano Loco, will share the stage with, well, themselves, as Coquette, the act co-billing, which consists of three-fourths of Guano Loco. Coquette is not playing out as a band much these days, but their post-punk, prog rock sound never fails to impress. This one is bound to be a party to remember starting once again at 9 p.m. Incidentally, the members of Coquette and Guano Loco are also The Butcher Blocks, the live band karaoke hosts on Sunday nights starting at 8:30. Those boys are gonna be real busy this weekend, for sure.
Another suspect that is becoming more usual this time of year in the capital is The Skinny Pancake in the heart of downtown. Now that the weather has broken, they do live music on the patio regularly. Tonight and Thursdays throughout the summer, you can catch a residency with D. Davis and Django Suolo at 7 p.m. On Friday evening, local singer songwriter Malayna Johnson will perform on the patio starting at 6 p.m. Finally, on Saturday night, alt-country artist Brett Hughes will be joined by instrumentalist Matt Flinner with the duo performing at 5 p.m. All shows on the patio are weather permitting, and by donation.
It’s a lovely time of year to get out of town and check out some of our more off-the-beaten-path venues, like The Whammy Bar, nestled cozily in the back of the Maple Corner Store in Calais. You can perform or just listen at open mic tonight and every Thursday starting at 7 p.m. On Friday night, my latest fave local singer Liz Beatty performs with her blues and soul band, The Lab Rats. Liz has a dynamite, soul-packed vocal style with a lot of influence from the Big Easy. Catch a rising local talent starting at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday night, The Barn Band plays classic rock and oldies, once again at 7:30 p.m. If you haven’t been to the ‘Whammy, I recommend checking it out, as it is a unique and intimate space to catch a show.
Another out of town spot I’ve been touting of late is ZenBarn on Guptil Road in Waterbury Center. Their impressive programming continues this weekend with a powerhouse double bill Saturday night. Mal Maiz, the sprawling Burlington-based Afro-Latin orchestra, will be joined by Boston-based Kina Zore, who play music from the African country of Mozambique. If you are looking to dance, this is a show for you, and if you haven’t been, the ‘Zen is a perfect room for dancing. I may have saved the best for last here, as this one gets my pick of the week starting at 9 p.m. for $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For tickets and more information, visit www.zenbarnvt.com.
That wraps up this week. Whether hitting up a usual suspect venue or exploring something new, just make sure you go and see some 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.