Happy Thanksgiving live music fans! Most go to family or friends for the holiday, but for some of us far from relatives, or estranged, or allergic to family gatherings, there need to be other options.
Charlie O’s on Main Street in the heart of the capital actually lives up to its tongue-in-cheek “fine dining” moniker once a year, and that day is Thanksgiving. The bar (along with the help of many of its patrons) actually puts out a worthy turkey day spread with all the trimmings. Bartender extraordinaire Jeffrey will be doing the turkey, and I happen to know firsthand that he is an excellent cook.
For my part, I’ll be making a holiday tradition from my family’s Italian side, the glorious meatball olive. One might not think that a mini-meatball stuffed with an olive would be all that great, but I guarantee you, it is. Bottom line: If you don’t have anything planned for Thanksgiving, you can get a great meal in a friendly environment that is distinctly not a church meal (but kudos to all that provide those as they are a need for many).
If any of you were out last night, I’m sure you noticed that most places were hopping. The night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest meet-up-to-party nights of the year, as younger folks come home from college for the holiday, and folks in general come back to commune with friends and family. The fun continues this weekend at many places, with live music providing relief and re-energizing after your tryptophan hangover.
We’ll start off outside of town, where a couple of our more rural venues have action for the holiday weekend. Just up County Road from the capital proper, The Whammy Bar, cozily nestled in the back of the Maple Corner Store, will feature music both Friday and Saturday night. Tonight, you can catch excellent Americana/alt-country artist Kelly Ravin alongside Halle Jade. On Saturday night, Them Boys (Danny Coane, Colin McCaffrey and Dave Rowell) play authentic, classic country the old-school way. Both shows start at 7:30 p.m. and are for donations.
Another out-of-the-way venue lies in Cabot, and it is also in an unlikely location. The Den lies nestled in the back of Harry’s Hardware in the heart of the bucolic village, and it hosts live music in the diminutive barroom. On Saturday night, it welcomes back a house fave in Jacob Green. The dude is literally a one-man band: he plays dobro, banjo and mandolin, while simultaneously playing harmonies for lead and a stomp box and foot tambourine for percussion. Oh, and he also plays harmonica. This one should be fun starting at 7 p.m., once again for donations.
Sticking outside of the capital proper for the moment, ZenBarn is relatively quiet this weekend, but the Waterbury Center hotspot is hosting one show on Saturday night. Juke-joint swing band Red Hot Juba brings its dynamic and danceable sound to the Zen starting at 8 p.m. for $5 at the door. I’ve yet to make it out to the ZenBarn, but all indications and reports I’ve heard say nothing but good things, and the programming continues to be some of the best and most consistent our area has to offer.
Back down in ol’ Montpeculiar, the usual suspects have live music for the holiday weekend as well. Sweet Melissa’s on the corner of Elm and Langdon has a rare night off for the holiday, but cranks things up again on Friday with Guano Loco. Expect everything from classic rock to pop hits delivered in their quirky and extravagant style starting at 9 p.m.
On Saturday night, Bruce Jones plays the early slot at 6 p.m., with 9 p.m. bringing the monthly installment of Sweet M’s Hot Mess, a variety show that features a “anything goes” style performance that can run the gamut from burlesque to comedy to music to poetry and back again. On Sunday, it’s the ever-popular live band karaoke with The Butcher Blocks starting at 8 p.m. If you haven’t been, it’s waaaayyy better than regular karaoke.
Around the corner at Positive Pie II, local rock group Nowhere, Washington plays the prominent downtown stage at the resto starting at 10 p.m. Friday. I honestly am not too familiar with this outfit, but the event is listed as no cover, so it won’t cost you anything to check them out. I’ll probably be working late that night, so if you do, give me a progress report.
And in the end, we come full circle, back to Charlie O’s, where there is live music Friday and Saturday following the Turkey Day festivities. On Friday night you can catch local roots/country troubadour and Charlie O’s bartender JJ Cyrus in the early slot at 6 p.m. In the 9 p.m. slot, O’s switches gears when it hosts Different Strokes, a Strokes tribute act that is sure to rock out in the back of the barroom. On Saturday, O’s wraps up their weekend in style with ‘Carolina’s Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band. I’ve saved the best for last as this one gets my pick of the week for their soulful original material, ‘Klay’s excellent roots playing, and Megan Jean’s dynamite vocals. Highly recommended starting at 9 p.m.
That wraps up this week. Eat, drink, and be merry, 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 house mate.