Montpelier has always been known for having local musicians involved in more than one band. A certain pair of brothers and their musical cohorts have taken this to another level. Cobalt and Titien Tolbert (guitar and drums, respectively) along with Angus Davis (bass) started out as the wildly energetic progressive indie band known as Coquette. That band does not perform as frequently as it used to, but the members have branched out to form myriad other projects.
Guano Loco is the aforementioned three joined by Jason Jack on keys and guitar. They are also known as The Butcher Blocks when they back up singers at live band karaoke every Sunday night at Sweet Melissa’s here in the capital. The Tolberts and Davis also perform with their buddy Caleb Elder on mandolin and banjo in an acoustic rock project known as Carter Glass, an act I caught last weekend and one I would highly recommend checking out. In addition, Titien Tolbert also plays drums for popular local ‘80s tribute act Duroc.
The bands all have different styles, but the common members bring the same things to all of them; excellent musicianship, high energy, and most of all, a sense of fun. You can tell these guys all love playing together, and don’t take themselves too seriously in spite of their stellar talent level. This group of young players is doing a lot to keep our little scene valid, and here’s to hoping they continue to do so into the new year and beyond.
Believe it or not, the core group of musicians mentioned above is also in another band, this one a tribute act to the iconic ‘90s hard rock band System of a Down. The oddly named Kombucha Mushroom People (which refers to a SOAD lyric) is an act I’ve caught before, and it gave me a serious appreciation for a band I never really gave much of a chance. They play the music of the original band with power and serious aplomb, and if you’re a fan, or a fan of heavy rock music in general, I would be at Sweet Melissa’s on the corner of Elm and Langdon Streets in the shadow of the golden dome to catch their 9:30 p.m. performance Saturday night.
If you show up early, you can catch Thomas Gunn in the 8 p.m. slot. Tonight at Mel’s, Dave Langevin plays piano in the really early slot time of 5 p.m., with The Welterweights taking the black box stage at 7:30 p.m. That band features a number of Vermont’s heavy hitters, including Elder, Lowell Thompson, Kelly Ravin and Michael Chorney. Expect some seriously good rock ‘n’ roll out of these guys — highly recommended. On Friday night, you can catch Soulstice in the 9 p.m. slot. Overall, an excellent weekend of music down at Sweet M’s.
Over on Main Street here in the capital, Charlie O’s has it goin’ on this weekend as well. On Friday night, you can catch Z-Jazz in the early slot at 6 p.m., followed by blues rockers Muddy Ruckus at 9 p.m. On Saturday night, it’s hip-hop in the back of the barroom with Sed One performing alongside Maiden Voyage, a talented group of youthful rhyme spitters led by the incomparable Jarv. This is another one that should be a lot of fun, starting at 9 p.m.
That’s a lot of good music out of just two venues this weekend in the capital proper. Outside the capital over in Waterbury Center, ZenBarn is continuing solid programming into the new year. On Friday night, NYC/Boston-based indie folk songwriters Gillian Grogan and Nicomo bring their critically lauded acts to the Zen stage, starting at 9 p.m. for $5 at the door.
On Saturday night, Vermont-bred gone-big-city soul songstress Myra Flynn plays with her trio, which features longtime Vermont-based saxophonist Dave Grippo. Myra has gathered her fair share of critical acclaim as well, and as Vermont loves its female singers, I would expect this one to be well attended starting at 8:30 p.m. for $10 at the door.
Finally, if you are looking for something a bit more risqué, you can head out to the Barre Opera House on Friday night to catch The Vermont Burlesque Festival in the heart of the Granite City. The event features myriad performers, comedians, musicians and other cabaret-oriented variety show entertainers. It also features burlesque, of course, so this one is for mature (21-plus) audiences only. The frisky fun starts at 8 p.m. with tickets ranging from $25-$30. For those and more information, visit www.barreoperahouse.org.
That’s an awful lot of great entertainment for one weekend in our neck of the woods; now it’s up to you to get out there and support it — 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.