ST. ALBANS – Downtown has been filled with the sounds of merriment and music this summer like no other in recent memory.
“Live music adds a unique quality to our downtown, giving residents a reason to take a nice walk through town,” explains Marty Manahan, former mayor and now Business Development director for the City of St. Albans. “Music also has a tendency to make you want to stop if you’re driving through the city to check out what’s happening.”
With the downtown revitalization complete, several Main Street restaurants have benefited by offering outside dining to their patrons. “When we were redesigning downtown we specifically added wider sidewalks with bump outs in order to create this type of atmosphere,” Manahan adds.
“People love being outside in the summer,” Twiggs gastro-pub owner Tom Murphy explains, “and we want to provide outdoor entertainment for all to enjoy.” This summer Twiggs has offered live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, with three areas for live performances: the window, the dining room and main stage.
This summer the ‘Back Inn Time’ has been host for evenings of Music & More in their carriage barn, opening the venue to the public on scheduled Friday evenings, for a fine dining experience, accompanied by musicians Dayve Huckett on guitar, Art DeQuasie on string bass and vocalist Lena Cannizzaro.
“We set the ambiance with our music,” guitarist Huckett says. “Playing music live is best when the audience is engaged and the music touches them. They forget their own troubles and get lost in the music. All their worries are gone and they can just enjoy the moment. What a gift to have these moments.”
Music for the Masses
With music having the ability to unite people under a single experience, live concerts provide a gathering place for celebration and festivity.
The Summer Concert Series, held in St. Albans’ Taylor Park, has attracted many into town on Friday evenings. “The St. Albans area is home to some terrific musicians and Taylor Park is a phenomenal venue,” says Manahan, who sees the city’s plan succeeding. “We’ve had some great bands and acoustical duos this summer that have brought in some good crowds,” he adds.
Local sensation, Keegan Nolan was to perform in the park Friday night, with ‘No Left Turn’ finishing up the series on Sept. 12. The series is planned to continue in 2015, with 10 to 12 concerts, outdoing this years’ seven.
One Federal restaurant is host for its Summer Concert Series under the tents, sponsored by the Long Trail Brewing Company. The series has featured Vermont bands and musicians all summer long, including Nobby Reed, The Hit Men and Dayve Huckett and Friends. A few evenings under the tents remain, with the last show scheduled for Sept. 4, featuring WoaDoggies.
As music has an innate power to connect people, those that create and perform music have an understanding of the unique bond that forms between those you make music and those that are inspired by listening to it.
“Music definitely has the power to bring people together,” says Brad Bennett, as he sits on a couch surrounded by a group who cheer him on as he strums out a few chords on an old guitar. “Playing music gives me a dedication to open my soul. When people are out, listening to live music, often they stop in their tracks and give their devoted attention to what’s going on.”
More than Music
It’s not music alone that adds to the buzz of downtown venues. Brewing sponsors offer prizes for raffle and lend their representatives to add some fun to local events. Open-microphone nights give brave residents the opportunity to showcase their own talents, planned and sometimes impromptu.
“I know how important practice is for these young performers, so we give them a chance to get up on stage and practice in front of an audience,” Tom Murphy says of Twiggs’ open-mic nights, held the first Wednesday of each month.
Shooters Saloon, on Kingman Street, also sponsors an open-mic night every Thursday.
The Traveled Cup aims to use its space on North Main Street to build community and offers open-mic nights not only for musicians, but for poets and other performers who want to share their talents. The coffee house is also host for a Photography Talk on Sept. 25, for those that want to discuss and learn more about the art.
As the new shop, Local Fare, opens next door to Twiggs on Saturday, John Stork – street performer extraordinaire will be out front to start off the celebration; along with music provided by Bobby Chevalier and Isaac French both performing live.
As the heat of summer dwindles and the early evenings of autumn set in, Shooters Saloon plans for its Friday night live-music schedule to pick back up. Twiggs will relocate window performances into its back room and beginning in October plans to offer an evening of lighter music by candlelight. With a grand piano for performances, they have hired a few pianists to showcase their talents.
Melinda Lussier, a self-taught pianist and singer, has helped Murphy plan the upcoming piano performances. Lussier has been playing by ear since age 4, and expressing her own emotions and feelings through the piano is her passion. “It’s my outlet. I don’t know if I’m doing it right; I just play what I feel,” she says.
Lussier also performs alongside Aaron Bachelder on guitar; the duo is scheduled to perform at The Traveled Cup on Nov. 29.
Many of the same performers make their rotation around the downtown venues and also like to spend time listening to others at the same places where they perform.
“I usually go to Twiggs or The Traveled Cup; the same places I would perform at myself,” says Lussier.
Many doing business downtown believe live performances are captivating residents of St. Albans and visitors alike, supplying energy of revitalization to those who welcomed it in.
Whether you stop to listen to a street musician strum a few notes or join friends for an evening out – when it comes to the power of music – we all tend to drop our inhibitions a bit, sing along and do our best to move to the beat. This is the energy of a thriving city.
Don’t forget Highgate …
Another concert series, Summer Sounds, organized by the All Arts Council has been Franklin County’s premiere outdoor concert series for 24 years, with live performances Sunday evenings at 7 in the Highgate Town park. The series is sponsored by a variety of local businesses and municipalities, who want to give back to the community by supporting the arts and providing entertainment for their residents. The Tammy Fletcher Band will performs this Sunday, sponsored by Desorcie’s Market.