The top live shows I attended in the region this past year
By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
2020 was an incredible year, like none other. I’ve never seen the world look forward more to a new year like everyone did for 2021. Don McLean sang about “the day the music died” in his hit song “American Pie” and unfortunately with the panemic, live music has been pretty much dead. There is not one thing I miss more than live music. Yes, there is still some to be found but mostly on a small scale.
My best-of-2020 music list is quite short compared to the list of what was canceled. For me, great live shows started Jan. 30 at the Pickle Barrel Nightclub in Killington with The Ghost of Paul Revere (TGOPR) from Portland, Maine — what an awesome show it was! They’re a high-energy band that plays a mix of country, rock ‘n’ roll and bluegrass. The same night I saw TGOPR, I was introduced to King Margo at the Wobbly Barn. I heard great things about King Margo and all were true. King Margo is Rachel Coats (upright bass, guitar, vocals) and Lucciana Costa (dobro, guitar, vocals). These ladies split their time between Nashville and Killington. They recently bought a trailer, touring around the East Coast and playing out of it. They play a great covers and originals with beautiful harmonies on all. They quickly became one of my favorite Killington acts.
Feb. 21-23 was a weekend to remember. The Subaru Winterfest came to town bringing a one-of-a-kind concert experience to Bear Mountain. They also brought a stage that memorably took flight on Friday night, crushing itself and a 2020 Subaru… Maybe that was a sign of what was coming? I got to DJ in the Woodward Boombox to kick things off Friday and then got to see Shakey Graves play a rock ‘n’ roll, folky, blues set on Saturday and the Tenderbellies play bluegrass on Sunday. The Tenderbellies, from Burlington, absolutely blew me away. Five guys on two guitars, harmonica, mandolin and upright bass perfectly blending harmonies. They did a cover of my favorite song, “[Your Love Keeps Lifting Me] Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson and it was incredible. Closing out that weekend on Sunday was the Theo Katzman Band at the Pickle Barrel with Rett Madison opening. She was awesome but his band was one of the best I’ve seen on that stage. Theo Katzman is from the cult phenom band Vulfpeck and among his bandmates was bassist Joe Dart, also from Vulfpeck. Katzman plays guitar, keyboard and sings. The show was funky and rockin’. I would go out of my way to see that band again.
One of the last big music events in Killington was the 4th annual Killington Irish Festival at the Summit Lodge with The County Down and Fiddlewitch on March 13-14. That Sunday, the 15th, the pandemic hit full force and the world came to a halt. The mountain closed, restaurants, bars, businesses, etc. It was a sad scene all around. I lost some of the best gigs I’ve ever had and currently have only deejayed twice since March. My most anticipated concert of the year and quite possibly ever, was the first to go: Rome from Sublime and Duddy from the Dirtyheads were slated to play the Pickle. After interviewing Rome, I wanted to see their acoustic show even more. I hope they can come back. McGrath’s Irish Pub had to cancel their St. Patrick’s Day celebration for the first time — ever.
You could still see music but it was online only. Every musician I know turned to Facebook Live to play for tips, for you in your living room. Local musicians, national acts, every minute of every day you could see music on Facebook. It was cool to be able to see bands I knew playing music I like but it made you miss going to a show even more. The other day a memory popped up on Facebook of the Krishna Guthrie Band playing at the Wobbly Barn. I love when Krishna sings his great-grandfather’s song, “This Land is Your Land.” I got goosebumps reminiscing of when I recorded that on a packed dance floor. The Wobbly isn’t even open this season.
In June, some friends and I went to a secret concert with Kung Fu in Lake George. Fight club rules were in effect. It pained me not to be able to post about it. The show was awesome and we figured that we went to one of the first concerts in America or the East Coast. I’ve kept that secret until now.
Everything was different. George Nostrand at A Sound Space in Rutland put on virtual concerts with Ben Fuller, Krishna Guthrie and others. Silas ran his Open Mics online and musicians played from their own house. I enjoyed that because I discovered some new music like Bill Brink. Jim Yeager, Sahara Moon and Phil Henry all released new albums but could not tour the area doing release parties. Henry was able to do one at the Brandon Drive-in in October and that was really cool.
If you want to see live music, check out the listings each week in the calendar of the Mountain Times but call ahead to make sure of their pandemic rules. In Bomoseen check out Lodge & Tap Room. In Castleton check out Ice House Bar & Grill. In Killington look up The Foundry, Pickle, Jax, Moguls, Nite Spot and Summit Lodge. In Ludlow: Du Jour. In Mendon: Flannel’s. In Proctorsville: Neal’s Restaurant & Bar. In Quechee: Public House. And in Stockbridge: Wild Fern.