It’s easy to stay entertained in Rutland

SKY O’BRIEN / PHOTO

Brandi Carlile and her band perform at the Paramount Theatre last August.

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 6/23/11]
 
“Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart / You just gotta poke around.”

That Grateful Dead lyric rings my head every so often when I am out around Rutland. Too many people around here are quick to complain that there is never anything to do. And while it may be easy to fall into the Rutland rut, where each day resembles the one before it like some kind of “Groundhog Day” style time loop, there’s a lot more going on than people might think.

Like it or not, Rutland has more than a few bars. That may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of live local music, then that’s where you’re headed. Anyone who’s been around here long enough knows that bands and venues ebb and flow. Lately, however, quality and frequency of live music downtown is on another upswing.

The new, new Center Street Alley (it recently changed hands yet again) has maintained the tradition of consistently bringing live music to DTR on the weekends. Familiar faces like Ryan Fuller and Dank and the Funksticks have been mixed with still familiar, but less frequent, acts like the stellar countrified-rockers Split Tongue Crow.

Last weekend, the Alley welcomed the powerhouse trio of Jeff Poremski, Jared Johnson and Chad Hollister — three local heavyweights, whose “one-night-only” performance shook Center Street.

Johnson, a formidable player on his own takes the stage at the Alley on Monday nights and holds it down again at 3D’s on Strongs Avenue every Wednesday. 3D’s is also the home of Dan Kowalski’s — a.k.a., Dank of Funksticks fame — weekly open mic night on Thursdays.

Speaking of open mics, I’d be remiss not to mention George Nostrand and Steve Audsley’s always entertaining Wednesday open mic at Center Street Alley.

And when I say entertaining, I mean it. Rutland’s own herald of the harmonica Mr. Blues is a regular fixture there as well a number of other open mic-only players who put on a great show. Last week, I even saw the debut of a reggae-tinged freestyle rap duo, complete with a DJ and (from what I could tell) their very own posse.

But like I said, the bar scene isn’t for everyone. Those looking for more refined sounds might want to click over to the Killington Music Festival’s website at www.killingtonmusicfestival.org. Their 29th season is about to get under way. Performances start July 2, and you can catch these talented, young classical musicians here in Rutland at Friday Night Live on July 15.

Of course, no discussion of the Rutland music scene would be complete without mentioning the Paramount Theatre, which recently announced its 2011-12 season. Atnd what a season. Favorites from past years will be returning, including the Pink Floyd experience of The Machine (June 24), blues legend Keb’ Mo’ (Sept. 27) and red-hot Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (Nov. 19).

The upcoming season will also see the one and only Gregg Allman (Sept. 4), Blues Traveler (Sept. 23) and the legendary Bruce Hornsby (April 20, 2012).

In addition to the return of comedian Jim Breuer (Aug. 26), Rutland will also be treated to Joan Rivers (April 27, 2012), Lewis Black (Oct. 19), the Capitol Steps (Jan. 21, 2012), and on Oct. 16, none other than Bill Cosby.

There’s a lot more, too. Head on over the Paramount’s website (www. paramountvt.org  ) to see the full calendar, which also includes a listing of their summer Big Flicks film series.

And if you think that’s all Rutland has to offer, you’re not looking in the right places. The Rutland Youth Theater — yet another great program offered by the Rutland Recreation and Parks Dept. — will be staging Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” on July 28-30 and Aug. 4-6.

Fans of live theater will also want to be on the lookout for upcoming productions by the Marble Valley Players and the Vermont Actors’ Repertory Theatre.

Also not to be missed this summer is a local production of “Miss Saigon,” directed by Rip Jackson and choreographed by Mitch Rosengarten. You can catch that on July 15-16 at the Paramount.

For those of you looking for something a little different, Merchants Hall has been offering some excellent programming, which serves as a nice complement to the current music and theater scenes. Recently, the venue hosted a riotous production of “The Rocky Horror Show,” directed by local theater wunderkind Jacob Patorti.

The venue will be hosting a festival July 22-23, featuring 20 bands spread over two days. Reading the lineup, I didn’t recognize any of them, which made me want to attend even more. While still relatively new, Merchants Hall has potential to become an exciting alternative venue for the area, bringing in small acts and helping Rutland become a little more edgy and interesting.

Finally, of course, there is Friday Night Live, which kicks off June 24. In its fifth year, the summer block party series has grown into a Rutland tradition, attracting scores of locals and visitors alike to enjoy the (hopefully) great summer weather, get some excellent local food and check out a rotating lineup of great musical acts and other programming.

Over the years, FNL has had its detractors who voice displeasure with the event, but I don’t see it. Every week the event attracts several hundred people to peacefully congregate in the heart of our downtown to enjoy entertainment and community. Tell me how that is a bad thing.

This week, the series kicks off with the ’80s and ’90s rockers Money Shott. Check the DRP’s website at www.rutlanddowntown.com for a complete schedule.

I could go on, but deadline is approaching (read: busted) so I’ll leave it to you to keep looking around for all that this scrappy town has to offer.

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