Bennington bets on bands


New England always comes alive in the summer, after the warm days of spring melt away our memories of the long, bitter winter. This summer looks to be an especially exciting one for modern rock and pop music fans around Southern Vermont, with some great bands on national tours stopping in our neighborhood to perform.

Here in Bennington, the Vermont Arts Exchange will team up with Billsville House Concerts for some special concerts in July with PHOX and Parsonsfield, two bands that are just starting to be recognized on the national stage.

Performing in the VAE basement July 26, PHOX are six childhood friends from Wisconsin who seem to have figured out the recipe for elegant, infinitely likable alt-pop songs. With their winning combination of sweet vocals, precise musical dynamics and best-friend silliness, the band started turning heads with their charismatic live performances last summer, and they're poised to build their following even more when their self-titled debut album comes out June 24.

PHOX will arrive in North Bennington at the peak of their busy summer tour, coming to Vermont the day after their first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, where they will perform alongside the likes of Ryan Adams, Jimmy Cliff, Lake Street Dive and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Catch this band soon -- they won't be playing in basements for much longer.

The Connecticut-based acoustic folk group Parsonsfield, formerly known as Poor Old Shine, will play the VAE basement on July 25. Although they will take the stage 24 hours before PHOX, the musical styles of the two bands reflect two very different centuries of American musical tradition.

This summer, Parsonsfield will change their name from a reference to the prison song "Ain't No Cane" to the name of the town in Connecticut where they came together as a band. Wielding banjos, mandolins and acoustic guitars, Parsonsfield builds their songs on the sounds of Appalachian porch music, but that doesn't mean they're living in the past. Their formerly self-titled debut album "Poor Old Shine" boasts modern song forms, danceable pounding rhythms and confident vocal harmonies -- all ingredients that naturally translate to a great live experience.

Earlier in July, Stratton Mountain will celebrate summer with a relaxing day of free live music. On Saturdays throughout the summer the mountain will have performers playing in their main base village starting at 3:30 p.m., and on July 19 they will keep the party going with an outdoor performance by Grateful Dead tribute band The Jam Stampede and a late night performance by Twiddle, Burlington's new favorite jam band.

There's something inexplicably perfect about outdoor concerts in the summertime, and the music of the Grateful Dead has been capturing that feeling since the band's early days in San Francisco. Although the Dead officially disbanded following Jerry Garcia's death in the summer of 1995, the deadhead community has continued growing over the years, united by Garcia's songs -- regardless of who plays them. The Jam Stampede are one of the many talented groups dedicated to preserving the Dead's legendary live concert experience, and the concert starting at 6 p.m. on Stratton's main base lawn promises to be a perfect evening of happy summertime vibes.

Following The Jam Stampede's sunset set, the venue shifts indoors to Grizzly's, Stratton's top floor lodge bar, where Vermont's newest sensation Twiddle will keep the energy flowing.

The Castleton natives have earned a strong following in their home state, playing often around Burlington and even making it down to Southern Vermont for regular shows at Grizzly's during the ski season. Twiddle will return to Stratton for an outdoor concert on Aug. 23, and they will serve as the host band at this year's Frendly Gathering festival in Windham from June 26 to 28.

A mainstay at Nectar's in Burlington -- the club where fellow Vermont quartet Phish started their own career in the late ‘80s -- Twiddle is known for their energetic live concerts and uninhibited experiments with mixing musical genres.


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