Musicians to perform in support of food shelf

MIDDLEBURY — It’s not unusual for aspiring musicians to simply play for food or drink as compensation for a gig in order to get a foot in the entertainment door. Clint Bierman and his band, The Grift, are fortunate enough to have the talent and reputation that ensures their performances are rewarded with a paycheck rather than free beer or leftovers from a buffet table.
But on Monday, Dec. 22, Bierman and around 15 other well-known Vermont acts will go back to playing for food — this time for the benefit of others who might otherwise go hungry.
Bierman is calling it the first annual “Holiday Hootenanny” to be held at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater, and all of the proceeds will go to Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) and the Addison County Food Shelf.
“Living in this area for 20 years now, I feel fortunate and I want to give back,” Bierman said on Thursday.
“This could be pretty epic.”
Epic, because several of the Green Mountain State’s top vocalists and musicians have agreed to loan their talents to the Hootenanny. They include Josh Panda, Bob Wagner, Russ Lawton, Rich Price, Sean Preece, Steve Hadeka, Peter Day, Jeff Vallone, Alexander Budney, Eric B. Maier, Leon Campos, Zach Nugent, Mike Pederson, Ed Grasmeyer and Matt Schrag, who have all signed on the dotted line.
And they did so without hesitation.
“I sent one e-mail out to 16 people,” Bierman said, “and all 16 said ‘yes.’”
Bierman got the idea for the charitable event several months ago. It remained just an idea for a spell while Bierman tended to a variety of musical responsibilities, including recording studio work, his coordination of the THT’s “Rock-It Science” camp, and multiple gigs with The Grift. He approached THT Executive Director Doug Anderson earlier this fall to explain the idea and reserve the venue. He’s spent the past six weeks booking talent, putting up posters and creating a Hootenanny playlist that will include some original material as well as some well-loved covers of songs by The Beatles, Led Zepplin, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, among others.
“My job is to figure out the flow, to make sure there are smooth (musical) transitions,” he said of what will be an impressive playlist. The concert will kick off with the first of two sets 7:30 p.m. It will be capped by a jam-filled grand finale featuring multiple performers on stage simultaneously. There will be a dancing area for the audience and a bar from which to buy refreshments.
“This is going to be one for the record books,” Bierman said. “This will be the biggest production of music they’ve done at Town Hall Theater.”
Two Brothers Tavern on Main Street will host a meet-and-greet cocktail event from 5 to 7 p.m. prior to the Hootenanny. General admission is $15; “generous admission” has been set at $25. Bierman wants to fill the THT and hopes to see a lot of teens in the crowd, as there will be no school that week. And the THT will be kicking in 20 free tickets for HOPE clients who could otherwise not afford to attend the show.
Bierman thanked the event sponsors — the Little Pressroom, Two Brothers, Farrell Distributing, Davidson Brothers and Northshire Brewery. Their contributions will defray the musicians’ travel and other expenses.
Anderson was pleased to be able to offer the THT as a venue for another in one of the many fundraisers the theater hosts on each year. He said THT is nimble enough to quickly organize and stage interesting entertainment ideas that come from the community.
“We love the fact that we have created a culture where people can come in, pitch an idea, and have it on stage six weeks later,” Anderson said. “It has been fruitful and rewarding.”
Anderson also believes it is important for the THT to nurture good local talent, and he called Bierman one of the most talented musicians in the state.
“We are very proud of him,” Anderson said.
Jeanne Montross, executive director of HOPE, was thrilled to get a call from Anderson saying there was a fundraiser in the works for her organization — and she didn’t have to do a thing.
“It was a wonderful surprise to find this out, and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Montross said, noting particular stress on the food shelf and other HOPE programs during the winter months. “This will be an extra bit of money coming in.”
Bierman, a Bridport resident, wants to make the Hootenanny an annual event to aid local nonprofit causes. He wants it to evolve into something like the annual “Hug Your Farmer” concert that aids Vermont farmers. Bierman has regularly performed at those concerts, which also provide a fun opportunity for musicians to reconnect and practice their craft together.
“There’s no pressure, other than the pressure of playing the songs correctly,” Bierman said with a smile.
For more Hootenanny information and tickets, log on to townhalltheater.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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