’80s rockers go hillbilly

We all love the ’80s right? Why wouldn’t you? Wild hair, overstated duds, amazing dance moves and epic guitar riffs. But here in Vermont (ahem, Addison County) we might not be 100 percent ’80s rockers at heart (we’ll leave that for the students on the hill). Gotta get us some of that finger-pickin’, foot-stompin’ bluegrass twang before it’s a real party.
Get ready, because the best of both worlds are hitting the stage on Friday night at the Marquis in Middlebury. Yes, that’s right, an ’80s Bluegrass Hillbilly Ball — get excited!
“Middlebury UndergrounD (MUD) has been kicking around ideas with Ben Wells at the Marquis for a while,” explained Lisa Mitchell, co-founder of MUD. “In the spring, Ben suggested an ’80s prom … but our thinking shifted when my husband, Andy, filmed The Grift’s new band DoJo.”
“DoJo has been playing for about six years,” Clint Bierman explained. DoJo includes Peter Day, Jeff Vallone and Bierman, three members of The Grift — practically a staple of Addison County music culture. But strangely, this is DoJo’s first public performance in Addison County. 
First question: What’s with the name?
“The name DoJo came from Mandolin or mando or ‘do’ and banjo ‘jo’ = DoJo,” Bierman explained. Naturally.
Like all good ideas, it started out as a joke, Bierman said. “We knew all these 80’s tunes and we all liked to sing harmonies and I was playing a bunch of banjo at the time and wanted an outlet for that. It just sort of happened.” Fellow banjoy player Matt Schrag came along and things started to click.
“When we got Matt involved a few years ago, it really stepped up the game for DoJo,” Bierman continued. “What started as a joke became a much more serious venture.”
Day, Vallone and Bierman play different instruments with DoJo than they do with The Grift. “It’s a really fun shift for all of us,” Bierman said.
Second question: What does Bierman play with DoJo?
“I play banjo, which is a life-long adventure.”
Joining DoJo Friday on drum is Steve Hadeka, who, according to Bierman, “crushes this stuff!”
Third, and maybe most important question: What exactly is ’80s bluegrass?
“Basically we take songs from the ’80s and make them bluegrass songs,” explained Bierman. “For example, when we play “Come Sail Away” by Styx (which happens to be late ’70s, we know), we have three different feels. The actual feel of the song. Then it goes into country swing. And then ends in blazing bluegrass for the end.”
“MUD likes to make things quirky, campy and fun, so the theme felt like a natural to us,” Mitchell said. “We also hoped the theme would spark curiosity and offer a different kind of night out in Middlebury that is affordable and fun.”
Check, check, check. It’s definitely quirky, most probably going to be outrageously fun and, yup, affordable too. Tickets: $5 at the door, or if you want to plan ahead look it up on eventbright.com.
Station Mountain Band will kick off the night around 8 p.m. with their eclectic Americana style, while sponsor WhistlePig pours tastes of pure, aged rye whiskey. Food, beer, wine and specialty cocktails will also be available courtesy of the Marquis’ cantina. DoJo hits the main stage around 9 or 9:30 to take us through the night.
“Partnering with someone like Clint, Andy and Lisa is a super fun way to throw a party and to get people to know about our renovations,” said Marquis owner Ben Wells.
Let’s talk about those renovations because a movie theater is not exactly what you think of when you think ’80s bluegrass dance party.
When the Marquis underwent renovations two years ago they expanded the stage (b.t.w. It was the original 1939 Vaudeville stage), took out four rows of seats, added concert quality sound and lights, flattened the floor and added couches. So when it’s time to party, they just slide those couches out of the way and — presto — dance floor!
“Most people around don’t know we have the ability to do this,” said Wells.
No kidding! Let’s not be “most people.” Go rummage through your closets, find something amazing and bring your ’80s-hillbilly A-game to party on Friday night. (Oh, and if you care, I’ll be there celebrating my 30th birthday with my sisters.)
Cheers y’all!

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