Josh Panda and others to rock at Bristol music festival and street fair this Saturday

Take away all the cars on Bristol’s Main Street and you’ve got a wide open space ?perfect for throwing a party. So that’s just what BristolCORE is gonna do … again. This Saturday, the Pocock Rocks Music Festival & Street Fair will close the main drag, from 3-8 p.m., for the 8th celebration of downtown Bristol.
Bristol’s own incredible restaurants and shops, will be joined by over 30 vendors of microbrews, hard ciders, wines and spirits, to specialty foods, gifts and crafts. Live music will be performed by seven well-known and well-loved regional bands on two stages, one at the east end of Main Street and one at the west end. Kids (or anyone who still loves sidewalk chalk) can grab a piece of chalk, a giant stencil and contribute to the street mural, or participate in the other family-friendly activities.
“Our main goal is to get a nice range of music and interesting bands, and a nice mix of local craftspeople who bring new things to Main Street,” said Ian Albinson, executive director of BristolCORE, a nonprofit organization focused on helping Bristol remain one of Vermont’s 24 “designated downtowns.” It puts together a committee to plan this event as well as the Chocolate Walk, Lumen, and other happenings. “Pocock Rocks is almost like a giant block party: It’s a big open space with lots of people and lots of interest from a range of ages. We try to make it as much fun as possible and as open as possible.”
To keep it “as open as possible” there is no entry fee. That’s right, this is a free event. Now food, drinks and shopping you’ll have to pay for, but the music, dancing and community fun ?totally free.
How do they keep it free?
“It’s difficult,” answered Albinson. “Very lucky to have the support of Bristol businesses and our sponsors. They allow us to put this on.” In addition to the sponsors’ contributions, some income is also generated by the visiting vendors and donations.
But every year the event changes and grows a little. Back in 2009, when the festival just started, it was split between the park and the street and focused on the history of Bristol (which was originally named Pocock on June 26, 1762, and switched to Bristol in 1789). But music and fun was always part of the equation. Albinson has been focusing on improving the musical acts and curating the list of vendors at Pocock Rocks to compliment the existing Bristol businesses. “We want to make it memorable and positive for everyone,” he said.
Albinson relied this year on Aidan Lenihan to help “make the music.”
“They needed a sound guy for the event, and I was asked,” said Lenihan, whose wife Alicia was on to the committee too. The couple lives in Bristol and runs the Main Street Vintage store and a sound production company. “I accepted, and have had a great time working with committee,” he said.
“When selecting performers,” the 2002 Mount Abe grad continued, “I compile a roster of bands I’ve worked with in the past, through my partnership company with Ben Pelwak at Mad River Valley Light & Sound. Ian and I also send an open call for band submissions.”
The list is compiled and reviewed by the committee. During that process, Lenihan considers it his job, as a consultant/curator/sound engineer and musician, to figure out which bands will fit best on which stage, and to make everything “seamless, easy and fun.”
“It’s most important to me to make the performers as comfortable as possible so they can deliver the same feeling towards their set,” Lenihan added. “I’m excited to be working with the new bands on this year’s line up. It’s always a fast, and impromptu scene from sound to stage, but I like it all. We always have a good crew of friends, and volunteers who enjoy helping through the motions of the event.”
This year’s line up kicks off with some local talent first. Last Train To Zinkov, featuring local father/son duo David and Nathan Gusakov, will start the event at 3 p.m. with their mindful Appalachia folk. The Patrick Fitzsimmons Trio with Addison County musicians Carl Boss, Mark Pelletier, Carlos Velez and Patrick Fitzsimmons pick up at 3:30 p.m. And The Michele Fay Band get’s going at 4 p.m. with special guest Will Patton joining locals Tim Price, Kalev Freeman, Mike Santosusso and Michele Fay.
“I love the town of Bristol,” said Fitzsimmons, a former Bristol resident who now resides in Weybridge. “It really is like no other place. I love how they shut Main Street down and it just becomes a big block party. I’m very happy to be a part of the party.” This is Fitzsimmons’ fourth time playing at Pocock Rocks.
“We perform here because it’s a friendly and fun event with a variety of local musicians and vendors,” said Fay. “The sound is excellent and the audience is appreciative. What’s not to like?”
“I’m so glad to be a part of the festival, and grateful to everyone who’s working so hard to make it happen,” said Bristol native Nate Gusakov. This will be Nate’s first time playing at Pocock Rocks with his dad, David — not a bad way to spend Father’s Day weekend! “I bet Margaret Mead would be proud of the vitality and forward creativity in Bristol these days, and we’re really looking forward to bouncing some banjo and fiddle tunes off the storefronts of Main Street!”
Some new sounds to Addison County will also bounce off Bristol’s Main Street, including the gypsy swing jazz of Cookie’s Hot Club at 4:30 p.m., HAIL featuring Ashade Pearce will keep it going at 5:15 p.m. with some Afro roots reggae, and Aaron Flinn’s Salad Days plays the East stage at 6 and will take us to 7 p.m. with his rock music.
The headline alt-rock band Josh Panda & the Hot Damned comes on for the last hour of the festival, 7-8 p.m. With a name like Joshua Panda you might figure this guy’s got something special going on — and you’re right. His voice is as big as the band that backs him up with sassy, brassy alt-rock that hasn’t forgotten the basics of a good tune. Look forward to catchy melodies, shakin’ rhythms and gravelly lead vocals that’ll keep you groovin’ and wanting more.
Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Panda now lives in Burlington. The 32-year-old will sing lead vocals and play guitar. Steve Hadeka will play drums and backing vocals, and Tyler Mast will round out the sounds on electric keyboard, organ and backing vocals. Panda said this particular version of the band has been together for two years, but Panda’s been on the scene for much longer.
If you’ve got a really good memory, you might remember seeing Panda at Pocock Rocks once before. But it’s been a few years. “We’re happy to come back with our new album ‘Shake It Up,’” he said. 

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