Editorial: Life is not on the screen

What a glorious week it was. Throughout Addison County, it was relatively cool and dry and in Middlebury that blessed the 40th annual Festival on-the-Green with near perfect weather to match unrivaled music from a wide variety of musicians. That variety is what the Festival does best: exposing us all to an eclectic mix of musicians to broaden our appreciation of different songs, beats and rhythms.
There was Monday night’s Cello and Ukulele duo James Hill and Anne Janelle, followed by Shaun and Abigail Nessen Bengson, Abigail being a local native, of course, and a former star of many productions of the winter solstice play Night Fires. On Tuesday, we heard Night Tree featuring their take on traditions from Irish, Classical, Swedish, jazz, Klezmer and Afro-Cuban music, and later than night Genticorum, a traditional Quebec group featuring the flute, accordion, fiddle and gorgeous harmonies.
Another Canadian star, Barbra Lica and her quintet played late Wednesday, preceded by Måire Ni Chathasaigh & Chris Newman’s blend of traditional Irish music, hot jazz, bluegrass and baroque — yes, imagine, baroque, bluegrass, hot jazz and traditional Irish music. This is not the stuff you find on a Top 40 radio station. It’s foot-stomping-sway-in-your-seats-get-up-and-dance kind of music that you seldom hear — and it’s live, outdoors, seen with your friends and neighbors on the town green.
In other words, priceless.
And that was just the evening performances of the first three days. The noon-time shows featured magicians, musicians geared to sing-a-longs for kids, and down-right fun entertainment during what is fondly known as the brown-bag specials — that is, bring your lunch, sit in the shade and enjoy a show during the work day.
This is the type of community festival that has no replacement, and it’s unique contribution to the town culture should be heralded in some creative way in the near future.
Perhaps the favorite of many festivalgoers was Thursday night’s shows with The Ballroom Thieves at 7 p.m. and The Mammals starting at 8:30. The Ballroom Thieves were recently nominated for five Boston Music Awards for spirited blues, folk and rock tunes they’ve been playing since 2012, followed by The Mammals, who Greg Pahl in Arts Beat called the “high octane Americana quintet and Indie-roots trailblazers” who connect, in this world of disconnectedness, “thru their truth-telling lyrics, off-the-cuff storytelling and euphoric instrumentals.”
Friday’s music featured rock n roll and alt country by the Welterweights, who perform weekly shows at Bristol’s Hatch 31 (in case you missed them), and The Stone Cold Roosters playing classic country, swamp-rock, hillbilly-funk, blues, western swing and honkytonk. If none of that got your feet to tapping, then perhaps you showed up Saturday night to enjoy the traditional finale with the Vermont Jazz Ensemble Big Band Street Dance on Main Street. Hey, each to his own.
But, if you sat home and watched the tube, you’re missing the real deal. Life is not on the screen, it’s going on live and in person on the street.
What’s even more amazing, however, is that the Festival on-the-Green in Middlebury was just one of several recent events going on. Bristol and Brandon hosted two of the largest Fourth of July parades in the state, including Bristol’s famed Outhouse Race. Brandon has an ongoing summer concert series called “Music at the Riverbend,” located just behind the Brandon Inn, and there’s live music several nights each week at Notte’s in the downstairs of Two Brothers in Middlebury; Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury has live music and featured brews each Thursday 5-7; Lincoln Peak Vineyard in New Haven has a wonderful Friday after work concert and picnic; and Point Counter Point on Lake Dunmore in Leicester has a concert series in various venues in Salisbury and Middlebury. Meanwhile, Middlebury’s THT just featured the Beatles’ classic musical film Yellow Submarine to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that worldwide smash hit, and, if none of that appeals to you, then there’s car races at the Devil’s Bowl in nearby Benson each week, and as many running races, biking events and triathlons as you could ever participate in.
All of which is to say: It’s summer. Get out of the house, attend some of the dozens of community events going on every week near you, and be glad you live in an environment in which we have such a wide range of activities to pursue almost every day of the week. If you don’t know of them, read the Addison Independent’s twice-weekly calendar of events, each Monday and Thursday, the Arts + Leisure special section in Thursday’s Addy Indy, and Greg Pahl’s Arts Beat in each Monday issue of the Addy Indy.
Put in just a tiny bit of effort, and you’ll be repaid with a treasure trove of delightful memories.

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