The official start of summer is still two weeks away, but summer concert season – for better or worse – is already under way.
Stretched out on a blanket, sitting in a beach chair or milling around the farmers market listening to live tunes is part of the joy of the season. When there’s a warm breeze or a spectacular sunset happening, it can be heavenly. But sometimes, as hardy Vermont concert-goers know, the experience may require mud boots, fleece and the dreaded rain poncho.
The recent opening weekend of the Ben & Jerry’s Concerts on the Green at Shelburne Museum was a perfect example. Newly-minted Grammy winner Brandi Carlile sold out back-to-back weekend dates. Thousands queued up to fill the concert field on Friday night. Despite earlier rains, the clouds parted and sunshine broke through for a blazing sunset behind the concert stage.
Attendees wearing rain boots, sneakers and flip-flops alike weren’t phased by the sections of lawn cordoned off with yellow hazard tape marking the soggiest spots to avoid. Some brought tarps to layer under their blanket; others in folding chairs just sought out a relatively solid grassy spot to settle in.
The second night was a different story with off-and-on rain all day and severe storms barreling across Lake Champlain as the show got under way. Bundled concert-goers hunkered down under umbrellas, hoods and tarps but the show was called after just a few acoustic tunes and people took cover in their cars and the round barn as thunderstorms moved in.
Therein lies the risk of summer concert season. There is still plenty of time ahead for Mother Nature to steer things to warm and sunny, and those who organize summertime outdoor music events have something booked for every musical taste and budget.
Music and food go hand-in-hand
Local residents know they don’t need to travel far to soak in the sounds – and tastes – of the season with many family-friendly choices that seamlessly blend music and food. Some involve packing a picnic, many feature food vendors with locally-made eats.
The Ben & Jerry’s series, for example, features food trucks offering an eclectic array from crepes to ramen to pizza cooked in a mobile wood-fired oven. Some dates are sold out already but tickets in the $50-$60 range are still available for later shows, including Lyle Lovett on Aug. 4. Visit highergroundmusic.com for details.
In many other cases, the music is free. For example, every Saturday at the Shelburne Farmers’ Market, stroll the booths for snacks, fresh produce and treats while local artists provide the tunes. The market runs 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 12. This weekend features Gus Bloch.
Shelburne Vineyard moves its live music outdoors in summertime. Entry is free for the First Thursday and Bluegrass & BBQ events. Vendors also include locally-made pierogis and ice cream along with beer and wine, of course. This Saturday, Vermont favorite Myra Flynn plays the vineyard with tickets for $10. The summer schedule is online at shelburnevineyard.com.
Shelburne Museum hosts many free musical events all summer.
The First Friday Eve series happening in July, August and September, highlights farm families of Cabot Cheese. The museum campus is free for these events that run 5-7:30 p.m. and feature live music, food trucks, games and a talk by a special guest speaker for each date. The July talk will bring pet wellness advocate and radio personality Tracie Hotchner to the museum along with a seven-piece band, The Big Takeover playing Motown sounds. Details online at shelburnemuseum.org.
Shelburne Farms packs its calendar with musical events to add to its daily routine of farm animals and cheese-making. The Farm Barn Courtyard is open for the Shelburne Recreation Department’s summer concert series held Wednesdays in July from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Admission is by donation; some snacks are provided, and attendees are welcome to pack a picnic or purchase food on site. Artists include the Dave Keller Band on July 17. The farm continues the concerts through August. Check out the details at shelburnefarms.org.
Two other special summertime musical events at Shelburne Farms:
• Scrag Mountain Music’s June 15 Sounds of the Earth festival from noon to 6 p.m. Admission by donation to this collection of modern classical performances, vocal and drumming workshops, kids activities and food. More on that can be found at scragmountainmusic.org.
• On July 21, Farm to Ballet visits the farm for a combination of music, dance, food and storytelling on the lawn near the Coach Barn. Kids are free; $21 for age 13 and up. More at balletvermont.org.
On Aug. 6 (rain date Aug. 7) the town recreation department sets up at the Vermont Teddy Bear factory campus for its summer concert finale and fireworks with the Phil Abair Band, a bouncy house and a lineup of food trucks. The factory will be open for free tours. The fun begins at 5 p.m. with music around 7 p.m.; fireworks at dusk. Admission is by donation. Details at shelburnevt.org under Parks and Recreation.
The folks at Fisher Brothers Farm may plan a few events themselves this summer but they will be busy serving up their Sisters of Anarchy ice cream at a variety of locations including the vineyard, Shelburne Farms and over in Richmond at Maple Wind Farm’s chicken dinners. Held rain or shine monthly on Fridays starting June 14, the dinners feature meat and veggies from the farm and preregistration ($12-$27) at maplewindfarm.com.
Dinner and music are what burger nights are about at Shelburne’s Bread and Butter farm. The Friday night events run 4:30 to 9 p.m. with music from 6-8 p.m., family-style dinner, farm and art activities too.
This year there are six-night season passes ($90 adults, $25 kids) and the musical lineup features bluegrass, gospel, country, folk, traditional and even Caribbean artists. Tickets for individual nights are $25 for adults and $10 for kids. Details online at breadandbutterfarm.com.
Mozart on the farm and on the beach
A hallmark of the summertime concert scene is the Vermont Mozart Festival with performances this year at local venues including the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn courtyard and Breeding Barn (July 20, July 27, Aug. 3). Lake Champlain will be the backdrop for three performances at the Charlotte Town Beach (July 18, July 25 and Aug. 1). Other venues are the Burlington Country Club and the Trapp Family Lodge meadow in Stowe. Details are online at vermontmozartfestival.org.
Just ahead of that in Charlotte, the annual community beach party and potluck is scheduled for July 13 at the town beach from 4 to 8 p.m. Admission is free with a dish and a $5 donation suggested otherwise. In addition, chicken and burgers will be on the barbecue and salad and dessert will be served. Lots of games are planned along with a bounce house and stand-up paddleboards to try. Details are online at charlottevt.org.
Also in Charlotte, look for musical events at the Clemmons Family Farm this summer including West African drumming this Saturday and July 13 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and West African dance June 22 and July 14, same time. Admission by donation but registration required. More details at: clemmonsfamilyfarm.org.
Free concerts in Hinesburg and Burlington
Over in Hinesburg, Wednesday night concerts continue with Thursdays reserved for rain dates. They start July 10 at 6:30 p.m. and performers are booked into August. Concertgoers gather around the gazebo behind Hinesburg Community School in the Village.
Bring a blanket or chair, some snacks, for these free family-friendly evenings on the green. A new vendor, Mac’s Sugar Shack, will offer food and beverages for sale this summer. Details are on the Hinesburg Recreation Department website under programs: hinesburgrec.com.
Need a reason to head to Burlington? Check out the free daytime concerts Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:30 p.m. near City Hall organized by Burlington City Arts. The calendar has 22 scheduled from June 12 to Aug. 28. Information: burlingtoncityarts.org.
For four Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. starting July 11, Battery Park is the spot for free concerts featuring new artists you might have caught on the radio. Organized by The Point FM radio station: pointfm.com.