In the middle of “Not Dark Yet”, a Bob Dylan song that Ruby Amanfu performed for us this summertime, Ruby steps back from the microphone to let Brett Lanier take a heartfelt emotional solo. The passion in the playing and the feeling that the musicians on stage had for each other is evident in the “secret video” linked down below. What most of you don’t know is that Ruby met Brett in person at 4:00 that same afternoon. Performances like these are built on years of practice and performing but they’re also built on trust – something that our community continues to give us. You trust us to bring in acts that you love. We sell out shows for artists who have never played anywhere near Vermont. We wanted to thank you for that trust you’ve given us, it’s very much appreciated.
Thanks to everyone who came out to shows, donated money to help us out, brought some food to share and generally participated in making this thing what it is. Thanks to every member of our family who spends hard hours making this happen. Thanks to Nancy for many of these videos and images. Thanks to Sparrow for the image in the email. Finally thanks to the musicians who keep coming and keep putting their hearts on stage for us.
Sometimes in life you find dark places, and the only thing that can give the dark places light is to give voice to it.
Thank you for giving light!
— Ruby Amanfu at Billsville
The year started off with a huge show. Grammy nominated Della Mae decided to drop by thanks to a nice connect from a friend. This show sold out in about four hours for very good reason. Della Mae has so much talent on stage it’s hard to know where to look. Late night jams with Courtney and a lesson on feminism from Kimber made it a night to remember.
Margaret was signed to ATO Records late in 2015. The label paired her with Rayland Baxter as his opener and I literally begged her to join the show with him. Even though she was feeling a bit under the weather she delivered a mesmerizing set of songs from a record that when on to appear on many end of the year “Best of” lists.
Rayland and his band just got better and better as the year went on. It was fantastic to watch this group of talented players fit their jammy rock songs and whimsical ballads to our space. Later in the summer I would see Rayland play 3 times in 24 hours but this was still my favorite.
Joe Pug was the first act ever to play Billsville way back in 2011 and we were thrilled to have him back. His word craft and characters continue to thill.
The Huntress and Holder of Hands
Mesmerizing. This show was packed with emotion for us as MorganEve Swain returned for the first time without Dave Lamb. What a night of close harmonies, hypnotic riffs and heartfelt emotion on stage.
This band continues to be one of our favorite acts. They’ve always had the musical chops but their showmanship and the expansiveness of the sounds they can put on stage continues to improve.
Lula Wiles were a quick crowd favorite and know wonder. Each member is brimming with talent but they are the rare type of band whose personalities and skills combine perfectly into something fresh and fun.
Even a severe hail storm couldn’t keep us from enjoying this amazing band as much as all of us did. Dancing and moving to another Grammy nominated band with a world of talent was a great way to spend a night.
Lissie returned for her second performance with us. She’s an international star with a huge voice who recently made some great personal and professional decisions to help her be in charge of her own career. So thrilled that we can benefit from that.
I fell in love with Ruby at this years Newport Folk Festival and simply begged her to come and play for us. Folks, sometimes begging works. This was one for the books with Ruby bringing her amazing talent to our room while backed by our favorite guitar player Brett Lanier.
A band out of Maine with huge potential. We see great things in the future for these folks with their songs, style and on stage connection. Ryan and Erika can bring the noise with the best of them.
Musical icon Syd Straw entertained us with a night of songs, storytelling and her unique off kilter sense of humor. Here’s a few minutes of Syd with one of our favorite musical guests
Perennial Billsville favorites returned with a new vocalist and a space for dancing. This show is what Billsville is all about. Big band, big fun and great feedback from the community. This one features Ethan on guest guitar.
Vermont musical stalwart Brett Hughes ended the year with a night of fantastic songs and music. We wish him well as he preps to record an album in Nashville.
Last June, Grace Potter dropped by to play a one of a kind show for us – our 75th as a venue.
From what we can tell – this is the smallest “non-promo” show Grace has played in about eight years. We had to keep this one on the down low for obvious reasons. Grace spent the month opening for the Rolling Stones, sharing the stage with Mick Jagger on “Gimmie Shelter” and playing with Kenny Chesney in Green Bay for about 80,000 people. In the middle of that whirlwind she spent two hours on stage at our house sharing her talent along with Benny Yurco and Matt Burr. This one will be hard to replicate – what a night!
The final song of the set was a duo with long time tour manager/friend Jen Crowell on “Nothing But The Water (I)”. We’re thrilled to be able to release this one of a kind performance. Enjoy!
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Looking back on the list of shows we hosted in 2015 we can’t help but be amazed by the level of artistry that has passed through our series in the last 12 months. We’ve hosted two genuine international stars along with a stellar lineup of musicians that can only be described as incredible – big sounds in small towns indeed. Thanks go out to all the musicians who are willing to travel to Vermont to connect with crowds and share a sense of musical community with all of us. Our biggest thanks go out to all of you who come to these shows – without your attendance it would all be impossible. Here’s to a wonderful year, looking forward to the next one! January
The ever amazing Anais Mitchell started the year for us in January. I can’t think of an artist who has been as consistently brilliant in the last few years. Her trio of releases “Hadestown”, “Young Man in American” and “xo” are consistently beautiful and amazing. She stands alongside a handful of others as the best songwriters working today. Here she is with Ben Davis doing our request of “Flowers” from “Hadestown”. So surreal to see Anais, with her tattoo of Eurydice on her arm in front of the original woodcut of the album art by Peter Nevins on the wall.
In February Jeremy Quentin (Small Houses) came to town. I suppose the winter months lead us into contemplative songwriters and Jeremy really brings a poets voice to the stage.
Jeremy was joined by the effervescent Sophie Lane who at age 14 has without a doubt an amazing future in front of her. Here she is scoring big Billsville points my covering Pearl and the Beard’s “Voice In My Throat.”
e was joined by the effervescent Sophie Lane who at age 14 has without a doubt an amazing future in front of her.
In April, Heather Maloney stopped by with her brand new band. Heather’s popularity is soaring as her strong stage presence and clear exuberance wash over audiences who come to see her play.
At the end of April we hosted Upstate Rubdown in what would prove to be their first of three shows with us during the year. Why? Unbridled fun and joy on stage is why. It’s hard to think of another band that is as immediately likable as these folks.
Haunt the House joined us in May as one of their last shows before an appearance on the Newport Folk Festival stage. Will Houlihan brings a spirituality and passion to his music that’s palpable. Rarely has music felt so right for us.
What can we say about an evening with Grace Potter that can describe what we all felt? From what we can tell – this is the smallest “non-promo” show Grace has played in about eight years. We had to keep this one on the down low for obvious reasons. Grace spent the month opening for the Rolling Stones, sharing the stage with Mick Jagger on “Gimmie Shelter” and playing with Kenny Chesney in Green Bay for about 80,000 people. In the middle of that she spent two hours on stage at our house sharing her talent along with Benny Yurco and Matt Burr. This one will be hard to replicate – what a night!
Arc Iris brought serious musical chops and a Bowie/Zappa flavor to Vermont in August that helped us break out of our Americana highway rut. This band can play anything from spaced out jams to Dixieland to Alt-Country, truly an amazing show.
The next day the band hung around and worked up a version of Hall & Oates “Rich Girl” from scratch in the living room. How wonderful to be witness to this kind of artistic creativity.
At the end of August we built an outdoor stage in our backyard to host Parsonsfield. Their infectious brand of sing-along participation drew the whole crowd in on a beautiful late summer night. Most of all, the band has clearly decided that it’s cool to be “entertainers” and we wholeheartedly agree! Note the Vermont and Bernie/EnoughIsEnough shirts on the band.
We partnered with the crew at Earth Sky Time Community Farm and built a stage out of hay bales and plywood for a magical barn dance night with Spirit Family Reunion, Upstate Rubdown and The Horse Eyed Men. We printed #Bernie T-Shirts and ate amazing good. Seriously, we can’t think of a better community event than this one. We were all so busy singing and dancing that we’ve got very little media from the night. Horse Eyed Men were a great fun opener and Upstate Rubdown showed up for a smoking late night set. Spirit Family Reunion were, as always, the personification of the reason we all love music in the first place.
We’d been hoping against hope to get Lissie to stop by for about four years now and somehow we were able to pull off not one but two shows! Lissie spends much of her performing time in Europe selling out venues everywhere so a show at our place was really a special treat. We had folks drive three or four hours for this one and it was well worth it. I remember listening to Lissie’s first Daytrotter sessions back in the day and being enchanted with her voice. To have her sing in our living room was otherworldly.
Hard to say no to Upstate Rubdown who wanted to come back for a fall show. So many folks were impressed with them at the Spirit Family Reunion show that we just had to bring them back. Here they are doing a version of Mountain Man’s “How Am i Doing?”
HONEYHONEY closed out the year by once again delivering a stellar show. This one sold out four hours after announcing it and we had a waitlist of 50 people. Sorry we couldn’t get everyone in but those of you who were there no what it was about. Classic tunes, amazing talent and an incredible finish to a stellar year.
Didn’t hurt that they brought Sonya Kitchell to open – her sweet passionate singing is always a treat.
Special thanks to Nancy for many of these videos – she created a YouTube Billsville Playlist where you can while away the hours watching videos from our series.
Words and Images by Christian ThorneParsonsfield – Friday July 25th
We know that one of the ways the country music rejuvenates itself at its margins it by absorbing the forms and styles to which it is superficially opposed. The Violent Femmes bring Appalachian punk rock to the streets of Milwaukee. In Uncle Tupelo, Mike Watt covers the Carter Family. The Band existed in an alternate universe in which Merle Haggard was a Staple Singer. So the thing about this great band with the not-so-great name is that while you can still hear those earlier recombinations in their set — all of them: Band, Femmes, Tupelo — their own anchor points have drifted gloriously; they’ve planted their starting points far enough away that you could almost convince yourself no-one has ever done this kind of thing before. Not country & western exactly, but folk music of the kind putatively abolished by Dylan, close harmony singing, intimations of shanty, the sound that fishermen’s sweaters make when they think that no-one is watching. And add to that gypsy punk, its habit of doubling already quick tempos, its knack for shouting melodies you’ve only ever heard crooned, its off-kilter intrusions of the bass drum. The last time they came through these parts, they seemed like a Greenwich Village nostalgia act — the re-Weavers. But last night made a person think not that Dylan made a mistake by plugging in but merely that he needn’t have bothered.
PHOX – Saturday, July 26th
Phox just played Newport, sometimes get called “folk,” but actually deliver rock’n‘roll played at a circumspect hush. A guitar wells up like someone singing in a library. A mid-tempo feels like a calisthenic wind sprint after all the lulling and the loping. Factor in, too, the only really good version of “Stormy Weather” I’ve ever heard live, solo, on a ukelele neither strummed nor ironic. Nakedly anxious Monica Martin already knows what it took Cat Power entirely too long to figure out: that a band makes the stage way less lonely — three guys would do; six are better.
Was simply a crazy/awesome weekend for music lovers. Joe Fletcher + Spirit Family Reunion at The Dreamaway on Thursday. Freshgrass on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and of course our show with Brown Bird, Joe Fletcher and The Wrong Reasons and Poor Old Shine on Saturday. Video evidence!
Performers who have appeared on a Billsville Stage : 55 Percentage of Beard Wearers : 24% Banjo Players : 9% Drummers : 18% Male : 73% Female : 27%
(Arguably skewed by large numbers of male musicians traveling in packs. Numbers change dramatically if you categorize this as “female-led acts”) Canadians : 9% New Yorkers : 35% Shoeless : 2% Preferred Wine Over Beer : 36% Totally Not Early Risers : 7% Rudely Awoken By Fire Alarms at 3AM : 5% Sustained Temporary Injuries Inflicted By 8 Year Old : 4%
The last weekend of October marks the final two nights in the Billsville House Concert Series for 2011. We’ve got two fantastic shows lined up – “Swear and Shake” on October 28th 8PM</strong> and <strong>"Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps" on October 30th 7PM. Seriously, $10 a show? That’s better entertainment than a trip to Family Dollar. Frankly, we really need to sell some tickets to keep bringing in the quality acts we’ve been able to attract.
If you can make it out I would really appreciate it.
Thanks to everyone who has come out to support music over the last six months. We’ve had an amazing time and I’d love to end it on a big note before we take our hiatus for 2011.
If you’re not familiar with Daytrotter, well, get over there now and grab Anais’ set. We’ll wait. Although given the depth of the Daytrotter catalog I imagine we’ll see you in about three years.
She more than acknowledges, or at least, plays with the ideas of higher and lower powers that go far beyond reasoning. She seems to relish the freefall, the thought that everything belongs to the family of the chaos theory and that there’s no way of really telling if the laughing we’re doing is a product of happiness or just the beginning of the opposite feeling. High or low – it’s all relative. It might just be differences in the crowds we keep, the people we share our bed or house with. She sings on “Comin’ Down,” “I know where my satisfaction lies/Way beyond the blue horizon,” and it feels like that could be like knowing about a utopia, or a heaven that might or might not ever be visible, but the looking continues.
Well, it was another fantastic evening in Billsville wasn’t it? A full house was on hand as The David Wax Museum played an intimate, energetic and friendly show that included an all audience dance party, a gospel sing-along and a first time played cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”. Oh, did we mention that E. sat in on snare drum for a tune?
As we sat at the kitchen table at midnight we laughed in amazement at our good fortune. Music, friends, life . . . not much more is needed.
A wonderful night on the Green River in Williamstown. Thanks everyone for the great turnout and special thanks to Guggenheim Grotto for the fantastic show. The late night roll call of Irish artists was a treat. “The Boys Are Back In Town” indeed.
Here’s another chance to hear a live Dan Mangan show. Listen online at NPR at 6:00 PM today for a broadcast of Dan’s show from the Sasquatch Festival. This was recorded yesterday in front of over 1,000 fans.