EPISODE 23: AN ADAMANT EVENING

Working late on Friday afternoon, my co-workers Jennifer and Rose popped into my office. “Hey, we’re going to a concert tomorrow night in Adamant. Do you and Doreen wanna come?” Of course we want to see a concert in Adamant! You may remember Adamant (pronounce ADemANT) from the Art Tour in Episode 10. It’s a funky little village on the border of Calais and East Montpelier, and is certainly worthy of it’s own Episode. Perhaps we’ll pop over in a couple of months for the Black Fly Festival.

After an afternoon of clothes shopping in the greater Montpelier-Berlin-Barre metroplex, we were off to meet Rose and Jennifer and their partners George and Paul at the Whammy Bar in Calais.

This place is another funky little gem also worthy of its own Episode. For starters, there is no evidence that it even exists as you drive down County Road. It’s part of the Maple Corner Store, and you kind of have to know that before you set out looking for it.

Secondly, there is no evidence that the Whammy Bar exists when you walk into the Maple Corner Store. It’s all the way to the back, past the sandwich counter, through a door on the right. You don’t really see it until you are there. But we asked and found, and found our party looking over menus at the bar.

For thirds – well, for thirds we’d really be getting into a post about the Whammy Bar, which this is not. Suffice it to say that The Whammy Bar is TINY, as some of us were practically sitting on the “stage” where the bands play. Somehow they fit musicians into the Whammy Bar. We have to go back for that.

The menu is pizza and chicken wings, which isn’t really vegan-friendly fare, but there was enough for Doreen and I to get a meal. (The veggie pizza sans cheese was fabulous!) There were five beers on tap, including Gritty’s IPA, which caused some excitement among those of us who haven’t been drinking Gritty’s beers for 25 years. (That sounded a bit smug, didn’t it?) I opted for a Vermont brew, Queen City Yorkshire Porter, which was fantastic, and just the thing for a late-winter quaff.

Toward the end of our meal, that night’s band started to set up on stage, and a few people started to stream in. The place fills up fast. But whoever that band was, they weren’t our concert. We were off to the Methodist Church in Adamant for Maple Jam, Vermont’s own a cappella quintet.

The route from Maple Corner to Adamant takes us along one of the ubiquitous dirt tracks that we are trying to make our piece with. To those of us who have come to think of asphalt as a birthright, the gravel road is an annoyance in the summer, a bit sketchy when it freezes and ices over in winter, and a complete mess come mud season. We’re on the edge of mud season right now, and a few more warm days will no doubt turn the road to Adamant (Haggett Road, in case you are wondering) into a sloppy bog best traveled with a John Deere.

The Methodist Church is just outside the village proper, a modest wood structure no bigger than your typical McMansion Colonial. Inside were a row of about ten pews, maybe a seating capacity of 100 adults. But those pews were quite full to hear the vocal stylings of Maple Jam. This was the final of the winter concert series in Adamant, and folks in town obviously appreciate the opportunity to get out and tap their feet.

A capella is a fun and fascinating musical genre. The term immediately brings to mind the four-part harmonies of a barbershop quartet, but this is so much more. In addition to singing words, a cappella groups also provide instrumentation – bass lines, drum kicks and cymbal taps – with nothing but their voices. Most impressive were the “trumpet” solos vocalized by Karen Chickering. The rest is filled in with a variety of “ooh-aahs” and “la-la-las” for an incredibly full sound.

The vocal interplay lends itself naturally to jazz music in particular, and the playlist featured artists like Miles Davis, Pink Martini, and in particular The Count Basie Orchestra. Highlights included “Birdland” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” There was also room for a Beatles tune and even a Mozart instrumental, along with an original or two. The group warmly welcomed the audience and provided a lot of background about the music and their own influences. It was a wonderful community event, and I highly recommend the band.

And, because this is small-town Vermont, it was all over by 9:00. Even during mud season, folks don’t like to stay out too late. There was a coating of snow on the dirt road back to Montpelier, making the road just that much more adventuresome. The drive was uneventful, but we might not get back to Adamant before summer.

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