Nothing takes the edge off a bitterly cold night like live music in a restored town hall. At least in my book. Last night I was carried away to the jazz clubs of between-the-wars Paris or the alley bars off La Rambla in Barcelona. (Sans the smoke.)
Bethel, Vermont, was the scene of this musical transport. The band, They Might Be Gypsies, were booked to celebrate the recent restoration of the venerable town hall. Bethel was the first town created by the independent Republic of Vermont in 1779, and some of its architecture remains standing from that period. The town hall is a marvel and its recent restoration bodes well for the future of arts events in our neighborhood. We live about 15 minutes away.
We have a bit of history with the members of this band. Greg and Aidan Ryan—the father and son duo—are old friends. Aidan is 15, and I clearly remember when he was born. Greg and I first met in the early 1990s when we got talking about a song that was playing on the stereo at a food shop where I was working. A week later, Greg had a job there too, and a musical dialogue began that still continues. As the years passed we helped hammer nails to frame their house, cooked together in either kitchen, brought in the New Year on many occasions, and always ended up in a circle—with instruments—singing favorite songs. I should mention that there are more great musicians in this family. Anne Ryan is an accomplished vocalist and pianist (who authored their clever band name) and Casey Ryan is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and wordsmith.
Greg and Aidan are making waves in Vermont’s music scene and receiving well-deserved attention that should leak across the borders of our little state. As solo performers, each one’s instrumental energy is enough to raise an eyebrow. When they play together, your eyebrows grow tired from being in the exclamatory position so often. They play music influenced by the 1930s gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. They also compose their own music and do impressive renditions of South American jazz and genre-pushing music.
The weather was a little tricky, so the crowd wasn’t large. But empty seats didn’t stop our contemporary gypsies from a rollicking show and the crowd was engaged and appreciative. Greg and Aidan were joined by a superb drummer and acoustic bassist. (If only I could remember their names…. I will find out and give them proper credit.) The two additions to the band had met only hours before the show and the performance showed off their ability to improvise over and over again. The four musicians played as one lithe and easy unit to whoops and spontaneous applause from the small crowd.
Their debut album is out, and a second is on the way.
We left into the cold night—stars and moon emerging from cloud cover—energized and warmed to the core.