Happy 2011, music fans. Now that we’ve had a little time to get a feel for the vibe of the new year, it is time once again to gaze into the crystal ball and see if we can get a read on what 2011 has in store. Here goes:
After months of speculation concerning the fate of his beloved café, Radio Bean owner Lee Anderson announces in May that an anonymous Good Samaritan has donated the $80K the coffee shop needed to get out from under its crippling debt — Anderson opened the joint 10 years ago using credit cards . Incredibly, the mystery person has left the money, in cash, on the Bean’s doorstep in a large sack with a dollar sign on it. The only clue to the donor’s identity: a note reading, “Love, Ernest.”
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals  continue their meteoric rise to rock superstardom. This despite the fact that American music journalists have stopped likening Potter to the late Janis Joplin. In February, President Barack Obama signs “Dylan’s Law,” bipartisan legislation banning rock critics from referring to current artists as “the next [insert icon].” In an interview with Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, Potter is candid about the new measure. “I don’t have a problem with it,” she says. “Even I thought the Joplin comparison was fucking ridiculous.”
Montpelier alt-venue the Lamb Abbey reopens, having brought its building up to fire code. There’s no joke here. I just really hope that happens.
Signed into law in January, the Local Community Radio Act  — a bill cosponsored by Sen. Patrick “Batman” Leahy — transforms Vermont’s FM dials as dozens of new low-power FM radio stations begin operating in communities around the state. Highlights include a Somali refugee station in Burlington’s Old North End, a tourism guide station for French Canadian travelers — with a focus on tipping — and in Montpelier, WOOO-LP, “All Charlie O’s, all the time.”
Letting bygones be bygones after last summer’s Furthur fracas , Higher Ground and the Shelburne Museum bury the hatchet and agree to bring back the Concerts on the Green series for another year. However, the unthinkable occurs when, during a performance by Emmylou Harris, Shelburne is overrun by ticketless baby boomers who wait patiently in line for a bit and then go home, kinda disappointed, but mostly just tired.
2011 sets a new standard for rock in Vermont. More local bands than ever before get regional and national exposure, the quality and quantity of local releases increase exponentially, and the state becomes a primary destination for touring bands, not just a pit stop between Boston and Montréal. No joke here, either.
Vermont is pretty funny. And I don’t mean that in the derisive way most people do when they make that statement. I mean it quite literally. We have some very, very funny people in these here Green Mountains. Need proof? Look no further than the seventh annual Higher Ground Comedy Battle this Saturday in the HG Ballroom. After a one-year layoff, I’ll be reprising my role as a guest judge, despite a complete lack of qualifications as an arbiter of hilarity. As mentioned previously in these pages, the local standup scene is in the midst of a talent boom. There are regular comedy nights at venues all over the state. As such, local comics have had increasing opportunities to hone their craft. That means this year’s battle has the potential to be the strongest yet, with a field that includes an intriguing mix of veterans (Nathan Hartswick , Colin Ryan , Jason Lorber ) and newcomers (Dustin Bruley , Mike Thomas , Pat Lynch ). I’m excited, and you should be, too.
With any luck, Saturday’s Comedy Battle will finish in time for me to swing by the Monkey House and check out Pooloop , Swale  and Diamond Tiger. I was at Radio Bean this past Saturday for Tiger’s first “real” show, and I gotta say, I came away impressed. Aside from some minor issues common to almost any new band, those cats put on one hell of a show. They had the at-capacity Bean practically bursting at the seams with high-energy disco-rock that Heloise & the Savoir Faire  fans should eat up. The slightly more spacious and dance-friendly confines of the Monkey should suit the Tigers well. (Note: I’d just like to point out that I wrote that whole bit without once mentioning the band’s topless dancers … ahem.)
Of course, we can’t talk about this weekend’s festivities at the Monkey without mentioning the long-awaited homecoming of Dean Wells and his band, the Capstan Shafts . The Shafts’ last record, Revelation Skirts , was a personal favorite from 2010, and were it not for the fact that it wasn’t made in VT, would easily have made 7D’s year-end top-10 list for VT-made music. Wells now lives and works in West Virginia, which is a good thing for one of this past year’s top-10 honorees — I’ll let you guess which one … (just kidding, Japhy Ryder!). In any event, the show will represent a coming full circle for Wells, whose very first gig was at the Stannard (Vt.) Church in October 2007 — a gig curated by late, great screen-printing impresarios Tick Tick, no less. Fellow prodigal expats Crinkles  and Albany’s Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned  open.
Band Name of the Week: Bridget & the Puppycats . I’m not certain, and I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’m pretty sure that Bridget & the Puppycats inspired the creation of this weekly column segment. Because every time I read their name, I can’t help but laugh — in a good way, of course. The titular Bridget is Bridget Martin, sister of local songwriter Jenny Montana . If you recall, two years ago I reviewed Martin’s last album  under the initial impression that she was, um, deaf. It’s a long story. Reader’s Digest version: She’s not deaf but had lost her voice the day she dropped her album off at 7D and, using pen and paper to communicate, unintentionally led the coworker who received her to think she was. As it turns out, Martin’s vocal condition grew steadily worse as time went on; she recently underwent successful surgery to correct the problem. The globetrotting songwriter will be back on VT soil this week and even has a new recording in hand, The Puppycats EP, which was recorded in Seoul and is available to preview and download at bridgetmartin.bandcamp.com . Welcome back, Bridget.
Speaking of traveling songwriters, Zack duPont  is back in town after a month and a half away. Reacquaint yourself with the talented tunesmith every Monday in January at the 1/2 Lounge.
There is a very special installment of Joe Adler ’s Burgundy Thursdays series — now on the Main Stage! — at Parima this week featuring Montréal/Providence-based indie-folk outfit the Barr Brothers . Later this month they’ll play a string of dates with Jocie Adams of the Low Anthem . I mention that because if you dig TLA — and by this point you’d better, dammit — you’ll love you some Barr Brothers, I promise.
Sticking with Parima, Boston-based “Mexicana” band David Wax Museum  will join red-hot roots-soul stars the Joshua Panda Band  on the Main Stage this Saturday. The show will be Panda’s first locally since November.
Meanwhile, in Parima’s Acoustic Lounge that same night, treat yourself to a trio of the area’s finest young chanteuses as Denitia Odigie , Myra Flynn  and Tiffany Pfeiffer  break hearts — and then mend them — with an evening of sultry neo-soul stylings.
And last but not least, Miriam Bernardo  has a new project she’s dubbed, um, the Miriam Bernardo Band. Those familiar with the supremely talented singer’s past projects may be surprised by her new direction. Bernardo describes the band as less delicate and more rocking. Or, more specifically, if “Daniel Lanois and Me’shell Ndgeocello have a love child and its first cousins are Bonnie Raitt and Brian Blade.” Got it? See for yourself when the Miriam Bernardo Band plays its first show at Halvorson’s Upstreet Café in Burlington this Friday.
And once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.