If there is anyone in the state who could really use a hug right about now, it’s probably Pete Johnson  of Pete’s Greens farm in Craftsbury. On Wednesday, January 12, Johnson’s winter food storage and processing facilities were destroyed in a fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze. Unfortunately, Johnson’s losses are devastating, and threaten the future of one of Vermont’s beloved veggie producers.
One of the comforting things about living in a close-knit community, such as we have in these here Green Mountains, is that when one person is in dire straits, others tend to respond quickly. (Another nifty thing: You can use the phrase “beloved veggie producers” and actually mean it.)
Vermonters have a long history of using music to help neighbors in need. When Burlington DJs A-Dog and Mike Device lost their apartments  in a fire in 2008, the community responded with a series of benefit shows and helped the turntablists get back on their feet. When lovable bouncer Mikey van Gulden was nearly killed  after being struck by a cab riding his bike home from Higher Ground that same summer, there you were again, rocking out while opening your hearts and wallets to lend him a hand. Same for Daryl Rabidoux following his near-fatal car accident , also in the summer of 2008.
Wow, 2008 really sucked. Moving on…
The cost of getting Pete’s Greens back in business will likely be staggering. But here you are again. And you’re bringing some phriends.
Thursday, February 3, Love Tomorrow Today , Select Design, Healthy Living and Gardener’s Supply will join forces to present quite possibly the biggest benefit show we’ve seen in years: “Hug Your Farmer: A Night of Music to Benefit Pete’s Greens” at the Higher Ground Ballroom. What warrants the hyperbole? I’m glad you asked.
The show, which sold out shortly before this issue went to press, will feature a slew of local musical talent lending their axes — and drums and horns, and keyboards, etc. — to the cause for a colossal jam session. As of this writing, the lineup includes Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski  of the Trey Anastasio Band, Bob Wagner, Clint Bierman and Peter Day from the Grift , Rich Price from the Sweet Remains , Joshua Panda , Mike Clifford and Matt Hagen from Lendway , Jer Coons , Dave Grippo , Brian McCarthy  and Barefoot Truth ’s Will Evans.
Oh, yeah, and some guys named Page and Jon …
Best of luck to Johnson and all the folks at Pete’s Greens. And thanks, once again, to all the fans, artists and organizations that have chipped in and reminded me just why the hell we live here. Especially this time of year, we could all use a little heartwarming, right?
Apropos of nothing: It might be way too early/borderline cruel for most of us to start thinking about the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. But as Yousay Placate keyboardist and all-around swell guy Parker Shper  was rocking with his new Montréal-based neo-soul outfit Groundfood  at Nectar’s this past Friday, I couldn’t prevent my thoughts from lazily drifting toward those hazy nights in June when all of Burlington is a stage. This is hardly going out on a limb since (1) BDJF honcho Brian Mital was also in attendance that night; and (2) the band is signed to BDJF Swiss army knife Lisa Giordano’s New Vogue  label, but I’m venturing a guess that these cats might end up with a gig or three during our annual funky fortnight. And that would be a very good thing indeed — especially if they’re playing outside. Think spring…
In the more immediate future, this Saturday, Justin Levinson  unveils the first in his monthlong series of singer-songwriter circles at Nectar’s. Levinson is coming off quite a year in 2010, presumably highlighted by gettin’ hitched to local neo-soul siren Myra Flynn . She knows a thing or two about songwriter circles herself, having hosted them regularly at a number of local clubs over the years. Her husband must have been taking notes, as he’s lined up an impressive roster of talent. First up this week: Andrew Parker-Renga  and Maryse Smith . Future sessions will include Lendway’s Mike Clifford, Waylon Speed’s Kelly Ravin , Zack duPont  and Strength in Numbers ’ Emma Frank , among others. Check it out every Saturday in February.
Band Name of the Week: Minor Tribal Scuffles . Love the name, not as psyched about the funky jams. But as far as I know, these guys are the best band ever to come out of Poultney, Vt. OK, they might be the only band from Poultney. But still. Everybody has to start somewhere, right? They’ll be at Radio Bean this Friday.
Speaking of the Bean, this Friday local tradge-hop progenitors Manifest Nextome, following a pair of well-received reunion gigs in Montpelier late last year, reintroduce themselves to the city they called home at the early part of the century. Welcome back, gents.
Most folks probably know Don Sheldon as the man behind the annual Valley Stage Festival  in Huntington. Sheldon has helmed the small outdoor fest for the past five summers, scoring such notable acts as the Greencards, Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, the Duhks, Anaïs Mitchell, and Robbie Fulks, among many others of local and national renown. Not content to only ply his trade during the three-and-a-half warm weeks we call summer, Sheldon is branching out under the banner of Valley Stage Productions, and partnering with area clubs to present shows similar in both sound and spirit to his main event. The first such gig is this Thursday at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge with Valley Stage vets the Defibulators  and local whiskey-grass hot shots Gold Town . By the way, if the former band sounds familiar, it may be because I mention the Brooklyn-based punk-grass outfit almost every time they’re in the area, solely because they own my all-time favorite PR quip: “Like ‘Hee-Haw’ on mescaline.” Future VSP shows include the Woes  in March and the Doc Marshalls  in May, both at Higher Ground.
In other Valley Stage news, Sheldon just announced this summer’s festival headliner: Danny Barnes . We’ll have more on that story once the mercury climbs above freezing. Welcome back, Gang of Thieves ! The young rock outfit is back on native soil after seeking its fortune for a time on the left coast. They’ve returned home to work on a new record and make tour plans for the summer. They’ll be at Club Metronome this Thursday with Ila Mawana  and local funky bunch Bearquarium .
And finally, I’ll leave you with a riddle: What is red and white — like, really, really white — has 16 arms and loves you? Answer next week.
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.