Rock N Brew comes to Manchester

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MANCHESTER — Last year, the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce announced its plans to expand into the northern half of Bennington County, and this Sunday it will host its first big event in Manchester, the second iteration of the Rock N Brews concert series.

The show is scheduled to run from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 20 at the Northshire Civic Center at Riley Rink in Manchester. Tickets for adults cost $15 online (at www.bennington.com/rocknbrews) and $20 at the door.

"This is an important event to us as it's our first event opportunity in the Northshire, said Matt Harrington, the Chamber's executive director. "As we look to regionalize the chamber, along with our services and events, we wanted to make sure we spread our events from both Shires. We have a couple other event partnerships that we've been working on that we're excited to roll out in the Northshire as well. Whether a resident or a visitor, you will be able to celebrate the great things that make this region so unique."

The event will coincide with the Shires of Vermont Marathon, which will begin at Bennington College at 8 a.m. and will finish at the Riley Rink around noon, just as the concerts are getting started. Harrington said that racers will be offered discounted tickets.

"Events are only one aspect of our footprint in the Northshire," said Harrington. "We've also worked to create a Manchester Stay To Stay package, a new initiative rolled out by (Gov. Phil Scott), with the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, worked with VTrans to provided the Vermont Shires Connector up into Manchester, created a region-wide Visitors Guide for the area, and more."

The concert will feature four local acts: Bubba Lou Tugget, Billy Wylder, Honeysuckle, and Luminous Crush.

Tugget, from Woodford, describes his genre as outlaw country and cowpunk, and his band's Facebook profile declares an interest in, "making country not suck."

Billy Wylder, who have an album coming out later this year, is made up of Rob Flax (fiddle, synthesizer, vocals), Krista Speroni (bass, vocals), Zamar Odongo (drums, vocals), and Avi Salloway (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica). Their website describes their sound: "The music weaves together American folk and rock with sensibilities from the Sahara Desert: think Andrew Bird meets Ali Farka Toure, Pete Seeger and Talking Heads. Mother Earth is at its center, surrounded by stories of love, conflict, change and dreams."

The Boston-based Honeysuckle, made up of Holly McGarry, Benjamin Burns, and Chris Bloniarz, describe themselves as "a progressive folk act that blends older influences and traditional instrumentation with modern effects and inspiration." They recently released their sophomore album, "Catacombs."

Luminous Crush is a rock and pop band made up of Laura Molinelli, Ben Campbell, Christian Heins, Brad Waugaman, and Paul Carroccio. According to their website, the group "focuses on original dreamlike pop and rock vignettes."

"The first concert focused more on punk and emo styles of music; this one will have a much different feel as we focus on bluegrass, country and alternative," said Joe Frey of Anchored Media and musical director of the event. "We were excited to partner with Jon Larson and the Northshire Civic Center to bring this to the Northshire community."

"I think the music was one area we tweaked more to match the market and time of year," said Harrington. "The more acoustic style will work well in Manchester."

The first Rock N Brews, held at Southern Vermont College last year, featured samples from homebrewers. This year's event will be a little bit different, said Harrington. "We just finished up Wings and Winter Homebrew so we didn't want to tap out the homebrew market," he said. "So this time we focused the event on all the cool things Madison Brewing is doing especially around their new cans."

"We're always looking at ways to create something new and fresh," said Will Gardner of Hopridge Farm, who is also head brewer at Madison's and has been an organizer for both Rock N Brews events. "We just had a very successful event with our homebrewers at the sold-out Wings and Winter Homebrew Festival in Bennington. When we were discussing options for the Rock N Brews series, we thought highlighting the success of Madison's new canning process would be a great concept."

Gardner said that Madison's will have cans of Downtown IPA, JU-C Double IPA, and Blackberry Tart, and will have draft offerings of their BlueBerry Wheat and Single Hopped Simcoe IPA. Gardner said that there would also be a special brew on tap and perhaps a special can.

"The Northshire currently makes up 15% of our membership," said Harrington. "We would like to see that grow. However, as any good business person might tell you, we're trying to stretch our resources as far as they can go while we build up our membership in the Northshire to support these ongoing initiatives. For this event the specific partnership of the Northshire Civic Center at Riley Rink and the Shires of Vermont Marathon were important foundations to get this event going."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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