|Masks will continue to be optional but welcome. If the community guidelines change, so will our protocol. A pair of high-capacity air purifiers will be running during shows. The common courtesy of not going out and being a vector if you’re not well has always been a good idea, even before Covid-19.
Stage 33 Live is a welcoming, casual, scrappy but well-mannered, big-hearted, nonprofit, DIY listening room in an industrial-rustic former factory with 40 seats, run by chipper upstart adult volunteers on an island in the rural Vermont village of Bellows Falls on the Connecticut River bordering New Hampshire.
Only original material written by the performers themselves is allowed, or works from the public domain.
Imagine a state-of-the-art, million-dollar music hall with raked plush seating and a big jutting stage and fifty-dollar tickets… got it? That’s not us.
Imagine a sparkly-clean glossy room with cafe tables lit by faux Edison bare bulbs, where the music is only there as an inducement for whatever the actual business of the place is, usually including clinking glasses and plates and people talking over the performer, who is playing for tips… that’s not us either.
We’re not a theater, club, bar, restaurant, coffeeshop, bookstore, music store, or anything other than what we are. We’re the middle path between the high quality of a big-bucks performance center minus the swank, and the relaxed comfort of a friendly dive bar minus minus the bar and anything skanky.
The room has mostly defined itself as an acoustic folk/Americana singer-songwriter place, but we run jazz, pop, spoken word, rock, and more. Some people are happier in a loud frantic club scene with a cover band or a DJ, and that’s OK. It’s just not what we do.
We started this do-it-yourself project to help local and regional composing musicians and original spoken word presenters find ears and eyes. Along the way we somehow hit the radars of performers bigger than we are, and some of them ask to come play. They’re welcome as well.
We record and film all performances and we post them online… attendees not only get to enjoy the what’s happening on the stage, they’re also in a studio audience. Our plan is to eventually produce programming for local and regional TV and radio broadcast.
No, we don’t present loads of acts with tons of name recognition — but we’ll stack them up as usually just as good as the biggies, and more often than you might think, better. These are performers on the way to becoming biggies. We’re a stepping-stone, and happily so. It’s our mission.
And you? The people who come to our shows thrive on discovery and appreciate originality. And the bragging rights of having seen an act in this odd little place before they started hitting big is priceless. You, too, can be a hipster. (If you must.)
For a random sampling of everything ever, go to tinyurl.com/stage33live and click on the Shuffle symbol (some YouTube phone apps don’t have a shuffle button, but if you go to the YouTube website instead of the app you’ll find one). We hit the ground with a couple $50 white-label kiddie-cameras because that’s what we could afford; we used borrowed microphones, a mixing console we got at an auction for $40 that went dramatically up in smoke an hour before a show, and a pair of fuzzy no-name PA speakers from freecycle. Our first lights were hardware-store white floods in track fixtures that were already there. We’ve come a long way since those days.
Attendance has been wildly erratic in these endemic days of the pestilence, and since the post-lockdown reopening, we rarely hit capacity. But from time to time we do, so getting advance tickets is never a bad idea. Advance tickets are usually discounted, plus the chairs up front are saved for advance ticket holders.
Audience hesitancy lingers. And we could be wrong, but it sure does seem like there are at least twice as many shows going on as there were before the pandemic. We continue to plod along on our limited calendar, though some venues are scrambling to try to make up for lost time and income by packing their schedules. And there are new rooms, mostly coffeehouse and microbrewery type places, trying out live music as an add-on. We’re not sure if things are being driven by desperation or euphoria… probably both. But there’s only so much audience for everything, and by all accounts it’s still a smaller audience than the old normal.
However, anything that helps raise the reputation of the mid-Connecticut River valley as a destination for music and performance and art is something we celebrate!
We’ll never cancel a show for low ticket sales, but the performers can. If an artist isn’t going to make enough money for gas and hotel and expenses, we don’t blame them for pulling out of a show. Fortunately, that’s only happened once so far.
Some of the best performances we’ve had in the room have been to just a handful of people — there seems to be a special magic that only happens when the turnout is weirdly small.
Although our listening events are informal and friendly, they’re rarely a good environment for squalling babies, ADHD kiddos, or disruptive adults. It’s all about honoring the stage. Cell phones off, pop a lozenge if you’ve got a cough. Don’t talk over the performance. Applaud like crazy though… cheer a great solo, laugh loud at a good joke or groan loud at a bad one. Heck, heckle if it seems appropriate. But honor the stage.
As a volunteer-run initiative, we don’t do gajillions of shows because we just can’t. We do one every three weeks or so, with summers off. This means that each one we do is special and meaningful.
Best way to be in the loop about what and when things are happening is to sign up for the email newsletter.
We don’t solicit performers, everything we host is because somebody reached out to us. If you’re a performer, this means that you shouldn’t wait for an invitation because it won’t come. Take a look at the “For Performers” page and then get in touch if you’re into it. The people in the audience and the people on the stage are both there because they chose to be there for each other. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.
We host local, regional, and national professionals and amateurs alike, and we record and film them in the act for a radio/TV/internet program we’re cooking up – the homegrown love child of Tiny Desk Concerts, Ted Talks, Austin City Limits, Science Friday, The Midnight Special, and those old-school PBS performance specials from back before they had all that money, infused with the naive enthusiasm The Little Rascals.