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.
Imagine a state-of-the-art, million-dollar music hall with raked plush seating, a 50-foot stage, and big-bucks tickets… got it? That’s not us.
Imagine a sparkly-clean room with glossy cafe tables lit by faux Edison bulbs, where the performances are an add-on to the actual business of the place. That’s not us either.
Imagine a cheek-to-jowl bar full of people shouting at each other over thundering subwoofers… nope.
The room has mostly defined itself as an acoustic folk / Americana singer-songwriter place, but we also run jazz, pop, spoken word, rock, and more.
We’re not trying to be the biggest / hottest / most epic / all-caps with multiple exclamation marks and emojis / extra-thumpy / party scene… we’re a listening room.
We’re the middle path between the high quality of a classy performance center without the swank, and the relaxed comfort of a welcoming little dive pub without the bar.
We primarily feature emerging talent — national, regional, and local. They usually stack up just as good as the biggies, often better, but without the premium upcharge. We’re for people who thrive on discovery, appreciate originality, and revel in the focused immersion of connecting deeply with performances in an intimate setting.
Only original material is allowed, or works from the public domain. All the ticket money goes to the performers.
Some people are happier in a loud club scene with a cover band or a DJ, or at a festival with hordes of people, or where performances are an afterthought to talk over top of while eating dinner or having umbrella drinks. That’s OK, it just ain’t us.
When you’re in the audience, you’re also in a studio audience because we record and film all the performances and presentations. So phones and noises off, honor the stage.
We’re not dour schoolmarms though. Reward performances with exuberance, absolutely! An outstanding solo? — cheer like crazy, let ’em know! Funny joke? — laugh your head off! Lame joke? — groan long and loud. They ask you to clap your hands and sing along? — dive in with gusto, off-tempo and out of tune! Heck, heckle if it seems appropriate.
But do keep in mind that you’re probably not who everybody else came to hear.
We post the performance clips online, and have a plan to eventually produce programming for radio and TV — a homegrown love-child of Tiny Desk Concerts, Austin City Limits, Midnight Special, and those old-school PBS performance specials from back before they had all that money. Infused with the naive enthusiasm of The Little Rascals.
For a random sampling of everything ever so far, go to tinyurl.com/stage33live and click on the “Shuffle” symbol: (some YouTube phone apps apparently don’t have a shuffle button).
We launched on April Fool’s Day 2018 as a low-key do-it-yourself project to help local and regional composing musicians and original spoken word presenters find ears and eyes. We had a couple $50 white-label kiddie-cameras because that’s what we could afford. We used some 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 an astonishingly long way since then.
At some point, performers bigger than we are somehow got wind of us and they liked the cut of our jib. Some of them asked to come play. That was cool. Still is.
We don’t solicit performers. Everybody who plays here has asked to play here. The people in the audience and the people on the stage are both there because they want to be there. It’s a beautiful symbiosis.
We keep a first-come first-served waiting list of performers, and we book from that list in the order we were contacted. The biggest obstacle emerging performers face are the gatekeepers, so we leveled the playing field. Everybody jumps through the same hoops.
So if you’re a performer waiting for an invitation, you should know that it’s never going to come. Have a thorough look at the “For Performers” page in all its neutron-like density, and then drop us a line if it’s all good by you.
We do a show every three weeks, give or take, spring through fall, mostly on Sundays. Sometimes we’ll add a one-off. Being entirely run by mere human volunteers, we don’t do gajillions of shows because we just can’t.
Best way to be in the loop about things is to sign up for the email newsletter.
As a weird 40-seater in the hinterlands, attendance has always been erratic. Sometimes we do hit capacity, so getting advance tickets is never a bad idea. On the other hand, some shows end up with a far more intimate audience than they deserve.
But we give it everything we’ve got every time no matter what, and the performers do too. Some of the most transcendent shows 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. But generally speaking, more people is better. C’mon out!
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.