Ok, so it’s January on Martha’s Vineyard. Post-holiday blues. Patriots choked against the Ravens, so no playoffs. Opening Day at Fenway is months away. What to do now? You’d be surprised what’s out there when it comes to finding live entertainment.
Whether it’s solo acoustic, Irish jams, small jazz combos, or full-blown bands with horns and extensive repertoires, all can be enjoyed in January on the Vineyard.
The economy being what it is, and everyone’s budget being held hostage to the necessary expenditures like utility bills, frivolities like food and beverage.
In Oak Bluffs, which appears to be the epicenter of the live music scene, there’s the choice between karaoke and the occasional live session at Seasons Pub & Restaurant, such as Mike Benjamin & Friends (the “friends” being Entrain leader Tom Major, Wes Nagy, Steve Tully, and others).
“For enjoying such quality musicianship in a live setting, it doesn’t get any better than those guys,” says Rob Scherer of Oak Bluffs. “There may be a decent-sized crowd some nights, or as little as 25 people. In the winter it fluctuates. Seasons is an intimate setting for both the music lover and the musicians.”
Right across Post Office Square is the warm rustic charm of the Offshore Ale Co., which offers their fair share of living, breathing, entertainment. If you’re into a bit of the Irish, there’s a rollicking Live Irish Session with Gregg Harcourt and Mary Wolverton every Wednesday evening starting at 6.
Mr. Benjamin also has a month-long residency at the Offshore. “Offshore Ale on Saturday afternoons is my home,” Mr. Benjamin says. “I’m doing a solo acoustic thing with my daughter Charlotte sitting in. It’s mellow mid-afternoon tunes.” Mr. Benjamin promises it to be a very family-friendly event, and plans on continuing possibly into February and March.
“Both Seasons and Offshore take into consideration the working folks and parents on the Island,” says Dave Donahue, an admitted “live music junkie” from Oak Bluffs. “We all have to be creative in order to stay busy and culturally stimulated during the winter months. Having the ability to head out and see some talented musicians at comfortable, welcoming venues – early enough so you’re not totally exhausted the next day – is terrific. It’s a challenge for the good folks at both Offshore and Seasons to program their entertainment schedules in the winter, but they are without a doubt meeting that challenge”.
And don’t forget continued perpetuation of live music at The Ritz, where Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish will be on Saturday night, January 30. Johnny and the band will be pulling double-duty that day. They take the stage at The Ritz after a full day of entertaining the folks at the WMVY Big Chili Contest at the Portuguese-American Club.
This weekend, Mediterranean features notable live entertainment, for a good cause. On Saturday evening, Jan. 23, beginning at 6 pm, the restaurant hosts a night of dancing and live music with Jerry Bennett and the Sultans Of Swing. There will also be a silent auction and dinner. All proceeds from the evening go to Dede Hagen and her family. Ms. Hagen was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007.
If you’re closer to Edgartown, there is always something happening at The Wharf. Tomorrow night – Friday – it’s a night of romping, stomping folk music with the Cattle Drivers.
Then there are the places that aren’t restaurants or nightclubs. The coffeehouse circuit is alive and well in January. The Spoon in the Moon Coffeehouse at the Vineyard Playhouse in Vineyard Haven will host Live Folk Music on Friday, Jan. 29, at 7 pm.
And don’t forget about libraries. The J.C. Trio will be performing a free jazz concert at the West Tisbury Library tomorrow afternoon, January 22, at 4 pm.
So, if you’re of the mindset that there is nothing happening on our beloved Island in the starkness of January, take heart. The Martha’s Vineyard Times, the respective websites of restaurants, nightclubs, artists, coffeehouses and libraries – all are fabulous resources to help you fill the remainder of your January with pulsing – or peaceful – music, close to home.
Ray Whitaker of Oak Bluffs is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Times.