Finding the music in your summer

Erich Luening
Erich Luening. Photo by Ralph Stewart

By Karla Araujo - June 14, 2007

As the Island awakens after a long, quiet winter you can hear the sound of music popping up everywhere - from Outerland at Martha's Vineyard Airport to Lola's on Beach Road in Oak Bluffs. Live musicians and talented DJ's bring the best in contemporary music to our doorstep all summer long. Here's a look at what's on tap and where to go to find it.

Doing the circuit

Circuit Avenue in downtown Oak Bluffs is the hub of the summer's live music scene. Within a few short blocks you'll find eight venues for live music of every genre. Island House's relaxed family-friendly atmosphere comes to life seven nights a week with DJ dance parties from 10 pm to 1 am. The youngish (21+) crowd moves to the beat of Motown, hip-hop, R&B, and house music.

Just across the street, The Rare Duck, The Lampost, and The Ritz pack in the locals as well as the tourists for a wide range of live music. The relaxed pub atmosphere of The Rare Duck provides an ideal environment for smaller bands and acoustic acts. According to Jamie Hayes, co-owner and general manager of The Rare Duck and its adjacent affiliate, The Lampost, the club is the only "true" nightclub on the Island - it serves no food, concentrating instead on providing a variety of entertainment on three floors.

"It's the closest thing to a city night club on the Vineyard," Mr. Hayes says. "We try to appeal to everyone, from the bigger bands upstairs in our new lounge, Sinners & Saints, to DJs on the main floor and more intimate acts downstairs at The Rare Duck." A highlight of the summer: The Zoo, winners of MTV's Ultimate Cover Band Contest, appearing on July 5 and again in August.

Just steps away on Circuit is The Ritz, another favorite for long-time locals as well as visitors looking for an informal spot to hear favorite bands from the Island and the mainland. According to Manager Janet King, The Ritz will feature live music six nights a week starting at the end of June, continuing through the summer. Mike Benjamin will appear on Monday nights, Johnny Hoy & the Bluefish on Tuesdays and Mike Martin on Wednesdays. Visiting musicians will perform on Thursdays through the weekends. Watch for a mixture of New Orleans style music, blues, zydeco and reggae from 10 pm to 12:30 am every night but Sunday.

It's just a short stroll up Circuit Avenue to Seasons Eatery & Pub, another local nightspot that offers live entertainment seven nights a week all summer long. On Wednesday and Saturday nights, karaoke fans clamor for the microphone while the other five nights a week, Manager Eric White packs the place with the help of local talent like Money Shot, a favorite alternative rock band, acoustic guitar player Chad Burtch and a variety of other rock 'n' roll, alternate rock, and jazz musicians.

The Oyster Bar Grill, located at 57 Circuit Avenue, offers live music seven nights a week in what Manager Nate Vieira calls "a lounge-y atmosphere with a vibe." Translation: a New York-style lounge complete with velvet couch and a blend of DJs, R&B, soul, acoustic, and funk music from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am nightly. Watch for Erich Luening's mellow sound and Entrain's Tom Major regularly this summer.

Just off the circuit

If you've done Circuit Ave. and still have the energy to try one more club, don't miss Offshore Ale Co.'s warm English pub atmosphere (complete with discarded peanut shells on the floor). Located just a block off Circuit Avenue on Kennebec Avenue, Offshore is a true microbrewery and home to some of the Island's "local heroes," as Manager Glen Caldwell refers to the many Vineyard musicians who enjoy regular gigs there.

With live entertainment booked nearly every night throughout the summer, Offshore hosts such local favorites as Johnny Hoy & the Bluefish, Jeremy Berlin and Eric Johnson, The Taylor Brown Trio (dubbed "the next John Mayer" by Caldwell, an enthusiastic fan), Jen Clarke, the Jon Zeeman Trio and Kahoots, to name just a few. Offshore welcomes music lovers of all ages in one of the few venues where kids can come listen to live entertainment.

The last stop in Oak Bluffs is Lola's, the legendary gathering place known for its down-home Southern cooking and packed dance floor. Lola's is located on Beach Road in Oak Bluffs (en route to Edgartown) on the grounds of the Island Inn resort. Owners Kathy and Paul Domitrovich have concocted a unique formula - informal warmth, live music that appeals to the eclectic 35-plus crowd and a dance floor that seems to grow bigger and more crowded each summer. Vacationers and locals shake it up to the music of top area R&B, Motown, Latin and reggae bands. Every Sunday and Monday nights are Motown celebrations; the other five nights a week throughout the summer (starting in late June) also feature live entertainment.

"It's the only place on the Island where you'll find people ages eight to 96 on the dance floor," Ms. Domitrovich points out proudly. "Lola's is a place people can relate to - they can sing along with the music and get out and dance the way they wouldn't normally do at home. It's a party all summer long!"

Downtown Edgartown

Live music, a boisterous atmosphere, and classic Island fare add up to a popular gathering place for 20- to 30-somethings all summer long at The Wharf Pub & Restaurant on Lower Main Street in downtown Edgartown.

Owner/manager Will Coogan keeps it hopping every night throughout the season with DJ's, karaoke and popular live bands like Money Shot. Watch for DJs every weekend, Money Shot Thursday nights during July and August, and a host of new bands and DJ's through Labor Day weekend.

Outerland, in a zone of its own

Tucked away adjacent to the Martha's Vineyard Airport and smack in the middle of the Island, is Outerland, the Island's only large music venue and a mecca for emerging and established acts of national and international acclaim. Formerly the Hot Tin Roof, Outerland's current owners, brothers Barry and Arthur Rosenthal, are busily transforming the unique nightspot into a gourmet restaurant, retail shop and magnet for music lovers of all ages.

From family dance parties to later evening concerts featuring rock legends Dickey Betts and Jesse Colin Young, to reggae greats Yellow Man, Barrington Levy, Midnite and Eek-A-Mouse, the Rosenthals have big plans for this, their second summer, at Outerland. They expect capacity crowds (about 850) for such acts as The Samples, The Boogies, Elvis Perkins, Willy Mason, Citizen Cope, Jeffrey Osborne, Toots & the Maytals, and Martin Sexton, as well as comedy nights with Lenny Clarke and Richard Lewis. Thursday nights at Outerland's smaller stage, The Dock, watch for the hottest young Boston area musicians. Gigs Bistro serves dinner from 6 to 9 pm prior to live entertainment. Outerland features live music every weekend and most weeknights throughout the season. A new sound system and dance floor complement the full roster of music planned for Summer '07.

Karla Araujo is a contributing writer for The Times.