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How many bands are there in the United States at any given minute? How many of them are any good? Probably more than is worth counting.

Cover bands, bands that play music created by others, are a dime a dozen and some of them are pretty good. Many cover bands produce music that is indistinguishable from the original songs. They spit out duplicates of the original songs and we are entertained.

1 Night Stand played at the newly renovated Seasons Pub in Oak Bluffs Friday night and they are pretty darn good. They play “mostly cover tunes,” according to their lead singer Dan Panico, who lives on the Vineyard and is the owner of the Computer Lab. Their Facebook site claims they are “an intense four-piece rock/top 40 cover band playing radio hits that people know and love.” But unlike most cover bands, they craft their songs into versions that in many cases are better than and often unrecognizable as the originals. Mr. Panico said that they play a wide range of songs and try to incorporate the latest hits into their repertoire with their own twist.

1 Night Stand is made up of four musicians. Mr. Panico sings, plays tambourine and an occasional harmonica. He has a clear emotive voice that can take a ballad apart, wrap it around your soul, and put it back together and have you dancing the night away. And he can push the occasional hard rock tune with the best when required.

Canadian Andre Lamarre from Quincy plays a wonderfully understated guitar and his vocals compliment Mr. Panico’s.

Kumari Miker is one of the more accomplished bassists I have heard in a long while. She drives the rhythm section with her intensity and she sings.

Their harmonies are spot on and their musicianship superb. Kenny Issacs is the band’s regular drummer. The excellent drummer Jay Trevor filled in for Mr. Isaacs at Seasons on Friday, May 14.

Mr. Panico claims the band is “a high energy dance band,” which they in fact are, but they produce a lyricism and melodic center that goes beyond being just a dance band. I heard the Byrds, Lifehouse, and Gin Blossoms as well as Bad Company, Aerosmith, and Pearl Jam in their stylings and I know there are other influences that I just can’t put my finger on.

Their professionalism and comfort level with each other belies the band’s name. Mr. Panico said that they have been together for two and a half years. They are very good and it is a good thing that they are not just a one-night stand. They will be back at Seasons Memorial Day weekend. While most of their gigs have been in and around Boston, they plan to play a number of other dates on the Vineyard this summer as well.

Seasons’s summer schedule is not yet set in stone but according to managing partner Mike Santoro, they will have live music three or four nights a week, karaoke three nights a week, and some comedy. Mr. Panico is the karaoke MC on Tuesday nights. Mr. Santoro said he is proud of the new menu and the renovations at the Circuit Avenue restaurant and bar.

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Hannah Marlin belts out "Dancing in the Street" with dancers, from left, Emily Lowe, Justine Tucker, Ashleen Cafarelli, and Mitchell Lowe. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

It was indeed An American Celebration this past weekend, when the Minnesingers performed two concerts at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center. The singers soulfully sang Motown hits such as “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5, to spirituals and American jazz, in costumes as spirited as the students.

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Community radio has survived on the Island and now it’s poised to thrive. Bring your imagination, your kids, and your party shoes to Mediterranean restaurant on Saturday.

Island community radio station 93.7 WVVY-FM is serving up Air Fair, a marathon two-part fundraiser in Oak Bluffs.

Beginning at 12 noon until 4 pm, the restaurant hosts a hometown trade show with 40 booths offering Island products, services, advice, and a chance for Island residents to shake off winter. WVVY’s DJs provide the daytime entertainment.

“It’s an opportunity for vendor businesses and organizations to know they have a platform in the community. We hope to break even on the event. Really, this is a chance for the community to know us better,” says TaraRose Macuch, WVVY’s director of development.

Then the all-volunteer station staff will break down the fair and set up for a Mini Music Fest, an evening of music between 6 pm to 1 am, featuring a host of Island bands and musicians, including Nina Violet, Colin Ruel, Kahoots, and others, interspersed with appearances by station DJs.

Air Fair is a first time event, the brainchild of Ms. Macuch, director of development, and station art and graphics director Diana Reilly.

“A group of us at the station decided it was time to do another event,” Ms. Macuch says. “Ultimately, educational non-profit media require funding and you have to start somewhere. We wanted another way to connect to the community, to educate the community about WVVY and Martha’s Vineyard Community Radio. Air Fair is a play on words. People can air out their ideas. All are welcome and encouraged.

“Roving reporters will interview each vendor during the day and MV Productions will create a video that will be broadcast on their website and on ours,” she said.

Admission, covering both the fair and the evening party, is $10 per person and $20 for families to benefit non-profit MV Community Radio station. A food and beverage area features food and treats from Mediterranean, Chilmark Bottled Water, Offshore Ale, Tropicale, Depot Coffee Bar, and the Art Cliff truck. Vendors will set up inside Mediterranean and in one of two tents outside. Sponsors include ECO-MV and Allied Waste who will help provide a zero-waste event.

Air Fair promises a kid-friendly environment with an outside Kid’s Disco Tent, featuring games, face painting, drawing, and spin art. DJs Philippe Bourde and Tai Cabral will preside over the kids’ tent.

Vendors include: Nisafit, Circuit Style, Leslie Freeman Designs, New Moon Salvage, Scott Campbell Art, M.V. Film Society, M.V. Museum, M.V. Boy Scouts, Vineyard Energy Project, ECO MV, M.V. Productions, Rising Tide Therapeutic Equestrian Center, M.V. Capoiera Demo, Sergeant Sparrow Records and Magazine, Hopps and Soap Nuts by Keren, M.V. Art Association, Aurora’s Aura, M.V. Helping Homeless Animals, The Good Farm (Jeff Munroe and Zephyr), Ramona and Josie’s WVVY custom blockprint tees, Bella and Arakataka’s Little Band, The Model E (Josh Baker, Will deBettencourt and Micah Agnold), Facepainting by Rose, Imagine, NMC Originals, Waters of the World Aquarium, The Yard Dance Colony, The Green Room, M.V. Skate Park, Blue Fish, M.V. Kidz, Real Wild Foods, Whippoorwill Farm CSA, M.V. Adventure Camp, Goddess Glimmers, Bee Happy Manuka, Luciano Reina Jui-Jitsu, and Citrine.

Air Fair is part of the two and one-half year old station’s campaign to grow its shoestring budget and build awareness of homegrown programming that uses the considerable and eclectic talents of Island residents. WVVY-FM 93.7 went on air in December 2007 just before expiration of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) charter that enabled low power start-up community radio stations.

The station recently filed for full power licensing from the FCC and has submitted a federal grant to underwrite the full power construction permit that would extend its limited signal reach.

After several years in startup mode, Martha’s Vineyard Community Radio is developing an authentic and offbeat personality characterized by its events (Halloween Hellraiser and Air Fair), a blend of nearly two dozen DJs, and its website and Facebook presence.

Jack Shea is a regular contributor to The Times.

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The Island Community Chorus got an unexpected gift of time when, just weeks into this rehearsal season, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital rescheduled its grand opening for the weekend of April 10 and 11. The chorus’s spring concerts were bumped back to April 17 and 18, and artistic director Peter Boak promptly raised his expectations and set the bar higher for the weekend performances at the Old Whaling Church.

“We had already started our rehearsals a couple weeks early this year,” says Mr. Boak. “Something I’d done because you never know what the winter weather will be. As it turned out, we had no snow days, and we got an extra pair of rehearsals because of the hospital celebration, so we’ve really had a great opportunity to prepare for this concert.”

Mr. Boak says the chorus has used its extra rehearsals well: “I’ve had a lot more time to work musically, rather than just trying to make sure the notes are right. We can work on nuance and be persnickety about the details. Sometimes in the course of a rehearsal season, I have to move on even when something isn’t quite what I want. I didn’t feel that pressure this time around.”

How will this Saturday and Sunday’s audiences be able to hear the difference? One way, Mr. Boak suggests, is to listen for contrasts in how the choir presents the work of various composers.

“One of the first things I said to the chorus, when we started rehearsing in January for these concerts, was that our job is to make sure the Mozart doesn’t sound like Faure, and Faure doesn’t sound like Haydn. I think we’ve really accomplished that, conveying all these stylistic differences.”

The Island Community Chorus is billing its spring program as a concert of choral masterpieces. The program began to take shape in Mr. Boak’s mind last fall, he says, when he was working with the Federated Church choir to present a piece by Johannes Brahms, “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,” as a Sunday anthem.

“We had such a good time with the Brahms,” he says. “And it sounded so beautiful, that I kept thinking, ‘I would love to hear the community chorus sing this.’ And with this sound of the Brahms in my head, I started exploring what other pieces would be fun to sing with it. That’s how this program came together for me.”

Among the classics the chorus will present this weekend are works in Latin, Russian, Italian, French, and English. The choir worked with diction coaches Niki Patton on the Italian and Pierre Bonneau on the French, and accompanist Garrett Brown provided a useful recording which helped them with the Russian piece, a modern composition entitled “The Sealed Angel.”

It’s been a great challenge, and Mr. Boak is proud of the hard work the chorus has done to prepare for this concert program. “We really are trying,” he says, “to nail this music as faithfully as we are able to do.”

Island Community Chorus Spring Concert featuring compositions by Brahms, Faure, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Carl Orff, Pietro Mascagni, and Rodion Schedrin: 7:30 pm, Saturday, April 17, and 3 pm, Sunday, April 18, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. Suggested donation: $15.

Nis Kildegaard writes a regular column for The Times. He sings in the Island Community Chorus and serves on the organization’s board.

With her warm, truth-telling voice and her 60s-era Gibson Hummingbird guitar, singer-songwriter Jemima James is a cornerstone of the Vineyard folk-music scene. What’s new is her collaboration with (retired) West Tisbury Poet Laureate Dan Waters, who has recently taken to writing and performing his own Brazilian-inflected songs, or “guitar poems.” Jemima and Dan will perform together for the first time this Friday, April 9, at 7 pm at the Unitarian-Universalist Church on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. Suggested donation: $8. For information, call 508-696-0380.

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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.

Mike Benjamin often performs at Seasons in Oak Bluffs.
Mike Benjamin often performs at Seasons in Oak Bluffs.

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.

Each Tuesday and Saturday night, Season’s Eatery and Pub in Oak Bluffs tries to help Vineyarders and visitors endure those long, cold winter nights by offering up karaoke from 9:30 until closing.

Though not filled to overflowing as it is in the crowded summer months, Seasons still attracted more than 60 patrons through its doors this past Saturday for a spirited romp through the classics.

Mike Delis (right) and Seasons karaoke host and bartender Vamp Campbell join voices to the music of Don McLean's "American Pie."
Mike Delis (right) and Seasons karaoke host and bartender Vamp Campbell join voices to the music of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

The performances ranged from the sublime and soulful to the ridiculous and incomprehensible, but through it all everyone had fun and the audience was unfailingly enthusiastic and supportive.

Presiding over the festivities, as he has for more than three years, is Seasons bartender Vamp Campbell.

The affable Mr. Campbell, who succeeded Mike McGlaughlin and Eric Hawkes as karaoke host at Seasons, was slow to embrace the phenomenon when he first started working at the restaurant.

“When I started [at Seasons] I was a bouncer and I hated karaoke. Then after a couple of slow winter nights, I came up to sing a song, ‘Kung-Fu Fighting.’ Then, the next week, I sang ‘Copacabana.’ It was so much fun and everybody was laughing.”

Today, Vamp is not shy about handling his share of the singing. On most nights, he kicks off the show with “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest or Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” but this time the host sang a duet of “American Pie” with Mike Delis, a board member at the M.V. Portuguese-American Club. A karaoke rookie, Mr. Delis agreed to sing only if Mr. Campbell worked the upcoming chili contest at the P.A. Club on January 30.

Angel Quinones nailed Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" this past Saturday at Seasons Karaoke Night.
Angel Quinones nailed Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” this past Saturday at Seasons Karaoke Night.

Next up was Angel Quinones with an inspired version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Mr. Quinones, who would perform at least half a dozen songs, summed up the essence of karaoke, “You got rock stars and you got not stars.”

For each singer, the appeal of karaoke seems unique.

Former Vineyard resident Dave Robushi, now living in Connecticut, said that karaoke was a big help in getting him acclimated to Vineyard life. “I can’t tell you how it picked up my spirits,” he said.

Mr. Robushi performed knockout versions of “Treat Me Like a Fool,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Sweet Caroline.” His karaoke experiences have also spurred him on to sing at Route 22 and Monster B’s, two clubs in Stamford, Conn.

Following Mr. Robushi to the stage were sisters Crystal Roy and Brenda Viera, who joined together in a joyous rendition of “Gloria.”

“I attempt to sing at karaoke,” Crystal said, “I’m not good at it, but I attempt it.”

Kim Dodd, left,  and Brenda Viera get the look and spirit of classic rock.
Kim Dodd, left, and Brenda Viera get the look and spirit of classic rock.

Her sister weighed in thoughtfully on what makes karaoke fun. “It’s enjoyable for the moment. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you sing, it’s about having the confidence to get up there in front of a crowd and just be yourself. Music is the soul of happiness,” Brenda said.

Tanya Patnaude, who would join in on a later tune, took the opposite tack, “You can become someone you’re not; it makes you feel free.”

With dozens of karaoke evenings under his belt, Vamp has his share of memorable stories. On one occasion, a man asked to have “Sweet Caroline” held for him a month in advance so he could sing it when he was in town for the shark tournament.

Another time, Vamp remembers a man in a tacky suit crooning through “Bailomos.” He said with a chuckle, “He got off the stage and all the girls hung out with him all night.”

As for the most stirring performance, Vamp cites a big guy who did “My Way” his way. “He had tears in his eyes and brought down the house. The crowd was roaring.”

While NSYNC’s Joey Fatone may be the most famous person to take the mic at Seasons, Vamp fondly remembers the late Virginia Hackney of Vineyard Haven, who was a karaoke regular and loved to sing Madonna’s “Material Girl.”

As with any performance, the relationship between performer and audience is an integral part. “The audience is supportive for the sheer courage necessary to take the stage,” Vamp said.

What Vamp enjoys most as host is getting the audience pumped up for the last song with a raucous crowd-pleaser such as “Shout” or “Rock and Roll All Night.”

Saturday night, he did the honors on those two songs himself, and added Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” for good measure.

With another happy throng headed out onto Circuit Avenue, Vamp summed up his tenure as host, “It’s been one fun karaoke blur, one long song,” he said.

Karaoke Night at Season’s Eatery and Pub on Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs Tuesday and Saturday nights, from 9:30 pm to closing.

Ralph Stewart is the photographer for The Times.