Saturday, November 21, 2009
Thompsonburg Road Opens for Tab Benoit - Red Fox Inn, Bondville, VT
Late on Wednesday afternoon we drove north through southern Vermont along routes 30 and 100 up the two lane road which once was the main drive for skiers heading to the mountains. It's been a warm autumn and there's no snow on the ground. The color is long since gone and as we pass through the villages of Newfane, Townsend, and Jamaica there's a feeling of anticipation. Lawns are mostly raked and dead leaves have been removed. Lights are beginning to go up for the holidays and shops are ready for the advent of winter tourists and skiers. Ski rental stores and restaurants are nearly ready to open, but the sense that the region isn't quite ready pervades. Killington Mountain, further north, may or may not open for Thanksgiving this season. In Bondville, a small village located at the base of Stratton Mountain, one of the country's premier ski areas, we turn right just past the bank and wind up Winhall Hollow Road for about a mile and find the Red Fox Inn on the left. We're early, and the parking lot is nearly empty, except for a large Prevost tour bus tucked neatly against the stone wall. The building looks unprepossessing at first, but we enter through the beautiful barnwood door and move into the bar room, where a band is doing it's sound check.
Red Fox Inn Irish Pub
Thompsonburg Road, a local cover band our son Alex plays in, is scheduled to open for Tab Benoit, whose bus is parked in the lot. Three of the four members of Thompsonburg Road teach at the Stratton Mountain School, a prep school focused on developing skiers for college and international competition, which is nearby. Opening for Tab Benoit is a big deal for this band. The Red Fox turns out to be a delightful venue for live music as well as a good restaurant. The upstairs dining room, not yet open for the season but featuring a huge fireplace and high, old rafters, looks as if it will be warm and inviting once the season begins. The menu offers bar foods, hot snacks and full meals. My appetizer portion of steamed muscles in a hot tomato broth was delicious. Irene's cheese steak sandwich was assembled using a home made roll, and band member Brett's chicken pot pie looked excellent. Check out the Red Fox's tavern menu here. The restaurant menu will be posted once the restaurant re-opens for the winter season. The Red Fox offers a broad variety of live entertainment, including Irish night on Wednesdays, a weekly jam on Thursdays, and scheduled bands during the summer and ski seasons.
Restaurant Dining Room
Thompsonburg Road is composed of Mike Mallon on bass, Bret Hines on drums, Eric Johnson on guitar and vocals, and Alex Lehmann on guitar and lead vocals. They play a mix of rock and punk covers with enthusiasm and skill. Their beat is strong and vocals in tune with a solid drive that communicates well with their audience. Their show has attracted friends and supporters from among the SMS faculty, alumni, and parents as well as a larger group of people there to here Tab Benoit, who has a national reputation and is on a northeastern tour. As the show begins, the staff of the hotel takes up the tables and most of the chairs to make room for the expected crowd and provide plenty of space of dancing. While Benoit is the obvious draw, the audience responds very positively to Thompsonburg Road and even breaks into some dancing.
Audience for Thompsonburg Road
Tab Benoit is a hard driving bluesman and cajun-rock guitar player who comes from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has honed his chops in road houses in his home state, across the south, and, now, throughout the nation. He has a soulful voice perfectly attuned to his genre, and is a first rate stylist. Alex commented, "I watched Benoit for a couple of hours; great, fast, clean guitarist; nice voice, great groove with his drummer and bassist. A mix of cajun blues, country, country-blues, and sort of funky dance blues. Good stuff, enthusiastic crowd. Promoter Tom Logan and his daughter have used their New Orleans blues connections well to bring a performer of Benoit's quality to rural Vermont, especially out of high season.
If you get a chance, check out the Red Fox in Bondville, VT and see Tab Benoit on tour at a venue near you. If you're lucky, you'll get to see Thompsonburg Road, too.