- File: Jordan Adams ©️ Seven Days
- Swimmer at Nectar's
Heard any good gossip lately?
The Burlington music scene has been abuzz with rumors about the futures of some key venues. Some of those whispers are tame; others, decidedly not.
I am no gossip columnist, thank you very much. For one, I'm terrible at keeping secrets. That's not because I tell people but because I almost always forget the secret immediately after I hear it. So maybe I'm actually really good at keeping secrets?
Either way, I will do my best here to clarify the known facts regarding a couple of Burlington's most beloved nightspots.
To old-timers, it may seem as if the storied downtown venue, which is heavily wrapped up in the mythology of the city's most famous band, Phish, has been for sale since the Obama days. Actually, it's just since 2017. Noel Donnellan, Chris Walsh, Peter Picard and Jason Gelrud, who purchased the club in 2008, turned over the keys last month to new owner Edward Maier.
Maier founded concert promotion company ElmThree and has been a talent buyer and concert promoter for years. He used to book for the storied New Jersey club the Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen got his start.
In a press release, Maier wrote: "As a huge supporter of live music and Phish fan, I couldn't think of a better venue to co-own. Nectar's and Metronome have been a staple in my life for catching a show and discovering artists, and it was also a catalyst in launching my nearly 25-year career in the music industry."
I grabbed a beer with Maier a few weeks back, as he prepared to take over the club. His desire to hit the ground running was palpable.
"I lived in Burlington years ago, back in the early 2000s," Maier told me. "This was Mecca, this is where Phish was from, so I came up here and stayed for a while, booking shows and things like that. To have this chance with this club — it just felt like it was too good to pass up."
Maier is resurrecting Nectar's Presents, the booking, promotion and management company that Donnellan, Walsh and co. once operated. Together with Matt Kolinski, who founded Omni Arts Group, Maier means to use Nectar's Presents to book shows up and down the East Coast. The management arm of Nectar's Presents, APON Artists, already represents bands such as Hippie Death Cult, the Werks and Mystic Bowie's Talking Dreads.
"I'm looking forward to not only booking live music at some of the most beloved venues on the East Coast but working with new and established musicians under the Nectar's Presents entity," Kolinski said in the press release.
What does this mean for Nectar's? Maier doesn't plan to change the kitchen or menu, though he is contemplating opening the restaurant for lunch on certain days. Both of the stages, at Nectar's and Club Metronome, will see improvements, notably the lighting.
Maier sees possibilities in the often empty upstairs club. "Metronome is such a great space," he told me. "I really want to get things going up there again and bring in more shows."
The style of booking at Nectar's, which heavily features jam bands and genre-adjacent acts, is unlikely to change, as new talent buyer Brett Fairbrother has managed Vermont jam band stalwarts Strangefolk and RAQ. Maier believes Nectar's should be recognized and celebrated for its role in the history of the jam genre.
"This place is so huge, not just in the history of Phish but for me personally," he said. "I really want to honor that."
Other updates and changes, including a podcasting studio and livestreaming shows at the club, are on the way. All in all, it looks like Nectar's and Club Metronome are in for a long-needed glow-up.
- File: Luke Awtry
Things are a lot less clear down in Burlington's South End, where the fate of ArtsRiot may hang in the balance. As with Nectar's, rumors have swirled around the venue for months. Depending on whom you talked to in the past couple of weeks, you may have heard that ArtsRiot was closing for good. Or that it was closing for a week or two. Or, JK, it wasn't closing at all! There were also whispers that the entire staff had walked out — or maybe it was just, like, that one dude, and who knows if he even worked there?
In other words, it's been a messy situation on Pine Street. Let's try to make some sense of it, shall we?
Back in 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, original owners Felix Wai and PJ McHenry sold the club to self-described "serial entrepreneur" Alan Newman, who cofounded Magic Hat Brewing and Seventh Generation, among other ventures. Things haven't gone too smoothly since the transition, however.
- File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
- Alan Newman
While the renovated restaurant and club has booked some cool, offbeat events since reopening after its pandemic hiatus, it hasn't reestablished itself as the prominent venue for music in Burlington that it once was. Newman touted a planned distillery as an alternative to hosting live music, but that project has stalled, reportedly resulting in friction with his investors.
By the end of last week, no one seemed to know what was happening with the club, beyond Newman's apparent exit. How, why and whether he stepped down or was forced out, no one would say — including Newman, who did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
The club's PR consultant, Kerri Landry, did get in touch with Seven Days following our attempts to reach Newman. "Effective July 1, Alan Newman has stepped down from his operating roles at ArtsRiot," Landry wrote in an email. "Alan will be transitioning his ownership and involvement in the business over the coming weeks and his new role will be determined and announced."
File that under "answers that just create more questions."
Here's what we do know: According to Landry, ArtsRiot's management has no plans to close the venue, despite all the recent scuttlebutt to that effect. No shows have been canceled.
Um. That's it.
Sources in and around the organization, however, have described a pretty chaotic scene, telling Seven Days that most of the production team, which is responsible for putting on events, has left. As of this writing, ArtsRiot has only four shows on its calendar for August, just one in mid-September and ... nothing after that.
If ArtsRiot survives, it seems likely to do so as a restaurant and distillery that might host some open mics or a trivia night. There's nothing wrong with that, except that Burlington currently has all of those things in spades. What we don't have is a venue booking the kinds of shows and artists that ArtsRiot — which won a Seven Daysie for best small music hot spot this year — used to bring to town.
The Greatest Song in the World (Today)
The Greatest Song in the World (Today) comes courtesy of Darwin J. from Montpelier. (I don't care if that's an assumed name, my dude. It rules.) He writes, "The Greatest Song in the World today is 'Riding in My Car' from Woody Guthrie. There ain't no better tune to put the windows down in the summer and drive the dirt roads. Smoke 'em if you got 'em!"
I love me some Woody Guthrie, but when I saw Darwin's pick, I was ready for some fascist-killing music, not a ditty featuring Guthrie making car sounds with his mouth that sound uncomfortably like when dogs fart. But Darwin replied first to last week's Greatest Song request. He says it's the greatest today, so he wins. Don't like it? Send me your picks at email@example.com.