Windham County’s Next Stage Arts Project, based in Putney, has planned a program of concerts and shows that’s both eclectic and diverse. Beginning May 1, the Bandwagon Summer Series runs into October with 20 different shows.

From “Shake it Off, Shake it all Off” Dance Party hosted by Manhattan’s DJ Nicodemus, from the opening act to the final show, Next Stage Arts has found performers who are very well known to Vermonters and other performers who are newcomers to local audiences.

“We were looking for a well-rounded lineup,” explained Keith Marks, Next Stage Arts executive director. Program director Barry Stockwell was tasked with booking acts that fall under the folk and Americana label.

“I tried to curate a well-rounded artist roster,” Marks said. “I wanted to be a little adventurous and have an opportunity to travel through a variety of musical styles.”

The performances include a diverse group of musical styles, circus arts, dance and theater. They will take place in ball fields, farms and parks around the county. According to Marks, choosing the lineup of acts “is more about exposing people to new cultures and ways of thinking.”

Performers familiar to Vermonters include Burlington Taiko, Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, Bread and Puppet Theater, Cantrip and Kat Wright. Some of the less familiar yet intriguing acts include Sofia Rei, Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez, Yemen Blues and Brooklyn Rider.

“I have faith that people need an invitation and intro, and people will have a sense of adventure. This is a perfect time to open people up,” Marks said. “It’s a gamble; part is to curate engaging artists. I’m hoping people will leap with us and appreciate the series as a whole as aesthetically meaningful.”

The series opens with a chance to shake off winter and COVID-19 with an outdoor, socially distanced event Saturday afternoon, May 1, with New York City DJ Nickodemus. He is the founding father of the legendary “Turntables on the Hudson” parties and the workhorse behind the Wonderwheel record label.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at the Putney Inn, Argentinean vocalist Sofia Rei will perform. She is redefining authenticity from an intensely personal perspective, and has carried diverse Latin American traditions from her native Buenos Aires to the multi-cultural mecca of New York City. There she’s fused those sounds with jazz, classical, pop and electronic music influences to forge a singular and ever-evolving sound. Her voice has been hailed for its captivating beauty and versatility by such prestigious publications as The New York Times and DownBeat Magazine.

A self-described “frog from another pond,” Rei’s natural inclination is to leap, an instinct that has taken her on a circuitous route from early classical training and Argentinean folk music through the punk rock nightlife of Buenos Aires, into some of the most prestigious jazz venues in the U.S. and on to a wealth of festival stages around the world.

Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez Blues & BBQ are set to perform May 29, with venue TBD. Ohlman has been dubbed the queen of blue-eyed rock ’n’ soul who teased her blonde hair into a beehive in honor of Ronnie Spector and never looked back, picking up a guitar and forging a career as a songwriter in the process. She’s the current, longtime vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band. Ohlman topped the‘s Readers’ Poll as top Americana vocalist, joining other winners Paul Thorn, The Mavericks and Rodney Crowell.

Ohlman has most recently been featured at the 2018 AMA Conference in Nashville; The Royal Academy at Ghent, Belgium; The PBS series “Music City Roots”; and 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival’s Tribute To David Bowie. In 2017, she was inducted into the National Blues Hall of Fame of American Heritage International.

On Sunday, June 13, the series takes a 180-degree turn with a performance by Yemen Blues. Shaped by his origins as a Yemeni Jew, the singing of Ravid Kahalani evokes the musical universe of his ancestors. His singing and songs wind through West African blues and the vibrations of the Sahara, Nubian, Gnawi, Touareg, Saidi and Bambara peoples. This mix of jazz tonalities, which crosses into funk as well, rings out as an ode to African grooves and a modern echo of the ancestral rhythms. The band includes percussion, oud, cello and brass instruments, in dance that is complex and resolutely modern.

On July 12 Brooklyn Rider will perform. This quartet is a rising star of classical music. “They are four classical musicians performing with the energy of young rock stars jamming on their guitars, a Beethoven-goes-indie foray into making classical music accessible but also celebrating why it was good in the first place,” wrote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Hailed as “the future of chamber music” (strings), the veteran string quartet Brooklyn Rider presents eclectic repertoire and gripping performances that continue to draw rave reviews from classical, world and rock critics alike. NPR credits Brooklyn Rider with “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.”

With such an interesting lineup of performers the Summer Bandwagon Music Series promises to be a highlight of the summer concert series as Vermont emerges from COVID-19 restrictions.

“Folks are eager to get out and shake off the winter and COVID,” Marks said. “We’re excited to present this outdoor, socially distanced cultural performance series. This is something we all need right now!”

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