December 20, 2007
By CYRUS LEVESQUE
BRISTOL — The Five Town Massive, an annual arts and entertainment extravaganza staged in Bristol during the last week in December, will be shorter this year than it was last — only four nights instead of five — but organizers expect it to be even bigger.
“We’re trying to do the biggest show we’ve done,” said Josef Shafer, one organizer of the events and one of the original founders.
The upcoming Five Town Massive, which will be staged from Dec. 26 to 29 mostly at Holley Hall, will be the ninth. Shafer and several friends, now working as 9:37 Productions, founded it as a way to both help local artists find an audience and to bring art and culture created by independent artists from the wide world to Bristol and the other towns in northeastern Addison County. Shafer said that this year, he and the other organizers feel they have struck a good balance.
“We’ve always struggled to have enough content from Vermont and (the rest of) the world, and this year we’ve nailed it,” he said.
In previous years the Massive was a number of different events all on one night, until in 2006 Shafer and crew spread them out so each could have room to breathe as it were. The shortened schedule of this year’s Five Town Massive is simply because Christmas this year falls on a Tuesday, Shafer said. A full five-day schedule would have taken it into a Sunday performance, which they wanted to avoid.
Two events that took up the first two nights last year will both be held on the first night this year, beginning at 6 p.m. on Dec. 26 at Holley Hall: a gallery reception, featuring visual art from a number of different artists such as local talents Leah Thibault and Deanna Michaelson, as well as an open mike night hosted by Nate Davis, a local spoken word performer. “We’re hoping he’ll draw a lot of people,” said Bristol resident Sophie Pickens, who is also involved in 9:37 Productions.
The second night, dubbed “Hip Hop at the Hub,” will be the only event held somewhere other than Bristol’s Holley Hall. Beginning at 8 p.m. at the Hub youth center, a hip hop show featuring a number of local acts will be back by popular demand.
“The teens asked for hip-hop this year, so that’s what they get,” Pickens said.
A more traditional kind of entertainment will be featured the following night. On Dec. 28 at 7 p.m., a folk music concert is planned at Holley Hall, also featuring local talent. “That’ll be all folk, all night long. That’ll be a show to see,” Shafer said.
The final night, beginning at 7 p.m., the Massive’s festivities will wrap up with a film night featuring a number of films from Vermont and around the world, followed by a dance party with Big Suit, a Burlington cover band.
The involvement of the original group of organizers will be tapering off after this year, said Shafer, an Addison County native who now lives in Brooklyn. They all live outside the state now, so it’s harder for them to keep in touch with Bristol youth and Vermont culture. When the first Five Town Massive was held, “we weren’t even legal,” noted Shafer, who is now 28 years old.
So 9:37 Productions will work more on projects elsewhere, and some of its younger members, who still live in the Bristol area, will split off and continue to work on the Five Town Massive. According to Shafer, the move will only strengthen the event. “We’re passing the torch … The Massive can stand on its own two feet now,” he said. “It outgrew us, in a sense.”
Pickens, though, was confident that the original members would stay involved to some degree, or at least would continue to attend, despite their claims of stepping aside.
“They’ve been saying that for four years now,” she said. “They’ll never miss it.”
A couple days later, another seasonal celebration will begin. In what has been dubbed the Second Annual Bristol Best Night, area performers will be offering an afternoon and evening of entertainment for area families at two venues in Bristol on Dec. 31.
Organizers said this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration promise it will be better than ever with more than 14 local performers playing at two venues in Bristol.
“It is very exciting to have this kind of talent and energy right here in Bristol for New Year’s Eve,” said David Brynn, an event volunteer. “There is something for everyone this year, from late afternoon right through the evening in both Holley Hall and the Baptist Church on the green.”
Starting at 3:30 p.m. at Holley Hall, New Haven’s 2Point5 singing group will kick off the celebration.
“This is a new tradition for Best Night,” organizer Kim Callahan said. “We want young people to be a part of this event and what better way to start the evening than with this trio of elementary kids performing original pieces.”
Immediately after 2Point5, the Swing Peepers will take the stage at Holley Hall for some great family entertainment while at the Baptist Church, the Very Merry Players will fill the church with four-part recorder music.
Other performers signed up for the event include Jack Malzac and Fran Robideau, The Beamish Boys, Allegro Chorus, the Hibernators, the TSR band (with members of the Bristol Band), Justin Bouvier and Helen Weston, The Unbroken Circle, NorthStar and Womensing.
Capping off the evening will be Jeh Kulu, a West African drum and dance theater group.
Buttons for Best Night are available in Bristol for $5 apiece until they are gone at: Cubbers, Kimball's, Cliff Music, Green Mountain Shoe and Apparel, In Stitches, Livingston's Farm, Mountain Greens, Emerald Rose, Greetings and Honeylights. Children under six are free.
Sponsors of Bristol’s Best Night include: Vermont Family Forests, Law Firm of Vince and Brennan, Barash Mediation Services, Middlebury Fence Co., Champlain Valley Plumbing and Heating, Vergennes Wine & Beverage, Tommie Thompson Architects, Stark Mountain Woodwork, Merchants Bank, National Bank of Middlebury, Wallace Realty, Bristol Bakery & Café and Vermont Honeylights.
More information and a complete a schedule of performers is available at www.familyforests.org/BristolBestNight.htm.