Benefit concert to pick up spirits

BRATTLEBORO — Has the national political situation got you wondering what happened to your country?

On Jan. 14, you can put your money where your mouth is — at a benefit concert in Brattleboro for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The concert, at the 118 Elliot performance space, will feature three local bands — The OtherWise Band, Blackjack Crossing, and The Elliot Street Alibi. Snacks and raffles will also be available.

Ben Yelle, of Blackjack Crossing, said the election of Donald J. Trump as president has left a lot of people wondering what they can do to stand up against his attacks on Muslims, Latinos and others.

He said the benefit came together easily, with people eagerly jumping on-board to volunteer.

"We've never been an overtly political band, but these are different times," he said. "To be complacent is to be complicit."

Yelle said he put a call out for bands on Facebook, and had interest from artists as far away as Rhode Island, including a nationally recognized professional songwriter. In the end, though, it made sense to keep it local.

Local, and diverse.

"We wanted to offer something for everyone, and I think this lineup does that," he said.

The OtherWise Band kicks off the evening, at 6 p.m. Composed of longtime friends who are all teachers in Windham County, Susan Shmitt, keyboards, Charly McLoughlin, rhythm guitar and vocals, and Michael Auerbach guitar and vocals, play originals and covers from Cab Calloway to the Decemberists, Tom Waits to Tammy Wynette.

Blackjack Crossing plays second. The four-piece string band (Coretta Corbin Bliss, guitar, guitjo and vocals; Carey Bluhm, fiddle and vocals; Ben Ridgway, double bass and vocals; and Yelle, mandolin, guitar and vocals) has played all over New England since forming in 2009. They've cut back on performing lately to focus on writing and recording, but all band members were quick to agree to do the benefit, Yelle said.

Closing out the night is The Elliot Street Alibi. Hailing from Brattleboro, the group combines songwriting styles from two ends of the spectrum to produce an eclectic and unique Funk Rock musical experience. The band (Ernesto Sanchez- vocals, rhythm guitar; Kevin Hayes- lead guitar, vocals; Joshua Francis- drums; Scott Griswold-bass) has been working on original material for the better part of two years, fine-tuning their sound and show.

Yelle said the organizers don't want to turn anyone away, but they hope people will dig deep for the cause. They are suggesting a minimum $10 donation. The event is family-friendly.

The organizers are accepting donations to raffle to help bring in more money. All profits will go directly to the Vermont Chapter of the ACLU.

For more information email Ben Yelle at


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