Nectar’s getting back into in-person, indoor music with several shows this weekend

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Burlington’s most-famous music venue is back in business, with something that hasn’t been seen in town in a while — in-person, indoor concerts.

Nectar’s, the Main Street music spot and eatery that gave Phish and Grace Potter big pushes toward fame, resumes live shows Friday. That’s when former Bearquarium leader Justin Panigutti performs one set and jam-rock band Swimmer follows with two of its own. Upstairs, the Nectar’s-owned music venue Club Metronome offers DJs and a film.

One night later, Nectar’s presents three “Dead Set” shows featuring music of the Grateful Dead performed by Zach Nugent. All of these shows take place under restrictions set by the state of Vermont, which because of the coronavirus pandemic shut down public-gathering spots in mid-March and has only started recently to loosen some of its guidelines.

More: The state allowed museums to reopen June 1. But how many are welcoming visitors?

Nectar’s is running through that narrow window with multiple events in two nights, but doing so while warning patrons of the precautions it will follow. Concert-goers are asked to buy tickets in advance, show up at their designated seating time and ideally arrive at the same time as other members of their parties. With venues allowed to open at 25-percent capacity, tables will be spaced six feet apart and the room will be cleared and cleaned between each set, including tables, chairs, doors and bathrooms.

“As a business, we’ve been given permission to open and we need to do that as a business,” said Brian Mital, talent buyer for Nectar’s. “But as important, people out there like you and I are desperate to see live music again. We’re setting up a safe environment in order for that to happen.”

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“I was shocked,” says Nectar’s founder Nectar Rorris when he saw Phish’s album “Picture of Nectar” bearing his image on the cover. The Burlington institution known for being a safe haven for up and coming bands in Vermont turned 40 in 2015.

Outdoor shows by Kat Wright, Dwight & Nicole

Live music is waking up slowly from a three-month nap by returning in the form of local outdoor shows with local musicians and local audiences — and by necessity, small audiences at that.

The South Burlington music venue Higher Ground set up a drive-in-styled stage at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, where Burlington singer Kat Wright and her band will perform Sunday. Higher Ground announced Tuesday that Burlington duo Dwight & Nicole will play the expo July 4.

Vermont musician Steve Hartmann performs at 5 p.m. Saturday at The Essex. Also in Essex, the Double E has been offering live music for diners in recent weeks, as has Moog’s Joint in Johnson. DJ Steal Wool has done vinyl-spinning sets outside Burlington bar Red Square.

Indoor music, though, hasn’t been a thing since the shutdowns three months ago. With the virus thought to spread most easily from in-person contact, and spaces naturally being more confined inside than out, venues looking to reopen need to be extra-careful when bringing customers back indoors.

Mital said Nectar’s has assigned a staff member to study the Vermont Department of Health’s regulations and make sure the rest of the crew is up to speed on those guidelines.

“We feel that this set-up is the best way to keep people as safe as possible,” Mital said, “and we’re going to go beyond what we’re being asked as far as cleaning.”

Dancing, yes; bar seating, no

Mital said that, depending on how many people buy tickets, Nectar’s and Club Metronome will each be able to have 12 tables of up to four people. Nectar’s will have four employees on hand while three will staff Club Metronome, Mital said.

Patrons can dance near their tables, Mital said, but can’t go to the bar in either room. Staff will serve drinks to tables in both spaces and at Nectar’s will bring food from the limited menu to customers at their seats.

Ticket sales for this weekend’s shows have been “very good,” Mital said, and Nectar’s plans to present more shows as state regulations evolve. He said the venue has heard from many patrons thirsting for live music, and temporarily out-of-work musicians hankering to perform in-person again.

“Without musicians there’s no Nectar’s, and without small clubs to develop musicians that would also be difficult for them,” Mital said. “We definitely have to work together to keep that going.”

If you go

WHAT: An acoustic evening with Justin Panigutti

WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, June 19

WHERE: Nectar’s, Burlington

TICKETS: $7

WHAT: Nice Up: Dancehall, Afro beat, hip hop and reggae with DJs Big Dog and C-Low, plus a screening of the film “Burning Spear Live in Vermont”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 19

WHERE: Club Metronome, Burlington

TICKETS: Suggested donation with proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center

WHAT: Jam-rock band Swimmer

WHEN: 8:30 and 11 p.m. Friday, June 19

WHERE: Nectar’s, Burlington

TICKETS: $10 per set

WHAT: Dead Set, featuring Zach Nugent

WHEN: 6:30, 9 and 11:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20

WHERE: Nectar’s, Burlington

TICKETS: $15 per set

–          (802) 658-4771, www.liveatnectars.com

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at (802) 660-1844 or bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.

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