A streetside pop-up gallery in Waterbury is a tribute to live music and inspires an impromptu rock and roll guessing game. Both are sweet and dandy.
The art hangs at 14 South Main Street: 19 photographs of rockers fill the windows of the storefront. Photographed by two Vermont photographers, the performers sing, play guitar, get carried away with the crowd, jump in the air or take a knee. All but one of the images were shot at shows in Vermont.
The improvisation game – call it Name That Musician – is fun, free and playable 24/7, just like rock and roll.
Here’s how to play: Go to Main Street, look at the pictures and identify the performers. Take as long as you want. Some are gimmicks; others might confuse you. As reggae star Jimmy Cliff sings, “You can get it if you really want it / But you gotta try, try and try, try and try / You’ll finally make it.”
Poster-size prints increased last month, hung by restorer Eric Warnstedt. Music lover and aficionado, Warnstedt can see the photographs from his office above Prohibition Pig, his brewery across the street. Most people see them from the street.
Brian Jenkins, a photographer who lives in Jericho, took 16 of the photographs. He calls the place “incredible”.
“It’s actually something I’ve always wanted to do – display large prints in a window,” said Jenkins, 47.
I came across the photographs in early August while driving around Waterbury looking for a favorite sight: a poster of Miles Davis wearing a tank top, leaning back, playing the trumpet. The image had filled a window at 14 South Main Street for a few months. It was gone.
“Where’s Miles?!” I texted Warnstedt.
“MIA,” he replied. “Replaced by Grace.”
On the building’s south-facing wall is a picture of Grace Potter playing her Gibson Flying V guitar. It’s hard to tell where her boots end and her pants begin.
Jenkins snapped the shot in September 2015 at Grand Point North, the Potter music festival on the Burlington waterfront.
“This photo of Grace is one of my favorites,” he told me in a phone call. “It exudes rock star.”
Hanging next to Potter is a photo of Willie Nelson playing at the Shelburne Museum. The image and two others were taken by photographer Ben Hudson of Shelburne. Trey Anastasio holds his guitar high, pointing it skyward in a photo of Jenkins. In another of him, Cliff is wearing a yellow T-shirt with his own name on it. (More freebies here; go to Waterbury and play the game of who’s who, fair and square!)
Jenkins first photographed Potter in January 2005 at Nectar. He was a bartender at the Burlington nightclub for 14 years and had access to groups for his work as a freelance photographer. “I love music and I love going to see live music,” he said.
Jenkins specializes in shooting sports and music – live action sets that are constantly changing.
“It’s a very fast environment,” Jenkins said. “You really have to anticipate what’s going to happen to get a good shot. I want the viewer to feel like they’re in the thick of the action.”
Music and sports gigs dried up during the pandemic, and Jenkins lost his freelance job. He has been a photographer with Beta Technologies, the South Burlington-based aviation company, for two years.
“I love it,” he said.
Warnstedt has been a longtime supporter of Jenkins’ work, the photographer said, beginning with the purchase of a Flaming Lips print. In April, when Jenkins was ill with COVID-19, he received an email from Warnstedt asking for gig impressions for the Waterbury building.
“I was thrilled,” Jenkins said.
Warnstedt purchased the rights to the prints for this purpose, according to Jenkins. Working with Warnstedt’s suggestions, Jenkins chose photos he thought would look good in the windows.
“I love them all,” Jenkins said. “It was so hard to narrow it down to a few shots.”
A few weeks ago, Jenkins was in Waterbury to eat at Reservoir, a restaurant on Main Street. He was happy to see the pictures in place.
“They look so awesome,” he said. “I am honored.”
The photographs conceal a construction project within the building, prompting a second guessing game: what’s going on in there?
The widespread rumor – not to be confused with the widespread panic – is that Hen of the Wood is moving from its original location on Stowe Street to Main Street. Warnstedt, founder and co-owner of Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, opened the restaurant in 2005 in a former flour mill. He declined to comment on a possible move. But he said the prints were his and he hung them in Main Street windows.
To quote Charlie Rich’s hit, “Oh, nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors.”