Waterhole hosts two-day music event

Bella’s Bartok is a circus-punk band from Northampton, Massachusetts. They will play at the Waterhole’s Odd Ball event on Saturday, Dec. 9. (Photo provided)

If you go…

What: Odd Ball, two-day music event

When: Friday – the Mallet Brothers Band and Cactus Attack; Saturday –  Bella’s Bartok and Tigerman Whoa; the Blind Owl Band plays both nights; doors open at 8 p.m. Show starts at 9 p.m.

Where: Waterhole Upstairs Music Lounge, 48 Main St., Saranac Lake

The Mallet Brothers Band from Portland, Maine, have been performing at the Waterhole for the past five years or so, according to venue operator Eric Munley. (Photo provided)

How much: $24 for two-night advanced tickets, $13 for one-night advance tickets, $15 for tickets at the door.

SARANAC LAKE — This weekend the Waterhole will host a two-day musical event called the Odd Ball, featuring the Mallet Brothers Band, Cactus Attack, Bella’s Bartok, Tigerman WHOA and the Blind Owl Band.

Owner and operator of the Waterhole and mandolin player in the Blind Owl Band, Eric Munley, said the Odd Ball came about through managing both his own band and a music venue.

“We were thinking, ‘What’s a way to get a lot of our friends’ bands here?'” he said. “We have a lot of fans that are willing to drive four or five hours to come see us here. How could we enhance that to where we can all spend the weekend together?

The Blind Owl Band’s mandolin player, Eric Munley, operates the Waterhole in Saranac Lake. This weekend they will host a two-day musical event called the Odd Ball. (Photo provided)

“You meet a lot of bands on the road. You’re lucky to see them often. A lot of bands that you meet you don’t see for maybe a year, etcetera, etcetera. This gave us a great opportunity to pull all our friends up and throw a big party. On the Waterhole side, we’ve just been trying to develop more standout events rather than just a band playing a show.”

All the bands at the Odd Ball will represent an edgy Americana and bluegrass genre, according to Munley.

“With this event we’re pushing the theme off of fringe folk music,” Munley said. “When you listen to the bands, nobody sounds the same, but there’s an overlap of energy, acoustic instruments and a punk rock attitude.”

The bands

If a cement mixer could sing, it would sound like Tigerman WHOA’s lead vocalist Adam Kaz. His big, gravelly voice pairs well, ironically, with his small banjo ukulele playing.

Bella’s Bartok is a six-man gypsy, circus-punk band. Their Facebook page says, “To understand Bella’s Bartok, imagine what you would get if Salvador Dali and Toulouse Lautrec were fronting the Moulin Rouge’s house band.”

Munley said he met a former drummer of Bella’s Bartok on the streets of Boston when the Blind Owl Band was busking.

“He gave us a CD,” Munley said, “and we knew them only from that CD for a year, and now we’ve become very good friends with them and play with them often.”

Cactus Attack blends a Massachusetts punk rock vibe with an Americana sound. A stand-up bass and a banjo accompanied by a distorted electric guitar make for a healthy blend of northern and southern influences.

The Mallet Brothers Band has a little bit more of traditional roots rock sounds with a good mix of acoustic and electric instruments making for some real foot-stomping music. The Mallet Brothers have been regulars at the Waterhole for the past five or six years, Munley said.

The Blind Owl Band, a northern contemporary bluegrass quartet, will perform both nights of the Odd Ball.

The last time a lot of these bands were together was at the 2016 FloydFest, a world music and arts festival held annually in Floyd, Virginia. Gregg Allman headlined that year. Munley said it is great bringing all the groups together again.

When Munley and Kiki Sarko started leasing the Waterhole in 2016 from property owner Billy Allen, they wanted to regularly book bands to reinvigorate not only the bar but all of the North Country with a strong musical presence.

“Me and Kiki taking over, I think we really pushed it to a new level of consistency not only with quality but with how often we do it,” Munley said.

This past August when the Backwoods Pondfest musical festival in Peru, N.Y. was canceled, Munley and the Waterhole hosted the Not Woods Not Fest as a nod to all the bands that helped bring music and audiences to the North Country.

“Also, because of how hard we’ve been working,” Munley said, “we’re building a reputation for the Waterhole throughout the Northeast; throughout upstate New York, so it’s getting easier to bring in more bands in of higher quality.”