Home Arts A ‘LeGrand’ Event At Bent Nails Bistro Four Hours of Music...

A ‘LeGrand’ Event At Bent Nails Bistro
Four Hours of Music to Benefit Ailing Local Favorite

Mark LeGrand and Sarah Munro at their home on upper Main Street in Montpelier. Photo by John Lazenby.
Barely four months after Montpelier songwriter Mark LeGrand teamed up with other musicians for a fundraising concert to help the Bent Nails Bistro on Langdon Street reopen after the devastating July flooding, the bistro will return the favor. On Sunday, Jan. 28, Bent Nails will host a four-hour concert, featuring ten prominent regional acts, to raise money for LeGrand, who underwent surgery for stomach cancer shortly after that late-fall performance.

“That was his last public show, the ‘Welcome Back From the Flood Benefit’ on Sept. 30 [2023],” says Bent Nails co-owner Aaron Ingram. “He and Sarah [LeGrand’s wife and singing partner, Sarah Munro] actually opened up the whole thing for us, playing outside.”

If the summer was treacherous and painful for Montpelier’s flood-stricken businesses — Langdon Street’s quirky, block-long admixture of shops and nightspots has yet to fully recover — autumn was just as devastating, personally, for LeGrand. Nagging pain, weakness, severe weight loss, and other symptoms crescendoed, and in October he was told the pathway to staying alive led through radical surgery that would extract organs most of us can’t fathom doing without.

Mark and Sarah performed every Friday evening at Bent Nails before floodwaters trashed the place and were looking forward to resuming their gig once the bistro reopened. But Ingram learned that it wasn’t to be, at least for a while.

“Mark talked to me and made it sound when he was diagnosed that it was a death sentence,” Ingram says. “He told me flat out, ‘If the treatment doesn’t kill me the disease will.’ There was no really good news about it when he first came to me.”

LeGrand, who is 71, went under the knife on Oct. 24. It was an experience few of us can contemplate, and yet in such circumstances we do what we must, and Mark, leaning on Sarah for strength, soldiered through. A blood infection posed a renewed threat, but that, too, was surmounted, and now he is resting and (knock on wood) recovering at their home halfway up the hill on Montpelier’s Main Street as it heads out of town. From his double bed in what had been — and will be — Sarah’s art studio, he has a soothing view of their spacious, snow-covered backyard.

And, like his body, his spirit is recovering, too. For they are intertwined, mind and body inspiring each other and bringing the goal more tantalizingly in sight.

“I can play again, sort of,” he says, “after about a month of woodshedding.” (That’s the kind of practicing musicians do when they’re out of shape.) “But it all hinges on, how much better can I get? What’s the reality? 

“The first thing is, can we go back to Bent Nails for our little Friday-night slot, which was our date night-slash-eat out-slash-people come to hear us night. That was so great, because people knew we were there and it got to be a sort of little mini-community.” 

Montpelier, of course, is no stranger to the concept of communities reviving.

Before that happens, Bent Nails will host its extravaganza. The Sunday, Jan. 28, program will run from 4 to 8 p.m. And while LeGrand presents himself as a country musician — he idolizes Hank Williams and also lists Mickey Newbury, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard as major influences — any number of genres will be on display at the event. There will be Montpelier’s famous bluesman Dave Keller, and the VT Bluegrass Pioneers, fronted by local stalwarts “Banjo Dan” Lindner and Danny Coane. Others donating their talents include the Chad Hollister Trio, High Summer’s dynamic vocalist Miriam Bernardo, the superlative duo of Patti Casey and Colin McCaffrey, Burlington country artist Tim Brick, instrumentalist and songwriter Spencer Lewis, and good ol’ Guitfiddle. Mark’s life and duet partner, Sarah, will participate, and LeGrand is hoping (but cannot promise) that he can join her. 

Guitarist D. Davis, who fronts the Bent Nails House Band every Wednesday night, vows, “We are gonna rock it for the one and only Mark LeGrand!” 

Audience members will be asked for a contribution, with a $20 amount suggested. Many undoubtedly will exceed that sum.

Dan Lindner, a neighbor of Mark and Sarah’s and a staple for half a century of central Vermont’s music community, has played a leading role in organizing the Jan. 28 program. (Let’s pause for the obligatory journalistic confessions: Lindner is this writer’s brother; this writer, along with said brother, will play at the benefit, and he is not objective on the subject of Mark LeGrand, whom he has known and liked for years.) 

Explaining his commitment to the project, “Banjo Dan” puts it in a nutshell: “Mark is a musician, and we tend to not make much money. So we want to help the only way we know, which is to play some music.” 

Lindner says the upcoming benefit emerged organically within the music community. Guided by suggestions from Coane, Lindner recruited the participating acts and is organizing the program; bassist Carrie Cook designed a riveting poster that members of various bands have plastered all over their communities; Hollister, Davis, and others have aggressively pitched the event to WDEV, The Point, WLVB, and other media outlets — and to Montpelier Alive! — to spread the word. Local businesses, including J. Langdon Antiques and Art and The Quirky Pet, have generated ways to contribute. 

At Bent Nails, Ingram is preparing for the onslaught. He’ll be coordinating the staging and sound. “It will be a challenge,” he says. “We’ll probably have a couple dozen musicians using the stage.” 

But Ingram has personal reasons for caring about Mark LeGrand’s well-being; he credits Mark with rekindling his own passion for writing and playing music. “This is something I’m glad to do because of my love for Mark and Sarah.”

Those sentiments were expressed, verbatim, by others who will be there, come hell or high water (please, not high water!) on Sunday, Jan. 28. 

“Mark is a Vermont treasure,” says Chad Hollister. “It’s an honor to be part of this amazing group of musicians to help a fellow musical brother.”

“I love Mark. He’s a friend,” says Colin McCaffrey, who has produced several albums for LeGrand in his recording studio, The Greenroom, in East Montpelier. “Mark has always represented, to me, that kind of family atmosphere that the Montpelier music scene has. He’s a huge part of it. And you take care of your family. That’s what this amounts to.”

The listeners and friends whose support keeps the music scene alive are no less a part of the family. So it should be a grand reunion come Jan. 28 at Bent Nails.

In addition to the Jan. 28 fundraiser concert, contributions to Mark and Sarah’s physical and financial recovery can be made at www.gofundme.com.