I spent a few hours traipsing through downtown Middletown last evening, at thttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhe first annual (with any luck) celebration. I've spent a number of New Year's Eves in downtown Hartford at First Night, and I have to say, that Middletown has won my heart.
Mostly, it's about the music. Hartford's First Night did not have a single performer or act that could entice me downtown - I looked over the roster and nothing. Middnight on Main, on the other hand, was overspilling in musical goodness. Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams played two packed sets at the First Church Sanctuary; Hartford darlings The Shinolas did not get the nod in the insurance city, so headed down the river to an overflowing room at the Salvation Army, joined onstage by Mark Erelli and Rani Arbo. Susan Forbes Hanson was hosting the Shinolas sets, as good an indication of the bona fides of the musical evening as anything. WNPR's Jeff Cohen and Catie Telarski, also under appreciated by the First Night folks, brought their talents to Middletown.
A somewhat out of focus iPhone pic of Gandalf Murphy from the First Church balcony.
That's who I went to see. But there was also River City Slim (zydeco), John Whelan (Irish), Barefoot Truth (Rock) and a host of others. You can see the schedule here. The only BAD thing about the event was it was perhaps too successful - venues were filled, folks were turned away. Rounding out the more mainstream music, were Brazilian, Taiko Drumming, Wizard Rock, Show Tunes, Rockabilly, Gospel, Salsa - pretty much anything one might choose to hear.
Middletown has a few benefits that Hartford lacks. A compact and vibrant Main Street - with all of the performance venues easily walkable, made for an easy hike around downtown. They set aside a lot for Food Trucks - where one could find a variety of interesting, yummy, and low cost foods. There are a ton of nice restaurants all up and down Main Street - even as the rabble trekked between Middnight on Main events, folks were sitting down to a more upscale new year's celebration. And though we choose not to imbibe, there were a bunch of nightspots where one could fall in for a New Year's toast if one were so inclined.
And Middletown seemed to get the whole First Night sentiment. Less about a big splashy fireworks show, more about entertainment, mixing, and mingling. A great opportunity to have folks come downtown, see the restaurants and shops, feel safe, and maybe plant the seeds for a vibrant 2012.
Sorry Hartford, my heart has been wooed and won by a little city down the river. I hope that Middnight on Main was a success and becomes an annual event - I plan to be there!