“Maybe it’s much too early in the game/oh, but I thought I’d ask you just the same/what are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?” — Ryan Montbleau

For an intimate group of 26 fortunate guests, the answer was joyful: spending it with Ryan Montbleau in the Zenbarn in Waterbury, Vermont. On New Year’s Eve, Ryan played two small shows at Zenbarn for “party pods” that followed Covid protocols. He started the 8 pm show with “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” and played a 90-minute set of well-loved favorites (“Bright Side”), soon-to-be-released songs (“Perfect”), and innovative covers (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). Between songs, Ryan bantered with the audience and fielded requests from the group. 

Ryan’s setlist reflected the reality of our current moment. In the middle of his set, Ryan covered “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by The Sundays. At the conclusion of this most difficult year, the lyric “it’s that little souvenir/of a terrible year…” felt particularly poignant. He ended the evening with an encore performance of “With a Little Help from My Friends” that called to mind the Joe Cocker cover of The Beatles original tune. As he sang the title lyrics, the audience was reminded of the power of live music to connect, rejuvenate, and inspire — and offer hope for a new year to come. 

All photos by Gary Alpert / Deafboy Photography for What’s Up.

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