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No ‘shush’ vibe here: Banter welcome at ‘Monday Night Dinner Party’

  • True Believers
  • PHOTO COUTESY OF NATHAN GALLAGHER<br/>Robyn Hitchcock

“Intimate, inviting, interesting and interactive” is how the alliterative Aaron Borucki sums up “Monday Night Dinner Party,” the weekly live variety show he helps produce. “It’s been described, he says, as “more exciting than television!”

Every Monday night at Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton, starting at 8 p.m., Borucki and his band, The True Believers, are joined by a regular cast of musicians and a growing family of guests, playing semi-acoustic, original music, with covers thrown into the mix. Those in attendance can order food from Mulino’s restaurant one floor below.

While parts of the show are guaranteed — Mike Martin plays a solo ukulele set every week, for example — the loose format makes room for stand-up comedy, acoustic punk rock, electric-guitar-driven pop, hip-hop, a post-show DJ and dance party, all in the course of an evening.

Borucki said the Dinner Party’s goal is to attract the “sit-down-and-listen crowd,” but they’re not going for an uptight “Shush!” vibe.

“Witty banter between performers and audience members is common,” he said. “Off-the-cuff psychedelic rock jam sessions sometimes occur, as does the occasional freestyle rap session. While the energy can sometimes shoot through the roof, it always starts out the same way: tables, candles, people order great food from Mulino’s downstairs, friends can sit, have a drink, interact with the performers and enjoy a night of entertainment.”

The Monday Night Dinner Party series started in August when Bishop’s bartender Boo Crncic needed an act to fill that evening’s early slot; mutual friend Jeremy Diamond suggested Borucki’s band (guitarist Christopher Vieu, bassist Aaron Knapp, drummer Mike Benoit). The trial period was a success and the series has been running ever since.

Past guest performers have included Andy Gould (from Funzzle and Andyhasaband), The Summit (hip-hop from Holyoke), Northampton rock bands Lord Jeff and The Demographic, acoustic quartet Autographed Apologies and comedy troupe Half A Girl (featuring Aaron’s brother Ethan).

“We are hoping for more cross-pollination of the acoustic and hip-hop scenes as the series progresses,” Borucki said. “It offers an interesting dynamic to the shows.”

Upcoming guests will be Andy Gould (back by popular demand) on Monday and Amherst-based hip-hop producer RxN on March 11. April shows are slated to include hip-hop groups Chapel and Noche Noche.

There’s no cover charge, and Borucki says he’s looking to create a comfortable experience: “On a night right at the beginning of the workweek when there’s not much else going on in downtown Northampton, we offer all the necessities of home: nourishment for the body, the ears, and the mind through food, drink, music and community.”

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The fairly new (and largely acoustic) open mic at the Black Sheep in Amherst is a weekly BYOB event with no cover charge. It returns tonight with featured band Mad Habits (starring vocalist Ursula Elmes) playing a half-hour set early in the evening.

Interested participants can start signing up at 5:30 p.m.; the Open Mic runs from 6:30 to 9, with Mad Habits on around 7:30. Each signed-up act gets a 15-minute slot (or three songs, whichever is shorter).

Open Mic chief Gabriel Sullivan announced earlier this week, “Poets and musicians and humans who love other humans! Bring your friends and your appetite and your appreciation for creativity!”

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Robyn Hitchcock has been a memorable figure on the “alternative” landscape since the late-e_SSRq70s. He’s written more than his share of shoulda-been-hits with jangly guitars and catchy melodies — and also eccentric lyrical obsessions with vegetables, fish, insects, eggs and fleshy things.

That’s on the surface, anyway. The imagery often hides deeper, darker ideas. As a college student and fan, it never occurred to me that the supremely upbeat “The Yip Song” was actually about Hitchcock’s father dying of cancer.

Inspired largely by Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Syd Barrett, Hitchcock made crazily creative rock music with his band The Soft Boys before launching his prolific solo career, which has been going strong for more than three decades (his newest record, “Love From London,” hits stores Monday).

Many folks in the local music scene were inspired by Hitchcock in their formative years and a number of them will perform at a tribute show to the English singer-songwriter — “Electric Bulbs On a Birthday Cake” — which takes place at the Parlor Room in Northampton on Sunday (Hitchcock’s 60th birthday) at 7 p.m.

The concert is a benefit for Valley Free Radio and all proceeds will go to the Florence-based community-run Low Power station, WXOJ, 103.3 FM.

Scheduled performers include Philip Price (Winterpills), Luke Cavagnac (Claudia Malibu), F. Alex Johnson (Young@Heart Chorus band), Rick Murnane, Jeff Steblea, Mike McClellan (Beach Honey), Matt Silberstein, The Fawns, Henning Ohlenbusch, Sitting Next To Brian, this writer and others.

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