An hour before it all started, the line from the Paramount’s doors extended all the way down Center Street. Waiting patiently were people old and young, with long hair and short hair. Twiddle music played in the background.
Inside the theater, the vibe was chill. Everyone was chatting, beers in hand. They slowly filed into their seats, and the die-hards, dressed in ragged Twiddle shirts, moved up close to the stage.
You could feel the anticipation as the starting time approached. And when the band walked out, the crowd erupted into a celebratory cheer.
The energy in the building really lit up when lead singer and guitarist Mihali Savoulidis picked up his guitar and said, “It’s so good to be home right now.”
Twiddle, the jam band that formed at Castleton University almost 15 years ago, came back to where it all started last Thursday and Friday for a two-night concert in Rutland at the Paramount Theatre. The concert helped raise funds for three scholarships for Castleton students.
One is the Samm Forrest Scholarship, created by the Forrest family and friends after she tragically passed away in a 2016 car accident.
The other two scholarships will be new, including the Bronze Finger Scholarship, which will go toward a student who is pursuing a degree in the music department. The second is the Luvaduck Scholarship, for a student who is passionate about giving back to the Castleton community.
The charitable efforts were initiated by Twiddle and their partner non-profit organization, the White Light Foundation, as part of their goal to create a continuous and lasting impact on the band’s home community. According to Band Manager Kevin Rondeau, they reached their goal of raising $20,000.
The fans were absolutely digging it.
Kevin Chapman, a big Twiddle fan who attended both concerts, spoke about the charitable aspect of the event.
“I think it’s really admirable. I think the whole Twiddle community in the last five years has really come together as a community that is willing to help out whenever they can,” he said.
Referred to as the “Twiddle community” by numerous people, fans came together to help support the cause by coming to the shows, buying merchandise, and entering in a raffle for a custom Twiddle guitar.
All of the net proceeds from the merchandise went toward the scholarships, according to Steve Perlah, president of the White Light Foundation. Perlah was thrilled by the turnout.
“My expectations were exceeded,” he said with a smile. “Musically it was amazing, the crowd was fantastic, and we’ve come a long way in terms of helping to fund these three scholarships. I think it was a great start to a really special homecoming.”
Those in attendance could attest to what Perlah said about the two-night run being amazing musically. Twiddle absolutely threw it down at the Paramount. The entire crowd was flowing through the music, swaying side to side like a ripple in water as the jam band went off into one of their majestic musical journeys. The smell of marijuana filled the air as fans were captivated by Savoulidis shredding his guitar, making it sound as if it was crying to the heavens.
Chapman was loving every second of it.
“I thought it was amazing. I feel the chemistry in the room was magical, and the way that Mihali was playing you could see the energy,” he said. “Two sets of magic.”
Stefanie Raichelson, another die-hard Twiddle fan, talked about what the lyrics meant to the Twiddle community.
“One thing that makes them so special is Mihali’s lyrics are both personal and whimsical, but the ones that are personal speak almost universally to anyone whose struggled,” she said. “There’s this common bond of people taking care of each other because we’re all hurting a little bit, and you see people over time and they tell you their story and it just resonates.”
For Chris Roberts, who has been to over 20 Twiddle shows, the concert was more personal.
“I cried like three times last night. They’ve been a part of my life and my wife’s life for a while now,” he said. Twiddle’s song “Five” was the first song he and his wife, Crystal, danced to at their wedding reception.
And it truly was a special homecoming for the band as well. Savoulidis met keyboardist Ryan Dempsey at Castleton’s freshman orientation in 2004. They performed music together for a school musical, and became close friends. They eventually moved into a house in Hubbardton known as Eagle Rock, where they wrote a lot of the band’s original music, according to Dempsey.
Savoulidis and Dempsey were then joined by current drummer Brook Jordan and bassist Zdenek Gubb. They all started jamming together, and Twiddle was formed. Their first gig outside of Castleton was located at the Center Street Alley, a bar right next to the Paramount, which was called Sidelines at the time.
Jordan, who grew up in Rutland, talked about how special this moment was for him.
“I’ve been playing at this place since I was like 16,” he said. “This whole thing is coming full circle and it’s really cool.”
Savoulidis also spoke on the homecoming aspect of the concerts and how he was able to invite some guests to perform with the band. The guests, Casey Grant and Rick Reddington, were “instrumental” to the band’s beginning.
“They are some of the players that we loved and respected and looked up to here. And you know, we haven’t seen them in a lot of years,” Savoulidis said. “As soon as these shows were brought up to us and we knew they were gonna happen, I think the first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘aw man we gotta get some of those guys up there,’ because this is like a full circle thing.”
To make the night even more special, Savoulidis was able to use one of his first ever guitars that he used when he was young. He sold it before Twiddle formed, but his wife tracked it down online and bought it back just for these concerts, according to Rhys Longton and Marc Machette, two die-hard fans and Twiddle followers.
Savoulidis then had a touching moment when his mother-in-law brought his daughter out on stage. He held her in his arms, smiling as the rest of the band continued to jam.
And the shows were mind blowing. When Gubb was jamming his bass, the ground was literally shaking. He was sending tremors throughout the theater. People who didn’t even know each other were hugging. Hundreds of fans sang with Savoulidis, and it was like the band possessed the crowd with their music, which was aided by a laser show that synced it all together.
Evan Antal, former Castleton student and the one who came up with the whole idea of having a “blowout” concert in the area, occasionally does lighting work for the band.
“You basically play the lights like just another instrument to the music. It’s all done live. Lighting design is all about making an in-the-moment interpretation of what the music is doing,” Antal said. “It’s fun as hell … if I can feel that the band is about to change into kind of a new vibe, just in the same way as if I was playing guitar with the band, I anticipate that and go with that change with the lights.”
Helaine White travelled all the way from Massachusetts to see the show, and she loved it.
“I can literally feel everyone’s energy. I love seeing the older people and the younger people, just so many people come together for the same kind of music. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen,” she said.
White, and Kevin Chapman, pretty much summed it all up.
“It just brings me to a pure joy moment where I can see everyone is smiling and embracing the band and the music at the same time, and just really feeling it,” Chapman said.