by Dan Bolles
Howdy, Solid State.
It was a pretty sweet weekend, music-wise. I didn't make it out on Friday night, since I wanted to save my strength for the birthday marathon at the Bean. I'm glad I did.
I wandered into the cozy coffee house on North Winooski around noon and despite already having downed a few cups of coffee, refilled my trusty travel mug and pulled up a cushion in the corner nook by the door. Prime real estate, to be sure.
The Cleary Brothers were about mid-set by the time I sat down and had a packed house bobbing to some delicious fiddle tunes. The dance floor — if it can really be called that at Radio Bean — was overflowing with toddlers awkwardly gyrating and bouncing into one another. Good clean family fun!
Which brings up one of my favorite things about little kids; they always seem drunk. They have yet to fully master the subtle intricacies of balance, tend to speak in garbled gibberish and often times get a little too grabby. Just as I'm sure many of their adult counterparts were later in the evening. Unfortunately I didn't make it back to the Bean for the evening session to find out as the lure of cheap pitchers at Esox was too much to overcome. C'est la vie.
I did, however, stick around for a healthy chunk of the afternoon and was treated to some really great stuff by a number of acts I'd yet to see during my tenure at Seven Days.
I've been trying to catch Nose Bleed Island for months but sadly, the scheduling has never quite worked out. Though lacking the full band, Joey Pizza Slice managed a delightfully quirky — and PG — little set featuring a few of my favorite tunes from NBI's last disc. I'd heard rumors that the band wasn't doing live shows until next year, but lo and behold, they're playing this Wednesday at Higher Ground. Sweet.
The Fatal Flaws — or 2/3 of them, anyway — served up a brief set of garage rawk that likely would have been better received later in the day/evening. Through no real fault of their own, a healthy portion of the kid-heavy crowd left amid a cacophony of distorted guitar and drums. It's too bad, since James Kochalka joined the band for a tune midway through their set. Despite having publicly called for both Casey and my heads, I've got no ill will and imagine their upcoming "Punk Soiree" at Red Square this Sunday will be more reflective of the band's true nature. A word of caution though: If you go, don't show up late . . .
I hadn't caught local indie chanteuse Marie Claire in quite a while and was stunned by how much she's grown as a performer and songwriter since the last time I saw her — not counting playing Patsy Cline to Brett Hughes' . . . um, Brett Hughes at Honky Tonk Tuesdays. In particular, her vocal control has really matured. She's always had great pipes, but it seems she's discovered how to use them tastefully. She certainly has the ability to pull off the diva thing, but wisely chooses to let her songwriting do the heavy lifting, favoring controlled flourishes over heavy-handed wailing. If you haven't seen her lately, I'd recommend it.
Following that, alt-country heartthrob Lowell Thompson played an unscheduled two-song set which Bean-proprietor Lee Anderson dubbed "the best he'd ever heard" the singer play. I'd have to agree. Like Marie, Lowell is truly coming into his own as a songwriter and singer. And as my girlfriend never fails to point out, he's soooooo dreamy . . . ahem.
Anyway, it was a great afternoon spent at one of my favorite spots in town. Here's hoping you folks made your way down at some point during the day to pay your birthday respects. If anyone caught the night sets, please chime in. I'd love to hear about it.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a few small animals to sacrifice before tomorrow night's GWAR show at Higher Ground.