by Dan Bolles
Hey there, Solid State. How's it hangin'?
You'll notice I'm writing in italics today. That's because I have something a little different on tap for your bloggy pleasures. Read on.
Every so often - like, every other day it seems - we receive unsolicited materials for publication from aspiring writers eager to get a foot in the alt-weekly door. Like most papers, we have a general policy of not accepting pieces we didn't ask for. Mostly, it's because we rarely have the space. Well that, and the majority of those types of submissions just ain't very good. However, once in a while, we get something from a writer that we really dig. This is one such case.
What follows is a piece submitted by a Burlington ex-pat named Sean Tierney. Since his time in VT, Sean has moved on to Florida's sunnier climes. But he was recently back in town and happened to catch a set by Burlington's The Vacant Lots, a band that's been on my radar for a while, but I have yet to catch live. After reading Sean's take on the band, I may have to rectify that sooner than later. Hope you enjoy.
Take it away, Sean.
I remember waking up in a sweat after a boring night of local music shows around the city. The air was muggy, and of course the air conditioning was broken. Music these days, I thought, is muggy and unsettling. Nothing is being said worth listening to, and the kids aren't all right. Every show I attend I try to drink wine or cheap beer until the band sounds good, but alcohol only makes the body feel good. It's wishful thinking to expect some generic college indie singer/songwriter to suddenly transform into Tom Verlaine, and shake the place into a frenzy. I had breakfast at one of these little mom and pop joints here in Burlington, with a friend whose been living here for a few years now. Even if the music scenes suck around the world, at least here the eggs are farm fresh. We were getting ready for another night of local music, hoping this time will be different, and it was.
After all the usual boring ensembles of trendy hipster wannabes got off stage, we were ready to give up. We started heading back to my friend's apartment, and came to a small cafe on the way. Before we got to the door I stopped and put my palm over my heart, because I swear I could feel it beating harder than ever. I realized it wasn't my heart, but the sound of a floor tom being whipped like Jesus; with his hands tied up and on his knees in the sand. It was blasphemy, if I was a religious man, to hear such a beat. We walked closer to the cafe door, and the guitar started with a rushing crash, then a chooglin' charge, then a sharp surf twang. Me and my Vermonter friend looked at each other without saying a word, and went inside. Without even a glance around to see what kind of place this was, my eyes went straight for the stage. I was shocked to see that the beat that stopped me in the street was coming from a small boy who looked maybe fifteen. The guitarist was tall and thin, with black framed Roy Orbison glasses. He could have been the drummer's older brother maybe, around 23 years old. He stood like Zarathustra might; come to send the evil veil, that's fallen over rock n' roll, back into its shallow pond with muddy waters. Muddy waters give a deep impression, in even ankle deep puddles. His name was Jared Artaud. He played a beautiful black Gretsch like it was a rifle, and he was charging into battle. I felt like I was transported to another dimension, a good dimension full of thought and meaning. I had finally found the band I've been waiting for. In 2008 it's almost a miracle that such a thing could happen. The scenes are too thick with ignorance to allow it. But here I was, in Burlington Vermont, listening to something that has the power to squash even the biggest ugliest egos. It was like a very loud thunder, with a pitch above human ears, a dog whistle, only I was the dog. I heard it loud and clear. I heard it like a tone never uttered in this era of cellophane rock n' roll stars.
Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen are The Vacant Lots. A two piece rock n' roll band, with influences from Bo Diddley to The Velvet Underground to Spacemen 3. There music is as a clear ocean, with no cloudy impressions, but real honest depth. Minimalism at it's best. As the sun rises and falls with two beats, it still gives life to the world. The Vacant Lots have taken the veil of a superficial rock n' roll era, and set fire to it for everyone to see. Bryan's drumming is the rumbling thunder that represents the primitive passion of the Native Americans. A beautiful set of floor toms and cymbals that are played standing up, ready to lead the rowers of a viking ship. Jared's guitar twangs and chugs and lifts spirits. It resonates with the purity and emotion of what rock n' roll stands for. His notes mean something, and so do his lyrics. His voice is raw and real, no gimmicks. Lines like "put your head on the floor now, and step on it" make you want to break these chains of conformity that are tied so tightly around music today. They even dig deeper to the chains we tie around ourselves, in daily life. When I first heard them it was like something powerful shook me by the shoulders, and said "Get It?" These songs could last the final judgment. He plays from a heart that pumps ancient blood. If you are sick and tired of the world around you, The Vacant Lots are here to destroy and rebuild. Listen for the raven's flight, the walk of God, it can change tides.