by Dan Bolles
Happy Friday, Solid State.
This Sunday I'll be sitting down with student filmmaker Kieran Delaney, who is producing a short documentary for State of Mind magazine examining the current state of the Burlington music scene with "an emphasis on the history behind it." Nifty. Since the words "scene" and "history" are fairly nebulous and sorta depend on your point of view, I asked Delaney to send along some questions so that I could have a better idea of what it was he was looking to unearth about our cozy little burg.
Here's what he sent, along with my initial take on each — I won't go into too much detail here, since I'll be discussing these in depth on Sunday. But feel free to jump in to the fray below.
How would you describe Burlington to someone who had never been here and has no familiarity with the city itself. Complete the sentence, "Burlington is . . ."
Eden, four months a year.
Why are so many musicians drawn to Burlington? Is it a result of the college population? Of various venues? Is it more of a local group or do people move into the scene?
In a word, yes. On all counts. Burlington's arts scene certainly gets a boost from the college population, especially since it turns over annually and provides us with a constant infusion of new blood. People move in, they move out. And, to crib Stephen King, sometimes they come back.
How has the scene changed since you've been here? How long have you been here. What brought you/kept you here?
I've been involved with Burlington music as a fan, performer or both since I was 15 — I'm 30 now. And yes, the "scene" has changed considerably over that time. In fact, it is always changing and evolving. But that is precisely what keeps it interesting and healthy.
How does the city's size affect the scene? How would things be different if Burlington were a larger or smaller city?
It's a double-edged sword. The city's relatively small size makes the music scene readily accessible for performers and fans alike. By the same token, there is a perceived glass ceiling that leads artists to seek supposedly greener pastures like Brooklyn or Boston. Though I suspect that has as much, if not more to do with Burlington's location as it does size. Despite the old aphorism, you actually can get there from here. It's just kind of a pain in the ass.
Do you think the politics/lifestyle of local people helps to create an atmosphere of creativity? If so, how?
Definitely chicken. Although maybe egg . . .
Who are your favorite local performers? Favorite venue? What music do you find is popular here?
Too many to choose from. Ditto. Almost everything.
What effects has the success of bands like Phish and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals had on the scene?
Negligible. Though you could argue that Phish's ascent in the 1990s shined a bit of a spotlight on Burlington music and helped out the Strangefolks of the world. But any success achieved by other local bands from that era had little to do with the popularity of the Phab Phour. Trickle-down doesn't really work in music either.
You may be familiar with the idea of the "the San Francisco sound." What combination of genres or influences do you think best describe local music as a whole? What part of the music being created here is unique to the setting. Complete the sentece, "The Queen City Sound is . . ."
I don't think there is one. Although, if you really dig, the one true constant in Burlington music over the last 20 years or so — and maybe longer — has been hardcore and punk. Alt-rock came and went just as indie-rock will. The same with jam bands — Phish reunion notwithstanding, you could argue that scene has already gone. But heavy music, though frequently overlooked and underappreciated, has been and continues to be perhaps the city's only true "scene." In a thoroughly unscientific poll conducted just now off the top of my head, practically any local band you dig right now has at least one member — and probably more — who spent at least a little time in a punk or hardcore band as a teenager.
To me, the fact that Burlington music can't be pinned down to one style is its greatest strength. In the 15 years I've been involved with it, I can't remember a time when there has been such a wide variety of music being made here. Maybe we don't have Toast. Maybe Nectar's isn't birthing the next Phish — then again, maybe they are. Who the hell knows? But what we do have is a stunning array artists and venues that combine to make a whole larger than the sum of its parts.