- Neko Case, not at The New Pornographers show
From cancelled concerts to rock-star no-shows, 2010 was a long, strange trip for local music. Here’s a look back at a few of the stories that made headlines this year.
The watershed moment of 2010 actually didn’t happen. The July 5 Concerts on the Green show featuring Grateful Dead legacy band Furthur was abruptly and unceremoniously canceled due to security concerns on the part of the venue, Shelburne Museum. Understandably, the news harshed the mellows of thousands of Deadheads, locally and beyond. More importantly, music fans in Vermont could be feeling the aftershocks from the museum’s decision well into 2011 and beyond.
To recap: On the morning of Thursday, June 24, bleary-eyed jam fans awoke to find a notice posted on Furthur’s website breaking the bad news. Here’s how it was reported in Seven Days’ music-news column “Soundbites” that week:
Thursday, Furthur announced, via their website, that “local authorities” (the man) had pulled the plug on the show, citing security concerns over an influx of “ticketless fans” (goddamn dirty hippies), “traffic concerns” (in veggie-oil-powered microbuses) and “other issues” (duuuuuuude).
In other words, Museum officials, perhaps after reading reports of unsavory shenanigans at Furthur shows earlier that month, pictured a hippie horde descending upon the well-heeled hamlet of Shelburne and got cold feet.
Of course, concert security is an important concern. And it is true that Furthur shows earlier that spring were beset by logistical and legal problems. But here’s the thing: The show had been on the books since early March. In fact, museum director Stephan Jost appeared on a WCAX broadcast the same day the show went on sale. “I’ve never heard of them, but we sold out in six minutes,” he said. “And, that said, security will be extraordinarily tight.”
So, what happened, or didn’t happen, between March 5 and June 24 that caused the museum to pull the plug? If extra security was a concern, why wasn’t it addressed earlier than two weeks before the show? Nobody knows. And if they do, they’re not talking.
The museum issued a short, terse press release following the announcement on the Furthur website explaining its side of things. Higher Ground Presents, the promoter of the COTG series, responded with a press release of its own. Pissed-off Deadheads responded by … well, getting stoned, probably.
The big-picture question also remains unanswered. Where does the Furthur fracas leave the future of the COTG series, which would enter its eighth season this summer? According to Higher Ground, which unveiled another outdoor concert series at the Champlain Valley Expo this year, they don’t know yet.
“We’re still unsure as to what is happening with next year’s outdoor concert series,” says Higher Ground promotions manager Nick Vaden.
One for the Ages
In Burlington, going to see live local music is considered something of a birthright. Generations of young musicians and music fans have grown up attending concerts at nightclubs and bars as teenagers. It’s one reason the local music scene continues to be as vibrant and healthy as it is: We get ’em young. But a measure enacted earlier this year threatened to derail that time-honored rite of passage. The Burlington Police Department, citing increasing issues with underage drinking and ancillary problems associated with soused kids downtown, put the kibosh on the 18-plus policy that many Queen City live-music venues have enjoyed for decades.
In October, the BPD announced it would begin issuing a limited number of permits for 18-plus events at grown-up watering holes on a case-by-case basis. The idea being that by capping the number of 18-plus events, they might thin the number of young’uns descending upon downtown Burlington and causing problems. In other words: outta sight, outta mind.
Obviously, the new rule was a major blow to local venues such as Nectar’s and Club Metronome, which have long relied on the under-21 set to fill their hallowed halls, right?
Actually, not really.
According to Alex Budney, the talent buyer at Nectar’s and Metronome, the only real change has been making sure the clubs apply for permits in a timely fashion. Both clubs have always had a 21-plus policy on most weekend nights. And they have yet to experience any issues with being granted permits for the 18-plus shows they feature on most weekday nights.
“[The BPD] has been really easy to work with,” says Budney. “They just want to be sure that we’re keeping tabs on how many underage kids are in the club, which we do anyway,” he continues, citing both venues’ strong record for security as another factor minimizing the effect of the policy change. “It’s been good all around.”
Some other notable happenings from the year that was ...
Psych-rock band the Cush split town in April, after a decade as one of Burlington’s most successful and beloved acts. Band founders Burette and Gabby Douglas returned home to Texas, where they continue to play and discover new ways of creating tasty ear candy.
Newish Vermont resident Neko Case, who bought a farmhouse in the Northeast Kingdom last year, disappointed local fans in August when she disappeared before a performance with her longtime band, the New Pornographers, at Higher Ground. Case was reported to have been at the club for a sound check prior to the show, as was vocalist Dan Bejar, who also went missing. But Case’s microphone stood unused onstage throughout the Pornographers’ set. The official line on the no-show? Food poisoning. The official response from fans: Yeah, right.
Anaïs Mitchell made international waves with a star-studded studio recording of her epic folk opera Hadestown. The recording featured songwriter Greg Brown, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Ben Knox Miller from the Low Anthem and Ani DiFranco, whose label, Righteous Babe Records, released the album. The project was a critical smash, drawing raves around the globe. It was also nominated for a Grammy for best packaging.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals continued their rise to rock stardom on the heels of a new, self-titled album. The band was featured in a number of major music rags, including Rolling Stone and Paste magazine, and appeared on a VH1 special. Their single “Paris (Ooh La La),” is currently heard in ads for new NBC series “The Cape.” But for local fans, the band’s crowning 2010 moment was undoubtedly their surprise concert on Church Street during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.