A Not-So-Serious Look at the VT Music Scene in 2016 | Music Feature | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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A Not-So-Serious Look at the VT Music Scene in 2016


Published January 13, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated January 14, 2016 at 9:06 a.m.


Just as the end of a year inspires us to reflect on the previous 12 months, the start of a new one is a natural time to look ahead and make projections. Also, it's a really easy way for media types to eat up editorial real estate during traditionally slow news cycles. Ahem.

So, as has become tradition in the Seven Days music section, we begin 2016 by gazing into the crystal disco ball to divine some predictions for the coming year. Also tradition: These are jokes. Though the following may be grounded in varying degrees of what Stephen Colbert dubbed "truthiness," they are not meant to be taken seriously. Why? Because over the years we've run this bit, not a single prediction has ever come true.

Nevertheless, we soldier on...

Ticket sales at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts lag significantly in the first few months of 2016. The troubling trend is a direct result of the early January visit to the theater of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. But it is not a boycott of the Flynn by outraged arts patrons that derails ticket sales. (That's because most sensible locals realize the theater had no choice but to allow Trump to rent the space, lest the IRS revoke the Flynn's tax-exempt status as a nonprofit for playing political favorites.) Rather, the empty seats are attributed to another by-product of Trump's speech: the stench.

"The best way I can explain it is that the theater smells like bullsh— er, cow manure, with a subtle note of snake oil," says Flynn executive director John Killacky. "Who knew that xenophobia had an actual scent?"

Further compounding the matter is that in the weeks following the candidate's appearance, the temperature in the stately art deco theater is uncomfortably warm and humid, creating a smelly, swamp-like atmosphere. Experts are brought in to assess the situation.

"It turns out there was so much hot air in the room, it broke our AC," Killacky explains.

The Flynn director sends the Trump campaign a bill for the repairs. Surprisingly, the Donald sends back a check covering the cost, along with a box filled with several winter coats.

After a summit meeting in February, local festival promoters agree to combine forces. Owing to fears of festival fatigue among concertgoers, who have to choose among multiple events every weekend from May through September, all of the state's major outdoor fests are merged into a single, summerlong entity. The new festival is called Discover Grand Northeast Precipice Tweed Windows on the Green ... ivus.

In March, Higher Ground Presents announces that Bob Dylan will perform a July concert at the Champlain Valley Exposition. Tickets go on sale in mid-April via FlynnTix. The ticketing website works splendidly. And those waiting in line to buy tickets in person report reasonable wait times and generally pleasant experiences. The Twitter and Facebook feeds of both the Flynn and Higher Ground are eerily quiet, as no one is quite sure how to use social media with nothing to complain about.

On the heels of the recent cassette tape trend, the fascination with niche audio mediums gets even more obscure when a new local label emerges in April called Queen City Wax Cylinders. The label's tagline: "The crude fidelity you love, the willfully annoying inconvenience you crave."

Vermont reaches "critical Dead" in May, when it is discovered that at least one Grateful Dead tribute band has performed somewhere in the state every night of 2016. So far.

Local superfan Tim Lewis reaches a personal milestone at the Monkey House in July when he attends his millionth local rock show. To commemorate the occasion, every nightclub in the Burlington area has a small box drawn on the floor three feet from the front of the stage. Each is marked with the following notice: "Tim parking. All others will be towed."

The wild success of the Burlington Record Plant spurs an ancillary cottage industry: locally made turntables. Most of the parts are locally sourced, or at least fair trade. Most notably, Creston Electric Instruments begins producing custom turntables and, by August, is selling more turntables than guitars. This in part because the local market for Creston guitars slows when sales reports reveal that 95 percent of Vermont guitarists and 60 percent of bassists already own at least one Creston.

After alienating longtime fans by releasing a solo record in 2015, Grace Potter further embraces pop-diva-dom in September with another button-pushing solo effort. It's called Seriously. I Really Really Really Don't Give a Fuck What You Think. It's by far her best-selling album to date.

In October, DNA testing reveals that the Medallions are, in fact, a disco band stuck in the present day after accidentally time traveling from the 1970s, and not, as had been widely speculated, local dance-rock phenoms Madaila in disguise.

"Well, yeah," says Madaila's Mark Daly, rolling his eyes. "I don't know why that was so hard for everyone to understand. We said that from the beginning. Are you people dense?"

With no way to get back to the 1970s, the Medallions make themselves at home in 2016. They become one of Burlington's most popular acts, thanks to a weekly Thursday residency at Radio Bean called Fondue Disco Party.

In November, Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the U.S. presidential election in a landslide. It's actually not as big an upset as one would have thought. That's because at the Republican National Convention in July, the Grand Old Party shocks the nation by nominating a piece of paper. It reads: "IOU: One even marginally electable candidate who is not a ridiculous and embarrassing clown. Sorry, America! XOXO, the GOP."

Sanders' win is a boon to the Vermont music scene. Nicole Nelson is tabbed to sing the national anthem at his inauguration. Several local bands are hired to play inaugural balls, including Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band, Madaila, the Lynguistic Civilians and Rough Francis. Bernie staffer Luis Calderin of Burlington becomes the country's first-ever "first DJ." Burlington's Big Heavy World is named the National Music Office and opens satellite offices in every state. VICE runs a 14,000-word piece titled "How Bernie Sanders Invented Hip-Hop in Burlington, Vermont, and Thus Saved Democracy (and Puppies)."

The original print version of this article was headlined "In the Year ... 2016"