After a Two-Year Pandemic Hiatus, BrattRock Returns | Music Feature | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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After a Two-Year Pandemic Hiatus, BrattRock Returns


Published June 21, 2022 at 10:19 a.m.
Updated June 22, 2022 at 10:07 a.m.

Big Destiny performing at BrattRock - COURTESY OF RUSSELL BRADBURY-CARLIN
  • Courtesy of Russell Bradbury-Carlin
  • Big Destiny performing at BrattRock
Saturday night saw the triumphant return, after a two-year pandemic hiatus, of BrattRock: the Brattleboro Youth Rock Festival. Since 2016, the event has showcased some of the hardest-rocking, biggest-dreaming young musicians from southern Vermont and the surrounding tristate area. The evening also marked BrattRock’s debut at the Stone Church, a venue so cool it’s worth the drive to Brattleboro just to groove under the colorful glow of its biblical-themed stained glass windows.

BrattRock featured five openers along with Brattleboro favorites Moxie, who headlined. To participate, bands submitted performance videos, but BrattRock is deliberately noncompetitive, and only two bands were turned away, due to late submissions.

“The spirit of BrattRock is to give bands an opportunity to be seen. A lot of them have never played at a real music venue,” said Russell Bradbury-Carlin, who co-organized the event with Rick Holloway and Spencer Crispe. Bradbury-Carlin is the executive director of Youth Services, which helped sponsor the event with local recording studio Guilford Sound.

Crispe was the evening’s MC and hype man. A fixture in the local music and skate scene, he’s a big-hearted grown-up who gives off eternal teenage energy. Wearing a blue Thrasher hat and a black sweatshirt, he delivered heart-on-sleeve speeches between acts, urging the audience closer and saluting those who were about to rock.

And rock they did.

The music skewed heavy, with hard rock, punk and metal influences on chest-rattling display. Ear plugs would have been a good idea.

New Hampshire’s Granite Danes, playing only their second show ever, hit the stage in blue jeans with a blast of crunchy distortion and punk swagger that produced a near-instant mosh pit. With youthful, rock-star confidence, the Danes egged the crowd on, screamed with abandon, shook their hair in whirly circles, fell in and out of rhythm, and seemed to love every second of their 20 minutes in the spotlight.

“Anybody here like ’80s metal?” asked lead guitarist Ian Hawkins, launching into Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

The evening’s most magnetic performer, bassist/vocalist Ezra Holloway, led Man Made Tragedies, the most seasoned of the five openings acts. Tall and lanky, sporting a bowl cut and a blue sweatshirt zipped right up to his throat, Holloway wore a wily grin and led his trio through a thundering set of original punk that rattled the church floor.

“C’mon!” Holloway screamed whenever the crowd’s engagement lagged even a second. He finished the set by slamming his mic stand repeatedly against the stage.

Anybody who believes punk and metal are dead might want to hit up BrattRock next year.

Big Destiny, a seven-piece band based in Greenfield, Mass., was the night’s most eclectic group. “We like to be all over the place,” said sax player Iggy Passiglia, decked head to toe in yellow: socks, Chuck Taylors, shorts, “Garfield” T-shirt. He wasn’t kidding. The band whirled through a gleeful mash-up that pinballed from a tripped-out cover of Tyler the Creator’s “Earfquake” to a soulful spin through Vulfpeck’s “Wait for the Moment.”

The other opening acts were Pencil Biters from Londonderry, Vt., and Golden Marilyn, from Keene, N.H.

Local heroes Moxie, BrattRock veterans who recently played the Waking Windows music festival in Winooski and just finished their first tour, closed out the night. Moxie’s groovy, danceable rock is reminiscent of summer days and was a nice break from some of the ear-splitting opening bands.

Though only 18, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Rei Kimura, blessed with a mesmerizing alto, said it’s special to share the stage with younger musicians who are standing where her band stood five years ago. To be in “a space where you can interact with other musicians and be inspired is really exciting.”

  • Courtesy of Russell Bradbury-Carlin
  • The Stone Church
The crowd was family friendly and sizable. Though not packed, it was studded with supportive adults but somehow still managed to feel like a teen basement party. Thankfully, high ceilings and a cool night kept it from smelling like one.

A renovated Victorian Gothic church that dates back to 1875, the Stone Church was opened by Robin Johnson in 2015. He claims that he never really intended to open a music venue, but the church called to him. “That room is just a magical space,” he said.

The stage was constructed from the church pews, and the original altar remains, as does the pipe organ, which looms stage right like a hulking metal deity. Johnson hung more than 100 sound panels around the church, creating one-of-a-kind acoustics that have drawn praise from the likes of Living Color’s Vernon Reid.

Johnson said Reid was so taken with the Stone Church’s sound, he proclaimed, “If you sound bad in this room, something is wrong with you.”

Indeed, the sound on Saturday was crisp and consistent. Even through lightning-fast changeovers, the good energy never lagged for a second. The kids screamed, danced, hugged, and jumped up and down a lot. The whole night felt like a wonderful release after two years cooped up behind closed doors and masks.

BrattRock was a welcome reminder of live music’s capacity to create unforgettable moments — and of how rock music can send your heart racing and make you want to jump for no particular reason.

Related Locations

  • The Stone Church