All Access | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Music » Music News + Views

All Access



Published November 16, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.

Generally speaking, music-related press releases are terrible. They’re essentially sales pitches. As such, they tend to be misleading and hyperbolic, designed to overstate the importance of whatever often-crappy band the author represents. But I really like getting releases from Greg Davis.

One, the local other-music guru — he hates when I call him that, but it’s true — almost always has his ears connected to fascinating music that can be as challenging to understand and appreciate as it is to write about in a way that makes sense to the average reader. I like a challenge.

Two, Davis is unfailingly honest, almost to a fault. Much like with his own music, he never offers any more or less than is necessary. He tells it like it is.

Davis’ most recent missive concerns two Los Angeles-based acts he’s presenting at the BCA Center this Thursday, November 17: Earn and Mirror to Mirror. He writes that both artists make “really beautiful, pretty ambient music.” He adds that it is “some of the most accessible stuff I’m bringing to town.” Also, “I think people will dig it.”

Correct on all three counts, Greg. Though it should be noted that “accessible” is a relative term, especially when it comes to music. What’s accessible to one set of ears may be akin to fingernails on a chalkboard to another. One person’s Justin Bieber is another’s, well, Justin Bieber. But I digress.

Back to the point, Earn is the alter ego of Matthew Sullivan, better known in experimental circles for his harsh noise project Privy Seals, as a co-owner of the cassette label Ehkein and as a onetime member of Deep Jew, all pretty big names in that scene. As Earn, Sullivan trades in emotionally fueled, guitar-based soundscapes that are intended to evoke the sensation of an out-of-body experience. And they often do. Sullivan’s dense compositions are almost like the sonic equivalent of a mood ring, shifting dispositions and tones in a shimmering array of fluid sound. Imagine if you could listen to the northern lights.

Mirror to Mirror is the brainchild of Alex Twomey, who also runs cassette label Jugular Forest. He’s touring behind a debut LP, Here You Leave Today, that, much like Earn, uses sonic abstractions to stimulate visceral emotional responses. Of the two, M2M is a little more impressionistic — again, that’s relative — melding drones with more rigid compositional structure. It’s also probably the least accessible. (Imagine if you could listen to the northern lights … on acid.) But those with an open mind could well be surprised at just how easy and rewarding an experience both acts are. Oh, and the opening band, Harmonizer — Davis’ collaboration with Toby Aronson — ain’t too shabby, either.

It’s All Gravy

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And, I, my friends, am on fire, whether due to the minor influence writing this column affords me (unlikely), or through sheer dumb luck (very likely).

It’s no secret that I’m prone to bouts of reckless — some might say feckless — pining in this li’l ol’ column. In recent weeks, I’ve openly begged for two things to occur, against seemingly long odds. Well, guess what?

The first was for a reunion of beloved 1990s Burlington punks the Fags. Honestly, I’ve been barking up that tree for years. I even asked that band’s front man, Eugene Hutz, about the likelihood of a reunion while interviewing him about his other band, Gogol Bordello, last year. And with GB playing two local shows in seven days last week, it seemed a natural time for me to start grousing again — especially as the Fags’ bass player, Jason Cooley, was opening the second of those shows with his band, Blue Button. But I took a different tack in last week’s column and intentionally stifled the urge to call for the Fags to get back together. (Sort of.)

Anyway, toward the end of Gogol’s set last Thursday at the Higher Ground Ballroom, Hutz paused and invited Cooley on stage. Cooley, still sweaty and disheveled from an inspired set fronting Blue Button earlier in the evening, strode to the stage, bass in hand. Just then, the strains of an oh-so-familiar accordion riff filled the air and the band launched into “Jung and Crazee,” from the Fags’ classic album No Fleas, Lunch Money and Gold Teeth. I nearly fainted — as did, I’m guessing, the other 14 people in the room who knew the song. (Note to the guy wearing an old, sleeveless Fags T-shirt: You’re my new best friend.) If you missed it, there’s a YouTube video of the song now making the rounds.

The song — and really, Gogol’s entire set — put quite a cap on Hutz’s hometown visit. In addition to the HG shows, he worked Radio Bean into a frenzy with his Johnny-Cash-by-way-of-Gene-Autry country material during a recent Honky Tonk Tuesday. Then he thrilled a sizable crowd with an impromptu set at the Occupy Burlington encampment in City Hall Park last Wednesday evening — a performance that seems especially significant given the tragic suicide at the camp the following day. So thanks, Eugene. It’s always a pleasure to have you back.

What is the second thing I’ve openly wished for that has come to pass? Late-night gravy fries made their gloriously gooey return to the front window at Nectar’s this past weekend! I’ve been not-so-subtly angling for them for, like, three years.

By the way, I’m not really taking any credit for the Fags or gravy fries. I had nothing to do with either. Clearly, this column is inhabited by a genie who grants its writer wishes. And by my count, I should have one left. Have I ever mentioned how much I want to meet Penelope Cruz?


Happy birthday, Jamba’s Junktiques! The eclectic secondhand store on North Winooski Ave. in Burlington celebrates its eighth b-day this Thursday, November 17, with a party at the store featuring the trash-pop stylings of Joey Pizza Slice and the provocatively named Super Bonheur and Dinosaurscum. Also, I’m told there will be an “interactive cathartic exhibit,” which I gather entails smashing junk with blunt objects. Awesome.

The Green Mountain Derby Dames are throwing a benefit to benefit, well, themselves on Thursday, November 17, at the Monkey House. I need to be very careful what I write here, as I’ve been threatened with bodily harm by certain surprisingly sensitive Dames in the past for — if you can believe it — casually flippant remarks in this very column. So I’ll simply point out that there are at least two pretty rockin’ bands on the bill: Dr. Green and Trapper Keeper. Also, I’m told there may be some sort of impromptu riot-grrl supergroup making an appearance. (Note to the Dames: Please don’t hurt me.)

Band Name of the Week: Red Fang. This band is making a pit stop while on tour with metal legends Mastodon to throw down at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Tuesday, November 22. They’ll be joined by Spit Jack, recently tabbed in this column as the baddest local band in all the land for a disturbing/amusing tendency to get kicked out of their own shows.

Last but not least, MSR Presents and Angioplasty Media have done it again. After their wildly successful experiment bringing Neutral Milk Hotel front man Jeff Mangum to Burlington’s Unitarian Universalist Church this summer — probably the best show of the year, BTW — they’ve decided to continue using the space to worship indie-rock gods. This time they’re bringing Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore to town on Sunday, January 29. The words you’re looking for are “holy shit.” Tickets go on sale this Friday, November 18, at noon. Tickets are available online at or in person at Pure Pop Records in Burlington.