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Big Heavy Survey

Soundbites: The Jazz Guys, The Benders


Published May 21, 2008 at 1:19 p.m.

The Jazz Guys
  • The Jazz Guys

As the adage goes, "Opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one." Because there are opinions on virtually every subject under the sun, it can be a daunting task to sift through the cacophony of talking heads and raving lunatics to filter out the good from the bad. But that's exactly what Jim Lockridge and his Big Heavy World crew are attempting to do, and they need our help.

In a seemingly unlikely pairing, the nonprofit champions of Vermont-made music have teamed up with the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce and its "Leadership Champlain" program to find ways to better support Vermont musicians and get the word out about the state's thriving music community. And what better way to figure out how to do that than to ask the musicians, venue owners and fans of Vermont music?

Toward that end, BHW has crafted a quick survey soliciting ideas. Most of the questions are demographical in nature - age, how often you see live music, how much you spend on live music each year, boxers or briefs, etc.

But the crux of the query centers on the ever-popular essay question (I love essay questions!). It reads: "What initiatives do you believe would grow the Vermont music scene and allow musicians to thrive as performers in Vermont?" Whoa. That's a good one. Where to begin . . .

How about local clubs booking more local fare in tandem with some of the bigger-name national and regional touring acts that swing through town? And just so we're clear, that suggestion is not directed at any club in particular. And to be fair, scheduling the opening act for larger shows is a decision often not left to booking agents. Still, it'd be nice.

I could go on. But methinks I'll espouse the rest of my opinions at You should, too.


Speaking of going to see local music - that's what I'm supposed to speak of, right? - there is a veritable smorgasbord of locally raised music and art happening this Friday at Club Metronome.

Dubbed the "Big Bad Box Variety Show," the evening is essentially a celebration of the wide variety of artists and entertainers who call the legendary Pine Street studio space home. And there are a lot of 'em.

For those who are unfamiliar, The Box has been a cornerstone of the Burlington arts scene for half a decade. Back in the day, shows and parties at the massive, labyrinthine studio were a regular occurrence and any longtime Burlington hipster worth his or her black-rimmed glasses likely has a good Box party story or two. But shindigs have become less frequent of late, mostly because the studio is jam-packed with equipment from the roughly 342 bands that practice and record within its hallowed walls. Logistically, throwing a bash just ain't as easy as it used to be. Fortunately, the spirit of the Box lives on, and this weekend will be a great opportunity to get reacquainted.

Noted Burlington actor, poet and playwright Seth Jarvis will handle emcee duties, and he'll likely have his hands full. Slated to perform are Burlington's darlings of drag The House of LeMay, Jason Cooley's karaoke-of-the-bizarre act Koolaoke as well as The Green Candle Theater Company, promoting its upcoming production of The Nose. There have even been whispers that the lovely ladies of The Spielpalast Cabaret will make a cameo, but that's unconfirmed as of press time.

On the musical end of things, Winter Is a Drag Ball favorites Rue Mevlana open the show before giving way to garage-rawkers The Cave Bees. Headlining the evening will be Burlington's reigning princes of pop, The Jazz Guys. The JGs will be joined by Ryan Ober, formerly of legendary B-Town alt-rockers Invisible Jet and, more recently, The Horse - one of the most underappreciated local acts in recent memory.

Additionally, the work of a number of Box artists and photographers will adorn the freshly painted walls of the venerable downtown nightspot, some of which will be available via an art raffle.


A few months ago, I reported that Bradford's Middle Earth Music Hall had decided to close its doors for good. I'm sorry to say, that time has come. This weekend will bring the venue's final chapter to a close.

While the club's six-year run doesn't quite match the epic saga that is its namesake, it's been a good one nonetheless. Owners Chris Jones and Susan Monica have seen more than their share of first-rate national talent occupy the cozy stage of their ornate ode to J.R.R. Tolkien's literary masterpiece, Lord of the Rings, including Richie Havens, Kelly Jo Phelps and Chris Smither. And that's to say nothing of the veritable laundry list of local and regional acts that have passed though over the years.

Ultimately the decision to close boiled down to economics - doesn't it always? Bradford is a small town in a relatively remote corner of the state. For the majority of the club's target demographic, that's a long way to go for a night out. The exponentially rising cost of fuel was perhaps the nail in the coffin.

While it's sad to see a great local venue close, it's doing so in style by hosting a reunion of one of the best Northeast Americana acts in the last decade, The Benders.

Part string band, part booze-fueled Black Sabbath tribute, The Benders were renowned for exciting, off-the-wall live shows as well as a striking canon of original tunes. As a young buck living in Boston, I recall many a night spent reeling to their rowdy strains at The Burren in Davis Square. Ah, memories . . .

The band members have since gone their separate ways - front man Bow Thayer has moved on to a burgeoning career with The Perfect Trainwreck and recently recorded with the legendary Levon Helm. But in their day, The Benders were a force, both live and recorded.

If you've never seen The Benders or been to Middle Earth, you've got exactly two chances left: this Friday and Sunday - and the Saturday show is already sold out. The $35 price tag includes a buffet dinner.

Namaarie - that's Elvish for "goodbye" - Middle Earth Music Hall.