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Deafened By Hardcore

Soundbites: Blinded by Rage, Cheryl Wheeler, PossumHaw

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The year was 1996. Bill Clinton was celebrating the first days of his second presidential term with . . . um, cigars. Jamaican port authorities opened fire on Jimmy Buffett’s seaplane, “mistaking” it for a drug trafficking aircraft — with U2 singer/messianic wannabe Bono aboard, no less. MC Hammer, perhaps not quite legit enough to quit, filed for bankruptcy. Tupac Shakur “died” from gunshot wounds outside a Las Vegas hotel. The Pogues, Jawbreaker and The Ramones all disbanded. The Monkees, Poison and Kiss all reunited. And in a cold, jam-infested city on New England’s West Coast, local hardcore heroes Blinded by Rage were born. Coincidence? Yes. Completely.

Formed during the mid-1990s “golden age” of the NYC hardcore movement, BBR has perfected that rare strain of heavy music that ably mashes old-school hardcore crunch with the technical and melodic virtuosity of metal. The result is a vicious blow to the dome-piece, sonically speaking — literally, if we’re talkin’ mosh pits.

After a lengthy hiatus, the band re-emerged in 2005, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of a broken hardcore/metal scene to rescue black-T-shirt-clad kids from the malaise of emo tyranny. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic. But the band’s return was cause for much rejoicing among local hardcore and metal fans alike. High fives and Mentos all around!

Anyway, the band is set to release its first full-length disc, Here’s to the Wreckage, and is celebrating in grand style as Higher Ground’s “Artist of the Month” for November. Kudos, boys.

Join in the steel-toed aggro-fun this Friday as local hardcore booster club Rawk Hawd Promotions presents Blinded by Rage’s CD release with Brooklyn’s metal maniacs Timeless. By the way, the latter refer to themselves as the “Dr. Pepper of metal” in a world of Coke vs. Pepsi. Also sharing the bill are local melodic metal-heads aVicious Cycle and The New Tony Bennett, fresh from an opening slot with Antarctica’s monsters of mayhem GWAR.

Sadly, Scissor Fight offshoot Mess With the Bull were originally slated to perform, but were forced to cancel as their drummer spontaneously combusted, er, quit the band. Bummer.

BAFFLED BY SARCASM

According to the very first blurb on Cheryl Wheeler’s website, “Nothing you read and nothing you hear from her album prepares you for how good a performer she is.” Hmm. Kinda makes this clip — and her website — pointless, doesn’t it? Despite the fact that there’s apparently nothing I can tell you about her that will do the folk-comedienne justice, I’m gonna give it a shot anyway. Why the hell not, right?

Wheeler has been releasing her unique brand of comedic folk music since 1983. Following a brief stint on Capitol Records, she was picked up by Philo — a division of folk fat cats Rounder Records — and has seen her tunes covered by none other than folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary.

While Wheeler’s recorded efforts are typically laden with achingly sentimental character portraits, it’s her off-kilter live performances that have endeared her to audiences worldwide. More comedy-club cutup than coffeehouse crooner, her stage show seamlessly blends the emotional heartstring tugs found on her albums with engaging — and often unrecorded — comedic tunes. Word on the street is that she spins a rousing yarn or two as well.

Catch Wheeler in her true element this Saturday as part of the ongoing Mad River Unplugged music series at the Valley Players Theater in Waitsfield.

PLAYING POSSUM

Sometimes a little change will do you good — especially if you’re homeless. Rimshot! Wow. That was off-color, even for me.

Anyway, local old-timey outfit PossumHaw has some big changes afoot and a new mandolin player in hand. I’m not sure what happened to original mandolinist Matt Kolan, but as they’re an old-time group, I’m guessing there were some serious moonshine-fueled “Behind the Music” shenanigans going on. Or maybe he just had other stuff to do. Who knows?

What I do know is that the new guy’s name is Justin May. He hails from Monkton by way of Alaska and brings driving chops and soulful high harmony to the group’s already impressive sound. PossumHaw recently broke in their new toy with gigs in Morrisville and Burlington and, by all accounts, things are going swimmingly.

PossumHaw is one of the more exciting young bands in an already vibrant local Americana scene. If you haven’t seen them yet, I’d recommend doing so. Like, say, this Friday at The Ball & Chain Café in Brandon.

RADIATION THERAPY

It’s been a long time coming, but 105.9 The Radiator is finally on the air. The brainchild of Radio Bean proprietor Lee Anderson and Big Heavy World’s Jim Lockridge, the station has been in the works for years, and only recently jumped through the required licensing and financial hoops necessary to bring the station to fruition.

WOMM-LP officially launched on the first weekend of November with a live broadcast of the Bean’s annual birthday bash, so even if you couldn’t make it to the center of Burlington’s hipster universe to join the party, you could follow along on your transistor radio. Of course, you would have missed out on the free coffee.

The station followed up the broadcast by airing live events from last weekend’s IndieCon 2007, and is now ironing out programming schedules for the very near future.

According to Anderson, “105.9 The Radiator is the result of a lifelong dream to create a non-formatted community radio station that could broadcast local music, live music from local venues, and creative non-music programming such as radio theater.” That’s quite a rarity on today’s Clear Channel-dominated airwaves.

An “official” launch party is planned for the upcoming holiday blitzkrieg, er, season. In the meantime, for more information on everything from philosophy, programming, and playlists to submitting music and becoming a DJ yourself, check out http://www.theradiator.org.

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