For as long as there has been a Vermont, generations of Green Mountain denizens have lived and died by the “I’m from Vermont, I do what I want” ethos. From Revolutionary War times to the present, a do-it-yourself spirit has pervaded our insular northeastern culture and provided a foundation for our way of life.
Similarly, the idea that outsiders should have any influence on one’s creative endeavors has fallen severely out of favor in the music world and spawned a massive grassroots shift away from major-label tyranny. And the major labels are freakin’ out.
With the affordability of high-quality home-recording equipment and the proliferation of the Internet, it is now possible for artists to reach worldwide audiences without leaving the comfort of their bedrooms. For the first time in the history of music as a business, major labels and boutique recording studios have become all but irrelevant. To which I say, woo-hoo!
Despite the relative ease with which it is now possible to make your music heard, there are still hurdles to jump. Self-promotion will never be as simple as creating a MySpace profile and sitting back while the gig offers come rolling in — besides, Facebook is, like, totally awesomer. No, it still takes work to make an impact outside the friendly confines of your neighborhood open mike. And that, my friends, is where many would-be indie ingénues falter.
Promotion is as much an art as, well, art. And it can be damned intimidating for the uninitiated. How do I get my new, guaranteed-to-be-a-hit-if-only-someone-would-listen single on the radio? How do I get my band booked at Higher Ground, or even Radio Bean? Why won’t that asshole from Seven Days return my phone calls? And why has he rambled on for five paragraphs without even mentioning my band? These are the questions that now plague an entire generation of aspiring artists, and answers can be hard to come by. But help is on the way.
This weekend, Burlington’s noble nonprofit champion of independent local music, Big Heavy World, presents IndieCon 2007. Part industry conference, part artist showcase, the event is sort of like Austin’s South by Southwest or the CMJ Showcase in NYC, only smaller. And, unlike the aforementioned music-biz monoliths, IndieCon is genuinely focused on the vitality of our local scene, as opposed to existing to pimp the next Fall Out Boy. But I digress.
Now in its third year, the festival features a veritable smorgasbord of events, discussions and performances designed to entertain and educate the public at large and serve as a celebration of Queen City music.
Obviously, live performances are central to IndieCon, and this year’s installment features a stunning array of options scattered all over the city. From the Hardcore Showcase at 242 Main to the Songwriter Round Robin at Club Metronome, the Bluegrass Showcase at Nectar’s and the Jazz Jam at Radio Bean, IndieCon offers something to please nearly every musical palate.
If live performance is the festival’s heart, then panel discussions, documentary films and workshops may be its backbone. With a wide range of topics, from booking and independent promotion to press and airplay, IndieCon provides an excellent opportunity for artists to meet with industry professionals and bend their ears. Word on the street is that yours truly may even make a cameo. I guess the “professional” thing is a loose term.
IndieCon kicks off this Thursday and runs through Saturday at venues around Burlington. All events are free and open to the public of all ages. For a full schedule, artist bios and practically any other bit of info you could possibly need, check out http://www.bigheavyworld.com/indiecon.
THIS GUY BLOWS
You know what’s hard to do? Playing the harmonica. Seriously. Better known as the “blues harp,” mastering the diatonic harmonica is a labor of love. Few folks who try it ever produce much beyond random, off-key bleats, and fewer still attain proficiency.
This Saturday, Burlington will be treated to a musical anomaly as Montréal’s klezmer-blues-rock hybrid Shtreíml take up residency at Radio Bean. The group is led by harmonica maharishi Jason Rosenblatt, one of very few people in the world who not only plays the instrument well but can play it chromatically. If you don’t know what that means, ask a band geek. We’re talking virtuosic stuff here, people. B-town’s own klezbo kings, Inner Fire District, open the show.
There was a void in the Burlington music scene for a number of weeks while Parima, the venerable Thai restaurant/nifty venue, was embroiled in a bitter liquor-license dispute with city officials and was unable to host live music. While the particulars are still unclear, it appears the funky little spot in the heart of Burlington’s “Little Asia District” — along with FuDa and Asiana House — is back in action.
This is terrific news for local music fans, as Parima — in particular the Acoustic Lounge — is one of the coziest venues in the area and regularly boasts an excellent lineup of local and regional talent. Last weekend featured an appearance by local alt-country troubadour Lowell Thomspon. This weekend Parima hosts the farewell — for now — performance of local psychedelic auteurs The Cush, with support from Burlington’s prodigal indie-rock son, Ryan Power.
Power released his latest album, Is It Happening?, via a secret show at an undisclosed location last Friday. So secret, in fact, that I didn’t even hear about it — or the album — until Saturday morning. Thanks a lot, dude.
Anyway, I’m told the show was terrific and the record is phenomenal. Can’t wait to hear it.
Fans can celebrate The Cush’s “last” Burlington show, Ryan Power’s new disc and/or Parima’s return this Friday in the Acoustic Lounge.