It’s hard to believe, but we’re actually nearing the end of the glorious — and obnoxiously wet — four months I’ve lazily dubbed the “Summer of (Blank).” What’s even harder to believe is that by month’s end, I’ll have to invent another crutch on which to base this column. The Fall of (TBD)? The Autumn of Awesome? Scary days lie ahead, my friends.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Technically speaking, there are still close to seven weeks left of summer — granted, it could well be snowing in these parts by then. And before we close the books on the summer of ought-nine, there are still happenings aplenty in and around our cozy little state. What’s more, most are of the quintessentially down-home variety, including Ed DuFresne’s seventh annual two-day holla in the hollow, the Northeast Kingdom Music Festival, which begins this Friday at the Chilly Ranch in Albany, Vt.
DuFresne has pulled together a strong, diverse lineup, drawing on numerous connections from his days as the booking guru at Montpeculiar’s Langdon Street Café — a post he vacated last month. Regulars of the capital city’s capital arts haunt will no doubt recognize a number of the acts slated to appear, including klez-punk favorites Luminescent Orchestrii, pencil-pushing indie hooligans the Mathematicians, bizarro vaudevillians the Two Man Gentleman Band and Maine-based indie-grass trio the Toughcats, all of whom make LSC a frequent stop on their touring itineraries. By the way, if we have any Avett Brothers fans in the crowd, I’d highly recommend checking out the Toughcats. One, because they have a similar sound. And two, because they were booted from Church Street a couple of summers ago for — are you sitting down? — busking without a license. The horror!
Headlining acts include Celtic-rockers Enter the Haggis, louder-than-hell Beantown arena rockers Township and our old pals Heloise and the Savoir Faire, fronted by former viperHouse siren Heloise Williams. Rounding out the marquee are Northampton hip-hop heavies the Problemaddicts, who, in addition to having one of the greatest band names ever, are also really, really good. Really. And, as a last-minute addition, NYC collective Holistic will join the group for a late-night hip-hop hoedown featuring eight — count ’em! — MCs onstage at the same time. Gnarly.
And last but certainly not least, the fest features a number of up-and-coming local talents because, well, that’s just how Ed DuFresne rolls. This year, make a point of catching sets by Sara Grace & the Suits, motley bluegrass crew Hot Flannel, psych-duo kuFui and hip-pop orchestra Strength in Numbers, the last of whom were absolutely fleeced by not winning this year’s Seven Daysies award for “Best New Vermont Band.” OK, so we didn’t actually have that category this year. Still, they wuz robbed.
Tickets, which include camping, are still available at numerous locations around the state: Burlington Records, Riverwalk Records and Langdon Street Café in Montpelier, and the Lake Parker Store in West Glover. Or you could visit www.nekmf.com for ticket info, a full rundown of performances and what is (booze) and isn’t (underage drinking) allowed at the fest.
Down in the Valley
The NEKMF is not Vermonters’ only outdoor festival option this weekend.
This Saturday marks the fourth annual installment of the Valley Stage Music Festival in the Huntington Valley. Last year’s edition was an unbridled success, likely owing as much to the terrific lineup as to the picture-perfect weather. Similarly, this year’s fest boasts an equally stellar group of artists and, as of this printing, a pretty agreeable forecast. I really hope I didn’t just jinx that.
The day begins with Nashville-based tunesmith Christopher Williams, whose work is marked by subtly insightful wordplay and, occasionally, “the added percussive vulnerability of a single djembe hand drum.” So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Next up are May Erlewine and Seth Bernard. Hailing from the great state of Michigan, this duo is really something special. Erlewine is a uniquely gifted folk storyteller. And her swooning melodic flights are perfectly complemented by Bernard’s intricate guitar work and gentle harmonies.
Brooklyn-based, high-octane hillbilly rockers The Defibulators — whom I mistakenly referred to as “the Defibrillators” in a past column … oops — are next, and have the most excellent press clipping ever: “Like watching ‘Hee Haw’ on mescaline.” What more do you need to know?
This year’s headlining act, the Waybacks, claim almost as delicious a descriptor as the preceding band. A paper in their native San Francisco once referred to the quartet as “acoustic mayhem.” I’m inclined to agree. The group fuses a wide-ranging amalgam of influences — from honky-tonk to classical and back again — into a singular sound buoyed by inventive song structure, fiery picking and thoroughly cheeky playfulness.
For more info on the festival, including ticket info, visit www.valleystage.net.
Short-ay! (Parental Advisory Warning: Explicit Awesomeness)
Oh, shit. Get your towels ready. It’s about to go down!
No, that’s not just the opening line from Lonely Island’s (aka SNL’s Andy Samberg) hilarious summer ’09 anthem, “I’m on a Boat.” Well, OK, it is. But it’s also a pretty decent call to arms for the nautical activities set to assault the (sorta) serene waters of Lake Champlain this Friday.
First up, we have the area’s premier Grateful Dead acolytes, the Dead Sessions, setting sail from the King Street Ferry Dock for a three-hour cruise — really — loaded with booze, Dead tunes, booze and, well, more booze. These guys have amassed quite a following in the last year or so, and I’m guessing scads of fans will obey their siren song. Sadly, I doubt T-Pain will be among them. You can get tix at www.lakechamplaincruises.com.
Just a stone’s throw north along the waterfront, the good folks at Lotus Entertainment are throwing their annual summer boat bash on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III. The quirky beach-themed dance party is called “Point Break,” based on the “classic” surf/heist movie of the same name. Scheduled to man the decks — as in, turntables — are Craig Mitchell, Fattie B and mashup maven DJ Russell. You can score tix at Ecco or Steez on Church Street, or Fitid Hats on Main Street.
Now, here’s the best part. Theoretically, you could spend all of Friday night “straight floatin’ on a boat.” The Dead cruise departs at 7 p.m. and returns at 10 p.m. Meanwhile, the Lotus cruise boards at 10 p.m. and returns … um, later. Much later. So grab your swim trunks and your flippie-floppies — and maybe dial up T-Pain — and take a good hard look at the motherfu … well, you know. Short-ay!
As promised in this week's column, Bite Torrent.
I'm sure many of you are planning to attend the debut (as a Vermont resident, anyway) of the state's most recent famous transplant, Ms. Neko Case, tonight at the Flynn. However, should you be otherwise seeking something to do, I might suggest swinging by ye olde Higher Ground Ballroom to catch Mos Def. I know, I know. Why would the guy from the local alt-weekly be telling you to go see a (relatively) mainstream dude like Mos Def? First of all, as anyone who has ever read "Stuff White People Like," already knows, white people love Mos Def. Second, dude's really good and I say that as a music critic, not just a white guy. And third, our very own Death-defying rockers Rough Francis managed to score the opening slot for the show.
As it turns out, Mos (Mr. Def?) is a HUGE fan of Death (the band). He's mentioned them in numerous interviews in recent months, citing the lyrical brilliance of the Brothers Hackney as well as their all-around rockitude. He is also reportedly working on a Death documentary. Oh yeah, he also approched Rough Francis about playing tonight's show. Killer.
According to a recent press release Team Flinn is expanding. "Team Flinn" of course refers to longtime B-town songwriter Aaron Flinn, who has got to be one of the nicest people I know. Pretty solid tunesmith to boot. Anyway, he's just signed a deal with Bluebird Promotions, a Colchester-based firm that handles mostly radio promo, but is moving into licensing and booking. Flinn joins fellow VT acts Gregory Douglass, Patrick Fitzsimmons and Amber DeLaurentis on the company's roster. Congrats, Aaron.
Got a funny voice maill from Radio Bean proprietor Lee Anderson last week. I was on vacation, so unfortuately, I couldn't pass this along sooner. But apparently, Mr. Anderson has torn down that wall. I know this because he actually called while the thing was coming down. I could literally hear the sounds of crumbling and men working in the background. This marks a huge step forward in the cozy hipster haunt's long-awaited expansion. I for one, am very excited.
In other news, it seems I'll soon have to stop referring to the Bean as a "cozy hipster haunt."
Speaking of Radio Bean, longtime friend of the Queen City, Mike Gamble (Bootyjuice, The Inbetweens, Scrambler/Seequill), is back in town for a trio of dates at the Bean this week. And he'll be sharing the stage with a few local luminaries to boot. Thursday, the hot-shot guitarist gets his late-afternoon jazz thing on with Gabe Jarrett and Rob Morse. Saturday, he'll be blowing minds with experimental guru Greg Davis. And Sunday he wraps up the run with some late night shenanigans featuring Ethan Snyder and Ian Kovac.
And finally, a late breaking bit from our friends at the Parima Acoustic Lounge (aka, Burlington's best listening room), "progressive-folk" trio the Blue Hit swings through town this Thursday. If you like pretty folk vocal melodies backed by swooning cello and nimbly picked guitar and I know you do I'd suggest stopping by.