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Geekin' Out



Published April 27, 2011 at 7:40 a.m.

Local folks use plenty of snappy catchphrases to promote their various events — “You never know until you go” (Northeast Kingdom Music Festival); “Dude, I’m soooo wasted!” (Vermont Brewers Festival); etc. But the one for the Langdon Street Café’s annual Geek Week is probably my favorite: “The geek shall inherit the earth.”

What can I say? I’m a sucker for biblical puns.

By the time this paper hits newsstands, we will be smack in the middle of Geek Week 5.0, which began Tuesday, April 26, and runs through this Sunday, May 1. And, as per usual, it’s chock-full of nifty electronic music, mind-blowing feats of science, 12-sided dice, hobbits, mages, dudes in cloaks, video games and virgins. (I’m just guessing about that last one.)

Wednesday, April 27, is Game Con. The evening’s events include a Dungeons & Dragons character-building seminar with game master and LSC honcho Ben T. Matchstick, a role-playing game called Fiasco, led by Green Mountain GamersTyler Dion, as well as the chance to test your skills at all manner of conventional-ish board games, including Dominion, Scrabble and Bananagrams. (Word to the wise, you’d better pray I don’t show up for Bananagrams. I’m that good.)

On Thursday, following a “Geek Life” drawing class featuring real live sci-fi and superhero models — yes, really — Anaïs Mitchell’s all-star outfit Sputnik! take to the stage to blind you with science or killer ’80s dance tunes. Get there early, because they’re only allowing 99 people through the door. And if there’s one thing geeks are good at, it’s keeping track of numbers.

Friday features a Science Happy Hour with Miss Wizard, presumably the widow of the late, great Mr. Wizard. She’ll be followed by “classical über nerds” the Chiara String Ensemble and Brooklyn’s Genes and Machines. Closing out the night are electro-acoustic turbo geeks Durians, who play two of the geekiest instruments known to man: the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheepeeeee, and the Lunchbox, the latter of which is like a theremin on steroids.

Saturday is arguably the main event, with Vermont cartoonist laureate James Kochalka performing tunes from his most recent album, Digital Elf — he composed it entirely on an 8-bit Game Boy Advance. Also appearing: KaboomBoom!, a band composed of Kochalka’s 7-year-old son Eli Kochalka and Eli’s friend Declan.

(An aside: When most kids rebel against their parents, they turn to music, right? What do you suppose Eli Kochalka will turn to? Accounting? Insurance sales? The possibilities are terrifying.)

DJ Ellis and Montpelier-based electro-indie popsters Champagne Dynasty — a highlight from the recent comp, State & Main Records: Volume 1 — close out the night. Geek Week comes to its breathless conclusion, perhaps due to asthma, on Sunday afternoon with Parker Shper’s Jazz Tweakers.

For more info and schedule updates, check out Langdon Street Cafe's website.


This bit goes out to anyone who was around during Burlington’s mid-1990s alt-rock heyday, or, in other words, my fellow aging hipsters. Remember the long-running rumor that New Hampshire punk band the Queers were going to play a double bill with Queen City punks the Fags? To refresh your memory — and for readers under 30 — every few months, it seemed some version of that provocative pairing would resurface, usually involving a supposed gig at 242 Main or Club Toast. As a teenager, I recall it continually being among the most exciting — and ultimately disappointing — bits of gossip on the wind. And I fell for it every time.

Well, guess what? (No, the Fags and the Queers aren’t playing together. The Fags’ Eugene Hutz is a busy, globetrotting gypsy-punk rock star at the moment.) It was just announced that the Queers are coming back to VT, which is amazing on two fronts. One, they’re still going strong some 15 years later, which is an impressive shelf life for most punk bands. And two … well, I guess just one front, really. Still, I’ll be psyched to catch up with one of my all-time favorite punk bands when they swing by the Monkey House next month on Friday, May 21. And if anyone — coughjasoncooleycough — wants to drop a line to Hutz about the gig …

Speaking of playing the punk rocks for the peoples, Burlington’s Manhattan Pizza & Pub has become an unlikely hub recently, largely due to the monthly punk nights curated by the boys from Y69. This Friday, the downtown juke joint welcomes punk’s aggro cousins, hardcore and metal, for a night of rawkin, beer swillin’ and cheesesteak eatin’ — it’s “Philly Friday,” after all. The undercard features Burlington math-metal mavens Swiftshire, about whom I know very little beyond that they brew their own beer and are, according to Lord Silky’s Rob Blevins, “brutal.” Nice. Lord Silky are also on the bill, and we’ll get to them in a second. But the headlining act is a New Jersey outfit called Gentleman Thieves. The band self-describes as “post-hardcore,” which is … I don’t really know, actually. I guess it’s what happens when you take melodic cues from 1960s rock, dabble in 1980s postrock constructs, smoosh it all together and then kick the whole thing in the teeth while wearing black Doc Martens. I can dig it.

Back to Lord Silky. I’ve seen the band on a few occasions in the past couple of weeks — they’ve become a staple at Metal Mondays at Nectar’s — and every time I have come away more impressed. They’re tight, freakishly loud and hilarious. It’s hardcore without a message, which was always the most insufferable part of hardcore music anyway. Also, I believe they boast my current favorite local tune, “Thumb War,” during which front man Josh Cause has been known to actually engage audience members in a thumb war — following an appropriately slobbering declaration of said thumb war, of course. (“One, two, three, four! I declare a THUMB WAAAAAARRR!”) Anyway, they are worth the price of admission on their own. (And, yeah, Friday is a free show. But you get the idea.) And Lord Silky’s debut record, due out in July, is already among my most anticipated releases of the summer.

We’re on a punk-rock roll, so let’s keep it moving with a Rough Francis update. The sons of Death are trading gigs this weekend with a killer Boston band, the Darker Hues. They’ll play Beantown on Friday, then zip back up I-89 to split a bill at Nectar’s on Saturday night. And just who are the Darker Hues? It turns out you probably know them. The band features a trio of B-Town expats including Joseph Boo (the Velvet Ovum Band, The Magic Is Gone), Morgan Yandow and Scott Therrien (SandOze). Welcome back, gents. Also on the bill that night are hard-charging locals Spirit Animal and the omnipresent DJ Disco Phantom.

Band Name of the Week: KaboomBoom! See above.

Last but not least, this Saturday, Halvorson’s Upstreet Café in Burlington will host one of the biggest names in benefit-jazz, Rick DellaRatta. And, yes, I just invented that genre. Discover Jazz Fest, you can have that one free of charge. DellaRatta is the force behind Jazz for Peace, an organization/band that travels the globe promoting peace and goodwill and helping like-minded organizations raise money. Organizations such as Burlington’s the Root Center, which grows organic vegetables for the Chittenden County Food Shelf and is the beneficiary of Saturday’s jazzenanny. That’s like a hootenanny but, you know, jazzier. DellaRatta’s work — some 800 concerts and counting — has caught the eyes and ears of some relatively important people, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain, all of whom have publicly praised his efforts. But if you can’t take their word for it, perhaps this quote from the Salt Lake City Weekly will help: “DellaRatta is fast becoming the Bono of jazz!” I think that’s supposed to be a compliment. In all seriousness, it’s a great cause for a great organization and, of course, a great band. Besides, any excuse to hear music on Halvorson’s back patio is a good one. When the weather warms, it’s the most tragically underutilized stage in town.

Listening In

Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.

Tara Jane O’Neil and Nikaido Kazumi, Tara Jane O’Neil and Nikaido Kazumi

CunninLynguists, Oneirology

Panda Bear, Tomboy

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Belong

Alison Krauss & Union Station, Paper Airplane