Before we move into this week’s pertinent bidniss, here are some observations about last weekend’s Grand Point North festival at Burlington’s Waterfront Park.
It was awesome.
Moving on, the big news on the local docket this week is undoubtedly … what’s that? You want something a little more substantial than a three-word sentence about Grand Point North, because you know damn well I was at the festival all weekend and I get paid to write about this stuff, so make with the smarmy witticisms already? Fine.
It was really awesome.
OK, here’s the deal. I’ll serve up some choice nuggets from the weekend that was. But I’m not going to review the founders of the fest, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. One, I honestly didn’t see much of their sets. I had another show to get to Saturday — more on that in a bit. And I had writing to do on Sunday night and missed them. Blame my workload. Or my shoddy time-management skills.
Two, if you’ve read this column in years past, you already know my thoughts on the band. I think they’re very good at what they do. And while it’s personally not my bag, I understand their massive appeal. I also understand how polarizing GPN are in Vermont. So if you’re looking for critical remarks from me about them, it’s either because you’re a fan and want your love validated, or you’re a hater and want your dislike for them justified. In either case, I find this debate incredibly tiresome. So let’s move on. Besides, as Grace herself put it in her press conference a few weeks ago, we should really be talking about the local bands.
For me, the story of Grand Point North 2013 was the showing put forth by the local bands. And also that, when I grow up, I want to be Charles Bradley. But given that it’s unlikely I’ll ever be a 65-year-old black soul singer, let’s just stick with the locals.
(A quick aside: In describing the mic-swinging, hip-swiveling, purple-sequin-jumpsuited amazingness that was Bradley, my girlfriend appropriated a new term from the fitness world that I demand enter our collective musical lexicon immediately: gyrotechnics.)
Overcoming a bumbling onstage introduction by yours truly, the DuPont Brothers opened the festival and simply killed. In particular, an epic 10-minute jam to close their set was a stunning and thoroughly rocking turn. (Raise your hand if you ever expected to see the words “10-minute jam” used in a positive sense in this column. Me neither.)
Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band were their typically excellent selves, dishing up several tunes from their newly released debut EP that have me itching to hear it.
Alpenglow furthered their reputation as one of the area’s most promising bands. They really are something like a local answer to the Low Anthem, which is hardly a bad thing.
Joshua Panda & the Hot Damned lathered the crowd into a frenzy as only Panda can. The man is a force of nature. It was also nice to see Lowell Thompson pulling double duty with Panda and Scott Tournet & Ver La Luz.
Sunday’s locavore menu was equally delicious. Brett Hughes and Lesley Grant’s Belle Pines were the perfect starters for a bleary-eyed Sunday afternoon. The band’s set was something of a coming-out party and they obliged with countrypolitan tunes as clever as they were classically styled — I defy you not to grin at lines such as “My relationship with whiskey is on the rocks.”
I hadn’t caught Paper Castles in a while. But Paddy Reagan’s low-key slacker rock was a fine complement to a mellow, fall-like afternoon. They’re like the cozy, frayed sweater of the local indie-rock scene.
Natalie Prass isn’t technically a local — she’s from Nashville. But since she’s dating GPN’s Benny Yurco, played a song she wrote while in Burlington and was backed by Yurco and a few other B-town vets, we’ll include her. Her percussive, danceable indie-pop was supremely likable. Here’s hoping we see more of her.
And then there was Rough Francis, who I’m pretty sure pulled out their loudest and most aggressive tunes for the occasion — y’know, to freak out the squares. (I suppose I could just ask vocalist Bobby Hackney, since he works a few desks over in the 7D design department, but where’s the challenge in that?) Half the fun of RF’s set was turning around to gauge the reaction of the raft of spectators seated in lawn chairs beyond the VIP pen, many of whom really didn’t seem to know what to do with Burlington’s sons of Death. In other words, it was punk fucking rock. And it was a highlight in a festival full of them.
So the reason I missed GPN Saturday was because — unlike everyone else in town, apparently — I went to check out the State & Main Records showcase at the Monkey House. The show featured four solid Montpelier acts, including Boomslang, Lake Superior, Mystery Points and Pistol Fist. A few observations:
When planning a Burlington-area showcase for out-of-town bands, try to avoid scheduling it during a festival thrown by the state’s biggest rock stars. I’m sorry to say the crowd at the Monkey was pretty much me and the Montpelier bands. We had fun, though!
For as much fretting as we’ve done about the state of the Montpelier music scene post-Langdon Street Café, what I saw suggested that a vital and creative musical community is at work in the capital city. And that’s not a surprise, especially given the strength of S&M’s compilation albums. All of the bands impressed to varying degrees. In particular, Boomslang can hang with any hip-hop group in the state. And Pistol Fist front man Ben Roy has one of the gnarliest rock screams this side of Barre — probably second only to the aforementioned Bobby Hackney, in fact.
Here’s hoping the S&M crowd make their way north again soon. On behalf of Burlington, I promise we’ll deliver a better showing next time.
Speaking of the Monkey House, comedian Chicky Winkleman, in connection with the Vermont Comedy Club, is hosting a unique comedy show at the Winooski haunt this Saturday, September 21, called “On the Spot.” The gist is that a random word or phrase will be projected onto a screen onstage. Comedians will then take said phrases and turn them into a routine on the fly. Sound daring? It is. It also has the potential to be flat-out hilarious.
Frank Zappa fans, take note: Zappa tribute band the Grandmothers of Invention drop by Club Metronome on Wednesday, September 25. Regular readers know I’m generally loath to recommend tribute acts, save for special circumstances. Given that GOI include actual members of the Mothers of Invention, I’d say they qualify.
Last but not least, a bit of shameless self-promotion! This Saturday, September 21, 7D is throwing the launch party for our annual college guide, What’s Good, at Signal Kitchen in Burlington. This year’s bash is called the S#!t Show and will feature a trio of up-and-coming locals — including the deep-house stylings of Jiffins, rapper Blunder and dubstep ace dj Streibe.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
The Parson Red Heads, Orb Weaver
Brianna Lee Pruett, Gypsy Bells
The Darcys, Warring
Islands, Ski Mask
Shovels & Rope, O’ Be Joyful