The music festival season — otherwise known as “summer” — is in full swing, subtropical weather patterns be damned. And this week’s slate features one of the most interesting and entertaining homegrown outdoor shindigs: SolarFest, which runs from Friday, July 12, through Sunday, July 14, in Tinmouth, Vt.
Part music festival and part sustainability conference, 19-year-old SolarFest harnesses “the power of positive energy,” which I assume means “sun.” And maybe “vibes.” I’ll leave the preaching to the experts — such as keynote speaker Ben Cohen. Let’s talk about the music.
This year’s headliners include longtime jam-band-circuit staples Max Creek, ska originators the Skatalites, Boston soul man Jesse Dee and Melvin Sparks tribute Sparkplug. On the local tip, expect performances from organ-groove heavies Soule Monde, acoustic jam band Jatoba, the Seth Yacovone Band and songwriter Derek Burkins. By the way, Burkins was the winner of the 2012 SolarFest singer-songwriter contest. That contest will happen again this year and usually is a festival highlight.
The only unconfirmed appearance at this point is the guest of honor: the sun. We have multiple reports that local TV weather god Tom Messner has been holding the sun hostage in his basement since May. Set him free, Tom. Set him free!
In the meantime, check out solarfest.org for more info.
There’s a pair of notable local album releases this week. So we’re lumping them into one column item because, well, both bands use the word “stone” in their names. But that’s really where the similarities end.
Up first are Granite City cock-rockers Stone Bullet, who celebrate their new record, Drive, with a show this Thursday, July 11, at — where else? — Gusto’s in Barre. If you’re unfamiliar with SB, you clearly don’t drive an IROC, drink ice beer or have a mullet. Still, even if you don’t fit those time-honored — and awesome — stereotypes of a pop-metal fan, SB are well worth checking out.
In 2012, the band released its self-titled debut, which was one of the hardest-rocking local albums in recent memory. It was a deliriously seedy romp filled with sex, drugs and screeching rock ‘n’ roll, which brought me back to the guilty musical pleasures of my youth and bands like Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe and Ratt. Actually, I take that back. I feel no guilt whatsoever about loving those bands.
I know that four youngish dudes updating an oft-maligned and admittedly cheesy era of rock sounds like a recipe for unchecked irony. But I assure you these guys are for real. And I suspect once people have a chance to hear it, Drive will cement that notion.
The band has been gaining steam regionally, following a heavy gig schedule and an appearance last year on the main stage at the Meadowbrook Pavilion in New Hampshire, alongside Seether, Buckcherry and Puddle of Mudd, among others. Judging from a cursory listen of Stone Bullet’s new record, that experience is paying off. Drive is a far more polished album, musically, than its predecessor. But it doesn’t lose any of the gleeful sleaze that made the band’s debut so much fun. Oh, by the way, Stone Bullet head back to Meadowbrook this Monday, July 15, as the regional opener for Def Leppard and Slash.
(Pop quiz: What has nine arms and rocks/sucks? Answer: Def Leppard!)
Next up we have honky-tonkin’ ramblers the Stone Cold Roosters releasing their latest, Back in the Bog, at On Tap in Essex Junction, also this Thursday. (And, yes, I just passed up a chance to do some kind of cock-rock-to-rooster segue. Grow up, pervs.)
Led by songwriter, ace sideman and engineer extraordinaire Colin McCaffrey, the Roosters are something of a Vermont all-star band, featuring keyboardist Chuck Eller, pedal-steel guru Jim Pitman, drummer Roy Cutler, ex-Dr. Burma front man and guitarist Ted Mortimer, bassist Casey Dennis, and fiddler Thal Aylward.
Back in the Bog is the band’s third record, following their 2007 debut Out of the Woods, and 2009’s Anywhere West. Both of those records were roundly praised by local critics, including my Seven Days predecessor Casey Rae, who wrote that the former was “righteously old-fashioned.” The album also nabbed Country Album of the Year honors from our pals over at the Times Argus. In other words, the first new SCR record in four years is pretty big news, especially for local country and Americana fans.
And how is it?
In a word: spectacular. At the risk of spoiling the review that will run in these pages in the coming weeks, it’s easily among the best local Americana records of 2013. And it’s probably one of the best Vermont-made albums this year, regardless of genre, if only for the instant classic “Living in a Country Song.” Yeah, that’s a tad meta for old-school twang. But it’s an incredibly clever song and, like the rest of the album, thoroughly irresistible.
The Battery Park Concert Series at, um, Battery Park in Burlington kicks off this Thursday, July 11, with Austin pop-rock band Alpha Rev, who kind of sound like if Coldplay were from Texas instead of England. Take that however you’d like. Curated by local independent radio station the Point, the free, four-week series also includes British folk-rockers the Dunwells (July 18), Saints of Valory and Wake Owl (July 25), and Canadian songwriter Serena Ryder (August 1).
Earlier this week, the Flynn Center announced its 2013-2014 schedule and, predictably, it’s pretty sweet. Some highlights include N’awlins legend Dr. John, alt-country icon Alejandro Escovedo with Shelby Lynne, jazz singer Diana Krall, comedian Reggie Watts, the always incredible Anoushka Shankar and a Broadway national tour of Green Day’s American Idiot. Tickets for the entire season go on sale for members this Friday, July 12, and to the general public on Tuesday, July 30.
Meanwhile, in Montpelier, Charlie O’s — aka the best bar in the world — is hosting a residency featuring bands from the capital city’s State & Main Records, which recently released a great compilation, State & Main Records: Vol. 2. You can catch S&M bands at the Golden Dome juke joint every Wednesday and Saturday all month long. This week, check out Lake Superior’s Pete Rahn on Wednesday, July 10; Mystery Points, Anachronist and the Images on Saturday, July 13; and Pistol Fist and Ben Roy on Wednesday, July 17. The remainder of the schedule includes Lake Superior, Boomslang and Concrete Rivals (July 20); Dan Zura, Eric Clifford and Roy (July 24); Vicious Gifts, Yacht Rocket and King Pedestrian (July 27) and Anachronist’s Brian Clark (July 31).
Last but not least, I feel like we’ve been pushing the release of pop auteur Ryan Power’s bewildering and brilliant new album, Identity Picks, for weeks now — probably because we have. Anyhoo, here’s a reminder that the Burlington release party is this Thursday, July 11, at Signal Kitchen in Burlington with support from songwriter Maryse Smith and Heloise & the Savoir Faire. On a related note, NNA Tapes, the label releasing Power’s latest, has been getting some international love lately, including a 90-minute audio feature from UK mag the Wire. It’s a pretty nifty feature on the local label’s recent output, including Identity Picks, new music from Nate Young and slew of unreleased, demo and live tracks. Check it out at thewire.co.uk.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Dirty Streets, Blades of Grass
Zoos of Berlin, Lucifer in the Rain
Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels
Spectrals, Sob Story
Editors, The Weight of Your Love