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In All Fairness



Published September 5, 2007 at 4:00 a.m.

Last week, I told you about the incredible lineup of country legends performing at this year’s Champlain Valley Fair. Since I can’t in good conscience write ever so glowingly about a particular show and skip out on it, Sunday night I went to the fair.

Man, it was AWESOME! I ate greasy food, rode the scariest ride on offer — manned by the sketchiest carnie ever — was recruited by the Marines, bought three hot tubs, had several things airbrushed/pierced, and gawked at freakishly large produce. God, I love America. And God. And freedom. And NASCAR.

Oh, yeah, I also saw Ray Price, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. And that’s the last I’m going to say about it.


You knew it was coming. All the telltale signs were there: the first changing leaves, sale spectaculars at Staples, the keg of “Duff” running out at The Three Needs by 5:30 in the afternoon, traffic slowing to a crawl on Hot-Jogging-Girl Alley (a.k.a. upper Main Street). That’s right, the kids are back! Sigh.

Despite the aforementioned ominous signs marking the return of Burlington’s cash cows, perhaps the most telling indicator is the ratcheting-up of music lineups at the area’s premiere venues. This being a music column, I probably ought to tell you about it. (Man, Ray Price sounds really good for a guy who’s 146 years old.)

Always a bastion of rollicking college fun, Nectar’s has a number of shows this week that should whet the aural appetites of our fair city’s scholarly party animals.

This Friday, everyone’s favorite seafaring scallywags, The Jugtown Pirates of Lake Champlain take the stage for an evening of sword-swingin’, swashbuckling fun — old-time new-grass style. Their recently released self-titled debut is a rollicking affair, but the best way to experience these guys is live. Psychedelic anarchists SeepeopleS open the show. But come early for local bluesman Seth Yacovone’s weekly acoustic gig. Upstairs at Club Metronome, you can check in with Nashville’s free-spirited rock maven Will Hoge, who will share the stage with Philly’s indie-roots revivalists Hoots and Hellmouth.

Back downstairs on Monday, you can wiggle to the funktastic stylings of Funkwagon — guess what kind of music they play? — with local rockers Silent Mind and I89. Then, next Wednesday, September 12, check out the groovy jam, funk, rock, jazz, pop brew of, um, The Brew. The band won Relix magazine’s “Jamoff” in 2006 and is in the midst of a residency at the house that Phish built. (Dude, Merle Haggard looks and sounds, well, haggard. He’s so old. So very old.)

Not to be outdone, Alex Crothers and Co. are putting the smack down at Higher Ground with a schedule worthy of Paradise Rock Club in Boston or Montréal’s Metropolis. The lineup in the Ballroom alone may inspire you to book a room at the Best Western for the week.

Check this out: Kids want the funk, and no one does it better than George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, who play this Wednesday. The following night, jammy roots rockers Railroad Earth take the stage, guaranteed to bring legions of their loyal fans, who call themselves — I am not making this up — “Hobos.” However, the real draw that night might just be outlaw-singer-songwriter-hottie Shannon McNally, who opens the show with none other than local swampy-tonker-turned-nationally-touring-sideman Brett Hughes. Man, that was a lot of hyphens.

The night after that — we’d be on Friday at this point — new-folk singer-songwriter Martin Sexton rocks the Ballroom with his soulful blend of acoustic roots and rock. (Hey, Willie. If you’re going to play “Pancho & Lefty,” please do so in the same key/time signature/tempo as the rest of your band. Townes Van Zandt would be pissed.)

Moving on, Marcia Ball swings by the Ballroom this Saturday night for a seated show that will likely whip the crowd into a joyful frenzy. No Depression types can save their Kleenex for the indie-pop melancholia of Feist and Rogue Wave at the Flynn MainStage the following night, Sunday, a show also brought to you by the good folks at Higher Ground. Simultaneously at HG’s Showcase Lounge, the second Putumayo/Cumbancha World Music Series concert features Ivory Coast chanteuse Dobet Gnahoré (see spotlight).

But wait, there’s more!

It’s back to the Ballroom on Monday, to hear the soulful ruminations of 20-year-old singer-songwriter Paulo Nutini. The Scottish heartthrob has frequently drawn comparisons to Al Green, and some folks — namely Uncut magazine — have actually corroborated that assertion. Personally, I’ll plead the fifth. But the guy is pretty good.

Rounding out the week, the world’s top-selling living reggae artist, Maxi Priest, makes an appearance on Tuesday with Plattsburgh’s finest — only? — dub reggae outfit, Slow Natives.

So that’s the week at the bigger local venues. But there’s obviously a lot more music in the region than that provided by Nectar’s, Club Metronome and Higher Ground. Part of the fun — especially if you’re new in town — is finding it yourself. Might I suggest our handy club listings as a good starting point? (When did Cousin Itt start playing piano for Willie Nelson? What’s that? That was his sister?! Well, now I just feel like a jerk.)


I often forget that Montréal is, like, really freakin’ close to Vermont. I also often forget that there’s more to our friendly neighbor to the north than gambling, strip joints, pretty money and funny accents. For example, there’s a lot of good music.

Most people are familiar with the city’s monumental jazz festival, but an oft-overlooked weekend of terrific tunes is practically upon us: The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival at Parc Jean Drapeau. (Most of Willie’s second set was pretty good, but did anyone else find his “new” song about a recent broken relationship just a little creepy?)

The two-day festival kicks off this Saturday and features a lineup that would make even the most jaded writer at Pitchfork crack a smile. With five stages chock-full of more than 50 bands, there’s something to please almost any musical taste. This year, highlights include ’90s alt-rock gods Smashing Pumpkins, indie darlings Stars, Scandinavian sensations Peter, Bjorn and John, London disco-punkers Bloc Party and brooding sonic-popsters Interpol. Unfortunately, Amy Winehouse had to cancel ’cuz she had — um — “other stuff” to do, but the side stages alone are enough to make the $150 Canadian ($149.27 US!) for the ticket worth it. And no, I’m not going to make the “rehab” joke you’re all waiting for. Must . . . show . . . restraint . . . No. No. No!