- Nathan Hartswick
The Green Mountain Comedy Festival is in full swing this week. And, frankly, it’s a little overwhelming. Between now and this Sunday, May 27, there are — count ’em — 17 performances and workshops happening in venues all over the state, from Burlington to the Northeast Kingdom. The showcases feature some of the best and brightest local comedic talent and range, from family-friendly fare to at least one show that promises to be so disgusting that no one in their right mind should attend — and that I can’t wait to see. Ahem. There is honestly too much going on for me to cover in this li’l column. So here are the highlights for the remaining four days of the GMCF. Check out greenmountaincomedy.com for the full schedule.
The slate on Thursday, May 24, is anchored by the aforementioned raunchy show, That’s Just Wrong! at Signal Kitchen in Burlington. If you go, understand this: The whole point is for comics to be as crude and offensive — and funny — as possible. It’s not for the faint of heart. Hosted by Natalie Miller, the lineup features some of my personal favorite local comics, including Alex Nief and this year’s Higher Ground Comedy Battle winner, Kyle Gagnon.
Comedy comes to the Kingdom on Friday, May 25. Local comedy don Nathan Hartswick hosts a showcase at Parker Pie Co. in West Glover featuring Levity Café owner Ryan Kriger, Patrick Tracy, John Rodgers, Mule and Chad Cosby — presumably no relation to Bill.
If you’re still feeling a little dirty from Thursday’s That’s Just Wrong!, I’d suggest swinging by Levity in Burlington for an early evening “clean” show on Saturday, May 26. Interesting tidbit: Colin Ryan, a very funny storytelling comic, is on the bill. Much of his material centers on how awkward and uncomfortable he often feels around kids. I mentioned this is an all-ages show, right? Perhaps he’ll save that stuff for the late-night showcase.
Sunday, May 27, features two afternoon workshops at Spark Arts: The Business of Comedy, led by veteran comic Mike Finoia — who apparently believes charging $30 for a workshop is good business — and the Art of Hosting, led by local comic Jason Lorber, who recently killed it opening for Joan Rivers at the Flynn Center.
The fest wraps up that evening with an all-star showcase at the Doubletree Hotel Ballroom in Burlington, featuring some of the area’s funniest comics, including (not Bill) Cosby, Hartswick, Lorber, John Lyons, Pat Lynch and Kit Rivers, the last of whom was a sensation at this year’s HG Comedy Battle and stunned this critic again recently with a positively hilarious set at Levity. She’s one of the funniest comedians in the state. And here’s the scary thing: She’s only 20.
So did you happen to catch any of the Waking Windows 2 festival in Winooski a couple of weeks ago? I confess, I wasn’t able to attend as much of it as I would have liked. But what I did see was incredible. A newish band out of Middlebury called Alpenglow were a definite highlight. As a friend noted during their afternoon set at the Stoplight Gallery, “So they pretty much win, hands down, for best new local band.” Yep. The five-piece outfit has a sprawling indie-folk sound that fans of bands such as Fleet Foxes or the Low Anthem could eat with a spork. This is swooning, harmony-laden stuff, complex arrangements laced with arcing fiddle, shimmering keys and healthy doses of ringing guitar punch. You can download their two-song EP from their bandcamp page (alpenglowband.bandcamp.com). Better yet, catch them live at the Big Picture Theater & Café in Waitsfield on Wednesday, May 30.
Congrats to the roughly 734 local musicians involved with last Friday’s sold-out Hug Your Farmer tribute to the late, great Levon Helm at the Higher Ground Ballroom. Not to get all sappy on you, but it was one of those quintessentially Burlington nights that makes me proud to call the Queen City home. There wasn’t a clunker performance in the bunch — which is amazing when you think of how many moving pieces this show had, and in how short a time it all came together. Joshua Panda stole the show with his signature soul dynamism — and a few high leg kicks to boot. Had no idea you were so flexible, man.
Speaking of Panda, I received a rather disturbing email from the Skinny Pancake’s Benjy Adler recently concerning our resident soul man. It seems Panda is about to turn 27. As you likely know, that’s a dangerous age for musicians. Whether it’s coincidence or, as some believe, “The Curse of the 27s,” rock stars from Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain to Amy Winehouse have all died at 27. And Adler is concerned. So on Wednesday, May 23, he is throwing a birthday bash for Panda at the singer’s weekly Pancake residency with Ed Grasmeyer. In addition to celebrating “the life and times” of the Panda man, Adler is also unveiling the Joshua Panda crêpe, which includes fried chicken, mashed potatoes and bacon sausage gravy. Now, before anyone gets freaked out, I’m pretty sure Panda doesn’t give in to the typical vices that derail rock stars. As far as I know, he’s not addicted to booze, pills, or booze and pills. But after reading the ingredients for that crêpe, I might suggest Panda keep an eye on the ol’ cholesterol.
Remember Strength in Numbers? The band was the brainchild of local sax monster Bryan McNamara and fused hip-hop grooves and pop sensibilities into something he dubbed “hip-pop.” (Get it?) They were really good, but as so many good local bands do, they eventually faded away as members got busy with other projects/life/etc. I’m happy to report that several members of that band have joined forces again for a new project, Bryson Barnes and the New Method, who debut in Burlington this week. Barnes writes that the new group, which features SIN alums Parker Shper, Rob Morse, Dan Ryan and Max Bronstein, further explores the “thumping grooves and smooth instrumentals of Strength in Numbers,” but filters it through an indie-rock prism. Color me intrigued. The New Method has a number of local shows lined up for the summer — the first is this Saturday, May 26, at Radio Bean. A debut EP, recorded at the Tank Studios, is planned for release next month.
As reported last month, First Crush’s Scott Baker is leaving the state in June. That means this Thursday, May 24, at Charlie O’s in Montpelier will likely be your last chance to catch the indie-pop duo live. And if that weren’t enough to get you to the capital city, consider that the duo will be backed by a group called the Jordan Catalanos. If you get the reference, you know why that’s impossibly cute. (Hint: “My So-Called Life.”) And if you don’t get it, find an aging hipster and ask him or her.
The longest running EDM dance party in Vermont, Sunday Night Mass, has a special installment on tap at Club Metronome this Sunday, May 27, when world-renowned DJ and producer Steve Porter comes to town. Porter got his start as a traditional DJ but has since become one of the world’s foremost video remixers, creating video mashups for ESPN, the NBA, Disney and the Sierra Club, among others. But he may be best known for his Auto-Tune-heavy send-up of the Slap Chop infomercial, “Slap Chop Rap,” which became a major YouTube sensation — and apparently pissed off the Slap Chop guy.
Last but not least, I’m sorry to report that the Liberate Music and Yoga Festival is not happening this year. According to fest cofounder Jane Jarecki Lanza, there is uncertainty surrounding the fate of the land the festival has called home the last few years. But Jarecki writes that she and husband Ben Lanza plan to resurrect the festival next year. Stay tuned.
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, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Beach House, Bloom
Mayer Hawthorne, How Do You Do
Best Coast, The Only Place
The Cribs, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull
Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music