One of the more frequent — and in certain ways, valid — criticisms of this column is that I tend to focus on the same few venues, week after week. Places like Radio Bean, Langdon Street Café and, of course, the Monkey House. My counter is usually: (1) I try to focus on bands, not necessarily venues, and (2) cool underground and up-and-coming local outfits tend to play those joints a lot. Thus, they get mentioned a lot. (Classic corollary: Find me a local music column or zine from the mid- to late 1990s that doesn’t mention Club Toast. I dare you.)
That’s not to say other area venues don’t provide great options for your entertainment dollar. Of course they do. And I try to spread the love as best I can. But, some weeks, certain venues simply go above and beyond the call of duty and present a week’s worth of music seemingly tailor made for this column. And this week, that venue is — drum roll, please — the Monkey! You’re shocked, right? In other news, I like the Low Anthem and I’m not a big fan of Phish. Moving on…
The slate at the Monkey this week is almost completely local, and roundly excellent, beginning Wednesday, August 18, with BTV folk rockers Citizen Bare, and fellow 802 jam bands High Spirits and Gneiss.
Thursday night features the welcome return of Burlington rockers Cave Bees. In a quick missive from Rebekah Whitehurst, the bassist writes that the band plans to unveil five new tunes. That’s in addition, presumably, to some choice selections from vocalist and lead guitarist Steve Tremblay’s killer rock opera Famous Alligator, which was partially released on their self-titled debut album last year. Also on the bill that night, Queen City supergroup Blue Button and the one, the only James Kochalka Superstar.
Speaking of Kochalka, Burlington’s bizarro Renaissance man was kind enough to drop off a copy of his latest, a split reissue of last year’s Digital Elf and the long-out-of-print classic, Kissers, released by Dutch label/comic-book distributor Señor Hernandez. On Thursday, Kochalka will be celebrating the rerelease of both albums — on sick, heavy-gauge white vinyl, no less.
Saturday marks just the third appearance of Anders Parker’s seldom-seen rock trio Cloud Badge. That alone oughta be enough to get you out and about in the Onion City that night. If not, handling opening duties are local alt-whatever collective Paper Castles and dreamy indie-folk chanteuse Maryse Smith.
Finally, rounding out the weekend, on Sunday the Smittens — including Max Smitten — return from what I’m told was a stellar European tour in support of their recently released dance remix EP, Dancing Shoes: The Smittens Remixed. For more info on that record, read my cover story from the July 14 issue. This show is sort of the de facto local release for that album, as well. Oh, and before I forget, you’ll want to get there early to catch the opening band, Iowa’s Poison Control Center. That goes double if you like the indie rock — which I know you do.
- I had a good time at the MGMT show on the waterfront last Thursday, despite some questionable sound shenanigans that frequently buried vocals too deeply in the mix. I went into this in more detail on my blog, Solid State. But, sound foibles aside, shows like that — and, really, the entire weekend of music during the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival — highlight what a terrific venue Waterfront Park is. However, they also underscore just how unfortunate it is that we lack a suitable cold-weather alternative when bigger bands swing through at other times of the year. For example, when LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells play — groan — Memorial Auditorium on September 27.
- It’s looking unlikely that local indie upstarts Villanelles — who tied with Prana for Best New VT Band in the 2010 Daysies — will have their new album in hand when they play their, ahem, “CD release” party at Radio Bean this Saturday. That’s too bad, because, judging from the little I’ve heard of it so far, it’s going to be killer. The band was kind enough to send along a rough mix of a deliciously jangly little track called “Summertime Hit,” which suggests a young band truly coming into its own. And it sounds far from the ragtag outfit I first caught at the Bean two years ago. So, all you savvy folks who packed the sold-out Morning Benders gig at the Monkey House a few months ago, do yourself a favor and drop by the Bean this weekend. Trust me.
- This just in from our old pals Grace Potter & the Nocturnals: The band has been invited to open this Friday’s My Morning Jacket show at the Champlain Valley Expo. They’ll also appear with Jim James and company in Holyoke, Mass., the following week, before heading out on separate tours with both Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and the Avett Brothers this fall.
- With apologies to the weekly Sports Illustrated feature of the same name, This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse: Burlington’s beacon of low-power FM goodness, the Radiator, now has its own iPhone app. You can download it for free at iTunes. Really. (Actually, that’s pretty cool. I’m just jealous because I have a Droid.)
- Band Name of the Week: Apathy Arising. Further proof that no one names bands quite like hardcore kids — which is to say, awesomely. The band appears at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday as part of Anvil Sound’s Home Grown Metal showcase. Also on the bill: Stone Bullet, Crown of Lions, Old North End and Koncentration Kamp. Not on the bill: Blinded by Rage, who were a late scratch. But check the review of their latest EP this week.
- New Band Alert: After the Rodeo. An all-star acoustic trio featuring guitarist and vocalist Pat Melvin (PossumHaw, Kelly Ravin Trio), mandolinist Matt Schrag (Dixie Red Delights, Hot Pickin’ Party) and guitarist D. Davis (Red Hot Juba). That’s some serious talent, in particular Davis, who, as I’ve written before, remains one of the area’s perennially underrated guitar players. Other axemen might be flashier, but few are nearly as tasteful or technically precise. Catch the band this Friday at Parima’s cozy Acoustic Lounge, or Saturday at The Brewski in Jeffersonville.
And finally, 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.