The big story on the local music front this week is, of course, the second annual incarnation of the Precipice, the three-day locavore music festival slated for the field behind Burlington College this Friday, July 26, through Sunday, July 28. It features 60-plus bands, the vast majority of which are local. It is, without hyperbole, one of the largest Vermont-music-focused festivals in the state’s history. But here’s the thing. I really shouldn’t write about it because, well, I’m playing in it.
And that, friends, is what we in the biz call a conflict of interest.
When writing about music in a close-knit community such as Burlington, conflicts of interest come up pretty often. Usually it’s because I’m friends with or related to musicians who are doing something cool and noteworthy. On those occasions, I do my best to disclose my relationship with those artists or, in non-column cases such as feature stories or album reviews, will find another writer. It’s not ideal. But, especially in an area with relatively few press outlets, it’s better than penalizing musicians simply for knowing me — I mean, isn’t that penalty enough? But because I’m directly involved, my writing at length about the Precipice violates the code of journalistic ethics. So what’s a music editor to do?
Fuck it. (Metaphorically speaking.)
With something as significant as the Precipice, I can’t very well ignore that it’s happening, as it would basically mean ignoring almost every band in town, as well as you, the readers, who are really the important part of the whole equation. So here’s the deal. I won’t tell you when I’m playing, or even with which band. Honestly, I don’t care if you come see us. But I do care that you check out the Precipice. Because it has the potential to be a landmark weekend for Vermont music.
Last year’s inaugural festival was held at the Intervale and was a pretty remarkable weekend of music. Especially considering that Radio Bean’s Lee Anderson, Sarah Grant and Joe Adler threw the whole thing together in roughly three weeks, it went off with surprisingly few hitches. It could have perhaps been a little better attended, but the crowds that did come were largely invested in the music and the experience in general. As I wrote at the time, it was kind of like hanging out at Radio Bean, only outside.
The one fly in the ointment — besides the actual bugs, which were fierce — was that the space was simply too small for four stages of music. By necessity, artists overlapped on the schedule, often competing for sonic airspace. That meant the singer-songwriter tent was often intruded upon by the sounds of harder-rocking acts on the stage behind the barn a hundred yards away — or an EDM DJ in the barn itself.
This year’s festival also features four stages of entertainment. But with more room to stretch out, I’m guessing the cacophony will be significantly muted. And taking a look at the schedules for each day, it seems Adler and co. have put more thought into which bands can overlap with as little interference as possible, if at all.
Which reminds me, there are bands at the Precipice. Lots of them. To name a few: Heloise & the Savoir Faire, Barika, Swale, Lynguistic Civilians, Blue Button, Michael Chorney & Hollar General and Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band. And that’s fewer than half the acts on Friday alone.
Saturday’s daylong lineup is even more robust, with an afternoon rock block of indie folk courtesy of Alpenglow, Maryse Smith, Paper Castles and the DuPont Brothers. Stick around in the evening for Ryan Power, Rough Francis and the de facto festival headliners, Brooklyn’s Superhuman Happiness. All of this is happening on one stage. Bouncing around the other three stages, you could catch sets from Grup Anwar, Rusty Belle, Vedora, Errands, Hana Zara, Duke Aeroplane & the Wrong Numbers or about 20 other bands.
Sunday promises to be the mellowest of the festival’s three days. Think of it as a mildly hungover brunch for your ears. The day’s menu includes Violette Ultraviolet, the Vermont Joy Parade, the Eames Brothers Band, Vetica, Mickey Western & the Rodeo Clowns, Lendway, Kat Wright & Brett Hughes and a pair of songwriter circles: the first with Andy Lugo, Joe Redding and Ryan Fauber, the second led by Aya Inoue and Sarah Stickle. And again, that’s just a snippet of the day’s action.
This being a music column, we’ve really only touched on the music end of the Precipice. But there is much, much more in store. From local food and beer to theater groups to a kids tent to, well, probably a whole bunch of other stuff we’ll discover once we get there. Lee Anderson is nothing if not full of surprises.
In my recap of the Waking Windows III festival in Winooski earlier this year, I wrote that of all our many great local festivals, WWIII was “the most representative and reflective of Vermont’s underground [music] scenes.” I still believe that. But I would submit that the Precipice, particularly as it continues to grow, will likely be the most representative and reflective of Vermont’s music community. That includes everyone; bands, fans and rock writers clinging to their rapidly waning youth.
But don’t take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself. I’ll see you there.
The Precipice is not the only interesting arts happening in Burlington’s Old North End this weekend. On Saturday, July 27, the 10th annual Ramble takes place at locations all over the ONE. This year there are more than 40 events, including field days at Battery Park, baby races — yes, really — and a ton of music including groups from the neighborhood’s African communities, a second line procession and, cuz it’s the ONE, punk rawk. There will also be a group bike ride to the Precipice, for which, as a Rambler, you’ll get a discounted ticket. Visit theramble.org for full details and a map of the day’s events.
This summer’s Girls Rock VT camp is set to wrap up this Saturday, July 27, with a matinee showcase at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. If you’re unfamiliar, GRVT is a weeklong day camp for girls ages 8 to 18 looking to learn how to rock and/or roll. Over the course of each session, campers will be split into bands and then write, practice and perform original songs under the guidance of some of the area’s best lady rockers — including, among others, the camp’s founders, local riot grrrls, Doll Fight!
Last but not least, State & Main Records cofounder Knayte Lander’s new project, Vicious Gifts, play this Saturday, July 27, as part of the ongoing S&M residency at Charlie O’s in Montpelier. In a recent email, Lander writes that VG, which includes Dan Zura (bass) and Graham Stetler (drums), take cues from “Nervous Breakdown-era Black Flag, early Bad Religion, FEAR and some Misfits ripping through.” Sold.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Graveyard Lovers, Dreamers
Aidan Knight, Small Reveal
Von Shakes, Bohemia
Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus
Big Star, Nothing Can Hurt Me