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Pump Up the Volume

Soundbites: July 3rd Party, Backwords, Paddy Reagan, The Cush


Published July 2, 2008 at 5:30 a.m.

  • Backwords

You know, I think I've made it more than a year without referencing that classic 1990 Christian Slater vehicle about pirate radio. And I wrote a whole feature on The Radiator? Some music journalist I am. Glad to finally get that monkey off my back.

Anyway, this Thursday, the volume at a certain secondhand shop on Pine Street will undoubtedly be pumped. The second annual "July 3rd Party" (Can we do something about that name? Maybe "Independence Eve Party"?) at Speaking Volumes is poised to offer a remarkable lineup of local acts. All of them will rock to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing recreational grants to young folks with the life-threatening, genetic disease. If you're not familiar with it or the foundation, check out www.cflf.org for details. You'll be glad you did.

But my concern is musical, not medical. And this year's show features a nice cross-section of Burlington's finest acts. In no particular order, they are: Workingman's Army, The Shandies, Cccome?, Shotgun Blues, Cave Bees, Dubnotix, Electric Halo, The Jazz Guys, Second Agenda and Eric Smith. That's a whole lotta freedom rockin'.

The music gets under way at 5 o'clock and will continue right on through the fireworks Speaking Volumes is actually a perfect spot to catch the annual celebration of things that go "Boom!" There will be a barbecue and a raffle, the proceeds of which along with donations will be split between CFLF and the bands. There's no admission fee, so give generously, dammit. After all, it is Independence Eve.


Not to toot my own horn, but I get a lot of email. Like, a lot. And it's not all offers to enlarge certain physical traits, or missives from long-lost Pakistani cousins who "have the funds ready to transfer." Sometimes they're actually pretty useful.

Exhibit A: a letter I received from a member of Brooklyn collective Backwords asking me to check out their stuff in advance of an upcoming Burlington show. Obviously, many similar requests come my way, and I do listen to most of them. But I almost dismissed this letter, because it a violated a personal Cardinal Sin: referring to songwriting as "honest."

I'll admit I've probably used that term in conversational moments. But even I don't know what it really means with regard to songwriting. (As an aside, just once, I would love to hear someone describe their songs as "a bunch of lies that rhyme." Now that would be honesty.)

Anyway, I'm glad I took the time to check 'em out. To be, um, honest, I didn't find Backwords' songwriting to be any more "honest" than anyone else's it is my belief that most songwriting, good or bad, is inherently honest, but that's a discussion for another column. But I did find the band's music curiously inventive and endearingly quirky and regular readers know how much I'm endeared to all things quirky.

The group has a definite Kinks thing going on. But it comes off less as aping than admiring. Lo-fi and ragged, Backwords' tunes still possess a sort of calculated circuitousness that reminds me a bit of local Americana noir act Farm and regular readers know how much I'm endeared to all things Farm.

Check them out on Wednesday, July 9, at Nectar's.


It's been brought to my attention that I write an awful lot about The Monkey House, perhaps at the expense of other venues. To which I say . . . you're right, I do though not at the expense of anyone else, I'd argue.

No, I'm not on Paddy Reagan's payroll. Like many folks, I just love what he's done with the place and find that he's got newsworthy shows happening pretty much every week. Like this week, for example.

By all accounts, Austin-based songwriter Guy Forsyth's Vermont performance last January was among the early favorites for show of the year. Dude is simply an immensely talented tunesmith and performer. This Monday, he returns to the Monkey with his new CD, Calico Girl, in tow. If you liked him the first time around . . .


Gosh, I feel like I haven't written about The Cush in, like, a week. Maybe more. And that's just crazy.

I know the Burlington psychedelic indie trio gets a fair amount of ink on these pages. But you know what? They rock. And as it is my sworn oath to inform you of all things rockin' or at least as many of those things as can fit in a 1200-word column I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this Saturday, the now-streamlined trio is playing a gig at Red Square.

The fact that The Cush has a gig is, of course, hardly newsworthy. What is notable is that this will be their last performance before the members sequester themselves in the studio to finish up their long-awaited new album. I'm told by some reliable ears that the demo cuts from the new disc are pretty spectacular. I'm betting it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, catch 'em while you can.


The music section was a wild and wacky affair last week. And so it is time once again to take a stroll down memory lane and find out where I screwed up. What, like you get your job right 100 percent of the time? Puh-lease.

First up, in last week's "Soundbites" column, I crafted a clever little blurb about a "Canadian" ska band called The Waffle Stompers who were playing a show at 242 with local ska-punk outfit Husbands AKA who kick ass, by the way. It went a little something like this: Sunday, the basement bastion of bad-assery will be skankin' like it's 1997 with New Brunswick ska-punk ensemble The Waffle Stompers, who bear a striking resemblance to early Reel Big Fish, only, you know, Canadian.

Comedic gold, right? (Ed. note: No.) Only one problem: The band ain't Canadian. They're from New Brunswick, New Jersey. This means, not only did I goof the biographical info, but I also missed a golden opportunity to rip on the Garden State. Curses! Still, I stand by my assertion that the dudes sound like a Canadian version of Reel Big Fish and that's not a bad thing, really.

Moving on, there was some confusion about last weeks' Starline Rhythm Boys article. Specifically, which upcoming SRB releases are coming out and when, as well as in which format. Here's the deal: The vinyl album Green Mountain Style is a "greatest hits" of sorts, featuring cuts from the band's first three albums. It is not, as was reported, the live album from last fall's Charlie O's sessions. That album will be coming out on CD in August, with a release party at, of course, the aforementioned greatest bar in the state.

Sincere apologies all around. I need a vacation . . .