OK, I’m in.
In the last few months I’ve taken my share of gentle jabs at the entertainment overload that is the Burlington International Waterfront Festival — aka “The Quad.” And frankly, my glancing blows were not entirely without warrant. Specifically, the question of whether or not our lakeside hamlet is densely populated enough, or can draw suitable numbers of tourists, to sustain such a monumental hootenanny, especially considering the myriad other offerings around the state (Dylan, Willie and The Cougar at the CV Fairgrounds next week, Jackson Browne at Shelburne Museum this Tuesday, etc.). Given reports from various local media sources last week that many of the big-ticket to-dos were selling well below projections, that was a fair concern to raise.
However, you can also count me among those who have been championing the volume and variety of music currently lapping at our shores in celebration of the big four-oh-oh. From a purely selfish standpoint, who cares if the fanny-pack set stays home? More music for us, right? And I’d say Vermonters deserve it. (Did you know that July 2, the day the fest officially started, was also the 232nd anniversary of Vermont becoming the first state to outlaw slavery? Look it up. We rule.)
Any skepticism I may have harbored entering into last weekend’s opening festivities was quickly waylaid by the various and largely free happenings about town over the weekend. Though I missed Sunday’s main event with The Roots on the Waterfront — even music editors need their beauty sleep prior to Monday mornings — I still managed to take in enough interesting stuff to convince me that this whole thing is well worth our time — and maybe even our money. In particular, a free performance from New York state’s swampy-delic Americana outfit The Horse Flies and Canadian sensations The Lost Fingers at Battery Park last Friday.
This pre-fireworks show really had it all. Great tunes, a fleeting window of reasonably passable weather in a picturesque setting, a flyover by a stunt plane, a beer tent and, the coup de grace, pony rides. Really. We have loads of stuff on the docket this week, so I’ll say only this: You haven’t truly celebrated the birth of America until you’ve heard a French-Canadian band play an acoustic Gypsy-jazz version of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam.” And no, I’m not kidding. It was awesome.
There is still an entire weekend left to get in on the fun. So do yourself a favor, don a tricornered hat and some pantaloons and take another look at the schedule of events at celebratechamplain.org. (Or, of course, 7dvt.com … ahem.)
In the Pines
Speaking of the Quad, those with tix to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ Waterfront Park show this Sunday would be well advised to show up early. Handling opening duties are none other than prodigal trumpet diva Jennifer Hartswick and legendary Vermont bluegrass outfit Pine Island. Can I get a yee-haw?
Those with jazz inclinations should be familiar with Hartswick. The current Chicago resident has been a Discover Jazz Fest staple for years. And with good reason. Girl can flat out bring it, both on the horn and with her considerable vocal prowess. But the real story here is the return of Pine Island.
For the uninitiated, Pine Island was perhaps the original local supergroup. Active primarily in the mid-1970s and regulars at the late, great Queen City hotspot Hunt’s, the jazzgrass pioneers were composed of double bassist Jim McGinnis, guitarist Tim McKenzie, fiddler David Gusakov, vocalists Dan Mahoney and Susan Longaker, and southpaw mandolin ace — and founder of seminal alt-country greats The Blood Oranges — Jimmy Ryan. Oh, and some banjo-pickin’ whippersnapper named Gordon Stone. Whatever happened to him?
Despite a predictable smattering of reunion gigs over the years, opportunities to hear the group have been few and far between since the band called it quits in the late ’70s. So even if you’re not a big GPN fan, a chance to see Pine Island is worth the price of admission alone. However, if the ticket price does scare you off, you can still catch a glimpse of greatness when the band plays a warm-up gig this Friday at the Bristol Bakery and Café.
P.S. In addition to GPN, Hartswick and the Pine Island reunion, Sunday’s show also doubles as a release party for the latest offering from our pals at Big Heavy World, a mammoth two-disc affair entitled Thrifters and Throughstones: The Music of Vermont’s First 400 Years. I had originally planned a review of the excellent new comp — which features the likes of Anaïs Mitchell, Atlantic Crossing and GPN, among many, many others — for this issue. But frankly, it’s so massive I need more time to do it justice. Like another 400 years. Er, or maybe next week.
A couple weeks ago I mentioned how I’d like to see more live music at JP’s Pub. It seems that somebody up there — or maybe someone at JP’s? — likes me, as the Burlington dive is set to unveil a regular series of live music on Thursday nights. Kicking things off this week are local rockers Lowest of Tides.
Kudos to Lowell Thompson & Crown Point and Pure Pop Records, who both scored some national love on the back page of the current issue of Rolling Stone — the one with the Jonas Brothers on the cover … snicker. Props also to Avi and Celia, who were featured in this month’s Yankee magazine, and local(ish) indie-pop phenom Hello Shark, who rated as the Boston Phoenix’s choice for best VT artist in its annual “50 Bands, 50 States” feature last week.
Greg Davis’ tip of the week: that I would really dig indie-folk songwriter Kevin Barker. And how. I bet you will, too, this Sunday, when the NYC-based tunesmith joins Brattleboro’s Happy Birthday at the Monkey House.
This week in BurntMD: Recently signed to Brooklyn’s Coalmine Records, Burnt just released a track on DJ Green Lantern’s latest mixtape, Monster Mash 4. This comes on the heels of adding cuts to the soundtrack of locally made indie film Dumping Lisa. Dude doesn’t sleep.
Rain or shine — presumably — Solarfest kicks off this weekend at Forget-Me-Not-Farm in Tinmouth. The renewable-energy-focused bash, which runs Friday through Sunday, will feature performances from the likes of Entrain, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, and Peter Mulvey, among many others. Visit solarfest.org for more details.
Underrated songwriting legend alert! Tom Pacheco, whose work has been covered by The Band, Ritchie Havens and Jefferson Starship, to name a few, appears in VT twice this week: Saturday at Langdon Street Café and Sunday at the Bee’s Knees in Morrisville.
New band alert! This Friday at Montpelier’s Black Door Bar and Bistro, Michael Chorney unveils his latest creation, Wayback Machine, a collaboration with Miriam Bernardo, Phil Carr and the brothers Eames that he describes as “Amerarcana.” Sold.
And finally, Death — note, not Rough Francis but actually Death — have just announced three reunion dates: Friday, September 26, at Magic Stick in Detroit; Saturday, September 26, at the Empty Bottle in Chicago; and Sunday, September 27, in Cleveland. See you in the Windy City?
RIP, Hamdi Akar
Deepest condolences to longtime Burlington rockers Ninja Custodian, who announced in a press release last Monday the passing of bassist Hamdi Akar from spinal meningitis, on Friday, June 26. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the band and, of course, Akar’s friends and family. Click here to share your remembrances on Ninja Custodian’s blog.