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Rhythm & News (3/25/1998)


Published March 25, 1998 at 4:00 a.m.

They Wanna Take You 'Higher'

The rumors have been flying about a new club in the Burlington area, and I'm happy to rein them in with a truth noose this week. First of all, the rumor's right: The place is called Higher Ground, and it's in Winooski in the spot Denny's — and years ago, the disco Le Club — once occupied. The long-empty spot next to the Champlain Mill is rapidly being transformed into a nightclub nearly twice the size of Toast or Metronome, and by May will also be a daytime coffeehouse that offers lunch. The four partners are Kevin Statesir, Alex Crothers, Robert Hintze and Matt Sutte, all of whom come with some experience in the restaurant and/or entertainment business. And if you've heard that the club has some connection to Phish, that's sort of true: Statesir is the brother-in-law of Trey Anastasio, and Crothers left Phish HQ, Dionysian Productions, to take on this project. Statesir emphasizes that neither Trey nor the band are partners in the club — though he concedes Trey may do a spontaneous solo performance there at some point — but Phishheads are not advised to set up camp in the parking lot. The City of Winooski — which Statesir applauds as "very cooperative" — would not like that, no indeed. He adds that the band is happy to see another venue "with good lighting and stage," and are supportive of "the prospering of the music scene in Greater Burlington."

Some of the acts lined up for the near future do suggest a groove-rock bent — the grand opening April 15 features Agents of Good Roots; String Cheese Incident follows the next night. The biggest coup so far, however, is the booking of Medeski, Martin & Wood on April 22 (tickets are on sale now at the Flynn box office). Those of you who still mourn the loss of the legendary Hunt's (if you're still going out) should be pleased to learn that Higher Ground aims to cater not only to young scenesters but to thirty- and forty-somethings as well, with older-crowd acts like the Unknown Blues Band, and national acts that are too big for Burlington's bars but too small for the Flynn or Memorial Auditorium (fiddle genius Vassar Clements is booked in May). That said, the Medeski et al. show is all ages — not to mention smoke- and alcohol-free — and other shows in the future may be so as well. Some shows will be standing only; others will have seating with tables.

"Our main focus is the music," says Statesir idealistically. "[Higher Ground] is a place for people to relax and enjoy themselves." While Winooski has not exactly had the reputation for nightlife that Burlington enjoys, perhaps for that reason it was more welcoming to the Higher Ground proposal. Noting that "the political climate in Burlington was not right for a new club at this time," Statesir says he and his partners pitched it as a destination that will attract more people to the City. "We're in Winooski, we're a little farther away, but people will come for quality music," he says. "We don't want to be just another club." Stay tuned.

Nightclub of Love

You read it here first: I told you about a month back that Dave Jarvis, of Cranial Perch, and Kelley Faucheaux were planning to say "I do" in a most un-church-like venue: Club Metronome. Well, they haven't changed their minds. This Saturday, in between the first and second sets of the Perch's CD release party (for Fringe Benefits), the happy couple will be wed in holy matrimony — or maybe unholy, I dunno. Justice of the Peace Maurice Mahoney will preside. Mayor Clavelle was unable to make it, despite his starring role on the CD cover. All I've gotta say is, congratulations.

Harmonica Convergence

Bristol-based harp player Mark Lavoie has a tuneful business going on the internet — you might call it dealing in heavy metal. Well, actually, make that light: titanium harmonicas are the thing. In his search for the "Holy Grail" — the biggest tone possible from his instrument of 25 years, Lavoie, a Hohner endorsee, discovered the great sound of a titanium comb last year, and now he's enthusiastically selling them (for $160 a pop) from middlebury.net/lavoie. Customers so far include Don Brooks, a former harpist with Waylon Jennings who's also played with the Marine Band, of all things, for 35 years; Mickey Raphael, player with Willie Nelson; Junior Wells; Kim Wilson, of the Fabulous Thunderbirds; Jerry Portnoy, who played with Muddy Waters and more recently toured with Eric Clapton; and John Hammond, who summed up his praise for the instrument in one word: "Wow!" The news is spreading, reports Lavoie — by word-of-mouthpiece, of course.

Do Good Dept.

Once again we've got lots of good music comin' for a good cause — three of 'em this week, in fact. This Friday Atlantic Crossing and the Last Elm String Band kick up their heels at a benefit concert/dance and silent auction for the Celtic College. The fun begins at 8 at the Champlain (formerly German) Club. Saturday night we've got the Rusty Nail in Stowe hosting Big Joe Burrell & the Unknown Blues Band with Sandra Wright, offering up their chords for the North Country Animal League. Way to fun(d)raise! This Sunday a whole host of musicians, including Breakaway, Tammy Fletcher, Paul Asbell, Jon Gailmor, Kip Meaker and others, raise their voices in tribute to Andy Shapiro. The jazz pianist and music teacher at Johnson State has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, an unhappy occurrence that has resulted in an outpouring of love — and cash — for him and his family. This party's at Montpelier City Hall and will be sound-mixed by Chuck Eller on equipment donated by Kevin Healy. Reportedly a variation on the theme will come to Burlington in the near future, so watch here for the word.

Single Tracks

Wanna hang with the stars — in cyberspace? This Monday on the Guerrilla Lounge (bigheavyworld.com), you can chat up San Francisco's Greyboy AllStars prior to their show at Toast, 6-7 p.m. • Good Citizen publisher and Chin Ho! vocalist Andrew Smith is the new music reporter for Vermont at Northeast Performer magazine. If you've got band news to share, send to Andrew by the end of each month via good.citizen@bigheavyworld.com, fax to 660-8216, or mail to POB 5373, Burlington, VT 05042. And while you're at it, send that stuff right here, too. • Bluesguy Derrick Semler says he gets more attention in his home state than he does in his adopted one. Or at least more air time. Commercial radio station the Bridge (WMDI), serving Portland, Maine, is playing four tunes off his CD, Only Love, in regular rotation. Guess you have to go away if you want to be missed. (If you don't want to miss him, you'll find Semler at Charlie-o's in Montpelier this Thursday.) This Friday on "Burlington & Beyond" (WWPV 88.7 FM), stay tuned for an in-studio performance from Invisible Jet, who promise their CD will be out any day now, but I'll believe it when I see it. • Planning for the Burlington Music Conference is picking up steam; executive director Tom Baggott reports that Burlington Broadcasters (WIZN, WKDR & WBTZ The Buzz) have kicked in a generous schedule of radio spots for the regional conference — in Burlington this July 29-August 2. Nice. Meanwhile, applications are available around town and can be downloaded from bigheavyworld.com. • Speaking of Burlington's "Urban Scene" website, check out the ads for it running on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on WWIN/WB — its soundtrack is from Chin Ho!'s "When Everything Explodes." Always thinking, proprietor Jim Lockridge asked permission of Rolling Stone magazine to appropriate last week's cover of Buffy, in FemBot-like regalia, for the cover of his annual report. Groovy, baby. • St. Mike's journalism major Dan Peraino dipped his toes in the music biz and came out smiling: His class project for the semester was to book, promote and otherwise tend to the details of bringing New Orleans bluesman Walter "Wolfman" Washington to town. If the capacity crowd at Metronome was any indication, I'd say this lad deserves an A! • I just heard a rumor that the legendary Jerry "Jeff" Walker will be performing at the Vergennes Opera House in May. Stay tuned for an update.