- Courtesy Of Arielle Thomas
- Kat Wright
Whenever I think of patriotism, I flash back to that scene in Rocky IV when Carl Weathers' Apollo Creed comes out to fight the Russian baddie, Ivan Drago. James Brown's "Living in America" is playing, there are flags everywhere, and Apollo has those stars-and-stripes trunks on: It's the perfect encapsulation of Reagan-era America, full of jingoism, bullshit and a smattering of irony.
Don't get me wrong: When I was a tyke, I was shouting "USA! USA!" right along with fellow viewers. Age brings knowledge, however, and knowledge makes it much, much tougher for me to throw on the red, white and blue this weekend, even as we celebrate our country's birthday.
Because of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last week, millions of Americans now have a more complicated relationship with their country. While on tour in recent days, musicians Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monáe, Phoebe Bridgers and Megan Thee Stallion all took moments onstage or online to say, essentially, "Fuck the Supreme Court." They were hardly alone.
It makes for an awkward situation as Independence Day approaches. I was especially curious how artists getting ready to play shows on the holiday weekend might feel.
As always, Burlington knows how to throw a proper party: Red Hot Juba and High Summer play Waterfront Park on Sunday, July 3, before an air show and the fireworks get started. Sambatucada will be banging their drums on the boardwalk, as well. Pop ensemble Acqua Mossa play a pre-fireworks set at Foam Brewers.
The big show on the waterfront this year is Americana and soul singer Kat Wright, who plays both a pre- and a post-fireworks set. Opening for Wright is indie pop singer-songwriter Andriana Chobot. Fresh off releasing her album, Return to Sincere, Chobot is ready to showcase her new songs.
Yet Canadian-born Chobot, who recently achieved dual citizenship to become an official American, can't help but think about the new reality facing women in the country.
"Everyone deserves independence of their own body," said Chobot when we spoke, "and the Fourth is all about freedom. Playing this show is going to be an experience of duality: one part gratitude that I am among many who may be feeling the same way, and one part a merry-go-round of exasperation that we cannot all agree upon basic human rights."
Chobot, who recently played a show to raise funds for women's reproductive resources, summed up the dichotomy of celebrating America this weekend with a simple plea.
"I hope we are able to stand up for each other's lives and especially those who are at risk," she said. "And I hope things don't have to get worse before they get better for us to learn how to do so."
- CRWD CTRL
CRWD CTRL, aka Luke Jonathan, is playing a set with his fellow members of the DJ collective Aquatic Underground. For the second year in a row, the five-man crew will take to the decks atop the Broccoli Bar's bus stage at Waterfront Park for the big day. The members will split their forces later in the evening to deejay at Manhattan Pizza & Pub and Orlando's Bar & Lounge.
As hyped as Jonathan is for the show, he said he has reservations similar to Chobot's.
"It's a weird juxtaposition," he wrote by email. "To say I'm not exactly feeling the holiday would be an understatement."
Yet he thinks getting out and playing music is exactly what artists should be doing in response to moments like these.
"Using music as a platform to broadcast calls to action, on a weekend celebrating America's birthday, that's about as American as it gets," he asserted. "That's what I'll be using the weekend shows for."
New Release Radar
- Saints & Liars
Anyone thinking about Christmas trees and snow and Santa right now? No? I didn't think so. But Essex's Matthew Trombley invites you into that yuletide zone. Usually found behind the drum kit playing classic rock with Quadra, Trombley recently decided to record a Christmas tune with his daughter, Brittney.
"Yes Papa, the A-Z of Christmas" features a festive chord progression over an automated beat, and a "Little Drummer Boy"-type snare shuffle joins in halfway through. The song has many classic Christmas song attributes, down to Trombley's childlike delivery on lyrics such as "A is for the apples that you put in Christmas pie." It's an endearingly sweet song, featuring Brittney saying,"Yes, Papa?" throughout the track.
Composing a proper holiday song takes real skill. Some years ago, a friend wanted to record a compilation of holiday originals by Burlington rock bands. My bandmates and I spent longer than I'd like to admit trying to write one, and the result was both sonically unpleasant and lyrically confusing. (I proposed an ill-conceived hip-hop verse, trying to rhyme "yuletide" with "elven homicide," and that pretty much convinced us to stop.)
So I have nothing but respect for Trombley's ability to make a festive Christmas tune. But do I want to think about snow right now? Hell, no. Fortunately, Trombley also just released a debut LP titled One Single Soul with sunny beach art on the cover. Check out the album, and the Christmas jam, at matthewtrombleysmusicvt.bandcamp.com.
Next up are Americana act Saints & Liars. The southern Vermont band is releasing its latest single, "Wishes," on Friday, July 8, on all streaming services. In it, the band pushes into country-rock territory, amping up the roadhouse side of its sound and filling it out with a horn section. Recorded and mixed at Manchester's Studio at Strawberry Fields Lane, "Wishes" is a rollicking, booze-drenched number with a gravel-voiced vocal from singer Jed Hughes, who laments working hard to provide for a partner who is "running around downtown."
It's another strong showing from the band, which released the single "Picket Fences Blue" featuring folk-rocker Bow Thayer in April. If one wanted to hear "Wishes" before it drops in July, Saints & Liars play the Peru Town Green on Thursday, June 30, as part of the Peru Summer Concert Series.
Also coming out on July 8 is the latest single from neo-soul and electro-pop crooner Guthrie Galileo. The Nightshade Kitchen founder, who has seen his house-concert series transform into a full-fledged music festival over the last few years, continues his run of highly danceable, slick pop with "Rapture One Infinite." Full of atmospheric synths, glitchy beats and Galileo's effortlessly smooth vocals, the tune feels like a celebration of sorts.
"The song reminisces on simple careless pleasures," Galileo wrote of the track on his Soundcloud page, "like chance sidewalk run-ins with a new friend or the smell of warm concrete after a summer rain."
Call for Backup
Singer-songwriter Jes Raymond is spearheading an ambitious new project called These Mountains Sing, a state-wide virtual voices project funded by a Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant. Raymond has arranged her song "Together" to include a massive chorus, and she seeks singers to join in.
"We are — at this moment in time — just so overstimulated," wrote Raymond in a press release. "People cope with apathy and cynicism. Singing is an antidote."
Raymond invites singers to record or videotape their submissions, which she will then combine in a live multimedia performance at the RIVERFOLK festival on Monday, July 11, at Northern Stage in White River Junction.
"This project is for every human in the Green Mountains who loves to sing — professional or amateur," Raymond wrote. "I am aiming for a collaborative piece of art that is both musically exciting and accessible to singers of all ages and abilities."
If you're interested in submitting some vocals for the performance, go to jesraymond.com/sing.