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Soundbites: A New Memorial Auditorium?


Memorial Auditorium - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Memorial Auditorium

Burlington's Community and Economic Development Office recently released a memo stating that it had received a qualified bid from South Burlington nightclub Higher Ground to lease the entire Memorial Auditorium building. The memo, which was first reported by, further noted that Higher Ground proposed to operate the site as a "multi-purpose events space that focuses on community gatherings that range from music to culinary events to civic debates and town meetings."

In other words, it won't be a nightclub.

In an official statement emailed to Seven Days, Higher Ground owners Alex Crothers and Alan Newman explained that CEDO and the City of Burlington "are currently undergoing an evaluation process to determine if that proposal will get advanced to the next stage of consideration."

In 2016, all tenants of Memorial Auditorium, including long-standing DIY rock club and teen center 242 Main, were evicted due to significant structural hazards. The entire building was deemed uninhabitable. In October, CEDO issued a request for proposals seeking a third party to operate Memorial Auditorium as part of the city's plans to renovate the building. The Higher Ground proposal was the only qualified bid, according to the CEDO memo.

Crothers and Newman stressed that the proposed Memorial Auditorium project "isn't Higher Ground, or a replacement for it." Instead, they continued, under the proposal the two would "operate the building as Memorial Auditorium for the purposes of public assembly through a wide variety of uses, including commercial, civic, and nonprofit."

That would seem to rebut any implication that the project is related to Crothers and Newman's reported explorations into moving the Higher Ground nightclub from its current Williston Road location. In 2019, the Burlington City Council voted to rezone an area of the city's South End that would allow Burton Snowboards to expand its campus to include a new entertainment facility, including the revamped Talent Skatepark, which opened earlier this year, and a music venue. At the time, Higher Ground was anticipated to be the new facility's anchor tenant.

Compilation Nation

As the Democratic primaries heat up, so do candidates' tactics for fundraising and drawing in potential voters. Recently, a new music compilation in support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appeared on Bandcamp featuring a couple of noteworthy Vermont outfits. Released by New Jersey DIY tape label Baklava, the anthology, simply titled Bernie Sanders 2020 Comp, includes new music from University of Vermont slowcore group Father Figuer and Burlington oddball singer-songwriter Joey Agresta.

"We were inspired by this Bernie Sanders compilation that [Philadelphia indie-rock group] Strange Ranger put out," Baklava cofounder and UVM fourth-year student Dylan Hertzberg said in a recent phone call. He referred to Bernie Speaks With the Community, which Pitchfork recently featured. It includes music from indie darlings Justus Proffit & Jay Som and alt-R&B singer-songwriter Shamir, to name a few.

Father Figuer's contribution is an icy, lumbering shoegaze tune called "Clothes," while Agresta's "Don't Be a Dick Head" recalls the bleak, goth-leaning pop of Stephin Merritt's Future Bible Heroes.

Avid indie-music fans and followers of the local DIY scene might recognize some of the other bands included, such as Boston's Horse Jumper of Love and Joyer, both of whom performed in Burlington in 2019.

Agresta and Father Figuer's tracks will appear on official releases from the respective artists, both of which will most likely see the light of day in 2020.

Obviously, all proceeds from Bernie Sanders Comp 2020 support the senator's bid for the presidency. Should Sanders secure the Democratic nomination, Hertzberg speculated that another comp is possible.

"I don't know what it will look like, but we'll see," he said.

Network News

I just want to take a second to give a shout-out to the University of Vermont's Arts, Media & Communication Interest Group for hosting a really nice networking event last Thursday. The group scoured Vermont's local press, broadcasters, arts organizations and other like-minded companies for working professionals to speak to students interested in pursuing careers in those fields. Be on the lookout for future events, UVMers. If you didn't attend last week, I highly recommend checking them out.

I spoke with a number of students, all of whom pretty much asked the same question: How did you get to where you are now?

It's not the first time local college and high school students have come a-knockin', looking for advice on how to jump into a career in media. And like I tell anyone who asks me that, my personal experience isn't likely to bear any resemblance to yours. But, over the last couple of days since the event, I've been thinking about "how I got to where I am now" a lot more than I usually do. And the one thing I don't think I've stressed enough to eager beavers looking for a way in is this: Do what you love.

I know, I know. That's a stupid, cheesy platitude that's as overused as "don't sweat the small stuff" and "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." But hear me out.

What I mean is, you should consider as experience the things that you're already doing for fun that bear some relation to the field you want to enter. In my twenties, while living in San Francisco, I saw countless concerts and also cohosted an indie-music radio program, which often allowed me to interview local and regional bands and artists. At the time, I thought I was just doing all of that for fun. But I later realized that all of that fun at least partially prepared me for the job I have now.

So, I advise any young job seekers out there to look back at the fun things they've done in a new light. You never know how it might help you in the future.


Speaking of compilations featuring local artists recently released on Bandcamp, the latest installment of Live From Robot Dog With Tim Lewis, Vol. 3 hit the web on February 12. Like its predecessors, it was culled from Vermont music super-fan Tim Lewis' WBKM internet radio program of the same name, which broadcasts from Ryan Cohen's Robot Dog Studio in Williston. The 52-track collection (yup, you read the right) includes live in-studio takes from Matthew Mercury, Cricket Blue, Blowtorch, Sad Turtle and scads of other local notables. Lewis previously released compilations, which include music performances and interviews with the artists, in 2018 and 2019.

Local punk-rock heroes Rough Francis return to ArtsRiot on Friday, February 28. The band has been somewhat dormant lately, notwithstanding their New Year's Eve 2020 set at Burlington's Radio Bean. But, according to front person Bobby Hackney Jr., a new Rough Francis album is on the way in 2020. No official release date has been set, but Hackney confirmed via email that the band is looking at next fall to drop the upcoming project. He also mentioned that Rough Francis will perform new music at this week's show.

In 2018, the group released MSP3: Counter Attack, a long-gestating follow-up to its 2013 debut, Maximum Soul Power.

Burlington dance-punks Roost just dropped a "mini EP" hilariously titled Pair Off & Die. Recorded at Leilani Sound, the two-track release features a pair of songs simply called "#1" and "#2." The first plunges into dark house-music territory, with singer-songwriter Zack Schuster's trademark brooding vocals spilling out over acidic beats like Grade A maple syrup. It concludes with "#2," a mid-tempo chill-zone song with subtle surf-rock vibes. Stream it on Bandcamp.

Listening In

If I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to get songs stuck in other people's heads. Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week. May they also get stuck in yours. Follow sevendaysvt on Spotify for weekly playlists with tunes by artists featured in the music section.

Couchsleepers, "In My Head"

Orville Peck, "Queen of the Rodeo"

Nyle, "Chicken Leg"

Tom Tom Club, "Genius of Love"

Kenna, "Long Gone"