Soundbites: Ben Fuller Wins Grand Point North Band Contest | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Soundbites: Ben Fuller Wins Grand Point North Band Contest

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Tinariwen - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Tinariwen

Haters Gonna Hate, Unfortunately

Don't you love starting the week sipping an emotional cocktail of rage and righteous indignation? I sure do. On Monday morning, I woke up to a particularly upsetting email from Kevin Titterton, the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts' director of marketing and communications. He passed along a story from Triad City Beat, an alt-weekly that represents the Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem region of North Carolina.

Senior editor Jordan Green's story, titled "Haters Target Winston-Salem Concert by African Band That Stood Up to Islamists," details a litany of racist and nationalist social media posts directed at the critically acclaimed Malian group Tinariwen. The band plays the Flynn on Wednesday, September 25, a little over a week after its show at Winston-Salem nightclub the Ramkat.

Seemingly because Tinariwen's members sport traditional North African garb in their promo shots, ignorant and hateful comments such as "Take the fucking towels off your god damn heads" and "So ISIS is playing the Ramcat? [sic] LOL," flooded sponsored Facebook posts advertising the show. One commenter even went as far as to write, "Better bring my AR, too..."

Are you effing — why am I censoring myself? — fucking kidding me? To quote Mrs. White from the cult-classic murder mystery Clue, "Flames, on the side of my face!" As Green points out, commenters appear to have been emboldened by President Donald Trump's now infamous tweets recommending that four congresswomen of color — three of whom were born in the U.S.; the fourth is a naturalized citizen — return to their "crime infested" home countries. "Go home; maybe your country will like your music," read one comment below the advertisement for the show. The parallels between Trump's tweet and the angry comments could be coincidental, but I'm far too cynical to believe that.

Beyond the fact that Tinariwen's music doesn't tend to be overtly politically charged, as the story points out, the irony is that the group and other Tuareg musicians have been suppressed in their own countries for promoting free expression through their music. Freedom of speech is a core Western value not found in the Islamic regimes that prohibited said artists.

Yet here you have a bunch of slack-jawed ignoramuses sounding off because ... why? Because some African musicians choose to wear culturally specific clothing and not cargo shorts, a braided belt and an American flag T-shirt? The knee-jerk reaction is shallow, the antithesis of critical thinking, and it does not bode well for the future of our country. Not that much news, local or national, tends to these days.

We'll be keeping an eye on local reactions to the group's Vermont show in September, as well as reaching out to the band for coverage. Suffice it to say, I'm not afraid to put haters on blast.

Best Medicine

Tina Friml - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Tina Friml

In happier news, local standup comedian Tina Friml is making a name for herself at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montréal. The massive funny-fest began on Wednesday, July 10, and continues until Sunday, July 28.

Friml, who claimed the title of Vermont's Funniest Comedian in 2018, was named one of the festival's New Faces (unrepped). Along with a slew of talent from around the continent, Friml will perform as part of the fest's New Faces showcase, which runs from Wednesday, July 24, through Friday, July 26.

Friml, who lives with cerebral palsy, told Seven Days in 2017, "I think that disability is one of the most universally sensitive [topics] ... I'm doing comedy about disability, but in a way that is not demeaning to me or to other disabled people." Trust me when I say Friml's jokes will have you gasping for air.

If you can't make it to Just for Laughs this week, you can catch Friml and several other locals at the Comedy for a Cause fundraiser on Wednesday, July 31, at Sorriso Bistro in South Burlington. The event bolsters the Mahana Magic Scholarship Fund, which aids Vermont high school seniors whose parents have struggled with cancer.

And, looking ahead, this year's Vermont's Funniest Comedian competition kicks off on Wednesday, August 21, at the Vermont Comedy Club in Burlington. If you think the title is a meaningless honorific, think again. How else do you think Friml got the audition for Just for Laughs?

Also, while we're on the subject, I'm quivering with anticipation for Rachel Bloom's Just for Laughs shows on Wednesday, July 24, and Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27. The "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" star and cocreator is one of my favorite voices in comedy, particularly because of the way mental health issues were portrayed on the recently ended CW musical comedy. The fest has so much to choose from, but I highly recommend checking out Bloom's performances.

Prize Fight

Ben Fuller - COURTESY OF AMANDA TAFT PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Of Amanda Taft Photography
  • Ben Fuller

The results are in! This year's winner of the Grand Point North Local Band Contest is country artist Ben Fuller! Um, who? The Weathersfield native has remained relatively off Seven Days' radar yet evidently has a huge backing in his home state.

The singer-songwriter triumphed over the competition with a total of 2,613 votes. He barely edged out runners-up the Kingdom All Stars, who ended the contest with 2,603 tallies. Massachusetts-by-way-of-Lyndonville band Copilot came in third with 614 votes.

Since late 2018, Fuller has split his time between Vermont and Nashville, Tenn., where he's pursuing his country music dreams. You can hear five of his singles on Spotify.

Every year, we see more engagement with the contest. And that kicks ass! In 2017, 2,449 people participated, casting 3,874 votes. The following year, the number of participants nearly doubled, with 4,834 people casting 8,274 votes. And this year, the number of voters skyrocketed to 7,045, with a whopping 11,114 votes for 134 artists.

And while we're on the subject of voting in Seven Days-sponsored contests, I'd love to see this level of campaigning in the annual Seven Daysies awards — particularly in the arts and entertainment categories during the nominations round. We'll be announcing this year's Daysies winners next week in the 2019 edition of our yearly publication, All the Best.

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.

Orville Peck, "Dead of Night"

Electric Guest, "Dollar"

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Too Much"

Kristeen Young, "I'll Get You Back"

Björk, "I Miss You (Dobie Rub Part One — Sunshine Mix)"

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