- Chris Farnsworth ©️ Seven Days
- Some local music venues are requiring proof of vaccination to attend concerts and shows
I can still recall the shock when I saw the email. Homer Flynn of management and PR firm the Cryptic Corporation wanted to talk with me about the Residents. The fucking Residents. The rep for the most mysterious band in rock and roll, famously adverse to interviews in their 49 years of existence, was emailing me to talk about the band's show planned for August 30 at Higher Ground.
I actually lost sleep in the days leading up to the phone interview, I was so nervous. What if it was an elaborate prank on the press, and the band was just trolling a reporter? Then I realized how awesome it would be to get pranked by the Residents, and I got really excited.
For all my apprehension, the interview was rather normal. I spoke with Flynn, who charmingly kept up the pretense that he was not a member of the band — though he did the Clark Kent/Superman thing a few times, swapping "they" and "us" often as he spoke of the band he has likely been in for decades. And while we got into the mythology of the Residents, we largely had a very sad, human conversation about the chances of the show actually happening in light of the uptick in COVID-19 cases from the Delta variant.
"The Residents' primary income had previously been [from] selling the physical copies of the music they made," Flynn said. "That model is dead, of course. Bands have to tour to generate income, so it's important the band gets back on the road to make money to fund the art."
Listening to our recorded conversation, I could hear the note of dread creep into Flynn's voice when he talked about the tour.
"I just hope ... well, I just hope it happens," he said.
Well, it's not. The show was canceled earlier this month. A statement on the band's website reads: "Disappointment is real. And the Covid pandemic ravaging our culture is real. And the joy that an artist or musician brings to their supporters is also real, but so is the apprehension one feels when that excitement is replaced by anxiety and dread. Disappointment is a bitter pill and The Residents share in the sorrow that goes with the acrid gulp..."
That gut-punch announcement kicked off a week of COVID-19-in-music news.
- Courtesy Of The Residents
- The Residents
First, last Thursday, Burlington's Radio Bean announced that patrons must show proof of vaccination for entry. Higher Ground followed suit a day later, as did Vermont Comedy Club. Swan Dojo and Zenbarn weren't far behind, and suddenly a good chunk of local indoor music and entertainment venues had adopted the policy.
As I was scrambling to email every venue I could think of, Live Nation Entertainment, the largest concert promoter and ticketing company in the country, announced its own proof-of-vaccination requirement on Sunday.
In a comment to Rolling Stone, Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino said, "Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of October 4th, we will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals everywhere possible in the U.S."
Notice that "possible" part? That's because there are some states trying to make it illegal to require vaccination protocols. Twenty states, actually, each with a Republican governor. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has the power to revoke the liquor licenses of businesses in that state requiring proof of vaccination — such as nightclubs and concert venues.
Anyone with a social media account can tell you that there are people out there who don't support vaccination efforts. If you're feeling brave or masochistic, look at the comments on Seven Days social media from my blog posts about the new protocols at Radio Bean and Higher Ground.
An issue some venues I contacted raised, off the record, is: Why is it on venues to demand proof of vaccination? How are they supposed to enforce the policy? One club promoter noted that vaccination cards are easily faked — though Canadian border patrol seems to be all over that issue, as a few less-than-brainy American tourists recently discovered. Granted, nightclubs don't have the same resources as border patrol. Another club owner expressed concern for door staff and their safety.
Higher Ground marketing director Amy Wild isn't too concerned about implementing the process, though.
"We have a plan in place to enforce the new policy that aims to keep it as simple as possible," she wrote in an email, adding that the response to the policy has been "overwhelmingly supportive."
"If any of the artists performing at our venues request proof of vaccination from their audience, we would certainly facilitate that for them," said Nectar's co-owner and managing partner Noel Donnellan.
I've yet to hear from any local musicians who don't support requiring proof of vaccination at shows. It could be that those who disagree are worried about blowback from the community, so it's no surprise that they wouldn't respond to my queries. I'm not trying to set anyone up to be canceled, unless your dumb ass participated in, y'know, an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January.
But the truth is, I have a horse in this race. I've played gigs in this city for years. Now my job is to write about going to shows. I'm the furthest thing from impartial when it comes to this subject. So...
Do you like seeing live music? Then get vaccinated. If you truly, medically cannot, then stay masked and get tested regularly if you plan to attend public events. For those who would rather quote YouTube videos or mental giants such as Joe Rogan and Rand Paul, best of luck to you. I'll be at the rock show.
- Courtesy Of Luke Awtry Photography
- The Jesse Taylor Band, winner of the Citizen Cider Battle of the Bands
Moving on to a less contentious matter — the Citizen Cider Battle of the Bands!
On Saturday, I was honored to be one of three judges at the annual event at the cider spot on Burlington's Pine Street. I, along with fellow musicians/scene bums Luke Awtry and Urian Hackney, sat in the all-important Chairs of Judgment to decide which of the five bands competing would win and become the 2021 Citizen Cider house band.
As for the bands, to quote Citizen Cider event coordinator and local rock legend Matt Perry, "What a crop!" (Full disclosure: Perry plays in Dino Bravo, who feature a guitar player with my name, who is me. Is this a conflict of interest? No one knows. Don't worry about it.)
First up were Brit Kane & Co. Playing one of its first gigs, the bluesy outfit acquitted itself well. An all-covers set list didn't excite the judges, however, and crucial points were docked.
The Jesse Taylor Band then hopped onto the loading dock/stage and delivered a high-energy set of catchy indie rock. JTB are a known quantity, but they surprised us with some new songs and rock-solid dynamics, which speaks to how hard the band has worked in the last year.
Despite the fact that Hackney and Awtry were wearing shorts, JTB were viciously attacked and docked points for the number of shorts worn onstage. Did I also dock points for shorts onstage and single out bassist Ian Greenman for his Knicks jersey and flip-flops? Yes, yes, I did. For one, I was the only judge wearing pants in 80-degree heat, so I was cranky. Second, it was an Amar'e Stoudamire jersey, which is just bad luck and could have made Greenman blow out his ACL. I was doing him a favor.
The Shake were next. They're a new band but feature some familiar faces, including singer-songwriter and keyboardist Joshua Glass. The Shake impressed with a radio-friendly set blending '70s-style arena rock and more blues-influenced stuff. But between some slower-tempo moments and a cover of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" that just didn't rock sufficiently, they lost a few vital points. The Shake are a band to watch, though.
Shore Rites were the biggest mystery of the day. Dressed like three buddies on their way to a bachelor party at the beach, the band took the stage to much head-scratching. But once it unleashed a Foals-meets-Dick Dale sound, things got serious. Of all the bands, Shore Rites had the boldest sound to my ears, and I scored them high enough to win. Unfortunately, one of their songs featured a harmonica solo, and Awtry was triggered. I support my friend in this matter, even though I was cool with the harmonica.
Happy Spangler, who feature Seven Days' Michael Bradshaw on drums, closed out the festivities with some killer indie rock. I'm always down to see them play, and they more than held their own, finishing second overall.
But in the end, the judges decided no one could quite top Jesse Taylor Band's sound and stage presence, shorts be damned. So the (literal) crowns went to the new four-piece Citizen Cider house band. Congrats!
Francesca Blanchard has a new single out this Friday, August 20. Blanchard says the tune, titled "Loon Song," is a "light summer bop about listening for the beckoning call of hope."
The Burlington-based singer-songwriter might be doing what she did with her last record, 2020's Make It Better, releasing multiple singles in a lead-up to the record, or this might just be a single for the sake of it. We'll have to wait and see.