- Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
- Eric George
When I was just a wee little music reviewer running around telling adults the Eagles sucked, I had a formative Halloween when I learned the true meaning of the spooky season.
No, it isn't candy. Pretending you are someone else is super cool, but that's not it, either. Partying with your friends is also great, but let's be honest: We use every holiday to do that. (What? You've never raged on Bennington Battle Day? You're missing out.)
What makes Halloween the undisputed coolest holiday (suck it, Santa) is the feeling of chaos, of the supernatural, of death and of the unknown having their day. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of roaming around town with my neighborhood homies in stiff plastic masks, looking for ghosts.
Don't get me wrong: We all wanted bags full of candy. But more than that, we wanted to be scared. We'd look for the darkest, creepiest house and ponder who had died there and how they might haunt it.
Unfortunately, it was just the suburbs. No self-respecting ghost was going to be caught dead hanging out in Mrs. Barry's garden. But that feeling of invoking spirits from beyond the veil was just so thrilling. It's never left me, even if I've yet to have my Ghostbusters moment. (No, not the Dan Aykroyd one, you perverts.)
Judging by his latest EP, Burlington's Eric George is on the same page. In early October, the prolific folk and country troubadour released Mostly Ghosts, a seven-song paean to the supernatural. Featuring songs about the free will of the living dead, reincarnation as a snake, and the ghost of a 1900s labor activist, the EP is a blast of rockabilly punk music that clocks in at less than 15 minutes.
"I was sitting on my porch one day, and this line just came to me," George told me recently over coffee. "'I'm a ghost / I haunt / I'm gonna do what I want.' It's a pretty punk-rock thing for a ghost to say. That sort of kick-started this idea of making the record both a ghost album and a punk album."
Then he added, "Also, I've had a lot of supernatural things happen to me."
One event that influenced the creation of Mostly Ghosts was comparatively mundane, however. One day in Montréal, George decided to revisit his childhood passion for Rollerblading.
"I used to love it, but it had been forever," he explained. "Basically, I just jumped back in too quickly. I had the confidence but not the skill."
Twenty minutes after lacing up, he wiped out and suffered a broken wrist. Not only was his fledgling Rollerblading career derailed, but also the injury meant no playing guitar or drums for months.
Fortunately, before the pandemic, George and engineer Jer Coons had recorded an entire punk record with Sean Preece on drums that had since been collecting dust. So George wrote new lyrics for those songs and brought the album back from the dead.
With George's high-energy guitars and anthemic vocals, Mostly Ghosts roars out of the speakers like a poltergeist having a rager. Songs such as "Queen Anne's Lace" and "Joe Hill" carry a Ramones-y swagger that would have Casper the Friendly Ghost breaking bad in minutes, smashing shit in houses and driving out the living.
This more aggressive EP shouldn't surprise those accustomed to George's laid-back country and folk work, though. For one, he released a punk record in 2018, Song of Love. For another, the prolific songwriter views the line between punk and folk music as blurry to the point of not existing.
"Punk was sort of my first love as a kid," George revealed. He played in a punk band in eighth grade, when he had a teacher who was into hardcore punk music. "He taught a class called Roots of American Music," George said, "and one day he turned all the lights off and put on some Jimmie Rodgers."
At first, the classic country singer rubbed George the wrong way. "What the fuck is going on?" he recalled wondering. "This guy is yodeling!"
But something clicked after a few listens.
"There was an attitude to it I loved," George said. "It was punk, man. I mean, these guys weren't great singers. Woody Guthrie wasn't a good singer, but he didn't care."
Folk and punk music embody creative freedom for George, which explains his ability to work in both genres.
"The more music I make, the more I realize that there is no reason to not put out whatever you're feeling," he said. "I don't have a nihilist attitude or anything, but I don't really worry about who's listening to my music. For me, feeling creative is being successful."
And if that means making a Halloween album, so much the better.
"The potential of energy — which is what ghosts are — to hold memory ... that freaks me right out," George said with a nervous grin. "The hair on my arms goes up immediately. And isn't that so cool?"
Mostly Ghosts isn't so much a collection of ghost stories as an album of songs from a supernatural point of view — a ghost slipping a demo under your door, if you will.
"It's an album about something else, something other, experiencing things that the living can never understand," George said.
Naturally, I had to ask him what he would do if he found himself haunting the Earth.
"I think I'd just mess with animals," he said, laughing. "I'd play with people's dogs and knock balls around for cats to chase. I don't think I'd be a rude ghost, though.
"But mostly, I hope I don't become one, because that means I'd have unfinished business," he went on. "So please, nobody kill me! I don't want to be a ghost."
Dying From Laughter
- Courtesy Of Ash Diggs
- Ash Diggs
Halloween doesn't have to be all about the dark. Vermont Comedy Club is treating the spooky season as a good opportunity to take the piss out of the supernatural. For those who prefer cackling to screaming, the Burlington club hosts "A Nightmare on Main Street: Halloween Roast" this Friday and Saturday, October 29 and 30.
Featuring some of the area's best comics, the event continues the club's tradition of comedians dressing as fictional characters and roasting each other mercilessly. (Poor Jason Voorhees and Norman Bates better be ready for a lot of "your mom" jokes.)
Local comedian and musician Ash Diggs organized and produced the roast, which features more than 20 comedians and promises to be one of the biggest shows the club has put on since it reopened on Labor Day weekend.
"These are far and away the most diverse shows, both onstage and behind the scenes, that we've ever had," Diggs enthused in an email to Seven Days. He said he and his writing team have been cooking up the show since July.
And don't forget to check out what's happening at the club on Sunday, October 31 — Halloween night. "POSSESSED!" features another lineup of local comedians. But, instead of dressing as Freddy Krueger, Steve Bannon or other horrific figures, they'll be covering their own favorite comedians — living or dead. It sounds like a great chance to see famous standup routines performed by local talent. I might go just to see if anyone tries their hand at Jackie Mason.
- Courtesy Of Cowtown Chad
- Sarah King
Congratulations to Americana and blues singer Sarah King, who was named Songwriter of the Year at the 2021 New England Music Awards. Vermont-based King just wrapped up a four-week tour of the Southeast and finished it with a stop at the NEMA awards to collect the honor.
The award comes after King won a Northeast Regional Folk Alliance award in September for the music video of her song "Not Worth the Whiskey." It's been a big year for King, who also went out on the road supporting Nashville country rockers the Steel Woods this summer.
Francesca Blanchard releases a new single on Friday, October 29 — a cover of Dido's 2003 smash hit "White Flag." The track will feature an accompanying music video and serve as the Burlington-based singer-songwriter-producer's final release of 2021, as she transitions to working on her follow-up to 2020's Make It Better.
"This song is one of my favorite songs in the world," Blanchard wrote in an email. "It came out when I was in sixth grade and it felt revolutionary. So I took my own spin on the recording, as opposed to recreating the perfect thing that it already is."
"White Flag" will be available on all streaming services.
Filmmaker Mark Christopher Covino has taken on the editor role for Bill Simmon's long-gestating documentary No Stage Diving: The Story of 242 Main. A former Vermont resident, Covino codirected the 2012 hit documentary A Band Called Death, as well as 2017's The Crest.
"I can't think of a better or more perfect filmmaker to take on this project than Mark," Simmon wrote on the Big Heavy World website. "He imbues all of his projects with love and I know he's going to do right by this important story."
Follow the film's progress at bigheavyworld.com/242main.com.