- Courtesy Of Bob Wagner
- Bob Wagner
Higher Ground is taking the entirety of April to celebrate its 20th anniversary. As I pointed out two weeks ago, the club is more than doubling its efforts throughout the month by offering a jam-packed cavalcade of superstars, hometown heroes, and up-and-comers.
The South Burlington nightclub's actual anniversary falls on Sunday, April 15, and that evening's entertainment in the HG Ballroom is all about the local love. Originally, the lineup included a viperHouse reunion. But the elder statesmen of acid funk had to cancel because one of its members had a medical emergency.
As Phish front man Trey Anastasio wrote in a March 21 Facebook post, viperHouse keyboardist Ray Paczkowski (Trey Anastasio Band, Soule Monde) recently had a tumor removed from his brain. He's expected to make a full recovery but understandably isn't up to performing as scheduled.
But the show must go on! Alongside psych-pop masters Madaila and all-female ska collective Steady Betty, a special assemblage known as the HG All-Star Mosaic take the headlining slot. Guitarist Bob Wagner (Kat Wright) leads the supergroup, which also includes Josh Weinstein (Kat Wright), Brett Lanier (the Barr Brothers), Sean Preece (the Welterweights), and Tyler Mast and Steve Hadeka (both of Josh Panda & the Hot Damned).
"I've been doing these shows for the past year and calling them mosaics," Wagner tells Seven Days by phone. "I've done a handful of them with players from other bands. We weave all kinds of weird twists and turns into the set lists."
Essentially a one-off cover band, the group plans to bring to life the work of Tom Petty, the Band, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, Vulfpeck and others. (And speaking of Vulfpeck, if ever there were a band that could instantly sell out Higher Ground, the LA-via-Michigan funksters are it.)
For Wagner, the event has special significance. He's celebrating his 20th anniversary of moving from the Jersey Shore to Vermont, and his connection with Paczkowski goes back to his first week in the Green Mountains.
"I moved to Vermont to start college at Johnson State, [and] the first live music I encountered was viperHouse," he says. "On the second day of school, me and some friends decided to overdo it — as freshman will do — and got a little spun and walked down to this concert to see whatever this band was."
Speaking from personal experience, I'm starting to wonder if "overdoing it" is a rite of passage for the first time you see viperHouse.
"Over the next year or two, any time I saw Ray, I was like, 'If I ever get a chance to play music with this guy, I'll die happy,'" Wagner continues. As one of the state's most in-demand axe-men, he's fulfilled his 18-year-old self's dream of sharing a stage with Paczkowski many times over.
"It was the first time I encountered any kind of music like that," Wagner explains. "It was this huge, Holy shit, where have I moved to? moment. I was like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe I live here now.'"
"There's a fun, spontaneous element," says Wagner. "It's like a musician's Thanksgiving."
A portion of the concert's proceeds will bolster Paczkowski's convalescence.
One of the Seven Days music editor's prime duties is to compile the weekly club listings. It can be a tedious task. But in terms of spreading the word about happenings throughout the state, it's one of the most essential. And the process provides a window into any trends that may be unfolding.
When I was inputting some upcoming dates last week, I noticed an unusually high incidence of surf music happening in the near future. Since most weeks go by with hardly a quivering, beachy lick, the string of shows stood out. Perhaps I had surf-rock on the brain because I was simultaneously digging into the Tsunamibots' new record.
If you're a fan of the genre, you can treat yourself to a three-night run of surf-tastic tunes this week. On Friday, April 13, head over to Burlington's Foam Brewers for locals the High Breaks. The following evening, the 'bots celebrate their album release at Hostel Tevere in Warren. And the hat trick concludes on Sunday night with Columbus, Ohio's Canadian Waves at Radio Bean in Burlington.
The following week, keep riding the wave with some Peruvian garage-surf courtesy of Los Saicos tribute act Aspero Saicos. The Rough Francis-associated group opens for She-Devils on Saturday, April 21, at the Monkey House in Winooski. Finish off the unofficial surf-rock marathon with Philadelphia's Dry Reef on Monday, April 23, at Radio Bean.
Mix and Match
On Saturday, Girls Rock Vermont hosts its annual Rock Lotto event. The nonprofit organization is known for its summer day camps aimed at female and gender-nonconforming musicians ages 8 through 18. Rock Lotto, a daylong challenge, invites female musicians to team up for a special feat of endurance.
Here's how the project works: Entrants sign up ahead of time via a Google doc on the Facebook event page, noting which instrument(s) they play. Next, participants are randomly grouped together via lottery to form a new band for the day. Teams meet up at Radio Bean in the morning and have until evening to write, arrange and perfect a three- or four-song set. Each group presents its work at a showcase later that night.
For this year's happening, GRV teams up with like-minded group the Tuned In collective, which seeks to provide support and resources for female-identifying instrumentalists, singers and songwriters in Vermont's music scene. All proceeds from the event support the two groups.
The challenge sounds like the perfect combination of fellowship and stress.
For more info, visit girlsrockvermont.org.
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.
Elvis Costello, "Veronica"
The Weeknd, "Ordinary Life"
Yazoo, "Only You"
Kelley Polar, "Cosmological Constancy"