- File: Matthew Thorsen
- Jimmy T. Thurston (left) and Jamie Lee Thurston
Welcome to the beginning of the end — of Soundbites in 2019. The last weeks of the year are always a bit tricky. Next week's column (spoiler alert) is dedicated to recapping some of the year's most interesting and memorable newsy bits, and therefore doesn't leave space to talk about New Year's Eve. So, if you don't mind, I'm going to cover some December 31 happenings a little bit early. But before we do...
I'd like to take a moment to honor the life of Jimmy T. Thurston, one of the Vermont music scene's most colorful characters. The outlaw rocker, father of country singer-songwriter Jamie Lee Thurston and fixture in local rock since the 1960s passed away earlier this week at the age of 78. (Full details of his death were not available at press time.) I didn't know the elder Thurston personally, but looking over some of his recent work — namely, his wonderfully corny 2014 music video for a tune called "Homegrown Weed" — I'm disappointed I never got the chance to meet him. Seriously, anyone who would put that much effort into a novelty song about smoking weed is a hero in my book. Stream his latest work, the 2014 album Welcome to My Country and the 2016 EP VT's #1 Outlaw, on Spotify. And check sevendaysvt.com for updates.
A quick word on this week's theme, Winter Reading: Earlier this year, singer-songwriter Ben Roque sent me a copy of his book The Midnight Cabaret just after Seven Days reviewed his new album, Amuser. It's literally been sitting on my desk right next to my computer keyboard since I received it this summer, and I thought it might make for a bit of light — er, dark — reading during the upcoming bleak-AF winter months.
Though not explicitly tied to his 2019 release, the book of short stories plays with the same kinds of wicked characters and gloomy situations heard on Roque's 10-track record. Following the format of our recurring literary feature Page 32, in which we quickly summarize local books, here's an excerpt from the tome's 32nd page:
"The darkness took a firm grip upon Luna's coronary arteries — as if they were a bouquet of flowers — and squeezed."
Yikes! Reach out to Roque via Instagram to obtain a copy for yourself.
Before Kris Kringle, Jesus, family gatherings or your new Disney+ account dominate all of your time next week, you might want to blow off some steam with a couple of fun, holiday-centered events this week.
First and foremost is ArtsRiot's Holiday Extravaganza on Friday, December 20. It sounds like it's going to be the second coming of Radio Bean's annual birthday bash. That is, the Extravaganza boasts a huge lineup of eclectic bands and artists, each taking the stage for only a brief moment to deliver "stocking stuffer-sized sets."
Covering many bases, genre-wise, the night's entertainment touches on indie rock (Clever Girls, Paper Castles), indie pop (Francesca Blanchard, Couchsleepers), country (Eastern Mountain Time, Danny & the Parts), punk/garage rock (the Pyros, PREECE), soul (Ivamae, Honey & Soul), and even some hard-to-classify music (the Dead Shakers).
Just like the Bean's B-day celebration, the Extravaganza is a great way to get to know a bunch of the area's choicest musical acts.
Also preparing to warm your soul and stimulate your brain's pleasure centers, Burlington standbys Swale host their annual yuletide concert, Another Very Hairy Swalemess, on Saturday, December 21, at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington. The four-piece rock group always has something special in store. For hints about what to expect, check out the band's 2015 holiday EP, Kiss Mess. You can stream it for free on Bandcamp.
Blow It Up
- Daby Touré
And then comes New Year's Eve — which lands on Tuesday, December 31, in case you hadn't checked.
Of note, Higher Ground doesn't have a major music headliner holding down the Ballroom this year. Instead, the annual New Queers Eve celebration, which in past years has served up decadent fun in the adjacent Showcase Lounge, has moved into the larger space. That's a noteworthy win for the queer community, given that the Ballroom's capacity is more than double that of the Lounge.
Ubiquitous drag queens Emoji Nightmare and Nikki Champagne host the event, which features hella performances from a gaggle of queens. Plus, Burlington carnival-punk outfit Miku Daza lay down a nightmarish set, as do mix masters DJVU and DJ Ri-MiX.
Of course, the area's biggest nightclub wouldn't send you off into 2020 without a proper music show, albeit on a much smaller scale than in past years. Ray Paczkowski and Russ Lawton (Trey Anastasio Band) take over the Lounge with their funk-fueled project Soule Monde, with support from surf devils the High Breaks. Asses will surely be danced off.
Capital City-bound folks might be interested to know that renowned bluesman Dave Keller is ringing in 2020 with a concert at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier. Keyboardist and longtime Keller collaborator Ira Friedman joins the soulful singer-songwriter.
If you're in the Burlington area and Higher Ground's double whammy doesn't suck you in, you're probably planning to check out Highlight, the Queen City's sprawling New Year's Eve program. The Burlington City Arts- and Signal Kitchen-sponsored event replaced the long-standing First Night in 2018.
Similarities exist between First Night and Highlight — namely, varied cultural events at numerous locations downtown, entry to which is covered by the purchase of a button. The biggest difference is that much of Highlight's programming comes directly from proposals submitted by the public. As organizers pointed out at a press conference in November, this process makes Highlight even more community focused, as its agenda is not created by a closed-door planning committee.
Though there's much to see and do throughout the day, here are some top picks.
The Nightshade Kitchen (see background info in our review of Guthrie Galileo's 3103) takes over the BCA Center, with Mauritanian singer-songwriter Daby Touré headlining. He's been compared to artists such as Youssou N'Dour and Habib Koité. Folks in search of a heartwarming, low-key NYE can do no better.
Blues trio Dwight & Nicole have cooked up a mysterious event at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington called "Sound & Color." A series of collaborations with special guests, the show is a must-see for lovers of rootsy, soulful jams.
Check out highlight.community/schedule for all of Highlight's haps.
And finally, Club Metronome hosts the homecoming of formerly omnipresent turntablist DJ SVPPLY. Now based in New York City, the party starter returns to the city that gave him his training wheels for another round of Move B*tch, the 2000s hip-hop-themed dance party.
As always, please be safe and responsible this holiday season. Unless that gets in the way of your fun. I'm not your mom, for fuck's sake.