Soundbites: Memories of Mike's, Homeboy Sandman at the Green Door and New Slow Magic | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Soundbites: Memories of Mike's, Homeboy Sandman at the Green Door and New Slow Magic

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The Lestons - COURTESY OF MATT PERRY
  • Courtesy Of Matt Perry
  • The Lestons

I had an interesting side adventure this week. Our wonderful food writers asked me, as well as other Seven Days peeps, to review Burlington's pizza spots for a piece in next week's issue. Now, I'm not going to go on about how much I love pizza, because everybody loves pizza, except those cursed by the gods to suffer from the lactose or the gluten. You have my deepest sympathies, for real. I tried one of those cauliflower pizzas one time, and it was the Guantánamo Bay of pizza.

Some may wonder why I chose Mr. Mike's as my spot to review. Let's be honest: There aren't too many (if any) people in town calling the Main Street pizza joint the cream of the crop. Mr. Mike's has always been the place you go after a night at the bars for a quick, greasy slice. I still have a fond memory of my girlfriend in college waking up with a folded-up slice in her tote bag from the night before. (Yes, she totally ate it for breakfast. It was college; we were broke!)

No, I chose Mr. Mike's for the memories. When I moved to Burlington in August 2001, I didn't know a single soul in town. What I did know, however, was that a college town like Burlington would have a music scene coalesced around a handful of bars and restaurants, where struggling musicians such as myself would work for shift meals.

It took me a few weeks, but I figured out pretty quickly that the metal and punk kids worked at Manhattan Pizza and Auntie Anne's, a pretzel shop in the University Mall. (For real, we called it Punk Rock Pretzel.) The hip-hop musicians seemed to work at T-shirt and skate shops that would last a year or so before getting replaced by another version of the same store. The jam band kids either worked at Advance Music or just, y'know, had trust funds.

What I found at Mr. Mike's was a collection of rock-band dirtbags. I was home, baby. I began working as a delivery driver. And just like the other two drivers, I was in a band and very, very unreliable. My guess is that Mr. Mike's didn't think all three of us could possibly forget, at the same time, that we were supposed to be at work, a criminally mistaken assumption. If you ordered a pizza to be delivered from Mr. Mike's in 2002, please reflect on the miracle if you actually received your food. My bad.

Gabe Wilhelm was my main cohort at Mr. Mike's. He was in a band called the Lestons, and I was in a band called Lobot, two scuzzy rock bands playing originals in a town that really just wanted Grateful Dead covers. I know some might read that with a laugh and say it's not much different now. But, believe me, the early 2000s were rough on indie bands — no Waking Windows, no Monkey House, no ArtsRiot; just lots of house parties and passing the hat around for scraps at Radio Bean.

Every other Friday, we'd host a band at Mr. Mike's. If you've been there, you know how absolutely terrible it is for a live band, but we didn't care. All we wanted was to make a home for bands playing original music — and for a while we sort of did. The number of delivery calls I skipped on those nights watching bands play should have gotten me fired.

The highlight show was a trippy-as-hell performance by a band called Charles, Dead or Alive, who dressed up like Abraham Lincoln for reasons I can't recall. The lowlight was when we booked a thrash metal act whose name escapes me, but I'm sure it included the word "corpse." The singer tried to scale one of the pinball machines, and the bartender whipped him in the privates with her dish towel before he broke the machine. The show ended right there on the spot, and I made a note never to fuck with that bartender.

Ironically, neither Gabe nor I ever played there with our bands. That was never really the point for us, though. We wanted to connect with the scene. That year, working at Mr. Mike's, I started friendships with some of the best musicians in town, friendships that have endured to this day.

So, 20 years later, as I stood in front of the old pizza spot, about to order my first Mr. Mike's pie since George W. Bush was president, I felt a wave of nostalgia. It had been a crappy job, and I'd been crappy at it. But Mr. Mike's was such an essential part of my entry into the city's music scene that I'll always be grateful, no matter what the pizza tastes like. (For the record, it's better than it used to be.)

Su Casa es ... the Depot?

Juston McKinney - COURTESY OF JUSTON MCKINNEY
  • Courtesy Of Juston Mckinney
  • Juston McKinney

There's a new entertainment spot in St. Albans. Well, sort of new. Formerly known as La Casa Loco Bar & Grill, the Depot opened in late September as a more entertainment-driven establishment. While La Casa Loco used to host weekend music, the Depot aims to bring more variety to St. Albans. Along with music, the venue now hosts murder mystery nights, comedians, all-male revue nights, R-rated hypnotists and drag shows.

"We're trying to take events that people would normally have to go to Burlington to see and bring them here to Franklin County," said owner Shannon Smith in a phone call.

Smith completely renovated the club during the COVID-19 lockdown in preparation for the relaunch. She said she hopes the new look and variety of entertainment options that the Depot offers will eventually turn the venue into "something like the Higher Ground of our area." She also hopes to book touring bands, as well as local ones, soon.

"We want people around St. Albans to associate the Depot with good, fun shows," Smith said.

Two shows in particular have Smith very excited: The first is the HalloQueen Drag Show on Saturday, October 30.

"I tried to plan a drag show for Halloween in 2019 but couldn't pull it off," Smith said. "So I'm excited to host it this year. We have a matinee show, as well. It's a bit more PG for younger people to come and see. The evening show is definitely adult."

The other show she's looking forward to is comedian Juston McKinney, who visits the Depot on Friday, November 5. The Portsmouth, N.H., native has appeared on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," among other high-profile gigs.

"We were watching videos on YouTube of his standup and just dying from laughter," Smith said.

Be sure to visit the Depot's calendar over at thedepotvt.com to check out all the cool, offbeat events coming to St. Albans.

Bite Torrent

Homeboy Sandman - COURTESY OF HOMEBOY SANDMAN
  • Courtesy Of Homeboy Sandman
  • Homeboy Sandman

There's a smoking-hot hip-hop show coming to Burlington this Friday, October 8. In a very last-minute booking, the Green Door Studio hosts New York City hip-hop heavyweight Homeboy Sandman; the studio is off Howard Street, behind ArtsRiot. The artist, whom Pitchfork calls "infinitely adaptable and stylistically unpredictable," headlines a huge night of hip-hop, including MC and beat maker Sevenqrtrs, New Hampshire rapper Cody Pope and Texas-based Air Max, as well as locals Mister Burns and Rico James.

It's an all-ages show that kicks off at 8 p.m. and has a suggested donation of $10.

Americana musician Brooks Hubbard plays the Briggs Opera House on Friday. Originally from New Hampshire, Brooks returns to the Upper Valley after six years of living and playing in Nashville, Tenn.

"There are certain places in the world that really polish an artist," said Jakob Breitbach, a promoter at the Briggs Opera House who plays fiddle in the Americana duo Jes & Jakob. "We like to think the Upper Valley could be one of those places, and Nashville is certainly one of those places."

Breitbach is eager for Hubbard's return. He said the musician is "bringing a new band of highly talented players from Nashville to back him up" at the homecoming show.

The Briggs Opera House, located in the heart of White River Junction, will host the in-person show while streaming Hubbard's performance online. For ticket and streaming info, head to hereinthevalley.org.


Slow Magic - COURTESY OF SLOW MAGIC
  • Courtesy Of Slow Magic
  • Slow Magic

EDM producer Slow Magic releases a new single this month, titled "OPEN." The song is three and a half minutes of pulsing beats, uplifting synths and samples — plus a quick blast of endorphins. The mysteriously masked performer, who is apparently based in Burlington, wrote the track after months of isolation. (Sound familiar?) According to a press release, "OPEN" is about "escapism and the desire for freedom."

The track will also appear on the bitbird label's newest compilation, Gouldian Finch 4, which releases on Friday. Catch Slow Magic in a homecoming show at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Saturday, October 30.