Soundbites: Musical Game Shows, Hip-Hop Tours and Peg Tassey's New Band | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Soundbites: Musical Game Shows, Hip-Hop Tours and Peg Tassey's New Band

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4_7_8 now - COURTESY OF PEG TASSEY
  • Courtesy Of Peg Tassey
  • 4_7_8 now

Unless you decided to skip the rest of the paper on your way to opening the music section, you are well aware that Waking Windows happens this weekend. For this week's cover package ("Pump Up the Volume"), culture coeditor Dan Bolles and I laid out all sorts of previews and road maps to help you get the most out of the festival and one of the biggest music weekends all year. Even seasoned pros might need the guidance: There's as much going on as ever, between the comedy showcases, artist markets, book clubs, drag queens, DJs and, of course, soooo many bands.

Since we covered a lot of ground in that story, I'm not going to bother telling you which bands to catch in this column. Besides, one thing I've learned about Waking Windows over the years is that you rarely see your favorite performance coming. I remember being excited to see indie rock outfit (real soft R in that "rock") Real Estate play, but I ended up so bored that I almost took a nap in the rotary. But then I watched Australian psych rockers Pond, whom I barely knew about, absolutely destroy the Main Stage to the glee of all in attendance.

Happy accidents have always made Waking Windows my favorite musical event of the year. Another example: A few years back, my brother Pat and I wandered into the Monkey House to have a quick drink in the shade before heading back to the Main Stage. It was early enough in the day that the Monkey wasn't insanely packed, and a band from Montréal called Atsuko Chiba was setting up. Pat and I grabbed our beers and stood by the stage, curious what the Canadians were all aboot, as our northern neighbors might say.

What followed was the best show I've seen at Waking Windows to date. The band ripped through a prog-leaning, electro-indie rock set that was so hot it almost peeled the paint off the walls. I remember looking at Pat, laughing and saying "Hot damn, Waking Windows. It never fails."

May you all have at least one moment like that this weekend.

Spin the Wheel

Wheelz of Steel - COURTESY OF LONNY EDWARDS
  • Courtesy Of Lonny Edwards
  • Wheelz of Steel

The day before Waking Windows kicks off, there's another exciting show full of local talent — but with an interesting twist. On Thursday, May 12, in the Showcase Lounge, Higher Ground hosts the latest edition of "Wheelz of Steel: A Musical Game Show," a one-night event featuring some of the area's best musicians, loosely competing in a battle of bands that are formed right there on the stage.

Dreamed up by Lonny Edwards (the Earls of Bristol), the musical game show is, like Waking Windows, entering its 10th iteration; previously, it took place at ArtsRiot in Burlington and at Hatch 31, now the South Mountain Tavern, in Bristol.

"It started when I was throwing a birthday party for myself with a lot of my talented musician friends," Edwards told me by phone. "We all wanted to jam, but we needed to figure out how to play where we all took turns."

Edwards, who plays bass and percussion, came up with a game show-like idea: Create two makeshift bands from the participating musicians. Then spin two wheels: one to select the musical genre and the other to select the famous musician or band. Give the bands approximately 10 minutes to adapt the artist to the genre. Past examples include James Brown paired with heavy metal for an impromptu band called Back in Brown, and Edwards' personal favorite: One of the bands had to play Prince songs as reggae.

"It's like karaoke on steroids," Edwards said. "I love the chaotic nature of it all, and I'm like a mad scientist in my capacity to tolerate chaos."

This week's game features a stellar lineup of Vermont talent. Miriam Bernardo, Brian Boyes, Craig Mitchell, Caleb Bronz, Nate Gusakov and Leon Campos are just a handful of the artists on the roster. Edwards can't wait to see how they fare under the pressure — even if the pressure is largely imagined.

"It's a 'competition,' but one that should be in air quotes," he admitted. "We're pretending it's a competition, but, really, we're just here to have fun and show off and be playful."

Edwards points out that judges will score based on categories such as Best Name and Epic-osity (aka How Epic Was That?), so the criteria are a bit subjective. But it's really about how the musicians adapt the songs to new genres, he said, which can lead to both headaches and epic jams. Edwards recalls a year when the wheel spins presented one of the bands with Aretha Franklin and opera.

"That's when I realized there were some categories that just won't fly," he said with a laugh. "It was a total train wreck! Opera takes a certain amount of trained skill, and if you don't have it, you really can't pull it off."

His favorite performance was either when the Grift's Peter Day played "Rubber Ducky" from "Sesame Street" as a Cajun song, or when a band played the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" in klezmer style.

The best part is that the audience picks the winners, Edwards said, making it a truly interactive experience. He contends that it helps break the fourth wall between artists and audience.

"It shows the audience how musicians think and communicate in real time, which is fascinating to me," said Edwards. "It also short-circuits the worst tendencies in musicians, which is to be competitive or hyperfocused on precision. We're making everyone have fun."

BiteTorrent

Mister Burns - COURTESY OF LUKE AWTRY PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Of Luke Awtry Photography
  • Mister Burns

Local hip-hop hits the road as some of the Green Mountains' best MCs tour together this summer. Dillon, Mister Burns, Jarv and Eyenine are teaming up for the Windjammers Tour, an East Coast swing that will take them from Montpelier to Gainsville, Fla., in May and June.

No, the Windjammers Tour isn't sponsored by South Burlington's Windjammer Restaurant. The name is a reference to '90s Neo Geo arcade game Windjammers, aka the game I'd skip over on my way to play X-Men vs. Street Fighter. Why choose that name for the tour, you say? Glad you asked. The rappers will host tournaments of the game throughout the tour, where fans can challenge the artists for some very niche bragging rights.

Put together by Burlington management company Aeolian Sound and sponsored by Venetian Ginger Ale, the tour kicks off on May 18 in Brooklyn.

OK, fine. Here's a little more Waking Windows news: New band alert! Burlington rocker Peg Tassey has assembled her first fully electric band in 22 years, called 4_7_8 now. The band, an eight-piece act including two backup singers and an artist for "live extrapolation," takes its name from an antianxiety breathing technique and plays music "to kiss by while the patriarchy falls," according to a press release.

Tassey first came to local prominence in the early '90s Burlington scene, playing with acts such as the Hollywood Indians and releasing several albums. In 2000, she formed the acoustic act the Kissing Circle before a vocal cord injury forced her to take some time away. She's back and in full rock mode now with a band featuring members of Burlington acts Lily Seabird, the Discussions, and Lillian and the Muses.

Tassey and 4_7_8 now make their live debut at Waking Windows this Friday, May 13, at the Monkey House.

Waking Windows isn't the only institution making a comeback after COVID-19 fucked everything up. That's right, the Daysies are back! Ready to have the Penny Cluse/Sneakers debate again?

Seriously, though, there are a bunch of categories this year for bands, comics, drag performers, venues, you name it. We need to hear your voices, people. Who deserves readers' praise and a fancy plaque?

The first round of voting starts on Monday, May 16, followed by a second round beginning on June 20. Voting closes on July 3, giving us a month to tally votes and plan the party — which you better believe is coming back, too! Pop over here to cast your vote.