- Courtesy Of Matthew Binginot
- Night Protocol
All right. It's time to get real, my friends. I've remained silent about something for a few months, but I can't keep my feelings bottled up anymore. We need to talk about Night Protocol.
In case you're late to the neon-streaked party, Night Protocol are a relatively new, Burlington-based synthwave and '80s cover band. They rock sparkly jacks, rainbow LED drumsticks and a freakin' keytar. I'm quite taken with them, and they perform this Friday, November 17, at Club Metronome in Burlington with Montpelier's Electrolads and Burlington's Robin Sunquiet.
You'd think that if there were a freshly minted local project that tickled my fancy, I'd be keen to shout it from the rooftops — or, at the very least, you'd think I would have already mentioned it in this column. But I've held back because of a personal association I have with guitarist/vocalist Justin Goyette. Truth be told, I've known him and his family for 20 years, and I've been on the fence about whether that's a conflict of interest.
Here's the thing, though: This is a small state and an even smaller city. You're always two degrees of separation away from anyone. And, given that I grew up here, it's likely that I've crossed paths with folks in the music community in another context at some point. But do I need to disclose to y'all my personal history with everyone whose name might appear in this column? If so, we might be here a while.
Here's a fun example of a past connection that no longer matters: Francesca Blanchard was my star pupil when I taught William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing to a gaggle of Charlotte Central School tweens as part of my high school graduation project in 2001. Is that a conflict in 2017? I don't think so, either.
But anyway, back to the band at hand. I first heard murmurings about Night Protocol around this time last year, but it wasn't until July, when they opened for argonaut&wasp at SideBar, that I finally laid eyes on them. It was a brain-melting, uncanny experience. The question that kept running through my mind was: Is this a joke?
In matching shutter shades, the guys onstage — keyboardist/drummer/vocalist Matthew Binginot (Nechromancer), bassist Ryan Blair and Goyette — enthusiastically ripped through party favorites such as Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" and Animotion's "Obsession" with spot-on impersonations of the original singers. They also shared original synth-tastic tunes from their self-titled EP.
Since the synthwave genre is itself intentionally referential of the 1980s — think scintillating electro acts like Com Truise and Tesla Boy — it wasn't clear to me if Night Protocol's apparent love of corny, '80s splendor was genuine or if something more layered was going on. They both were and weren't what they appeared to be.
To wit: They opened their set with a cover of the "Stranger Things" theme song. Like, how meta is that for an '80s cover band? The Netflix original series is infamous for Frankenstein-ing memorable cinematic moments and themes from the Reagan era into what I consider to be a rather flimsy pastiche. It's the show's most common criticism — not that that stops me from binge-watching it.
But by selecting the Kyle Dixon/Michael Stein composition as their introductory song, Night Protocol greeted their audience with a wink and a smirk. Were they signaling that, like "Stranger Things," they're just another nostalgia act, or was the whole thing a high-concept art project? Were they commenting on the nostalgia craze, or are they part of it?
Regardless of the band's true intention — and I'm likely overthinking it way more than anyone else — the most important thing I want to stress is how whimsical and over-the-top Night Protocol are. The second time I saw them, the linchpin of their set was Kenny Loggins' "Playing With the Boys" — you know, the song from the homoerotic beach volleyball scene in the 1986 classic Top Gun. I wondered if anyone would choose to cover that ridiculous song unless it was all a gag. As they played it, the actual sequence featuring Goose (Anthony Edwards), Maverick (Tom Cruise) and the rest of the hotshot airmen prancing about on the sand was projected behind them. It was so on-the-nose that it had to have been some kind of cultural commentary, right?
One final note: I've decided that fans of the band shall henceforth be known as Prototypes, or "Proties" for short. I'm a Proty, and you should be, too.
Speaking of nostalgia, fans of 242 Main — the all-ages, city-operated venue that shut down a year ago after more than three decades of operation — recently got a sneak peek at local documentary filmmaker Bill Simmon's forthcoming chronicle No Stage Diving: The Story of 242 Main. It debuted last Friday prior to local punks Blowtorch and Rough Francis' show at ArtsRiot. You can now view the trailer on Vermont Community Access Media's Vimeo page.
Nostalgia for the groundbreaking music venue started in January, just over a month after the club's farewell concert. That's when a hefty lineup of '90s-era punk and metal bands came together for the first time in years to perform in a special 242 reunion show of their own at Higher Ground in South Burlington. These included Jesus Nut, From the Ground Up and the Hemlock Verdict. Rocketsled headlined the event, but the group also ceded a bit of its time for band members Daryl Rabidoux and Greg Beadle, along with Brent Frattini, to surprise the audience with a mini-set from their post-Rocketsled outfit, the Cancer Conspiracy.
- Courtesy Of Luke Awtry Photography.
- The Cancer Conspiracy
The instrumental progressive-rock band was born out of the 242 scene in the late '90s, with its most active period spanning '98 to '02. Now, they're more or less back together and will perform selectively whenever they feel the time is right — like this week, for example.
If you missed the petite set at the Rocketsled show, you have a chance to see a full performance from the Cancer Conspiracy on Friday at the Monkey House in Winooski. Locals Tyler Daniel Bean and Blue Button open.
Rabidoux, who, along with Frattini, now lives in Providence, R.I., estimates that, prior to the January reunion, the Cancer Conspiracy hadn't performed together since '03 or '04.
"242 was closing, and that was a huge, huge thing for me and my friends," Rabidoux told Seven Days in a recent phone conversation. "[The club] coordinated its last show, and there were a lot of good bands on [the bill] — but they weren't representative of what 242 was to us.
"Someone joked around and said, 'Hey, if you guys are all gonna be there, why don't you get up onstage and play a couple songs?'" Rabidoux continued, explaining how the seemingly spontaneous set came about. "It was really fun and laid-back. It was all the stuff we really enjoyed when we first started."
Most of the tunes you'll hear on Friday are selections of the band's back catalog, but there may be some new material waiting in the wings.
"Now that we've brushed up the old stuff, maybe we can start working in some new material," said Rabidoux.
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.
From "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," "Maybe She's Not Such a Heinous Bitch After All"
Carly Rae Jepsen, "Cut to the Feeling"
Sleigh Bells, "Rainmaker"
SOPHIE, "It's Okay to Cry"