- Courtesy Of Shervin Lainez
- Rubblebucket's Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver
Here we are, on the precipice of a New Year's Eve like none we've ever experienced. I know I'm getting ahead of myself a smidge, because the big night isn't until next week. But next week's music section will be dedicated solely to recapping the year's best local albums. I'm particularly pleased with this year's crop of local music — not only because of the adversity musicians worldwide have overcome, having had their livelihoods taken away, but because y'all made some exceptional work this year. Anyway, back to NYE.
Aside from the fact that huge ragers and the like just aren't feasible under pandemic restrictions, even little things are all messed up. For instance, COVID-19 makes a simple midnight kiss potentially lethal if the person isn't part of your quarantine bubble. (Jeez, could I have picked a darker, more downer way to start my final column of 2020?)
Most folks 'round these parts will likely spend next Thursday, December 31, at home. At least, I hope so. Please, for the love of all that is holy (specifically: concerts, dance parties and music festivals), stay home — and experience the virtual Burlington NYE festival Highlight.
Highlight debuted two years ago as a replacement for First Night Burlington, which ended its 35-year run in 2018. Whereas First Night was a wholly curated event, Highlight is based in part on community-sourced pitches for entertainment. That's the case again this year for the fest's virtual incarnation: Highlight House Party.
But this ain't no wonky, buffering, hit-or-miss Facebook Live streaming event. Highlight's presenters, Burlington City Arts and Signal Kitchen, worked hard to find a premium, professional-grade platform from which to stream a massive number of eclectic performances. The site is called Run the World, and it's your one-stop shop for all things Highlight. Get all of the info, including a full list of performances and the ticketing link, at highlight.community.
During a virtual press conference on December 18, reporters and other community members were given early access to see how the site functions. Essentially, ticket holders will be able to channel surf between "stages" all day without having to leave the site. Hot tip: If you have an actual TV, cast performances from your computer or a mobile device for a better viewing experience.
"For those who have Zoom fatigue — this will not happen with this platform," said BCA executive director Doreen Kraft. "What I love about [Run the World] is that Burlington is able to roll out the red carpet and say 'welcome' to the world, right here, live from Burlington, Vt."
Performances start at 1 p.m. and go straight through to 1 a.m. on Friday, January 1. Read on for some must-see performances.
Everyone's Your Friend in New York City
More than 100 people will be playing music, dancing, teaching yoga, offering cooking lessons and who the hell knows what else during Highlight's 12-hour run. According to the event's organizers, some bigger, exciting announcements may still await us, to be announced after press time for this column, unfortunately. Keep your eye on Highlight's site and socials for more updates.
One pretty cool major event that has been announced is a mini festival from Rubblebucket's Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver. The former Burlingtonians, now based in New York City, are pulling together a small group of musicians to put on a multi-hour showcase, set time TBA.
During a recent phone call with Seven Days, Toth said he was initially unsure whether to do any kind of December 31 performance.
"A solo livestream on New Year's Eve — that sounds terrible to me," he said. But the more he thought about it, Toth said, the more possible it seemed. The core members of Rubblebucket were miraculously all available, and Toth said that everyone would be getting coronavirus tests before putting it all together.
Rubblebucket will stream from a "huge, fancy apartment" in Manhattan owned by renowned songwriter Jesse Harris — he wrote Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why." In addition to a set from Rubblebucket, Toth will perform some music from his side-project, Tōth, and Traver will play selections from her other gig, Kalbells. Traver will also serve as the event's MC, conducting interviews with the musicians and spinning records. Both Tōth and Kalbells have new albums out this spring.
Also, Toth said that he and Traver have been penning some new Rubblebucket material. He hinted that a new record could be out late next year and that it's possible viewers might get a sneak peek during their Highlight House Party.
"Kal and I are in love with the new songs," Toth said. But since they haven't played a live show for a long time, he added, "Fans will appreciate hearing songs they know."
What's on Tap?
Since every Highlight House Party is BYOB by design, I asked a bunch of performers what food and beverage pairs best with their sets. I also asked them about their hopes, wishes and predictions for 2021. See the list below.
Hammydown's Abbie Morin went above and beyond and sent us an actual recipe that sounded too delicious not to share.
In addition to a locally sourced charcuterie board, Morin suggested Big Abbie's Hot Buttered Rum. You'll need two ounces of blackstrap rum, one tablespoon of cultured butter, one teaspoon of maple syrup, pinches of cinnamon and flaky salt, grated nutmeg, and hot water.
"In a small bowl, mix room-temperature butter, spices and maple together. Spoon a dollop into a warm mug, along with your rum. Top with hot water from the kettle and stir well. Finish with finely grated nutmeg, and a slice of orange zest if you wish!" Morin, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, wrote in an email.
Morin also mentioned that they've been hard at work on a new record and are "halfway through recording." Morin plays keys in Vermont expat Caroline Rose's band, and they tapped Rose to produce the as-yet-untitled new record.
Expect to hear some of the new tunes during Morin's Highlight set.
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.
Beyoncé, "Black Parade"
LA Priest, "What Moves"
When Saints Go Machine, "MVL - Club Edit"
Poliça, "Forget Me Now"
It's Their Party, and You'll Drink What They Want You To
Among the best things about New Year's Eve parties are decadent food and drink spreads. But since everyone will be watching the event's offerings from their own homes, Highlight House Party is essentially BYOB. So we asked a few of this year's performers what food and drink viewers should "bring" to their show. As of press time, set times had yet to be announced, but keep an eye on Highlight House Party at highlight.community and on social media for updates.
Pete Sutherland (Pete's Posse): We'd like to see singing and dancing 24-7, especially by people who've never sung or danced. Let's jig, reel and rock!
BYOB: Veggie gyozas and Thai iced tea.
Marcie Hernandez: My prediction for 2021 is that we will eventually be able to take off our masks and hug our friends. But I'm not sure if handshakes will ever come back. Do they really need to? (I've never been a big fan.)
BYOB: Fried plantains and a glass of coquito.
Eric George: I hope the garbage fire of 2020 leaves behind enough ash for us all to make soap with. I have so much unreleased music that just needs one more bath to be ready for the ball.
BYOB: Gin and tonic with a sprig of rosemary, and a deviled egg.
Will Keeper: I'm looking forward to watching season two of "Euphoria" (whenever it comes out). My hope is that everyone actively invests in their own happiness as much as they can.
BYOB: Thai food (drunken noodles from East West Café is my favorite dish) and cheap pinot noir. Shirley Temple for the wee ones.
Rebecca Mack (Amerykanka): Besides wanting my loved ones to survive the pandemic, I want a new era of true equity, justice and thriving for people of color worldwide.
BYOB: Herbal tea (rose petals, rose hips, lemon balm and raspberry leaf) and local, raw honey. Also, apple cider vinegar shots.
Myra Flynn: I hope that 2021 is full of less resolutions and more reflection. I feel like we have been in survival mode for so long. What art, new love, change and transformation can come out of looking at it all through a lens of hindsight? What can we do with all of this pain?
BYOB: FLYNN Wine from Shelburne Vineyard.
DJ Llu: My hope for 2021 is that we return to having many joyful, fun and connective happenings to look forward to: concerts, movies, festivals, gatherings and hugs.
BYOB: A hot cup of tea and some cookies.