St. Patrick's Day is this Thursday, March 17. As usual, there's probably a bunch of bands playing at a bunch of bars in celebration of getting grotesquely drunk and in cartoonish appropriation of cultural traditions. What fun!
Look, I'm not going to write about that shit. If you're going out for Paddy's Day, you'll find what you're looking for just fine without my help. So have fun, and clean up when you're done. I'll be as far away from the bar scene as I can be. Actually, I might be in Barre. And you should be, too.
That's right. Barre. The best show on St. Patrick's Day isn't in Burlington or Montpelier or Brattleboro or Rutland. It's also not at a bar or a nightclub. It's at the stately Barre Opera House. Even crazier? There's nothing remotely Irish about it. In fact, what's going down in the Granite City is one of the biggest hip-hop shows in Vermont in recent memory: Scarface.
If you're unfamiliar, Scarface is a member of the seminal Houston rap group Geto Boys, widely considered pioneers of southern rap. But as a solo artist, dude is simply among rap's elite MCs. He regularly appears on lists of the all-time great MCs — outlets as disparate as hip-hop magazine the Source and the general-interest website about.com have placed him firmly in the top 20, which has gotta count for something, right? But here's the only opinion you need to trust: Chris Rock's.
On his website, the comedian lists his top-25 rap albums of all time — read the whole thing sometime; it's worth it. He's got Geto Boys' 1996 album The Resurrection, which heavily features Scarface, at No. 15. Just a couple notches below, at 18, is Scarface's 1991 solo album, Mr. Scarface Is Back. So, Chris, why is that album so great?
"Everything Biggie did, everything 'Pac did, everything Jay-Z does was originally done on the first Scarface album," Rock writes. "Biggie kills himself at the end of his first record; well, Scarface did it three years earlier. He was the first guy to do his rhymes in the first person about robbing people and drug dealing; he was the first guy to really talk about being depressed and being institutionalized, and how his mama is scared of him."
Are you ready for the kicker?
"He is the most underrated rapper of all time and absolutely in the top three. You cannot get to four without mentioning Scarface," Rock concludes. "Any rapper knows that."
That's some high goddamn praise from one of the most famous and knowledgeable hip-hop fans anywhere.
If that's not enough to convince you to go, the show is a benefit for the Friends for A-Dog Foundation, and it features a slew of locals in support. These include A-Dog's old crew, VT Union, Springfield's Causin' Effect — a new contender for best local rap group name — Burlington's Know Your Truth and Barre's hometown heroes Bar None the Best. Veteran local turntablist DJ Rekkon will spin beats, as will DJ Kanganade, joined by the group Self Portrait. Rajnii Eddins will offer spoken word. And hosting the show are comedians King Sha-mecca Blaze and Jade Marcotte. Tickets are available at barreoperahouse.org.
Or you could go see some drunk dudes in "Kiss Me I'm Irish" shirts butchering "Whiskey in the Jar." Your call.
- The Nancy Druids
OK, fine. If you reeeally want to see a fun Irish-ish show on Paddy's Day, I'll throw in one small plug for Everybody's Favorite Irish Drinking Songs Band. They're at Red Square for a late-afternoon engagement this Thursday, March 17.
Led by the Dirty Blondes' Rev. Diane Sullivan — Seven Days' art director — EFIDSB are ... well, they're just goofy and wildly entertaining. It's a sing-along, and the band even provides the songbooks. Something else they provide: potatoes, which they're apt to hurl at unsuspecting audience members.
In this space next week, we'll be doing a deep dive on 1990s Burlington alt-rock in preparation for the premiere of Bill Simmon's documentary on the Pants, High Water Mark: The Rise and Fall of the Pants. The screening is Saturday, March 26, at the Higher Ground Ballroom. And it's gonna be a special night, so get tix now. But why wait a whole week to the keep the dream of the '90s alive?
Once upon a time, Sean Toohey and Ann Mindell were members of Envy, another much-loved local '90s alt-rock act. The core members of Envy moved to Boston, where they became the Red Telephone and flirted with mainstream, major-label success before eventually fading away.
Flash to the present. Last year, RT released their first album in 15 years, Places You Return. That proved an apt title, as we learned that for RT guitarist Sean Toohey, the place he had returned to was Vermont.
He and Mindell, who are married, presently have a band called the Nancy Druids. I've yet to see them, and they haven't recorded anything yet. So, beyond a couple of Facebook videos — which to my ears evoke Envy and RT — the best description I have to go on comes from Toohey himself. Sean?
"Safe to imagine that we're mining a lot of the same ground," he writes in a recent email. "On our best day, an unholy union of the Kinks and the Church, sprinkled with shoegaze for good measure."
Find out for yourself when the Nancy Druids play "Exposure" on WRUV 90.1 FM this Wednesday, March 16. You can catch them in the flesh at the Monkey House in Winooski on Monday, March 21.
The summer festival announcements are about to start coming fast and furious. This week's breaking festie news comes to us from the Backwoods Pondfest, which leaked some artists last week.
This year marks the 10th annual Pondfest in Peru, N.Y. Playing in celebration of that milestone will be the Nth Power (see spotlight on page 68), the Blind Owl Band, Thunder Body, Tweed, Bella's Bartok, Capital Zen, Funknut and the Lynguistic Civilians. Oh, and the hybrid tribute band Pink Talking Fish, who are, of course, a tribute to Pink Floyd, the Talking Heads and Phish. Sigh...
If you follow the band, you know that PTF occasionally add to their name when they cover additional bands. For instance, Pink Talking Fish Are Dead, when they jam Jerry in there. Well, for Pondfest, the group bills itself as — wait for it — Pink Talking Fish Is Bowie. Because if you're going to be a shamelessly gimmicky cover band, why not be opportunistic, too?
(BTW, that sound you're hearing is Dino Bravo front man and PTF nemesis Matt Perry's head exploding.)
- Get a Grip
Last but not least, happy birthday, Get a Grip. The Rutland-based punk band, that was among Vermont's delegation to South by Southwest last year, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this week with a blowout bash at Radio Bean on Friday, March 18. Also on the bill are local punks Crafter, the Path and CBRASNKE. Listening In
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Sheer Mag, III EP
M. Ward, More Rain
Carter Tanton, Jettison the Valley
Wussy, Forever Sounds
Mothers, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired