One of the best parts of being the music editor for the state’s preeminent rag is that, within reason, I pretty much get to make up my own rules. Like, for example, last week when I declared Soundbites a “jazz-free zone” during Jazz Fest. Somewhat surprisingly, given that I did the exact same thing during last year’s festivities, designating this column a refuge from all things jazz-tacular appears to have ruffled some feathers. A number of readers wrote in to express their displeasure that I had chosen to “ignore” the biggest annual music event in the state. To which I can only say, “wha’?”
Forgetting for the moment the seven weeks of artist spotlights leading up to the festival, and last week’s cover story about Belizbeha — who flat out killed it last Saturday, by the way — and the rundown of free-ish shows in the same issue, and the Pink Martini interview in this issue, and devoting my weekly TV spot on WPTZ (Thursdays at 11 p.m.!) to the opening weekend and my daily live spots this week on their 5:30 NOW broadcasts from Church Street … you’re absolutely right. I’ve obviously been reticent in my coverage. Please, allow me to explain.
The thought process here was twofold. One, as I sarcastically inferred above, we’ve been talking about the Jazz Fest for months. It’s not like you don’t know what’s going on — at the moment, you can’t walk out your front door in Burlington without stumbling over a saxophone.
The second part of the equation was simply that, believe it or not, there is still plenty of music happening around town and throughout the state that in no way involves jazz, or even — are you sitting down? — Jazz Fest. Don’t those folks deserve some love, too? I think they do.
So, to anyone who felt jilted by my perceived lack of interest in this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, accept my heartfelt apologies. And as always, thanks for (selectively) reading.
And now, let’s not talk about some jazz!
Curses! (Are Fun)
Leading off this week, we have a fun-for the-whole-family event, “Fucked Up Music v. 3” at Justin Gonyea’s (Romans, Vultures of Cult) sorta newly minted recording studio/performance space, The Long Moustache. The only thing is, although anyone and everyone is welcome to attend — except maybe whole families, now that I rethink this — I’m not supposed to tell you where it is, exactly. Um … sorry ’bout that.
That said, industrious Encyclopedia Brown-types who can decipher this fiendishly clever musical riddle — hint: try Google — will be delighted to find a slew of up-and-coming avant-garde rock and noise types of both the local and national variety gracing the stage. They are: These Are Powers (Brooklyn/Chicago); Crank Sturgeon (Burlington); A Snake in the Garden (Burlington); Cosmic Matrix (Burlington); Lawrence Welks and Our Bear to Cross (Burlington); Maui (Burlington); Son of Salami (Burlington); Toby Aronson (Burlington); and tooth ache. (Burlington).
Erin McDermott and her Montpelier-based Americana outfit the Dixie Red Delights are gearing up for their first-ever East Coast tour later this month. Halogen Records lined up the eight-show, 10-day jaunt, which will see them travel as far south as North Carolina, with stops in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia and Philly before a homecoming finale at Charlie O’s on July 4. With the notable exception of ace guitarist Doug Perkins, the entire band from their charmingly down-home debut Bear Hoot will make the trip. Also tagging along are guitarist Jay Ekis and mandolinist Matt Schrag.
This Saturday, the capital city’s Black Door Bar and Bistro will host a sendoff/birthday party for the band. Best of luck, guys.
Summer of [Still Blank]
Despite last week’s plea for help devising an appropriate name for the now-under-way summer of marquee musical madness, my inbox remained remarkably quiet — save for those with a Jazz Fest ax to grind, of course. Nobody has any ideas? Really? Well, at least I’m not alone. Still, we really should come up with something to call it, don’t you think? So the offer still stands: a free T-shirt to the best submission. You have until Kid Rock’s third encore.
In the meantime, the Summer of [Blank] rolls on with more music than you can shake a stick — or a credit card — at. Specifically, this weekend’s 10th annual Roots on the River Festival in Bellows Falls, which runs from Thursday to Sunday.
Thursday, folk songwriting giants Sonny Landreth and Chris Smither headline the opening festivities at the Bellows Falls Opera House. Friday features double-barreled guitar god Junior Brown opening for Juno-award winner Fred Eaglesmith — the latter of whom is the traditional guest of honor and will also play Saturday and Sunday with his band, The Flying Squirrels.
But for my money, the real coup de grace is Saturday night’s performance by seminal, yet eternally underappreciated, alt-country outfit The Bottle Rockets, who are making their second consecutive trip to the fest. If you love alt-country and you’ve never seen The Bottle Rockets, Roots on the River should be on your weekend’s to-do list.
In almost any other year, the lineup for this annual shindig would probably rank among the top two or three fests in the state, roots-oriented or otherwise. But, as we all know, this ain’t no ordinary year. Still, it should be a rollicking four days in Bellows Falls. For ticket info and a full schedule of artists and performances, visit www.rootsontheriver.com.
In two weeks — June 19 and 20 — the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life fundraiser will take place at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds. Chances are, you know someone who is participating, as the event typically draws thousands of supporters. If you haven’t already, find that person and donate. And if you don’t know anyone who is walking, give us a call at Seven Days. I believe we have two teams participating this year. Better still, make a point to check out one of two related musical “relays” happening this weekend, courtesy of local songwriter Carol Abair. Friday the entire Abair family — they’re like the von Trapps, but rootsier — will appear with noted tunesmiths Karen McFeeters, Craig Anderson and Rebecca Padula at the Memorial Hall in Essex, in a sort of songwriter-in the-round session.
The following night, Abair’s husband Phil will crank it up with his rock band, the aptly titled Phil Abair Band, at the Elk’s Club on North Avenue in Burlington. Tickets for both shows are available at the door or by calling 578-8574. All proceeds benefit the ACS.
Indie-folk fans take note: Portland, Oregon’s Laura Gibson and Musee Mechanique make a return trip to VT this Friday, courtesy of Angioplasty Media. Local songwriter Shawn Grady opens the show at The Monkey House. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
And finally, several months ago, I happened to catch a band from Franklin, VT, called How to Stay Alive in the Woods, I believe at The Monkey House. Though my memory of the evening is a bit fuzzy — it was a while ago — an email I recently received from the band claims that I really liked them and that I asked them to get in touch with me when they had more shows.
Personally, I’m really curious to find out whether or not I actually liked them, or if they are just putting me on with an ingenious PR stunt. They’ll begin a solid run of local shows with a performance at Designhaus this Saturday, followed by an appearance at Higher Ground’s ongoing local-ish showcase Northern Exposure, Wednesday, June 17, in Showcase Lounge.