Aaaand we’re back!
Raise your hand if you were irked last Wednesday to go to the newsstand, hot to pick up the latest edition of Seven Days, only to discover there was no new issue. I know! Before entering the employ of Vermont’s Independent Voice, I used to get fooled by that every year. Never failed to ruin my day — a man needs his News Quirks and I-Spy, dammit. Now? I love it, since it means we’re on vacation. Sweet, sweet vacation … where was I? Oh, right. Back from vacation.
Well, back we are and, right off the bat, 2012 is shaping up to be a busy year on the local music front. So let’s get to it, and maybe toss in a few 2012 predictions for good measure.
(2012 prediction: In the nearly five years I’ve been writing this column, not one of my predictions has come true. That streak ends this year. You just watch.)
Vermont, and in particular Burlington, has long had a close-knit music scene. It’s one of the cool things about being a relatively insular community — it’s an actual community. But in recent months, I’ve spoken to a number of people who bemoan a perceived fracture, or lack of cohesiveness, in our cozy little scene. Some point to lower attendance at shows, others to fewer all-local shows. Still others suggest there’s a general disconnect, not only between bands and fans, but among bands themselves. I’m not sure I agree entirely. (Case in point: Did you happen to go to Bob Wagner’s epic, all-local holiday bash at Metronome last month?) But this is a little disturbing to hear nonetheless.
When Burlington music is at its most lively and vibrant, it really does feel like a cohesive group of artists and fans all pulling for one another and pushing each other to get better. Sometimes it feels like everyone in the entire city is in a band and there’s too much to choose from. At other times, it seems like we’ve been seeing the same five acts every weekend for six months. As with anything else, the scene has peaks and valleys.
(2012 prediction: We’re about to hit a serious peak. And trust me, you’ll know it.)
Here’s my take. Vermont currently has more bands and artists than ever. Want proof? Last year, Seven Days reviewed 100 albums. All but two or three were strictly local, and even those had strong VT ties. That’s unprecedented for this paper — typically we throw in a few national albums out of necessity during lean weeks. And we still have records from 2011 in the queue.
In other words, the scene is growing. So it makes sense that some music lovers may feel overwhelmed and disconnected amid the growing swell. Finding your niche as an artist has always been easy here, but maybe it’s becoming less so. Let’s talk about that.
This Saturday, January 14, Big Heavy World, Halogen Media and consummate Queen City scene booster Joe Adler are hosting the Vermont Musicians’ Summit at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. The idea is to offer local musicians, representatives and other assorted folks the chance to gather in one place, swap war stories, network, share ideas and, of course, rock out. It’s like a business social mixer, minus the annoying business people. Also, I’m told there will be hors d’oeuvres.
The evening begins with a pair of discussion panels. The first is a rundown of the ins and outs of booking gigs, from both sides of the trenches — artists and venues. The second focuses on the “Past, Present and Future of Vermont Music,” which is always a fun topic. Heads up: I’ll be sitting in on the latter. But please don’t let that stop you from going. I’m really quite cuddly in person.
Then the real fun begins. Adler and Co. have lined up an impressive array of local talent to rock the night away whilst everyone is glad-handing and exchanging cards. The bill includes Something With Strings, the Wee Folkestra, Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band, the Smittens, Anna Pardenik, the Wind Woods with Brett Hughes and Russ Lawton, SoulE Monde and the Human Canvas.
(2012 prediction(s): Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band will blow up the top block of Church Street during the Burlington Discover Jazz Fest (metaphorically, of course); the new Smittens record will kick ass — in a bubbly, twee sort of way; and Anna Pardenik and her Vermont Joy Parade comrades will reach a Hasselhoff-ian level of fame in Germany, where they have been killing it for the last several months.)
Speaking of summits, the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture in Montpelier has a big weekend lined up with a mix of workshops and performances called the Winter Folk Music Festival. It begins on Saturday, January 14, with a fiddle and banjo workshop led by local folk hero Pete Sutherland, followed by a concert at the Black Door with Sutherland, Jeremiah McLane, Sarah Blair and headliners Sheesham and Lotus. On Sunday, January 15, Brendan Taffe leads a singing workshop followed by an afternoon hoedown at the Savoy Theater with Mayfly and the Speckers. For more info, check out summit-school.org. (2012 prediction: 7D finally does that Summit School profile that I’ve been promising fiddler and school honcho Katie Trautz for the last two years.)
Mushpost unveiled a new series last month called Mushpost’s Social Club. As opposed to the more challenging bass music the EDM collective is typically known for, Social Club offers a distinctly more chill vibe. Specifically, downtempo, which comprises styles from trip-hop to nu-jazz and beyond. The next installment is Wednesday, January 18, at Radio Bean. And it’s rumored that future editions are slated for the basement speakeasy at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill. (2012 prediction: Roughly 4176 new EDM genres will emerge, each more semantically nitpicky than the last. Also, my head will explode.)
Happy trails, Aleck Woog. The Montpelier-based MC has made a name for himself in VT hip-hop circles over the last few years and has shown impressive artistic growth along the way. But, alas, he’s moving on and heading for Oregon later this month. Before he goes, he’s bidding his hometown a fond farewell with a sendoff show at the greatest bar in the world, Charlie O’s, on Wednesday, January 18. Well wishers that night include Loud One, SkySplitterink, Mr. Yee and Tank, Face One and Mertz. Good luck, Aleck.
Congrats to Gregory Douglass. As if hanging with The Situation from “Jersey Shore” on the web TV series “New Stage” wasn’t enough, the local pop prince was featured on the December 28 broadcast of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” If you missed it, you can find the interview here. And, yes, that was the first time NPR and The Situation have ever been mentioned in the same sentence, as far as we know.
Montpelier electro-pop trio Champagne Dynasty is celebrating the release of their debut album on State & Main Records this Friday, January 13, at Positive Pie 2. I haven’t heard the CD yet, but a few little birdies have told me it’s very, very good. Judging by their contributions to last year’s two S&M comps, I believe it. Golden Dome hip-hop acts Danny Bick and Boomslang open.
Last but not least, registration for the second annual Vermont Battle of the Bands at venues all over Middlebury is now open. To refresh your memory, Split Tongue Crow took the top prize last year, and will return to defend their crown this year. If you think you can take those motherfolkers down, fill out an application at vtbob.com by Wednesday, February 1.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Veronica Falls, Veronica Falls
The Roots, Undun
Alex Chilton, Free Again: The “1970” Sessions
The Weeknd, Echoes of Silence
The Temptations, The Definitive Collection