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Tha Union Workers

Soundbites: Tha VT Union, The Cirkestra


Published March 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.

We haven’t heard much from local hip-hop collective Tha VT Union in a while. I guess they’ve just been too busy to drop their friendly neighborhood music critic a line . . . sniffle.

As it turns out, that’s exactly the case. The boys have been hard at work on a follow-up to last year’s phenomenal mixtape, which was poignantly titled, um, Tha Mixtape. The disc essentially served as my personal indoctrination into local hip-hop, but was especially notable for the numerous nationally known talents making cameos, including Smif-N-Wessun and Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon.

This time around Nastee, Dakota, DJ A-Dog and the rest of tha Union crew return with, er, Tha Return — really, guys? VTU is nothing if not direct, I suppose. The disc hits shelves later this month and features even more big-name hype. Legendary freestyle guru Craig G, better known as the guy putting all those snappy lines in the mouths of rival battle rappers in Eminem’s film biopic 8 Mile, makes an appearance, as does noted underground MC, R.A. The Rugged Man, who, once upon a time, worked with the late, great Notorious B.I.G.

VTU has been busy outside the studio as well. The crew pretty much owns the bottom of the Church Street Marketplace, as various members hold down DJ residencies at either Red Square or 1/2 Lounge every night of the week from Tuesday through Sunday. They’ve also been gearing up for some big gigs by regularly performing at Newport’s West Shore Pub.

Just what would those said “big gigs” be, you ask? How about Friday, March 28, with Grammy Award-winning hip-hop icons Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and again opening for Wyclef Jean on Thursday, April 4, at St. Mike’s. Catholic school may never be the same.

Tha Name Game

Nothing brings a smile to the collective face of area boozehounds like a new watering hole. If there’s one thing our cozy little corner of the globe needs, it’s a new bar. And universal health care, eh? Whoa! What the hell is Peter Freyne doing in “Sound Bites”? Go back to your own column, dude. Weird.

Anyway, I’m pleased to pass along that, last weekend, the nightlife-challenged hamlet of Colchester welcomed a new joint to the fold. Drinkers of Chittenden County, rejoice!

Located at 127 Porters Point Road in the old Hi-Note Karaoke space — can’t imagine why that didn’t work out — the bar is currently called “Club TBA” because, as of this printing, they’ve yet to decide on a moniker. It’s never wise to rush this sort of decision — just ask the middle-school English flunkies who named “What Ale’s You.” So the owners should be commended for taking their time to get it right.

In the meantime, they’re sponsoring a competition to ferret out the appropriate appellation before the nightclub is truly baptized by firewater. Owners Brad Luck and Matt Rogerson, better known as the masterminds behind noted Burlington meat market Rasputin’s, are going straight to the source and taking suggestions from patrons as to what they’d like their new favorite dive to be called. No word yet on the top contenders, but may we humbly suggest “Spukin’s North?” Just a thought.

On tap this weekend — in addition to beer, of course — are the rock ’n’ roll stylings of Dan Parks and The Blame on Friday, followed by the Saturday night shenanigans of The High Rollers.

Eastern Rock Block, Tha Return

Western music with Eastern European roots is all the rage these days. From VT ex-pat Eugene Hutz’s Gypsy-punk degenerates Gogol Bordello to the dramatic aural aesthetics of indie faves DeVotchKa, it seems Balkan is the new Latin. To which we enthusiastically say, “xyóaB,” which is apparently Bulgarian for “good.” Who knew?

Locally, we’ve seen our fair share of musical caravans pass through the region, including the aforementioned acts and lesser-known troupes such as Romanian Gypsy-punkers Luminescent Orchestrii, who recently blew through Little Odessa, er, Montpelier, for a hair-raising gig at the Langdon Street Café. Word on the street is that it was xyóaB. Really xyóaB.

This Thursday, the capital-city caravan continues — see what I mean, folks? I’m already running out of clever Gypsy phrases — as LSC hosts Boston’s The Cirkestra as part of the venue’s Green Mountain Film Festival kickoff party. The group has received a healthy amount of regional press for their frenetic brand of Eastern European circus music. In fact, in what may be the greatest line he ever wrote, my predecessor Casey Rae-Hunter had this to say the last time the circus came to town, in 2006: “Swings like a carnie in a drunken brawl.” Well played, sir.

In related news, local “klez-hobos” Inner Fire District have a slate of gigs lined up this weekend. This is notable because the band has been unusually quiet of late as controversial clarinetist Zoe Christensen has been recovering from a mysterious hand ailment that has sidelined her for several months. Though as yet unconfirmed, Christensen is rumored to have injured the appendage routinely flipping off Church Street Marketplace officials who refused to let her busk on the mall’s hallowed bricks.

Catch ’em this Friday at The Skinny Pancake in Burlington, or Saturday at Montpelier’s Black Door Bar & Bistro.

Tha Bard

You know who deserves more ink in the Seven Days music section? William Shakespeare! Seriously, the dude had mad flow, yo.

The Vermont Stage Company recently received a grant from the Vermont Arts Council to employ a composer for its upcoming performance of the bard’s classic tragedy King Lear, which opens at the FlynnSpace on April 23. (Which, coincidentally, is the date he died, in 1616.)

VSC Artistic Director Mark Nash has tabbed noted local composer/experimental percussionist Brian Johnson to write the score and perform the piece live for the play’s 12-show run. Johnson, who also manages the FlynnSpace, is renowned for his, shall we say, unusual approach to both percussion and composition. Imagine if you will, a 10-minute triangle concerto and you’ll get the idea.

VSC’s version of Lear — the first local professional Shakespeare production in the state in at least a decade, according to Nash — will have a decidedly industrial feel; the set is primarily composed of steel and iron. Johnson’s contribution will be to provide a soundscape as only he can do it. To wit, when discussing the play’s metallic set, Nash remarked, “Wouldn’t it be great if you had some big oil drums or pieces of metal to bang on as part of your percussion kit?” To which Johnson replied, “What makes you think I don’t?”

Can’t wait to hear the storm scene.