When the Rosewood Thieves take the stage at the Higher Ground Ballroom this Friday, November 4, in support of acoustic-pop phenoms State Radio, it will mark more than the debut performance of a local band on one of the grandest stages in the land — always a notable occurrence. It will also signify the rebirth of a talented tunesmith who nearly lost his gifts in a battle with personal demons.
In 2005, the Rosewood Thieves were a bright, up-and-coming outfit based in New York City. The brainchild of songwriter Erick Jordan, the band was touring nationally and gaining exposure thanks to placement on television shows such as “Entourage” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as positive press from media outlets including Spin, Magnet and National Public Radio. A fresh deal with V2 Records (the White Stripes, Moby) in hand, the Thieves were becoming legit. Then things took a sour turn.
V2 essentially folded shortly after the release of the band’s debut album, From the Decker House — a record that featured guest turns from the likes of Vetiver’s Andy Cabic, Whiskeytown’s Mike Daly and the Submarines’ Blake Hazard. The band continued to tour and release records and enjoyed modest success. But the pressures of a rapidly changing music business were beginning to take a toll on Jordan.
“I started losing my mind a bit,” he says in a recent phone conversation. That’s an understatement.
Jordan began experiencing frequent panic attacks that would often manifest as phantom physical ailments. Then, in 2009, while on tour in Eugene, Ore., he refused to take the stage, or even get out of the band’s van. These were not the antics of a petulant wannabe rock star; they signaled a complete nervous breakdown.
“I was really going crazy,” he says. “So I went to a hospital.”
Jordan says his bandmates had grown increasingly frustrated with his unpredictable behavior leading up to his refusal to play in Oregon. And, he notes, that wasn’t the first time he had to be coaxed out of the van. Nor was it the first time he checked himself into a hospital.
“I had developed a habit of checking myself into hospitals thinking I was dying,” he says.
Oregon was the last straw. Jordan’s bandmates left him at the hospital in Eugene and continued to the next stop on the tour without their lead singer.
“They played the next show in San Francisco without me,” he recalls. “Though I’m not really sure how.”
The Rosewood Thieves disbanded after that show. Abandoned in the Pacific Northwest, Jordan eventually made his was back east. He says he never had a problem with drugs and that he’s seen several doctors, none of whom have been able to pinpoint the source of his anxiety. So last year, he decided a change of scenery might help. Jordan relocated to Burlington, where he now works as a talent buyer at Red Square. He also began writing again.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to do music anymore,” he says. “So I came here to clear my head and figure things out.”
Jordan says he tried writing in the immediate aftermath of his breakdown, but nothing sounded right. He was trying to force the issue. Shortly after landing in Vermont, his creative juices began to flow again.
“It just started happening,” Jordan says. “I started to realize how much I missed playing and recording. But I was just such a mess before, I couldn’t do it.”
His new material is darker than the pop-informed indie and alt-country fans may remember. Though he adds that his latest suite of material marks a natural progression from where the Thieves left off.
“That was the direction we were heading in,” he explains. “It just took a little while to get back to it.”
What’s entirely new is his backing band, which is something of a local all-star ensemble: Ryan Hayes on drums, Zack duPont on guitar, Pat Melvin on bass and trumpeter Will Andrews.
Whether the Rosewood Thieves recapture faded glory is yet to be determined. And it’s almost irrelevant. Jordan is writing and performing again, and that is cause enough for celebration.
Speaking of glorious returns to the stage at Higher Ground, Eugene HÜtz is set for a homecoming of sorts in a rare acoustic show with his globe-trotting caravan of gypsy punks, Gogol Bordello, this Thursday, November 3. They’ll also play an electric set the following Thursday, November 10.
The acoustic show is a benefit for the Seven Below Arts Initiative’s Artist-in-Residence Program, which, in partnership with Burlington City Arts, hosts a pair of six-week residencies at Phish’s famed studio, the Barn, every summer. The overarching goal of the program is to “foster artistic development and to support arts education in the state of Vermont.” I like it.
No word on what GB’s acoustic set list will look like. But I emailed the band’s publicity rep to see what the chances were of Hütz perhaps busting out an old Fags tune or three, and to see if there had been any movement on a reunion of his late, great Burlington punk trio — which he hinted at when I interviewed him last year. As of press time, Hütz hasn’t replied. But if we all drunkenly chant “Ukrainian Folk Song” for a while, he’d pretty much have to oblige, right?
Happy trails, Unrestrained. The well-traveled BTV hardcore outfit is calling it quits after their show this Saturday, November 5, at the Hub in Bristol with Dangers, Draize, Spirit Quest and Trapper Keeper. Over the course of its five-year run, the band has logged more miles than any Vermont act not named Phish or Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, having played in 30 countries on three continents. In fact, the Bristol show comes on the heels of a two-week Central American tour.
Farewell, Adam King. The longtime local keyboardist and songwriter plays his final Burlington show, an all-star jam with Grateful Dead tributeers the Dead Sessions, this Thursday, November 3, at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge before lighting up, er, out for the Left Coast. Best of luck, Adam.
Band Name of the Week: Supersonic Piss. You gotta love any band whose motto is “fuckedfuckedandmorefucked.” And guess what? This Iowa City-based outfit is seriously fucked. This is some incredibly heavy metal and punk that’s not for the faint of heart — or hearing. It is violent, female-fronted rage distilled to its pure sonic essence. If this sounds like your thing … seek help. Then swing by the Monkey House on Tuesday, November 8.
Last but not least, this has been a Higher Ground-heavy column, but it’s worth noting that Lendway were just added to the bill alongside Chamberlin and VT expats the Milkman’s Union at the Showcase Lounge this Saturday, November 5. It’s also worth noting that Lendway are finishing work on a new series of singles to be released over the winter in an attempt to keep our ears warm, like jangly, indie-pop earmuffs.