The news spread through the blogosphere, Twitter and Facebook like e-wildfire last Wednesday morning. To paraphrase: “Omigodomigodomigod! Lauryn Hill is coming! To Vermont! In, like, two weeks! Omigodomigodomigod!”
Not surprisingly, word of the former Fugee’s impending Higher Ground date was widely met with excitement bordering on giddiness — dampened only slightly by the sticker shock of $60 tickets. For one thing, Hill is flat-out amazing, even if her only significant solo release, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, came out 12 years ago. She also had an MTV Unplugged album in 2002.
For another thing — and this ties into the first point — Hill is kind of like the pop-music equivalent of a unicorn, or, to be more regionally specific, an albino moose. Sightings of Ms. Hill have been increasingly infrequent over the years. As such, a certain mystique has developed around the talented but mercurial diva, to the point that it may have inflated her legacy. Think about it: How many other artists who have released only one great record and haven’t really done anything in more than a decade would you pay $60 to see and hardly bat an eye? I can’t think of any. But, like many of you, I would be in line, smiling and waiting to fork over the cash to see Hill. Y’know, if I paid to see shows. Or if I, er, knew when the show was going to happen.
Almost as soon as the show was announced, the press release vanished from the HG website. It reappeared the next day, but with news that the concert had been moved from Wednesday, December 15, to Friday, December 17. The following day that release was yet again modified, saying that Grateful Dead legacy band Furthur would no longer be playing the Shelburne Muse … oops, wrong scandal. Sorry.
The announcement, still on the HG website as of this filing, states, “Due to unforeseen scheduling issues, the date for the Lauryn Hill show originally announced for mid-December may be moved (again). We’re being told that the show will happen, however the exact date is still being worked out.”
So, there you go. Mystery solved!
On a serious note, the show was scheduled to celebrate HG’s 12th anniversary. It’s been an interesting, and in many ways challenging, year for the region’s marquee juke joint. But we’re lucky to have it. And the opportunity to see an artist of Lauryn Hill’s caliber — whenever that opportunity actually materializes — is a fine reason why.
In Memory of In Memory of Pluto
This is the part of the job I hate the most. No, no, not compiling club listings, or reading angry letters from crazy/humorless people about something I’ve written, or even doling out a harsh review. My least favorite part of being “that guy from Seven Days/on the TV” is eulogizing great local bands that have decided to call it quits, or move away, or both quit and move away. Please bow your heads.
Over the last few years, few local bands have hit with as much force as In Memory of Pluto. The high-octane pop-punk quintet was among the most exciting live bands in town from the moment it plugged in. Over time, and through noticeable hard work, the band was even able to match the ferocity of those dynamic live shows on record — no small feat. Both IMOP’s 2008 release, Cutting Open the Fiction, and 2009’s 1994 made this critic’s top 10 “Best Of” list in their respective years. They were the total package. But, alas, the band’s time has come.
This Saturday at the Monkey House, In Memory of Pluto will rock out one final time, with opening support from Husbands AKA. Really, the “official” announcement regarding the group’s finale shouldn’t come as a shock. The band has been on an indefinite hiatus since at least the spring, while members focused on other projects. I smell a segue…
What projects? So glad you asked! (Don’t try that at home, kids; I’m a professional.)
Lead vocalist Seth Gallant will continue playing with Maryse Smith and the Rosesmiths, as well as with hygiene-averse rockers the Dirty Watts. Presumably, Gallant will also continue writing brilliant little solo records deep in the Maine woods.
Drummer Ryan McGrath will join Gallant in the Watts, as well as continuing to play with the Dead Electric, which also features Maneuvers’ Jeff Foran and Zach Jandl.
Guitarist John Flanagan is putting aside music for the time being to focus on his education. Clearly, dude needs to straighten out his priorities.
Finally, the Jandl brothers, Bill and Zach, will continue to turn heads with their new band, Spirit Animal, which effin’ rocks and should make the transition to an IMOP-less world a little easier for the band’s fans.
As for myself, well, I think I’ll have to retire the phrase “high octane” to describe exciting, energetic bands. One, I use it too often. And two, it will never fit a band better than it did In Memory of Pluto. Thanks, guys. It’s been fun.
Speaking of bands winding down, local rockers Guides for the Future will play their last show for the foreseeable, er, future this Friday at Parima with jam kids Healthy Option Dane. Guitarist Robb Spensley writes that he has recently relocated to Rutland and is also the proud papa of a 6-month-old, making rocking and/or rolling more challenging on at least two fronts. Spensley adds that the band isn’t calling it quits, per se, but they will necessarily have to scale back. However, he does hint at a new CD on the horizon. Stay tuned…
Speaking of new music, I’m excited to pass along that VT hip-hop heavyweights the Aztext have finally released the long-awaited follow-up to 2007’s The Scared Document. Or, at least, they’ve started to. Rather than release a traditional full-length, the trio is dropping its latest episodically, like a TV season. The first episode, The Aztext & E-Train: Who Cares If We’re Dope? Vol. 1 debuted Tuesday, December 7, on Elevated Press Records. Future episodes will come out every two months. And, not to spoil the review of the season premiere that will appear in these pages next week: This thing was worth the wait.
Band Name of the Week: Homegrown Metal & Rock. I’m once again bending the rules for this weekly column bit. But, hey, it’s my column. I can do that. This week’s BNOTW goes to the entire Homegrown Metal & Rock throwdown at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday. Why? Because, as regular readers know, I love hardcore and metal band names. For example: Stone Bullet, Filthy Minutes of Fame, Musical Manslaughter and, um, the Isleys. Hey, three out of four ain’t bad, right?
A few weeks ago, I gently ripped into the local funk scene because, well, every friggin’ local funk band seems to have the word “funk” in its name. Seriously, guys. What the funk? Anyway, I ran into Funkwagon’s Aaron Burroughs shortly after that column ran and he actually seemed to share my bemusement. And then he emailed me to let me know his band is playing at Nectar’s this Tuesday with a band called — waaaaait for it — Pornfunk. I give up.
Last but not least, there’s a new alt venue in Burlington. And unlike most of the other alt venues in the area, this one is actually legal, with, like, permits and a bar and permits for the bar an’ everything. (All of which means I get to write about it without fear of the BPD narc-ing ’em out!) It’s Signal Kitchen, the Main Street recording studio formerly occupied by Strangeways Recording. The studio did a live-show test run at this year’s Art Hop. Dudes dug the experience so much, they have a full slate of shows in the works for 2011, with plans to record and distribute shows à la Daytrotter — but with more crowd noise. Color me intrigued. The first “official” show at Signal Kitchen is the “Mushpost Winter Massive” this Friday, featuring Kingdom, Maga Bo and Guttstar.
And 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.
The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
Jim Guthrie, Now, More Than Ever
Drake Tungsten, Six Pence for the Sauces EP
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & the True Loves, Roll With You
Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas