Last year saw the debut of the Vermont Battle of the Bands in Middlebury. The multiday, multivenue throw down was a smash success, pitting nine local bands against one another to vie for the title of the greatest band in the history of music. Or at least the best band, last year, in Vermont.
Either way, the contest was well received, so it’s happening again, with a (mostly) fresh crew of contenders. The battle’s opening round gets under way at three Middlebury venues this Thursday, April 5, and runs through Saturday, April 7. The final round, composed of each first-round winner, comes next Saturday, April 14, at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.
This Thursday, the slate features rockers Prana, a finalist last year, at 51 Main, and two bands that are relatively unknown: Burlington jam trio Nox Periculum at Two Brothers Tavern and Latin-jazz-fusion ensemble Mogani at American Flatbread. Given their success last year, Prana would seem to be a heavy favorite. But I’ve got Mogani as a dark-horse sleeper based on the band’s collective veteran savvy — though they lose points for the picture on their website of their bassist recording with his shirt unbuttoned, chest and belly exposed. Do we really need to see that, guys?
Friday’s lineup is curious. 51 Main hosts reggae-rock outfit Trench Town Oddities, while Two Brothers has Windsor-based punks the Pilgrims. And over at Flatbread, attendees can get their emo-y pop punk on with Stag Line. The smart money here is on Trench Town Oddities. Of the three bands, they probably play the most user-friendly material. Still, I’m pulling for the Pilgrims. Their 2011 record, Nobility, released on What Doth Life, was one of my local favorites last year. And I also just want to see a punk band do well in a battle-of-the-band competition for once.
Saturday night will probably bring the hottest contests, as it features the three most established bands in the battle. Reggae outfit Pulse Prophets get irie at 51 Main. Returning champs Split Tongue Crow defend their crown at Two Brothers, and Middlebury stalwarts the Grift rock the hometown crowd at Flatbread. In any other bracket, each of these three would likely be the favorite. But since they’re squaring off against each other, it’s really anybody’s game. It’s hard not to like the champs, though.
Best of luck to all the competitors. And remember, it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. Although the $2000 cash prize would be pretty sweet.
It’s nice to have the Vermont Joy Parade back in town, isn’t it? The word from their CD-release show at the BCA Center last Saturday is that the band is in dynamic, suspender-ific form, which Montpelier audiences will discover when VJP play the Black Door this Friday, April 6. Burlingtonites who missed them last weekend — and can’t make the trek to the capital — will have another opportunity this week, before the Parade hit the road again. The band has been added to the bill with German indie band Fenster, this Thursday, April 5, at the Monkey House. VJP’s Ben Aleshire writes that they actually got to know Fenster well during their last jaunt across the pond, and that “anyone who loves indie rock will love them. Plus they’re German and charming.” Sold.
Speaking of the Joy Parade, front woman Anna Pardenik has a new album in the works with her band Anna Pardenik and Her Apologies. She’s recording the album, Clean Again, with Ryan Power and writes that her new material has “developed beyond” her past work into new and contemporary styles. Color me intrigued. For more on the record, check her out at annapardenik.com.
While we’re on the subject, Jenke Records founder Tommy Alexander has a new solo record out, Quiet Lion, which was also recorded with Ryan Power, who apparently doesn’t sleep. Alexander has a release show at Radio Bean this Saturday, April 7.
If you’re heading to see Lost in the Trees at the BCA Center on Monday, April 9, do yourself a favor and get there early for opening act Poor Moon. One, the band features two members of Fleet Foxes, who are rad. Two, the band’s new EP, Illusion, released last week on Sub Pop Records, is just about the most blissful 16 minutes of music I’ve heard this year.
Cumbancha artist Bombino is swinging through Vermont this week for a gig at the Goddard College Haybarn on Friday, April 6. The last time he was here, the Tuareg guitarist rocked an enthusiastic crowd at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. Since then, he’s been winning over some interesting new fans, including the Black Keys, Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket. I had one of my all-time favorite interview moments with Bombino last summer. I asked him what it was like to be Angelina Jolie’s personal guide for her tour through his native Niger. His response: [Laughing] “Beautiful.” [Laughing] “Very, very beautiful.” Yep.
The schedule for this year’s Green Mountain Comedy Festival was announced earlier this week, and it’s impressive. From Monday, May 21, through Sunday, May 27, the fest will feature dozens of shows and workshops at 13 venues all over the state, including improv comedy at Signal Kitchen in Burlington and the BigPicture Theater & Café in Waitsfield, a “Blue Collar” comedy night at Venue in Colchester, an all-star finale at the DoubleTree Hotel in South Burlington, and innumerable showcases at bars including the Monkey House and, of course, comedy club Levity Café. For more info and a full list of performers, visit greenmountaincomedy.com.
Higher Ground announced a trio of big shows this week, including two outdoors at the Midway Lawn at the Champlain Valley Expo in June: June 15 with Michael Franti and Spearhead and, the very next day, June 16, with Cake. Those are both pretty decent early-summer shows. But I’m most excited about the third: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers at the Flynn MainStage on May 23. Tix for Franti and Cake go on sale this Friday, April 6. Tix for Martin go on sale this Thursday, April 5.
Last but not least, we made a minor boo-boo in last week’s column. In it, we fawned over Ryan Power, predicting huge things for the local songwriter once his latest record, I Don’t Want to Die, was re-released for national consumption on local microlabel NNA Tapes. We’re still predicting good things for Power, but we were just a week early. Due to a manufacturing snafu, that record is actually coming out on Tuesday, April 10, not last Tuesday, April 3, as I wrote in this column. Everything else, however — about Ryan being a genius, etc. — was absolutely correct.
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.
Jack White, Sixteen Saltines
Poor Moon, Illusion
La Sera, Sees the Light
Rocket Juice & the Moon, Rocket Juice & the Moon
Various Artists, LateNightTales — Belle and Sebastian (Vol. 2)