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Urgent! This Bit Has Nothing To Do With Grace Potter!

Soundbites: The Urgency, Michael Chorney


Published February 20, 2008 at 9:17 a.m.

In my final column of 2007, I flippantly remarked that “when your local band signs to a major label and tours around the world, I’ll write about you, too. I promise.” (“Sound-bites,” 12.26.07.) The comment was a pre-emptive strike aimed at stemming the inevitable flood of invective-laden letters that pour in every time Grace Potter and The Nocturnals is mentioned in the pages of Seven Days. Lo and behold, it worked! Not a single angry missive darkened our mailbox — at least not related to Ms. Potter.

Major-label signees are something of a rarity here in the foothills of the Green Mountains, so it was with no small amount of smug confidence that I filed the piece, sure that I wouldn’t need to back up my boast any time soon. Much to my pseudo-chagrin, it seems I now need to put my money where my pen is (I said “pen is,” tee-hee).

Brooklyn’s indie-rock outfit The Urgency have announced that they’ve just signed a major-label contract with Mercury/Island Def Jam Records. In the parlance of our times, that’s kind of a big deal. And I’m pretty sure it means they’re no longer “indie.” I’ll consult my handy-dandy hipster-to-English dictionary and get back to you on that.

Why should you care about a Brooklyn-based quartet signing a deal with the devil? For starters, three-quarters of the band claim Vermont roots. Guitarist Ian Molla and bassist Kevin Coffrin are both SBHS grads and vocalist Tyler Gurwicz is, like yours truly, a CVU grad. (Rattle, rattle, rattle, here come the cattle!) Drummer Guerin Blask is from . . . well, who cares? He’s a drummer. (Note to drummers: Just kidding.)

Funnily enough, the news comes on the heels of another little pearl of wisdom written in this very column a few weeks ago: “As if fleeing to NYC suddenly gives your band more cred or, in the most delusional cases, talent.” (“Soundbites,” 02.06.08.) Um, so I guess everyone should move to Brooklyn? I’m so confused.

In any event, the band plans to release its major-label debut this summer. Congrats, boys.


In news a bit closer to home, this week experimental-jazz whiz Michael Chorney is playing a rare solo show focusing on his original folk(ish) tunes. Chorney is renowned as the founder of the late, great acid-fusion ensemble viperHouse and, more recently, as the brains behind Sun Ra acolytes Magic City as well as the co-composer of Anaïs Mitchell’s folk-opera Hadestown. He is well known — locally and beyond — for mind-bending and sonically challenging aural delicacies. One of the area’s premier talents, his singer-songwriter(ish) work receives far less recognition, likely because the dude only performs the material once or twice a year.

When I reported on Mitchell’s quirky theatrical retelling of the Orpheus myth a few months ago, the Righteous Babe recording artist specifically cited Chorney’s solo work as a major reason for wanting to collaborate with him — both for Hadestown and on her recent solo albums. The estimable Casey Rae-Hunter once described his sound as “like Raymond Carver moonlighting as a backwoods folkie.” I’ve never heard the man play outside the realm of his collaborative jazz(ish) efforts. But those are four ears I’m inclined to trust. You should, too.

Catch Chorney this Friday at Radio Bean.


Lately, Burlington has had no shortage of enterprising outfits intent on boosting the quality and visibility of our bustling little scene. Working in tandem with clubs such as The Monkey House, The Skinny Pancake and Club Metronome, high-minded organizations such as Tick Tick and Bear Cub Productions have been working hard to bring excellent out-of-town acts to our eager ears, and expose some of the most interesting music being made right here in Vermont. It’s yeoman’s work, and we appreciate it.

On that note, I’m happy to announce that yet another crew of industrious young music fans are jumping into the fray to help expand our sonic horizons.

Calling themselves Burlington Underground, the group is the brainchild of UVM students Dan Mesa and Ryan Orlove, who run a website of the same name dedicated to discussing local and regional music. The site currently focuses on more jam-oriented fare, which I’m guessing goes over well on the heady greens of Groovy UV. Hey, we can’t all be indier-than-thou hipsters.

Anyway, this week BU is sponsoring its first evening of live music, featuring a slew of the funkier auditory options our fair state has to offer. This Friday, Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge plays host to “The Local Scene” with up-and-coming funky bunch Mo’ Funk Orchestra, eclectic world-jazz outfit Roku, genre-mashing stalwarts Mango Jam and UVM’s own The Sepia Tones. Jam on.


Speaking of jam bands, if you’re looking to get a jump on this weekend’s impending Mardi Gras festivities, you could do worse than to swing by Club Metronome on Wednesday, February 20. The green-thumbed folks from Gardener’s Supply are sponsoring a benefit for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center with Burlington’s reigning, raucous bar band Big Boots DeVille and UVM oufit The Dan Coleman Band, who cull from the catalogues of jam giants such as moe., The Grateful Dead and, of course, Phish. Phantastic.


Now that I’ve filled my annual jam-band ink quota, let’s move on to things I screwed up last week. Always a fun topic.

I once had a high school chorus teacher who preached that if you’re going to make a mistake, you should do it with as much confidence as possible. “Loud and proud,” he’d say. Words to live by, my friends.

Many of you likely noticed the provocative pic of The Jazz Guys gracing the cover of last week’s Section B. You may also have noticed that the accompanying blurb listed NYC’s Heloise and The Savoir Faire as an opening act for last Friday’s Valentine’s Day-themed show. They weren’t. Long story short: There was a miscommunication between Nectar’s and myself, and the gaffe wasn’t caught until after we had gone to press. Oops.

James Kochalka Superstar was the actual band on the bill, and they rocked — as did The Jazz Guys and Sweet Ass Pussy. In fact, they rocked so hard that, towards the end of his set, Mr. Kochalka’s clothes completely disappeared. Nothing says “I love you” like the gift of testicles in the glare of stage lighting.

Well, James, we love you, too. And my apologies for the goof.