So, did you catch The Cush at The Monkey House last Friday? If so, what did you think? No, really. I want to know. Because after spotlighting the band, drooling all over their new album Between the Leaves in a glowing CD review, tabbing the show for mention in our new “Magnificent 7” print feature, suggesting it in our NOW newsletter and riffing exclusively about the band on my weekly Thursday-night segment on WPTZ, I, um, didn’t actually go. I fell asleep on the couch watching the Celtics game and didn’t wake up in time. Yeah … judging by early reports, it’s safe to say I’ll regret that one.
On the plus side, my beloved C’s won — even though I slept through the victory. What’s more, I was really well rested to go out the following night and ended up having one of the most enjoyable evenings bopping around town that I’ve had in weeks.
The fun began with an early-ish show at a sparsely populated Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. Alabama-based songwriter A.A. Bondy was the evening’s main attraction, at least for anyone not waiting in the absurdly long line for Pink Floyd tribute act The Machine next door in the Ballroom. (Note: That sound you’re hearing is me dropping to my knees, arms raised toward the sky, shaking my fists and screaming, “Why?” at the top of my lungs.)
Normally, this would be the part of the column where I chew you out for not attending, even though I made it pretty clear you should with my Bondy interview in last week’s issue. Of course, I can’t really do that, since I wasn’t able to follow my own advice and make it to the Monkey for The Cush. So I guess we’re even. This time. Also, even though the Bondy crowd was small, it was attentive and engaged. (And this would normally be where I bitch about people talking through the show. But we’re all good there, too.)
In short, Bondy was terrific. And drunk. But in that bourbon-induced, charmingly self-destructive way that only Southern gentlemen can pull off. Playing tunes from both his debut, American Hearts, and his latest album, When the Devil Is Loose — the latter I don’t think I fully appreciated until hearing the songs live — dude was fascinating to watch. Also, we have a contender for live music highlight of the year: His band’s intentionally half-assed — and hilarious — improvised attempt to cover Floyd’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” before launching into a scorching version of “Oh, The Vampyre.” Anyway, if you’re looking for a good, stark album for the winter months, check him out. And if he ever comes back to town, do me a favor and go. You’ll thank me for it, I promise.
Bondy’s was one of the most awkward encore experiences I can remember — it’s tough for an audience of 30-odd people to really muster an appropriate and sustained applause. Besides, he was kinda hammered and, once he got back onstage, couldn’t remember where he put his harmonica.
After the show, Plus One and I made our way back into town with our sights set on Foofarawk at Radio Bean.
Here we have a classic two birds, one stone scenario. One, I’m almost embarrassed to note that I had yet to experience the Bean in all its newly spacious glory since owner Lee Anderson tore down that wall and opened the adjacent ¡Duino! (Duende) last month. And two, catching The Fatal Flaws’ monthly-ish residency has been on my to-do list since, well, the Flaws essentially made me put it on my list at the threat of bodily harm about two years ago. And yes, I’m joking about that last part, sort of.
Anyway, holy shit!
I’m pretty sure I just crashed Thesaurus.com looking for synonyms for “totally fucking rad.” Simply put, the new space is a game changer. The Bean has served as a scene cornerstone pretty much since it opened nine years ago. I have spent more hours in its cozy confines than I care to count — some as a critic, more as a performer and fan, and still more as a caffeine addict. I’m intimately familiar with the place and was as excited as anyone when news broke that the expansion was finally happening. But I never expected this.
We arrived just as The Persian Claws — who have gotten really, really good, by the way — were tearing into their opening set. And the joint was jumping. The Bean is no stranger to impromptu dance parties. The problem was that, on such occasions, the revelry was often stilted due to being crammed alongside anyone who wasn’t dancing. That’s much less an issue now.
We settled into a space in the exquisitely funky — even for the Bean — new room with a surprisingly great view of the proceedings, and pretty much camped out there all night. And though our proximity to the stage was further than usual, at no point did I feel distanced from the show. Quite the opposite, in fact. Straight through the Flaws’ delightfully haphazard set, I felt as engaged with the music as I ever have at the Bean, which is saying something. Maybe more so, since I wasn’t being jostled constantly by folks making their way to the bar or bathroom.
So, Lee Anderson, you’ve done it again. On behalf of Burlington music fans, thank you, thank you, thank you. And, if the rest of you haven’t yet checked out the new digs, I’d suggest doing so as soon as you can.
When it rains it pours, right? This week I had no fewer than five new albums slated for potential reviews. Unfortunately, we only run two per issue, so something had to give. Still, two of the discs I couldn’t get to bear mentioning because, well, they’re really good. The first is Maryse Smith’s long-awaited debut, Is Becomes Was. Not to spoil it, but here’s the gist of the eventual review: Wow. Catch her co-release with Zach DuPont (see review on page 48) at the Monkey this Friday.
The second, which comes to us by way of new-ish bluegrass-ish outfit Gold Town, I couldn’t review because the album was sent to me on — ready? — a cassette tape. This is an issue because I haven’t had a cassette player since puberty. Anyway, I did peruse some of their tunes online, and I’m guessing their release show at Radio Bean this Friday, with The Dubois and Bombadil, will be nothing short of a hootenanny. Or a hoedown. Oh, and did I mention the Bean is totally fucking rad?
Some other good bets this week: