Give 'Em a (Jazz) Hand
Soundbites: Give 'Em a (Jazz) Hand, Sacrificial Lamb, BiteTorrent
They came. They saw. They scatted. And then they packed up their caravans and lit out for festivals in far-flung locales with exotic names like “Ottawa” and “Montréal” and, um, “Rochester.” And so here we are, left alone with only our memories now that the curtain has dropped on the 2010 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. So, what does it all mean?
After lengthy consideration, I have come to this intractable conclusion: I have absolutely no idea. And I’m OK with that.
Despite rather absurd presumptions to the contrary from certain readers, I actually enjoy and appreciate jazz. Well, some jazz. A lot, even. Of course, saying simply that you like “jazz” is like saying you enjoy “movies.” But I digress.
Over these last 10 days, I caught some truly phenomenal BDJF performances, jazz and otherwise (Anna Pardenik, yoUSAy Placate, Souls’ Calling, Sharon Jones). And I took in some less-than-stellar sets, too — no, I’m not gonna name names. But even more than in recent years, what stood out to me was the electricity around the city in general, almost regardless of the performer. Whether hanging at the back patio at Halvorson’s, catching a high school band on Church Street or basking in a surprise blast of sun at the Waterfront tent, the energy in Burlington was palpable. In fact, several people I spoke with in my travels beyond BDJF shows mentioned it. Something was different about this year’s fest.
It’s tough to put a finger on what it was, exactly. And maybe that’s a mystery better left unsolved. What I do know is that none of it would have been possible without the handful of folks — and I really do mean a handful — who work tirelessly behind the scenes pretty much year round to pull this thing together, and really never get the recognition they deserve.
Case in point: At the Sharon Jones show, I caught one longstanding, and pretty high-ranking member of the BDJF staff clearing trash and recyclables off dirty tables in the VIP area. During the show. That’s dedication.
So, to the cast and crew of the 2010 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, on behalf of a grateful — and frankly, kinda pooped — city, thank you. You’ve done it again. Take a bow.
Also taking a curtain call this week but for entirely different reasons — one of which being that said curtain might have been, uh, flammable — is beloved Capital City alt-venue The Lamb Abbey. As first reported by Times-Argus staff writer Thatcher Moats on Thursday, June 10, Montpelier’s building inspector, Glenn Moore, ordered the studio and performance space closed last week due to numerous fire-and safety-code violations. The litany of infractions included a broken sprinkler system, combustible drapes and inadequate exits, among other, less-serious — or at least less-potentially-life-threatening — transgressions.
Obviously, this is a blow to ruin Montpeculiar’s thriving arts and music scenes. But does The Lamb Abbey closing sound a death knell for the multiuse space?
Not quite. And maybe quite the contrary.
In a recent phone conversation, Abbey cofounder Duffy Gardner sounded surprisingly upbeat. He characterized the closing as merely a “bump in the road,” stopping just short of referring to the locked doors as a blessing in disguise.
In the 18 months the space had been operating, Gardner estimates there have been “hundreds” of performances, several drawing upward of 120 people. Clearly, the community had embraced the venue. Recognizing its potential, Gardner says he and his partners had begun planning to expand and legitimize the space when Moore came calling. Those plans included assessing the condition of the facility — though ideally not when the sprinkler system had just broken, which Gardner claims it had when Moore inspected the building. Whoops.
“We were moving more from an underground alt-venue to something bigger,” Gardner says, noting that in addition to the in-repair sprinkler system, the venue was equipped with two egresses, emergency lighting, fire alarms and extinguishers. “We were ready to grow,” he says. “We had all those things in place. They just weren’t technically up to code.”
Gardner isn’t yet sure how much of an investment will be required to bring the space, which is housed in an old timber-frame granite shed about one mile from downtown Montpelier, into compliance. But he seems confident it will happen.
“There is more interest now in using the entire building,” he says. Eventually, Gardner envisions an artistic hub sprouting on the banks of the Onion River, possibly using all three buildings at Pioneer Circle. “It could be really exciting,” he muses.
For now, Gardner has postponed his upcoming calendar, or begun trying to reschedule several performances slated for the venue at nearby Vermont College, though nothing had been confirmed as of this writing. However, he notes that the Montpelierpalooza Metal Fest slated for Saturday, June 26, will go on as planned … outdoors.
“That’s another interesting option,” Gardner says of moving some shows outside the building.
Gardner remains optimistic that The Lamb Abbey will be back, and will be better. Eventually, anyway. “We have a chance now to recalibrate,” he says, adding, “This place is a freaking jewel.”