Well, here we are once more. Another Thanksgiving and another incredibly slow week for local music. Every year, this is one of the most challenging columns to write cuz there’s just not much on the docket. So as has become Soundbites tradition, we’re leading off with a few things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving week.
It’s been a tough year for Vermont, most notably dealing with that uppity bitch, Irene. But it’s also been heartening to witness the response, especially from the local music scene. A few million dollars here from Phish, a couple hundred grand from Grace Potter there. A cool 10 gees from the Devil Makes Three — not technically from VT, though guitarist Pete Bernhard did grow up here. While the big bennys have justifiably grabbed headlines, there have been dozens of smaller events and projects that have meant just as much. From Starline Rhythm Boys playing a last-minute benefit gig at the Starry Night Café to the local bands that rocked Higher Ground at the Brave Little State show to a number of compilation albums and other releases, the local music community banded together. We should all be thankful for that.
Speaking of which, Swale’s Amanda Gustasfon recently wrote in to say that she’ll soon be digitally re-releasing a bunch of material from her excellent local 1990s alt-rock band, Wide Wail, and that proceeds from sales will go to flood-relief efforts. So I’m doubly thankful here. One, Wide Wail rocked and I lost my old copy of Like it Never Was years ago. And two, it’s a good reminder that we’re not totally out of the woods yet.
I’m thankful I got to see some great music at Parima before they closed this year. That goes double for Langdon Street Café in Montpelier. Both were great, unique rooms and both are missed.
On a related note, I’m thankful the Black Door reopened in Montpelier, which at least takes some of the sting out of losing LSC.
I’m thankful Charlie O’s ain’t goin’ nowhere.
I’m thankful Ryan Power is recording a new record.
I’m thankful Farm is, too.
And that Waylon Speed is releasing their new album week.
And Doll Fight! too.
And finally, I’m thankful for you, dear reader. We couldn’t do what we do here without you. So thanks.
Now, just because it’s a slow week on the local music front doesn’t mean we are totally bereft of options to rock away the stank of Black Friday. To wit, Funkwagon, who will set up shop at Red Square this Friday, November 25. In the past, I’ve teased the band about their name — and, generally, about the strange tendency of funk bands to include the word “funk” in their names. We get it. You play funk. Thing is, Funkwagon play funk really well. I caught the band at a recent gig at the Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington and came away mighty impressed. They’re super tight instrumentally and employ interesting arrangements. What’s more, front man Aaron Burroughs is a friggin’ dynamo onstage. You seriously can’t take your eyes off of him as he hoots and hollers through the band’s set. If you’ve yet to catch them, I highly recommend it.
Bar bands don’t get much love in the esteemed pages of Seven Days because, well, they’re bar bands. Nothing against them, of course. I love a good rockin’ night at a townie dive bar as much as the next guy. But if you really need me to draw a distinction between whose Journey covers are the best in town, we’re both in the wrong place. However, PleasureDome stands out among the boozy rock cover bands because they boast an unusual lineage: They’re all veterans of seminal Queen City hardcore bands from the 1990s and early 2000s, including Slush, Uncommon Tongue and Drowningman. They’re a little older now, so they don’t do the aggro rage thing quite as much. But judging from their YouTube clips, they do more than justice to 1980s rock classics like “Livin’ On A Prayer,” “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Jessie’s Girl.” Looks like they put on one hell of a show. They’ll be at Club Metronome this Wednesday, November 23, for a Thanksgiving eve rock-a-thon.
Speaking of acts that don’t get a lot of ink in 7D, Grateful Dead reggae cover bands … (cue chirping crickets). OK. I know what you’re thinking. This will be the part of the column when I go off on some half-cocked rant about how slimy it is to capitalize on the intellectual property of great artists with a pandering gimmick like playing it all reggae. But I’m not gonna do that. Instead, I’m going to suggest that you should go and check out the Grateful Dread at Nectar’s this Saturday, November 26. (Yes, really. Grateful Dread.) One, the idea of a bunch of middle-aged guys from Martha’s Vineyard playing reggae covers of the Dead without a single dreadlock between them is so goofy that it almost has to be awesome. And two, that pun-tastic name got me thinking about some other reggae tribute bands I’d like to see someday. For example, the Dread Kennedys, Crosby, Stills and Hash and, my personal favorite, Fujahzi. (Yes, I made those up. I told you it was a slow week.)
Band Name of the Week: Matt Demon. Whenever I’m in a pinch for BNOTW, I can always count on Metal Monday at Nectar’s to help me out. As I’ve stated time and time again, I love hardcore and metal band names. True to form, this week’s winner is Matt Demon, a new-ish metal outfit from Springfield, Vermont. So are they any good? Not a clue. But they’d at least have to be better than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, right? Find out this Monday, November 28, when they play Nectar’s with Head of the Traitor and Swiftshire.
Sounds like things at Vermont’s first/only comedy club Levity are going swimmingly. The jokey java joint has sold out each of its first six Friday night showcases and a buzz is building. This Friday, November 25, they’re throwing a benefit showcase for the Vermont Food Network. It seems social action will remain a priority for the new club; the first show at Levity benefited Revitalizing Waterbury.
If anyone wants to start their Christmas shopping for me a little early this year, the new split 7-inch from Advance Base and Vermont’s Hello Shark would make a nice stocking stuffer. Advance Base is a new project from Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s Owen Ashworth, and fans of Casiotone should dig the new stuff. It’s melancholy and quirky pop with the same sort of clumsy charm as his earlier work. Good stuff for a low-key, chilly night, like, say, Wednesday November 30, when both bands play the Monkey House in Winooski.
Last but not least, if you didn’t get enough house music coverage in this week’s cover story, the cool kids from Bonjour-Hi! have a pretty righteous show lined up at 1/2 Lounge this Saturday, November 26. Founding member Travis Higgins will be in town from New York City for Thanksgiving, marking a rare occasion that the collective is (almost) whole. He’s bringing along legendary house DJ Juan MacLean, who was last seen in Burlington playing the massive Labor Day weekend Silent Disco party at North Beach. Since then, MacLean has scored praise from Pitchfork for a collaboration with Holy Ghost, released a killer compilation album, Everybody Get Close, and toured all over Europe. And now he’s playing the Half, where I’m told he’ll be rocking an all-vinyl set. Cool.