All (Jazz) Hands on Deck
The Stooges Brass Band
I give up. I’ve been writing this column for just more than five years. And every year during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, space in these oft-snarky pages is traditionally reserved as a “jazz-free zone,” a refuge for the huddled jazz-averse masses who seek an alternative to the bop, post-bop and mmm-bop fare on offer from our beloved jazz fest. (Bet you weren’t expecting a Hanson reference there, right? Me neither.)
Why? Mostly because I’m a cheeky bastard and enjoy pushing your buttons. And we do a lot of BDJF coverage in other realms of the paper — such as this week’s cover story on Trombone Shorty, for example. But also, and more importantly, because even amid the swingin’ splendor of these 10 days in June, plenty of nonjazzy happenings around the state are worth attention. (Readers may point out that many of them are happening under the umbrella of the jazz fest itself. Whatever. Lighten the fuck up, hepcats.)
The fest has indeed become nearly ubiquitous. And each year, it’s become harder to divine news from outside the parameters of the BDJF. My dad once told me — or maybe it was a line from a Clint Eastwood flick — that it’s important for a man to know when he’s beaten, and there is no shame in meeting your match as long as you gave it your all. So after four years, I’m officially retiring the jazz-free gimmick and opening Soundbites to BDJF coverage. (BDJF organizers, please make that check out to Dan Bolles, B-O-L-L-E-S.)
I’m not abandoning music outside the fest, mind you. Rather, my aim is to point out some of the local and off-the-beaten-path options for you to, ahem, discover — you’ll find no Bonnie Raitt musings here. So with that in mind, let’s dig in, shall we?
It all starts this Friday, June 1. Among my favorite BDJF haunts is American Flatbread. OK, it’s personal favorite haunt, period. But jazz fest is about the only time of year the joint hosts live music, and it does so nearly every night of the festival in the alley outside. The highlight at the Burlington Hearth on Friday is local fusion trio Vorcza. Composed of bassist Rob Morse, keyboardist Ray Paczkowski and drummer Gabe Jarrett — son of legendary jazz pianist Keith Jarrett — Vorcza are always a good bet for some adventuresome jazz-funk fun. Flatbread would also be a good place to find yourself the following evening, Saturday, June 2, for an early set from suspender-fusion scofflaws the Vermont Joy Parade (fresh outta the clink: a few members were arrested recently at a house-party gig in upstate New York), followed by the always impressive Parker Shper Trio.
If you want to ease into the jazzy shenanigans, I’d suggest checking out Saturday’s afternoon showcase at Club Metronome, which features Boston-based blues-metal act Death Pesos, and locals Spirit Animal and the Pilgrims. It could well be the hardest-rockin’ jazz-fest show since the Jazz Guys were banned from playing the festival, ever again, following an epically loud Church Street set some years ago. Ah, memories! Also of non-jazz-oriented note on Saturday: Hip-hop crew the Lynguistic Civilians celebrate their 100th show at the Vermont Pub & Brewery.
Now, if you’re really ready to jazzercise, er, dance, I recommend the Stooges Brass Band at Red Square on Saturday. They’re one of the most popular brass bands in New Orleans and, once upon a time, featured the aforementioned Trombone Shorty when he was actually still short. He was a teenager at the time.
The highlights on Sunday, June 3, include the next installment of Mildred Moody’s Full Moon Masquerade, with local ursine funksters Bearquarium headlining. Meanwhile, over at Radio Bean, local ginger-bearded guitar beast Bob Wagner and Lendway’s Matt Hagen round out the weekend with the experimental guitar explorations they call “BRAin ScApEs.” Heady.
The Farmhouse Tap & Grill has a few good shows for jazz fest this year, including Gabe Jarrett’s own trio on Monday, June 4. But the belle of the ball that night is Amy Winehouse. The late neo-soul singer gets the local all-star tribute treatment at Nectar’s, courtesy of the Motown Monday Crew, which features members of Craig Mitchell & Motor City, Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band, Barika, Bearquarium and several others. Scheduled to appear in the Winehouse role are vocalists Emily Day, Mitchell and Justin Panigutti, to name a few. Speaking of Day, you can check her out at the Marriott Harbor Lounge on Wednesday, June 6, backed by pianist Shane Hardiman. Full disclosure, I’ve known Day since high school, and she’s a friend. But she’s also a sublime jazz vocalist. And she’s moving soon, so catch her while you can. Trust me.
I had a blast at the That’s Just Wrong! comedy show last Thursday, which was part of the Green Mountain Comedy Festival. It was often as repulsive, and hilarious, as advertised and made great use of Signal Kitchen as a comedy venue. That place is quickly becoming a favorite destination. However, I was reminded of how much I loathe hecklers, who I now place on my “List of People to Punch in the Face,” just behind d-bags who talk loudly through concerts and just ahead of people who don’t understand the right-of-way rules at a four-way stop. Much of the show was marred by a particularly inebriated quartet in the audience who seemed to believe they were on the wrong side of the stage and harassed each comic who performed. Look, I get that heckling comes with the turf in comedy. And in some, albeit incredibly rare, instances, it can even be funny. But more often than not, heckling is distracting for both the audience and the performer. We pay to hear the comics, not you, hotshot. Luckily, we have comedians like Alex Nief. Eschewing his planned set entirely, he pulled a stool over in front of said hecklers and proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes masterfully humiliating them with his razor wit. It was easily the most entertaining set of the evening, and serves as a cautionary tale for jerks who think they’re as funny as the folks on stage. You’re not. And sometimes, real comedians will prove it to you.
The accolades continue rolling in for Dave Keller and his CD, Where I’m Coming From. The local bluesman’s latest album recently checked in at No.2 on Sirius/XM’s Bluesville, the most popular blues radio show on the planet. Congrats, Dave.
Local rock series Northern Exposure gets under way again at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Wednesday, June 6. The first installment of the series features central Vermont jam band Flowting Bridge, Bristol’s alt-country outfit Cash is King, Randolph-based acoustic rock group November Guest and electro-acoustic trio Zephrus. Tha VT Union’s MC B-Free hits the stage at Club Metronome on Wednesday, June 6, with a live backing band, the Ice Coast Band, featuring members of the Grippo Funk Band and Pulse Prophets, as well as DJ A-Dog. Also on the bill is Learic from the Aztext. Word.
Last but not least, the new Seven Days podcast, Tour Date, hosted by DJ Llu, premiers on Wednesday, May 30. You can check it out on our website. The gist is that Llu will sit down and chat with touring musicians as they swing through Burlington. The debut episode features Steve Martin’s backing band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, who performed at the Flynn MainStage last week. It was supposed to also feature Martin, who unfortunately backed out at the last minute, making that two times in as many weeks that he left 7D hanging. If you may have noted in a recent issue, my interview with him also fell through, leaving me no choice but to find answers to my questions from lines of his movie The Jerk. And, no, I didn’t get fired — or sued — for that. Anyway, Martin or no, Llu’s podcast is very entertaining. Check it out, and stay tuned every week for new episodes.
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, eight-track player, etc., this week.
The Walkmen, Heaven
Mount Eerie, Clear Moon
Best Coast, The Only Place
Dope Body, Natural History
Tenacious D, Rize of the Fenix