The Right Stuff
I hate it when you make me scold you. But if you missed the Precipice, last weekend’s all-local, three-day rockanalia at the Intervale in Burlington — and a lot of you did — you, my friend, suck. This would normally be the part of the column where I backtrack and say something like “Just kidding!” to soften the blow of the insult I’ve just fired off. But seriously, what gives? It was a remarkable festival, and an excellent showcase of the wide range of musical talent our little corner of the world has to offer. To anyone who gripes that the local scene ain’t what it used to be — especially if you passed on the fest — consider yourself shouted down.
In fairness, there was an awful lot going on this weekend competing for your attention: the Vermont Brewers Festival, absolutely stunning performances by both Andrew Bird and Patrick Watson at Higher Ground, ’90s night at Metronome, probably some karaoke somewhere, etc. But if you didn’t take the opportunity to catch at least some of the Precipice, you missed something special.
I went down Saturday afternoon and had a thoroughly awesome time. Maryse Smith, who had been on a performance hiatus recently, unveiled a suite of new material from her forthcoming album as gorgeous and heart wrenching as anything she’s produced thus far — which is saying something. Even seemingly battling a tired voice, she was as swoon-worthy as ever alongside Pat Melvin on upright bass. Wave of the Future delivered some seriously gnarly, sci-fi dance punk. Parmaga offered sneak peeks at material from their forthcoming album. Barbacoa continued their triumphant homecoming run. Shelly Shredder sounded muscular and confident, locking in harmonies to offset the loss of founding member Johanna Hiller, who recently left the band. They also inspired the evening’s first random shirtless dancing dude, a summer-festival staple. So Shredder have got that going for them, which is nice. The Wee Folkestra were not so wee, adding Squid City’s Tyler George Minetti on lap steel. And Craig Mitchell & Motor City continued to impress, closing out the night with sinfully funky R&B strut. And that was just Saturday evening.
From what I saw Saturday, and heard about the Friday and Sunday showcases, the festival was modestly attended. I was honestly a little surprised not to see more folks down on the farm while I was there. But the crowd that did show up was eager and attentive. As a friend pointed out, “It’s not a huge crowd. But it’s the right crowd.”
Mild elitism aside, I’m inclined to agree. And I’ll hope that if Lee Anderson and Joe Adler, among several others who brought the festival to life, decide to make this an annual affair — and it sounds as though they just might — more of the “right crowd” will venture down. Because, really, the right crowd includes anyone who cares about local music. If you’re reading this column, I’m guessing that includes you. So whaddya say — see you next year?
Speaking of big-deal local music festivals, last week, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals announced a few more details about September’s second annual Grand Point North Festival at Waterfront Park in Burlington. It seems Rich Robinson, younger brother of the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson has been added to Friday’s lineup. Additionally, a pair of after-parties was announced, including a solo performance from GPN guitarist Benny Yurco at Nectar’s on Friday, September 14, and an all-star jam with Galactic at the Higher Ground Ballroom on Saturday, September 15.
The third annual Cooler in the Mountains festival at Killington kicks off this week, with 1990s world-rock stalwarts Rusted Root — who, apparently, still exist — on Saturday, July 28. The festival continues every Saturday for five weeks, highlighted by a performance from the legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band on August 18. That is all.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed the latest record from Plattsburgh-based Latin jazz cat Rick Davies, called Salsa Norteña. To refresh your memory, the record, loaded with local and regional jazz luminaries, was one of the more entertaining CDs I’ve spun in my player this year, and it offers proof that latitude does not preclude aptitude when it comes to sizzling Caribbean grooves. Anyway, this Thursday, July 26, Davies and company are throwing a Burlington release party for that album at the FlynnSpace. In addition to band regulars such as trumpeter Ray Vega, Davies will be joined by Grammy-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill, who founded the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, which is kind of a big deal. Also, to clue you in on a little unwritten rule: Anyone named Arturo is automatically awesome at Latin jazz. True story.
Speaking of release parties for albums that came out months ago, Zack duPont is (again) celebrating the release of his most recent record, Somewhere In Between, at Nectar’s on Wednesday, August 1, with support from Bob Wagner and pedal-steel whiz Brett Lanier. Typically, this is where I’d make some snide comment about the statute of limitations regarding how long you can roll with the release-party gimmick — the album dropped in May and he had a Burlington release party at the FlynnSpace. But I’m going to give duPont a pass here because his album is excellent, revealing a supremely gifted songwriter at the peak of his powers. So if he wants to celebrate it again, I give my blessing.
It’s another big week for the local EDM scene. In addition to 2K Deep’s party with moombahton innovators Nadastrom at Club Metronome this Friday, July 27, Nexus Artists once again welcomes house legend Pete Moss to the next installment of Sunday Night Mass, also at Metronome, this Sunday, July 29. For the uninitiated, Moss is among the planet’s most respected and successful EDM producers and DJs, and has made Burlington a semiregular stop on his considerable global touring schedule.
And now for something completely different, the Young Tradition Trad Camp gets under way this week, starting Monday, July 30, and running through Friday, August 3. The weeklong day camp at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington offers daily sessions for singers, players and dancers of all abilities. But more importantly, the camp is presenting a series of daytime and evening concerts. Highlights include two performances by shape-note singing group Village Harmony on Tuesday, July 31, an afternoon set from Burlington-based Syrian oud master Anwar Agha on Wednesday, August 1, and an evening showcase at the weekly Summervale series at the Intervale on Thursday, August 2. For a full schedule of events and info on the camp, visit enjoyburlington.com.
Last but not least, I usually try to focus on good music in this lil’ ole column, but there is a show coming up at Espresso Bueno in Barre this Saturday, July 28, that sounds so horrendous it just has to be awesome. The. Worst. Song. Ever. competition is, well, pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Contestants pick terrible pop songs — no shortage there — practice them (or don’t) and unveil their version for the right to be called the worst ever. Apparently, the idea grew out of the annual Bob Dylan Wannabe contest in Montpelier. But rather than limit folks to butchering one artist, they wanted to open the entire catalog of bad pop. Now, it should be noted, the idea isn’t necessarily to crush an already bad song. It’s to take a terrible song and try to make it good, which is way harder than it sounds. Just ask Nickelback; they’ve been trying to make bad songs sound good for years. Zing! For more info, visit genuineadventures.com.
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.
Patrick Watson, Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Nas, Life Is Good
Baroness, Yellow & Green
Passion Pit, Gossamer
Louis CK, Live at the Beacon Theater