Maybe it’s because I’ve been rather immersed in jazz-related preparations these last few weeks and haven’t come up for air. Or maybe it’s because I’ve recently been moonlighting covering the comedy beat. Or maybe it really is hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain — especially when it comes over Memorial Day weekend. But for whatever reason, I’m having a hard time getting excited for the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival this year.
(That sound you’re hearing is the Seven Days ad-sales team simultaneously lunging for the phone to call the BDJF offices. “He didn’t mean it!” “Yeah, he’s kind of a jerk sometimes. But he loves jazz, really!” “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLES!”)
Settle down, guys.
I’m not saying I shouldn’t be excited, or even that I won’t get there by the time it starts this Friday, May 31. Just that my typical giddy excitement for 10 straight crazy days and nights of jazz — and all the other music we shoehorn under the jazz umbrella — is a little late in coming, that’s all. So let’s see if I can talk myself off the ledge, and maybe some of you who have similarly apathetic jazz hands on the eve of the 30th annual BDJF.
(And, yes, the fest started in 1984. But you start counting with that year. So use your fingers and … it’s 30.)
Truth is, one of my favorite times to be in Burlington is during the BDJF. Like many of you, I’m intrigued at the opportunity to see the likes of Bobby McFerrin and bossa nova superstar Eliane Elias. And you can’t go wrong with anyone named Marsalis. Just ask the UVM class of 2013, who were recently accompanied into the real world by commencement trumpeter Wynton. I’m sure Branford will be aces, too. And don’t worry, grads. I’m sure the next generation of Marsalises will be just coming up by the time you get a job that enables you to spring for headlining jazz-fest shows.
I admit anything with the words “überjam” in the title gives me pause, but I’d take a flier on John Scofield with Dr. Lonnie Smith. And I’ve already started an office pool on whether Poncho Sanchez actually shows up this year after canceling last year. I’m giving 3-1 odds that he does, and 4-1 that Ray Vega steals the show anyway.
Moving on, one of my favorite parts of jazz fest is the school bands on Church Street in the afternoon. Because who doesn’t love hearing “In the Mood” six times a day?
For me, the festival’s most memorable moments usually happen away from the main stages, in the smaller and sometimes unconventional venues. Soul howler Lee Fields and the Expressions at Signal Kitchen on Friday, June 7, might fit the bill there. So might the Vermont Joy Parade’s Duke Aeroplane and Anna Pardenik at the Daily Planet on Wednesday, June 5. Pardenik was the star of the fest for me a few years back, BTW. Kat Wright singing Nina Simone songs at Red Square on Monday, June 3, could put some sugar in your bowl. Or your ears. Whatever. And in the there’s-really-no-way-to-even-pretend-this-is-jazz-but-who-cares-cuz-it’s-awesome-anyway department, Lendway is debuting a new surf-rock alter ego called the High Breaks on Tuesday, June 4, on the top block of Church Street.
I could go on — and will in next week’s column, and probably on our Live Culture blog in the meantime — but there’s a lot to cover this week that’s non-jazzy. Plus, if I’m not mistaken, I do believe my fingers and toes just started tapping in a syncopated, swingin’ fashion…
In other festival news, Bow Thayer has just announced the lineup for his fifth annual Tweed River Music Festival in Stockbridge, which is one of the coolest, rootsiest fests around. The three-day hoedown is slated for August 16 through 18 and will feature 25 bands, a couple of which don’t even involve Thayer! At least, not yet. Anyway, some highlights include Rusty Belle, Lowell Thompson, the Pilgrims, Waylon Speed, Session Americana and, of course, Bow Thayer and Perfect Trainwreck. The full schedule and ticket info are available at tweedrivermusicfestival.com.
In even more festie news, the initial lineup for the Precipice was announced on Monday, and it features pretty much every band in town. For the full list of acts, check out our blog, Live Culture. But while I have you, I can tell you that the three-day festival runs from Friday, July 26, through Sunday, July 28. It’s also moved to a new location. Following last year’s inaugural run at the Intervale, the Precipice is off to college — specifically, the lawn behind Burlington College on North Avenue. I should also tell you that anything I write about the festival from here on out will come with big ol’ “full disclosure” attached, as one of my old bands is reuniting at the festival for a set, and I’m probably related to or friends with a bunch of other folks on the bill since, as I mentioned, every band in town is playing it. For more info, check out facebook.com/ThePrecipiceVT.
I can’t claim to have seen nearly as many shows as I wanted to at last weekend’s Green Mountain Comedy Festival — see jazz-fest prep, first paragraph — but what I did attend left me impressed. And I also got the impression that more and more people are warming to the idea that Vermont’s comedy scene is for real. So congrats to Nathan Hartswick, Natalie Miller, the Vermont Comedy Club and all of the local comedians who participated and, most importantly, didn’t make me look like an idiot for guest-editing a local comedy issue two weeks ago! Funny enough, one of my favorite comedic moments from the weekend had nothing to do with the GMCF. I’ve been writing about the Vermont Comedy Divas in this column for years, and usually listing their ranks as “Josie Leavitt, Tracie Spencer and others.” A few months ago, Diva Autumn Engroff Spencer mentioned to a mutual friend that she’s always referred to as “and others” in 7D and also probably said, “What the fuck?” Well, after seeing her at the Vermont Works for Women benny at the FlynnSpace last Friday, I won’t marginalize her again. Spencer delivered a killer set that was hilarious, brashly off-color and provocative in equal measure. My apologies, Autumn. And Sue Schmidt. And Carmen Lagala.
We close this week with a pair of corrections. The first is that last week’s feature story on the DuPont Brothers [“Family Ties,” May 22] erroneously claimed the boys were from Maryland. They’re actually from Delaware, making them the coolest thing to happen to the state since Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar made of fun of Delaware in Wayne’s World.
Correction No. 2 concerns our ongoing contest in which fans can vote for their favorite local band to play this year’s Grand Point North Festival. Last week I mentioned that we would be paring down the list from the original field of nominees to seven finalists. That is actually not the case. In the spirit of true, populist democracy, once the nomination period closes on Wednesday, May 29, any band that was nominated remains in the mix and will be eligible to win. That should make for an interesting vote, given that at last count … every band in Vermont has been nominated. I’m only sort of joking. The initial response to the contest has been overwhelming, and you folks face a tough decision in the coming week. On the bright side, if you vote for a band that doesn’t win — and a lot of you probably will — there is good chance you can still catch them at the Precipice. To vote, click here.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Pure X, Crawling Up Stairs
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Dirty Beaches, Drifters/Love is the Devil
Eliane Elias, Light My Fire