Soundbites: Shock the Monkey, Shock the Monkey (Cont'd), Bite Torrent
It’s not something I think about very often — believe it or not, I’m actually a pretty modest fella, and it’s not like I’m Tom freakin’ Messner or anything. But every now and then, and usually completely out of the blue, I’m forced to confront my local pseudo-celebrity face to face. Sometimes quite literally, as was the case last Friday.
Following an excellent set from new-ish local duo The Vacant Lots , I retreated to the dank confines of The Monkey House basement for a quickie interview with the band . Led by booking dude and all around swell guy Paddy Reagan, I descended the steps. We neared the bottom and Reagan motioned to a beam on the ceiling above the last stair, tapping it for emphasis before turning the corner. As my eyes wandered upward, I stopped dead in my tracks, recognition of what I was seeing creeping slowly over me.
It was me. Lots of me.
There, plastered across the bulk of the beam like kill marks on the side of a fighter jet, were 50-plus cutouts of the silhouette that graces the top of this very column. To say the least, I was flabbergasted. Of the dozens of thoughts racing through my mind, here were the three most prominent:
Trey . . . dammit.
Though Reagan played somewhat coy as to why, exactly, my countenance(s) shone down upon the Monkey’s storage room, he did divulge whodunnit, and with only a modicum of Gitmo-styled “interrogation,” no less. Though I’ll not sink to embarrassing this person in public, one of two things is apparently clear: I have a number-one fan (creepy). Or, a mortal enemy (slightly less creepy, actually). All in a day’s work, I guess.
SHOCK THE MONKEY (CONT’D.)
So I told you that story to tell you this one: The Monkey House rocks.
As I alluded to in last week’s column , Reagan & Co. have two solid months of terrific music lined up to help get us through the winter doldrums without doing something crazy — like decorating your bar with my face, for example . . . ahem. The fun truly begins in earnest next week. But there are a few options this week to whet your appetite, including some ongoing residencies that bear mentioning.
First up, for the last couple of months, VT Union ’s Dakota has been hosting a free weekly hip-hop open mike on Tuesday nights. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. the enigmatic MC assumes the role of DJ and spins for a collection of the area’s better up-and-coming talent, as well as some veteran players (playas?). The music is no doubt pretty tight. But the real sticking point is this: $5 Henny and Cokes. Actually, that sounds disgusting. Go for the music.
Wednesday nights see alternating sessions. Wordsmiths will want to attend every first and third hump day as Burlington College’s Mack Finley hosts an evening of spoken-word poetry. Finley is one of the area’s more highly regarded bards and is reported to have a new book out later this year.
Opposing Wednesdays will see the return of Jazz Rehab, a group of UVM all-stars led by saxophonist Andy Allen and skins man Pete Negroponte . Local jazz heads will likely recognize Allen as Bryan McNamara’s (Strength in Numbers) successor in The Anthony Santor Group.
As for more exclusive engagements, indie-folk fans should mark this Thursday on their Facebook calendars, as local songwriting impresario Austin Sirch  — whose excellent album Alter Alert I inexcusably overlooked in my roundup of the top Vermont-made albums of 2008 . . . sorry, man — is joined by a pair of intriguing Providence-based acts, Vio/Mire  and Annikki Dawn .
Believe it or not, there is plenty of other stuff happening this week that in no way involves The Monkey House. I’m as shocked as you are.
As reported some weeks ago, Montpelier has a new alt-venue called Lamb Abbey. I plan to swing by this Friday to catch a belated “Inaugural Ball” featuring Rogue Birds . The central Vermont trio will be joined by VT ex-pat Kris Gruen  to perform an original “rock drama” entitled Cantata in 6 Acts. These little birdies are new to me, but describe themselves as “more passionate than precise, more punk than prog and more drunk than gospel.” Sold. Americana-punk outfit Pariah Beat  closes out the night.
Speaking of alt-venues, Rough Francis , Blowtorch and the aforementioned Vacant Lots head up a show this Friday at The Fifth Element in Burlington. I’m not supposed to tell you where it is precisely, which reminds me of a joke. Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: You don’t know? In other words, to find the show, simply find a hipster.
And speaking of jokes, this Sunday is the Higher Ground Comedy Battle V at the HG Ballroom. Once again, I will be reprising my role on the judges’ panel, despite my utter lack of qualifications to judge standup comedy — as painfully evidenced by that last paragraph. This year’s lineup was auditioned to ensure maximum hilarity. Among the 12 performers are last year’s champ Roger Miller, two-time finalist Alex Nief, three-time contestant Tracie Spencer and high school senior Jack Offenhartz. Also appearing is Burlington’s Mikey VanGulden, whose funny bone was about the only one in his body not broken when he was struck by a taxicab last summer, riding his bike home from a shift at Higher Ground. Glad to have you back, Mikey.
Finally, it’s no secret that dancehall reggae is enormously popular throughout the Green Mountains. For proof, one need look no further than DJ Big Dog ’s long-running MiYard Reggae Night every Sunday at Nectar’s, or stroll past any number of Main Street bars overflowing with pulsing dub rhythms on the weekend. But now Burlington can claim a sound system of its very own: Locally based and internationally connected record label/promotions company Upsetta Sound  prepares to make its presence known on a global scale. Celebrating the release of its star-studded debut compilation Cuss Fix Riddims, the upstart company is throwing a massive, um, massive this Saturday at Parima. Scheduled to spin are label founders Dante DaVinci  (a.k.a. J2) and Selector Dubee , along with local icons Jon Demus  and Rise Up Sound ’s Reverence. Serving up live performances are Vermont’s own Greta Frost , Connecticut’s Ras Q, Florida’s Smoke & Aqua and St. Croix native Ras Iba , all of whom appear on the comp and call the label home. For more info on the label, the release and/or the party, click here .