Soundbites: The Real Slim Shady, Good Folk, Bite Torrent
Have you ever seen the Oscar-winning 2002 Eminem biopic 8 Mile? If you haven’t, I would highly recommend it. It is a surprisingly gripping and gritty exposition of the Detroit rapper’s rise from the Motor City underground to pop superstardom. Plus, Brittany Murphy costars. We like Brittany Murphy. Moving on…
While Em’s portrayal of Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith is impressive — granted, dude was really just playing himself — the most fascinating scenes in the film are the brutal underground rap battles in which he transforms from a nervous unknown into a legit and respected freestyler. Adding to those scenes’ intensity are the racial undercurrents implicit in being virtually the only white guy in the room, a fact Rabbit/Eminem uses to his lyrical advantage with rapier wit during one memorable faceoff. If only he had actually written the words.
A little known but nonetheless true fact regarding “Rocky for Rappers,” er, 8 Mile, is that Marshall “Eminem” Mathers actually wrote very few of the battle scenes for the film. That task fell upon legendary freestyle guru Craig G , widely regarded as the premier freestyle rapper on the planet. Take a minute to check out the man’s YouTube clips and you’ll understand why. As someone who makes his living with words, I am consistently amazed by people who can sling them off the cuff with such seemingly little effort. When I write a clunker, I have the luxury of the “delete” key and/or editors to rap my knuckles. But folks like Craig G work without that sort of safety net. Simply put, dude is straight up nasty. Oh, and speaking of nasty…
Wednesday, July 29 — as in the day you picked up this paper, right? — Craig G will join the Queen City’s dynamic hip-hop duo DJ A-Dog and Nastee  (how slick was that segue?) for the next installment of their ongoing Wednesday-night “True School” hip-hop residency at Nectar’s. Think you’ve got what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the best? (Trust me, you don’t.) Then swing by and get a taste of the real slim shady.
Over the last few months I’ve regularly espoused the many-splendored virtues of this summer’s monumental, dare I say historic, influx of marquee musical talent into the region. And with good reason. It’s been pretty rad all the way around. Though I could perhaps justly be accused of fawning over those epic lineups, I have also cautioned the concertgoing public not to sleep on many of the smaller events — Festivus, the upcoming Northeast Kingdom Music Festival, etc. — that keep us rocking or rolling year in and year out. While much of the “Summer of [still blank, dammit]” is firmly in our rearview, many of those down-home hootenannies are just coming into view on the horizon. For example, the 26th annual Champlain Valley Folk Festival at Kingsland Bay Park this weekend.
The CVFF is a certifiable Vermont institution. Even the Boston Globe seems to think so, calling the fest “one of the front-porch-friendliest festivals in the region.” And also, “wikkid pissah, guy.” And they’re right, of course. It is wikkid pissah, guys — OK, the Beantown rag didn’t really call it that. But you get the point.
The three-day throwdown is a family-friendly square dance of epic proportions, featuring arts-and-crafts expositions, folk-music workshops, great food and, of course, a delightfully eclectic sampling of music from around the region. This year’s lineup includes ’60s folkie Geoff Muldaur , bluegrass outfit The Gawler Family Band , and the provocatively named Annie and the Hedonists — what kind of festival is this again? As always, the localvore movement is soundly represented as well, with scheduled appearances from Carol Hausner , Patrick Ross and Doug Perkins , and Robert Resnik’s Twist of the Wrist, among others.
The Champlain Valley Folk Festival begins this Friday and runs through Sunday. For more information about tickets, camping and a complete schedule of events, visit www.cvfest.org .
Remember Jazz Fest? That was pretty awesome, right? Well, if you’re dealing with withdrawal symptoms — such as shaky jazz hands — from the noticeable lack of big-band boppin’ on our city streets since the finale of this year’s incarnation, we suggest checking out the Vermont Jazz Ensemble , which will appear at Halvorson’s every Monday in August.
If Wednesday’s Craig G show gets your freestyle juices flowing, you might want to take in the Rurally Urban Records Rap Battle  this Thursday at Manhattan Pizza and Pub in Burlington. A relatively new entrant into the 802’s hip-hop fold, RUR’s semimonthly showcases have been drawing positive reviews from several folks I’ve spoken with. And based on what I heard from MC Mertz ’s debut solo effort — see last week’s CD review — I’m inclined to believe them.
If Wednesday’s Craig G show and Thursday’s RUR Rap Battle aren’t enough to slake your thirst for freestyle flow, you could always try the newly minted open-mic night Monday’s at Club Metronome, hosted by Elephantbear ’s Mikey P. And, yes, musicians of all styles are encouraged to attend.
Ever hear of an instrument called the nyckelharpa? I hadn’t either, until I found out that the world’s premier (only?) nyckelharpaist (Nyckelharpaer? Nyckelharpi? Nyckelback?), Sweden’s Peter Hedlund , would be appearing this Thursday at Montpelier’s Black Door Bar & Bistro. I have to say I’m intrigued. Imagine a violin in a three-way with a dulcimer and a harpsichord and you’re sort of on the right track — and also a total perv. But in all seriousness, the 600-year-old instrument really is fascinating to behold. And few, if any, play it as well as Hedlund does.
I had a really nice conversation with local jazz giant James Harvey the other day. He told me he has a slew of new recordings on tap in the coming months, including a rerelease of his out-of-print 2001 album Grateful, a live recording from his recent solo piano show at the FlynnSpace, and another live recording from his Church Street performances during Jazz Fest. There are no set release dates for any of the three discs as of this filing. But I’ll keep you posted.
Speaking of local jazz stalwarts, Michael Chorney  is dipping into the well and revisiting a series of compositions he last performed some eight years ago with a group called Orchid, this Friday at the Black Door. Joining him for the 2009 incarnation will be longtime collaborators Rob Morse, PJ Davidian, Andrew Moroz and Nelson Caldwell.
Here’s an interesting show: Waylon Speed  and the Lonestar Chain  this Saturday at Nectar’s. I say “interesting” not only because these are two of the best twangy rock outfits going in town at the moment, but also because three-quarters of Waylon Speed once belonged to late, great truckstop rockers Chuch. The last quarter? Matt Hayes, who now plays pedal steel for the Lonestar Chain. Awkward!
And last but not least, registration for the third session of this summer’s “Rock Camp”  (August 17-21) is still open. The weeklong intensive covers just about every facet of rockin’ that a kid could possibly want to know — well, except for the sex and drugs part. Just say no! There’s a wide variety of idioms, from punk and hardcore to reggae to singer-songwriter. And the program’s instructors comprise many of the finest players in the area, including vocalist Marie Claire , drummer Caleb Bronz , guitarist Franky Andreas  and bassist Aram Bedrosian . For more info, click here .