Soundbites: David Bromberg, The Last Town Chorus, David Grisman, Burlington Sounds Project
What if the late Frank Zappa had a thing for trad blues and Americana, stopped being so cryptically cynical and underwent a major attitude adjustment? Well, he might've sounded a bit like David Bromberg, the eclectic folk hero, bluesman and songwriter extraordinaire, who plays the Higher Ground Ballroom on Saturday, May 12.
I've only recently been turned on to Bromberg's music, and by recently, I mean, like, this morning. But I'm already convinced he's one of the most effortlessly creative axemen I've ever heard. His playing is strong in nearly every conceivable style of American music — from intricate folk and peppery bluegrass to stinging electric blues.
Bromberg isn't quite a household name, but the fact that he's playing HG's big room should tell you something about his cult following. Musicians particularly revere him, so you can expect to see some of our local heroes scattered throughout the audience at Saturday's show.
In last week's column, I told you about the big Bob Dylan concert coming to the Champlain Valley Expo on July 1. Here's an interesting tie-in: In addition to work with Tom Paxton and Jerry Jeff Walker, Bromberg played sideman to Dylan on the albums New Morning and Self Portrait. He also produced a handful of tracks for Bobby D's old-time covers record, Good as I Been to You, but none of the cuts were used on the final release. It's a good bet Dylan's legendary unpredictability had something to do with it.
Bromberg is something of an erratic performer himself. He first came to national attention as part of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene; after appearing on numerous records throughout the following two decades, he quit playing music to become a violin maker in Chicago. Can't blame Dylan for that.
Now relocated to Delaware, Bromberg is once again hitting select stages. Those in the know will definitely be at the South Burlington show. Everyone else should take my word for it and check him out.
NEW MUSICAL CRUSH
Ah, spring — the time of year when a young(ish) Music Editor's fancy turns to . . . female singer-songwriters? I know, I know. I can't believe it myself. But the warmer weather has me swapping avant-rock and math-y metal for the sweet, sonorous sound of lady troubadours such as the Big Apple's Megan Hickey, a.k.a The Last Town Chorus.
TLTC plays a special $3 show at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Tuesday. If you think Hickey's music is all sunny and chirpy, you've got the wrong gal. Her music is gorgeously ghostly, with autobiographical sketches delivered in a reverb-rich voice somewhere between those of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval and Cat Power.
Cooler still is the fact that Hickey plays distorted lap-steel guitar. Her drawn-out melodies skirt across the acoustic accompaniment like a sky full of ravens on a lazy, cloudless afternoon. Her song "Huntsville 1989" perfectly captures the dual feelings of alienation and exhilaration that accompany almost everyone's teenage years.
Also excellent is her cover of David Bowie's early '80s anti-materialist anthem, "Modern Love." I think it was even played on "Grey's Anatomy." Go figure. Hell, I'm thinking of sending the producers a demo.
To summarize: The Last Town Chorus is sweet, sad and sexy. And at $3, how can you go wrong? Hear some of her stuff at — you guessed it — http://www.MySpace.com/TheLastTownChorus .
MORE SUMMER ACTION
Higher Ground continues to unveil its outdoor summer concert lineup, with two major show announcements this week. Sure, they're both a ways off, but it never hurts to plan ahead, right?
First up is another addition to the Ben & Jerry's Concerts on the Green at Shelburne Museum series. Here's a hint: He's a Vermont favorite and played a buncha bluegrass with the late Jerry Garcia. I'm sure you've figured out I'm talking about mandolin maestro David Grisman, who appears with his quintet on July 21. Also on the bill are Vermont's acoustic superstars Bluegrass Gospel Project and Bad Livers' banjo man Danny Barnes. Word on the street is, one more act will be added to the bill a little later down the line.
Remember back at the turn of the millennium, when rumors abounded that a reunited Pink Floyd would be performing Y2K-style in front of the Great Pyramid in Egypt? Well, that didn't happen, but it might be almost as cool to see lauded Floyd cover band The Machine play the Burlington Waterfront. The group is a familiar presence in the Green Mountains; they'll bring their spot-on renditions of PF staples back to town on Friday, August 17. Nothing like space-rock under a starry autumn sky. You won't be able to see the dark side of the moon, but you'll surely hear it.
Tickets for both shows go on sale Friday, May 11, and can be purchased at the Higher Ground box office, online at http://www.HigherGroundMusic.com  or by calling 888-512-SHOW.
THE WEIRD AND THE WILD
Wanted to give all you avant-garde heads out there a heads-up about another show coming to town via Greg Davis' Burlington Sounds Project. This one features raccoo-oo-oon, which Davis describes as a "freaky psych band from Iowa City in the vein of Animal Collective." And judging from local music blog activity, you all know who they are.
Also on the bill is Evan Miller, another Iowa City talent originally from Oklahoma. Miller, a guitarist, is among the recent crop of six-stringers inspired by the transcendent folk stylings of the late John Fahey. Blues and old-time also make their way into his live sets, which Davis calls "mesmerizing."
Rounding out the roster are locals Pink Bacon — could you pick a grosser name? — a trio of ex-Nest Material dudes. So expect some truly trippy shit.
My goodness — I almost forgot to tell you where the show is taking place! Let's fix that right quick: Kria Studio on 333 North Winooski Ave. is the venue. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door and should run between five and seven bucks. Consider yourselves informed.
LIFE IS A . . . WELL, YOU KNOW
What can I say about the Spielpalast Cabaret that hasn't been said before? How 'bout where and when this year's run is happening?
The raucous, randy ladies and gents of the SC will entertain those old enough to vote at Burlington's City Hall Auditorium on May 11, 12, 13, 17, 18 & 19. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 day-of-show; grab yours at the Flynn Regional Box office, online at http://www.flynnTix.org  or by calling 86-FLYNN.
One last bit before I bid you adieu for the week: There's a new electronic music event taking place at Burlington's Club Metronome every other Sunday for the foreseeable future. It's called "Sanctuary — Where Electronica Lives," and will be promoted by a consortium of local DJs, including Elliot Matos, Will Taylor, Pat Spiegel, Chris Pattison, Janet Newberry, Adrian Sackheim, Mike Henderson and Justin Remillard. If you're at all familiar with the local techno/house/drum 'n' bass/dance scene, you no doubt recognize most of those names.
The first edition of the biweekly party features San Francisco turntablist Justin Martin, Montréal's Rob Brown and locals Justin R.E.M., DJK and Sekhmet. Tickets are $12 for under-21-year-olds, $6 for booze-legal bodies.