Recently, Seven Days partnered with local TV station WCAX  in order to cross-pollinate coverage via the station’s numerous news broadcast platforms. A few times a week, you can catch our reporters shooting the shit with WCAX anchors about various topics. (And yes, the gratuitous swear was intentional, since we can’t say any of them on the TV. So frustrating.) One evening, Ken Picard or Andy Bromage might be on talking about hard news or politics. The next, you might see Alice Levitt talking about food or Eva Sollberger serving up her latest “Stuck in Vermont” episode. And, once in a while, they even let me on air to prattle about music.
I dropped by the studio last Friday evening to talk up Metal Mondays at Nectar’s, which one of our spiffy new freelance writers, John Flanagan, had written about in last week’s issue . Upon strolling through the front door, I encountered two sexy ladies. Correction: two extremely tall, sexy ladies.
To my pleasant surprise, the ladies in question were Amber LeMay and Lucy Belle, from local drag troupe the House of LeMay . The duo were in the studio to promote the upcoming Winter Is a Drag Ball at Higher Ground, this Saturday, February 11.
A couple of thoughts:
One, how many local news stations outside of Vermont would lead a broadcast with an interview featuring drag queens? Kudos, WCAX. That takes some real, er, balls.
Two, there are more terrible pictures of me posing with various House of LeMay members floating around that I care to count. That might come back to haunt me, should I ever run for public office. Not because there’s any shame in associating with drag queens, mind you. There isn’t. It’s because every damn time they take my picture, they somehow manage to get me either pre- or post-smile, so my mouth is curled in a weird sneer or my eyes are half closed and staring off into the distance. Granted, most of those pics are from various watering holes late at night, when I’m probably not looking my sharpest. Another reason not to run for office. But still. Is one flattering pic really too much to ask?
Back to the point: Amber LeMay is one classy lady. In addition to giving a rundown on the drag ball, which is a benefit for the Vermont People With AIDS Coalition , she and VPWAC’s Jonathan Heins divulged some sobering info about the state of AIDS and HIV in Vermont.
You don’t hear as much about HIV and AIDS as you used to even, say, 10 years ago. But it’s still a serious issue for a lot of Vermonters. LeMay and Heins noted that there are 500 people living with HIV in the state. And those are just the ones who know they have it. Here’s the scary thing: Statistically, there are probably at least another 100 more.
The drag ball is the coalition’s single biggest fundraiser of the year. It’s always packed, and this year should be no exception as it occupies both the Higher Ground Ballroom and the Showcase Lounge. There will be six hours of entertainment between the two stages.
The evening begins with a seated performance of the House of LeMay Cabaret in the Lounge. Meanwhile, in the big room, twee darlings the Smittens  take the stage, followed by rocker Steph Pappas  — who played the very first drag ball 17 years ago, by the way — and then yet another Smittens set. Then things get really hot.
After the cabaret, the Showcase Lounge becomes the Diva Lounge with tunes from Superior Sound and a host of lip-synching drag queens and kings. But the main event is in the ballroom with live performances by — I swear I’m not making any of these up — New Cocks on the Block, Kings Local 802, Isis Vermouth, Amanda Fondel, the Good Housewives, Rue Mevlana,  and DJs Rob Douglas and Alan Perry.
LeMay noted on WCAX that though the drag ball is essentially a costume party — this year’s theme: Cowboys and Gayliens — dressing up is not required. Plenty of people attend the ball every year in “normal” clothes. Those people are really, really lame. But, just so you know, you do have the option.
Personally, my best dress is at the cleaners. But I’ll be sure to pick it up on time … on one condition: The House of LeMay has to promise to finally take a decent picture of me.
Last spring, the Montpelier music community essentially became homeless when Langdon Street Café closed its doors. While there are still plenty of cool places to catch live music in the capital city — the Black Door, Positive Pie 2 and Charlie O’s, to name three — losing LSC was a profound blow and reports from both bands and booking types in Montpelier suggest its been a dark year for the town’s scene. But there may be daylight on the horizon. In an email last week, Montpelier’s Duffy Gardner wrote in to say that he’s holding an “informational meeting” on Wednesday, February 15, at his “pop up” Valentine’s Day store, Bandit Gifts on Main Street. The topic: reopening the Lamb Abbey.
To refresh your memories, the Lamb Abbey was a small, alternative performance venue in an old mill by the river in Montpelier. It was a vibrant asset to the city’s arts scene and a reliable place to catch cool, off-the-beaten-path music. It was also a potential death trap.
The Lamb Abbey was forced to close in June 2010 for violating a long list of fire and safety codes. Though there was talk about renovating the space and reopening, it never happened. Now, according to Duffy, a few industrious folks have started tossing around the idea of reopening the Abbey in downtown Montpelier, and they’re looking for similarly interested, knowledgeable and motivated parties — looking at you, Golden Dome Musicians’ Collective, Meg Hammond and Ben Matchstick. Ahem.
Duffy didn’t divulge specifics regarding what will be discussed at the meeting — I’m guessing “How the hell do we make any money at this?” might top the list. Nor did he have news of any concrete plans beyond brainstorming. Still, even the mere prospect of another venue in Montpelier is cause for some excitement, right?
While we’re (sort of) in the neighborhood, Halogen Media ’s Justin Hoy has been doing yeoman’s work as the new talent buyer at the Rusty Nail in Stowe. In recent months he’s upped the talent level from aprés-ski bar bands to legit touring acts. This week, Hoy has rising local rock stars in training Chamberlin  headlining on Sunday, February 12, rounding out a weekend that also includes the Goosepimp Orchestra  on Friday, February 10, and Boston’s Girls Guns and Glory  on Saturday, February 11.
This just in from the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: Bonnie Raitt  is slated to headline the Flynn MainStage on June 3. In other news, the definition of jazz has expanded again.
Speaking of Jazz Fest — and liberal definitions of the genre — I ran into BDJF managing director Brian Mital at the Blitz the Ambassador  show at Nectar’s over the weekend. Like me, we was blown away by the Ghanaian MC, who was backed by a full band, including a gnarly horn section. Total guess here, but I’m thinking you’d be equally impressed should Blitz somehow find his way back to town this June. Perhaps on the top block of Church Street?
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, 8-track player, etc. this week.
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas
Jack White, Love Interruption
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
Porcelain Raft, Strange Weekend
Shlohmo, Vacation EP