As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Funkwagon front man AaronBurroughs' Old North End apartment was recently destroyed by fire. Thankfully, Burroughs was able to get out safe and sound. Well, safe, at least. Sadly, all of the keyboardist and vocalist's sound equipment was ruined. But because Burlington is Burlington and we tend to take care of our own, the scene is rallying behind Burroughs with a blowout benefit show at Nectar's this Thursday, February 20. More on that in just a sec.
Longtime readers know that, on occasion, I've had a little fun with Burroughs over his band's name. I can't quite call it a pet peeve, but I confess that the seemingly ubiquitous trend of funk bands using the word "funk" in their names causes my eye to do this weird rolling thing. Really, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. My own musical résumé includes a pair of local ska bands whose names included the word ska — Ska-Ka-Doodle Doo! in high school and then the Skamapahrodites in college. What can I say? Those were experimental times.
The thing is, I've teased Burroughs about it only because I really like the guy, and knowing he's a bit of a smartass himself, I figure he appreciates the gentle ribbing. I think he does. Maybe.
Anyway, my first encounter with Burroughs was at a quiet indie-folk show some years back in what was then Parima's Acoustic Lounge, where Burroughs worked — it's now the Three Needs. Following a full band set from local songbird Maryse Smith, Brattleboro's WoodenDinosaur took the stage and I fully consummated my band crush on them. WD played some gorgeously melancholy stuff that night, and I soon found myself lost in their warm, delicate sound in the plush, musical opium den that was the Acoustic Lounge.
That's when Aaron Burroughs burst into my life.
In a break between songs, Burroughs, who was working as a cocktail server that night, strode purposefully to the stage, picked up a copy of WD's then-new album, Nearly Lost Stars, and addressed a confused crowd.
(I'm paraphrasing from memory here, but you'll get the gist.)
"All right, you fuckers!" he bellowed in his gospel-trained baritone. "Here's how this is gonna go down. These fine folks are going to keep playing some beautiful music." He gestured grandly toward the band.
"And when they're done, you ungrateful little bitches are gonna fork over $10 for this album. Right. Here," he continued, tapping his finger on the cover for emphasis.
"Because if you don't, I will not serve you your precious Budweisers or your prissy Cosmopolitans! Do we understand each other?!"
Then, slowly, a round of nervous applause.
"Thank you!" he shouted, giving a little bow and walking offstage. It was one of the ballsiest and most entertaining things I've ever seen at a show. And I became an instant fan of Aaron Burroughs.
Fans of Funkwagon would likely recognize the sassy bombast I saw from him that night. Burroughs carries the same energy about him onstage when leading his band. And his inimitable style, not to mention his powerhouse pipes and crack bandmates, make Funkwagon a seriously entertaining band to watch, silly name or not.
So because Burroughs doesn't have my pulpit to make a case for himself, I'm going to borrow a page from his playbook to help him out. Ready?
All right, you fuckers! Here's how this is gonna go down. This Thursday at Nectar's, some ass-kicking bands — Funkwagon,Gang of ThievesandLynguistic Civilans, to name a few — are going to play some ass-kicking music. And when they do, you ungrateful little bitches are gonna fork over $10 to see it. Because if you do, all of that money, and I do mean all of it, will go to help Aaron Burroughs.
And if you don't? Well, you'll have Aaron Burroughs to answer to. Choose wisely.
In all seriousness, here's hoping Burroughs gets back on his feet soon. Because the local scene is a better place when he's rocking — and haranguing — crowds.
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Moving on, electronic dance music fans will want to swing by the next installment of the Hoptronica series at Red Square on Wednesday, February 26. In addition to the usual dance-floor-busting mashup of local and regional hip-hop and EDM DJs, this time around the event is highlighted by the return of a native son, Mike Henderson, aka ENDO, who grew up in Vermont and is making waves in international EDM circles.
In addition to curating a style he's dubbed "future classic" — a melodic hybrid of deep house and nu-disco — ENDO is regarded as a monster technical innovator, developing myriad techniques that push the boundaries of what was previously thought possible with DJing programs such as Ableton and Traktor. His YouTube tutorials alone have garnered more than one million hits. But you've got a chance to see him do his thing in the flesh.
Pretty cool, right? Just so you know, the film is screening at Hotel Vermont this Saturday, February 22, after which a pair of killer bands, Asheville, N.C.'s Floating Action and locals PaperCastles, will rock out in celebration of the film and the fact that TristanBaribeau (Villanelles, DoctorSailor) didn't die while filming it.
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Last but not least, yet another sign of spring! Late last week, the organizers of the Waking Windows 4 festival in Winooski announced their first headliner. And it's a good one: Nat Baldwin of DirtyProjectors playing alongside Vetiver's OttoHauser at the Winooski Methodist Church.
If you'll recall, following last year's festival, I proclaimed WW3 to be the "coolest live-music event of the year" in Vermont. And with the benefit of hindsight, I'm gonna go ahead and say I was spot-fucking-on. (For once.) That statement is not meant to take anything away from our other great fests — Discover Jazz, Grand Point North, the Precipice, etc. — which are all excellent in delightfully different and varied ways. Rather, it's meant to shine a light on a festival that might fly under the radar because, well, it's almost too cool.
There is a stigma attached to WW that the fest isn't geared toward general audiences. That's kind of true. But it is, however, welcoming to anyone who is interested in seeking out great underground music, both local and national. Translation: You don't need to be a music-obsessed hipster to get something out of it.
The thing is, WW is curated by some of the most reliably excellent tastemakers in town — Angioplasty Media, MSR Presents and others. And there's a good chance that more than a few bands who show up this year will be on to bigger things by this time next year. For example, google SpeedyOrtiz, who played WW3, and see how the rest of their year went. Not bad, right? (Ditto the Luyas, BTW.)
So I'm putting WW4 on your radar now, because I suspect in a few months you'll thank me for urging you to step out of your comfort zone and be just a little bit cooler.
Waking Windows 4 runs from May 1 through May 4. Tickets are on sale
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.