The crown jewel of Little Williamsburg, er, Winooski nightlife, the Monkey House, is about to undergo a subtle but significant change. Namely, longtime booking guru and all-around swell guy Paddy Reagan is stepping down on January 1. His departure closes the book on a nearly six-year run in which the Monkey House has evolved from an out-of-the-way sleeper nightspot to a still-kind-of-out-of-the-way scene cornerstone. In that time, the Monkey has become the local epicenter for hip music of all varieties, from indie to indie rock to indie folk and (indie) beyond.
In all seriousness, Reagan’s contributions can’t be overstated. And coming from a guy prone to overstating things, that’s quite a statement. But the list of bands Reagan has helped funnel through the roundabout during his tenure reads like a who’s who from hipster music blogs over the last half decade. Just off the top of my head: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, the Morning Benders, Kurt Vile, Vetiver, Wye Oak, the Tallest Man on Earth. I could go on.
The point is, the Monkey House has legitimately upped the area’s cred with a consistently great calendar, week in and week out. And Reagan has been the man behind the curtain — and often behind the soundboard.
If I had accomplished what Reagan has with the Monkey, I’d probably be an arrogant, insufferable ass — or, y’know, more of one. But that’s the thing about Paddy Reagan. He’s one of the most genuine, humble people you could ever hope to meet. In a business bloated with inflated egos and hipster-er-than-thou smugness, his humility is kind of amazing, actually.
There is an attendant stigma in underground music that the people who champion it do so as much for a badge of imagined hipster honor as out of an appreciation for the music. That’s not entirely unjustified. But in the nearly six years I’ve worked with him, I’ve only gotten the sense that Reagan does what he does — whether with the Monkey, Angioplasty Media or Tick Tick — out of a legitimate desire to share cool music with the people around him.
Fortunately, Reagan is leaving booking duties in the capable hands of MSR Presents’ Matt Rogers, who knows a thing or two about great up-and-coming music and actually has been responsible for more than his share of great shows at the club. Rogers writes that he doesn’t foresee any major changes to the Monkey’s booking philosophy. If it ain’t broke…
Rogers does add that he’s got some exciting shows in the works for 2013. Given his track record, I’m inclined to believe him.
As for Reagan, he says he’ll be focusing on his bedbug-sniffing-dog business — yes, really — as well as devoting more time to his own musical endeavors, including his excellent indie-folk outfit Paper Castles. More music from that band is undoubtedly a win for local audiences. Also, it means I can officially add them to my list of “Bands to Publicly Harass About Putting Out New Albums.” (Speaking of which, Parmaga? Lendway? Shelly Shredder? WTF?)
So on behalf of a grateful scene, thank you, Paddy.
Speaking of the Monkey House, BTV expats Pretty & Nice swing through the Winooski Speedway — Google it — this week, with a new EP, Us You All We, in tow. I recently gave the four-song quickie a spin on the ol’ Spotify and, not surprisingly, I liked what I heard. While all the hallmarks we’ve come to know and love from the band are there — catchy Costello-ian hooks, unpredictable structures and weird lyrics about animals — the band seems to have refined and expanded upon their already potent formula. It’s a sophisticated but relentlessly infectious EP that I’m guessing will more than translate live. Vetica and Chuck the Plains open.
In non-Monkey news, Calais has a new bar. Or rather, a bar. It’s called the Whammy Bar — great name — and they opened for business about a month ago. In addition to trivia and open-mic nights — on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, respectively — I’m told they’ll also have regular live local music, including this Thursday, December 6, when Jay Ekis of Concrete Rivals drops by for a solo set. Welcome to the fray.
Local hip-hop act A2VT were one of my favorite stories to emerge from the local scene this year. Composed of three young African refugees, the trio has a unique perspective on life, and music, in these United States. The band is set to premier a video for its single, “Winooski, My Town” at the New City Galerie on Church Street in Burlington this Saturday, December 8. For what it’s worth, that was one of my favorite cuts from A2VT’s debut album, which dropped this summer. It finds the band at its most bombastic and personal and is a tantalizing glimpse of the group’s potential.
I know how you kids like the rock music. (You do still like the rock music, don’t you?) And for sheer locavore rockin’, your best bet this week is likely Nectar’s on Thursday, December 6. The evening features grunge-y Villanelles offshoot Phantom Suns, indie-pop darlings Lendway and Savage Hen, the last of which is the doom-gaze side project of Lendway guitarist Matt Hagen … and, as always, his beard.
Whenever I interview famous rock-star types, I make a point to ask what they’ve been listening to lately. That stuff doesn’t always make it into the interviews you read — sometimes I just gotta do for me, y’know? But occasionally it does. For example, in my recent interview with Sharon Van Etten, the indie songstress espoused the virtues of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, saying, “She has such a beautiful spirit.” Well, in a divine twist of serendipity/booking coincidence, the apiary Lady Lamb — and, presumably, her spirit — will be at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Thursday, December 6, opening for Kaki King. Tell ’em Sharon sent ya.
We’re already five whole days into December and yet I’ve only heard tell of two holiday-related hoedowns on the horizon. (Looking at you, Bob Wagner, Brett Hughes and Rebecca Kopycinski.) What gives, grinches? The first, with rockabilly guitar god Bill Kirchen, takes place at Club Metronome on Tuesday, December 11. (See the spotlight on page 80.) The second is a more localized affair, the last Girls Rock VT showcase of the year, on Sunday, December 9, at Radio Bean. Among the musical elves — or wisewomen, depending how much Christ you put in Christmas — slated to appear are the Smittens, Vedora, Lily Sickles and Swale.
Sticking with Radio Bean for the moment, I recently had a nice chat with Michael Chorney, whose band, Dollar General, embarks upon a month-long Thursday residency at the café this week. The Chorndog — oops, I’m not supposed to use that nickname anymore — tells me he’s particularly excited for the residency because each week different special guests will join the band, including marimbist Jane Boxall, fiddler Katie Trautz (and possibly Trautz’s Wooden Dinosaur cohort, Michael Roberts), and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, among others. He also hinted at some big news that I’m really not supposed to mention, unrelated to that band. I’m not saying you should hit the Bean on Thursdays and ply him full of Five Dollar Shakes until he talks about it. But I’m not not saying it, either … ahem. Anyway, stay tuned.
Last but not least, local funky bunch Bearquarium release a new record — like, on vinyl — this week and celebrate by headlining Nectar’s on Saturday, December 8. Local totally-not-stoner-rockers Gang of Thieves open the show.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment in which I share a sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Each Other, Heavily Spaced
The Pharmacy, Stoned & Alone
You Won’t, Skeptic Goodbye
The Luyas, Animator
John Pizzarelli, Let’s Share Christmas