It’s been a tough couple of weeks for music-related businesses locally. Somewhat overlooked in the hubbub over last week’s announcement of the impending closure of Montpelier’s Langdon Street Café is that the Queen City lost something of an institution: Venerable downtown instrument shop Burlington Guitar & Amp closed its doors on April 30. According to a press release sent by Nowa Crosby, who operated a guitar repair business in the BGA basement, the shop closed due to financial woes and an inability to keep pace with the “changing face of the music instrument and accessory retail business.” I’m pretty sure that’s code for “the Internet.”
I spoke with Crosby by phone last week, and he confirmed that online mega retailers had indeed cut into BGA’s bottom line. He said that customers would regularly try out a new guitar in the store and then order the same axe online, presumably for a lower price.
“You have to change,” Crosby said, pointing to BGA’s minimal web presence as a contributing factor to the shop’s closing. “Part of the partnership didn’t do that.”
Crosby will continue operating his repair business, but will move to the second floor of the building at 200 Main Street, which was home to BGA for seven years, and Calliope Music prior to that. Crosby’s shop is an authorized warranty center for Martin, Fender, Taylor, Guild and Ovation guitars. He notes that much of his business comes from online referrals. Each of those guitar companies lists him on its respective website as a go-to guy for repairs locally.
“More than 30 years of that space being a music store is gone,” Crosby lamented. He then added a poignant reminder of the importance of buying local. “If you don’t patronize your local music stores, then those local music stores won’t be here.”
And so the countdown begins … sigh.
With Langdon Street Café slated to close on May 28, there are but two and a half weeks left to enjoy “Radio Bean South.” Booking manager Ben T. Matchstick is still adding a few shows to the calendar to flesh out the café’s monthlong wake, but there are already ample reasons to drop by the juke joint between now and the end of May.
(If I could chat privately with my Burlington readers for a sec: Folks, if you’ve never been to LSC, or even if it’s just been a while — as it has for me — do yourself a favor and make the trip down I-89 for a night soon and check it out. You won’t regret it, I promise — LSC is a special place. And if you do regret it, that’s why God made Charlie O’s. You can’t lose.)
Aaand we’re back!
This weekend’s calendar boasts the Winterlings on Thursday. The indie-folk duo caused quite a stir when it passed through the area a few months ago — which was shortly after Paste magazine declared Winterlings a “can’t miss” act from last fall’s CMJ music orgy, er, conference in NYC.
Things take a turn for the twangy on Saturday as Mont-p country stalwarts Mark LeGrand and the Lovesick Band play an early set, followed by Rachael Rice & the Cosmic Americans’ “Last Waltz.” Rice is saying goodbye to both LSC and Vermont, as she’ll soon head west to Portland, Ore., with her longtime partner Dan Haley … Jesus. Talk about getting kicked when you’re down. Not only are we losing LSC, but Rice and Haley? Ugh.
I guess Cinderella — the band, not the fairy-tale princess — were right. You really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Who knew 1980s hair metal was so poignant?
(A quick aside, did you ever notice that the choruses of Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You’ve Got [Till It’s Gone]” and Warrant’s “Heaven” have virtually identical melodies? Go ahead, hum them right now. I’ll wait … By the way, if you need a cheap laugh, watch either video on YouTube, like, right now. And yes, I get paid for this.)
The news coming out of Montpelier this week isn’t all bad. Black Door Bar and Bistro has reopened under new management and will be resuming its live music schedule, beginning this Friday … the 13th. (Cue ominous organ hits.)
The Black Door’s welcome return to the local scene brings a quartet of interesting Montpelier-based acts, all of whom were featured on the recent Golden Dome Musicians’ Collective comp, State & Main Records: Volume 1. If you haven’t checked out that album, I highly recommend it. Love me some local samplers.
The headlining act is a new band called Wildcat, led by possibly my favorite find from the State & Main comp, songwriter Simple Heart — aka Scott Baker. In my review of his two tracks, “June” and “Lucky Strike,” I wrote that Baker reminded me of “a lovely abstraction of early Shins and Evan Dando.” Hyperbole? Maybe. But just barely. Wildcat finds Baker fleshing out his Simple Heart canon with a full band. Given how elegantly he appears to operate as a solo artist, I’m more than a little intrigued.
Did you know that Magic Hat’s official name is Magic Hat Brewing Company and Performing Arts Center? True story. I only know that because I worked there once upon a time. But in the five-ish years I was in the employ of beer baron Alan Newman, I don’t recall ever seeing any performing arts there, of any kind. Unless you count the guys from Teleport singing along to Nickelback on the bottling line. But I digress. That all changes on Saturday, May 21, when the brewery hosts Heavy Fest, a benefit for our old friends Big Heavy World, featuring a smorgasbord of local and regional acts, including Rustic Overtones, Heloise and the Savoir Faire and Waylon Speed. We’ll have the full rundown next week. In the meantime, mark your calendars.
New band alert! Gypsy by Night. These cats are new to town, from Marblehead, Mass., and, according to their Prague-born accordion player Evzen Holas, boast “the most beautiful singer around, maybe in the country.” He’s perhaps a tad biased, since said singer, Karine Poulin, is his wife. But, based on some clips Holas sent my way from a recent performance at the Block Gallery, I agree she’s one talented lady. The multilingual chanteuse guides the band through all manner of global styles, from French cabaret and Eastern European gypsy jazz to Americana and Latin jazz. They’ll be at Muddy Waters in Burlington this Thursday, May 12.
Band Name of the Week: Wombaticus Rex. He’s baaack! The prodigal MC returns to VT this week and next for a slew of performances, beginning Wednesday, May 11, at Club Metronome. Rex — aka Thirtyseven, aka Justin Boland — is one of nine local hip-hop acts contributing to DJ Oh-J Freshhh’s showcase, “The Live Mixtape.” MCs will rotate in a round-robin fashion throughout the night, offering fans a chance to sample each act. Also on the bill: the Lynguistic Civilians, S.I.N.siZZle, Colby Stiltz, Face One, Brutally Honest, Aleck Woog, Memaranda and Rajnii & Entricut. The show is a benefit for Embrace, an organization dedicated to addressing the global infant-mortality rate.