Since May 2009, Nick Mavodones and Paddy Reagan have booked and promoted live music under the name Angioplasty Media. Picking up where Burlington’s now-defunct design and booking collective Tick Tick left off, they’ve been a major force bringing indie acts to Vermont that might have otherwise skipped the Green Mountains on their tours — bands such as Vetiver, Califone, Beach House, Twin Sister, Death Vessel, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and tUnE-YaRdS, among many others.
Angioplasty’s de facto base camp is the Monkey House, the once-sleepy Winooski bar that went through several owners — and closings — before finding its legs with current proprietor Ryan Smith.
The live-music entrepreneurs started hanging out at the Monkey in 2007. Reagan had recently started booking talent for the bar. Mavodones was living next door and would stop by with his girlfriend after his shift managing the box office at Higher Ground, where he still works.
“I think we were the only three customers at that point,” Reagan says during a recent conversation at his music studio. “It was pretty desolate that first January.”
A few months later, Mavodones saw a Tick Tick poster advertising a show for jazz saxophonist Ken Vandermark. Impressed by the poster’s unique design — it was printed on record sleeves — he tried to convince Higher Ground to hire them. But his employers balked.
“I was, like, Fuck it, I’ll just email them,” says Mavodones. Soon after, and unbeknownst to Higher Ground, he commissioned Tick Tick to design posters for Philly-based indie band Dr. Dog, then making their first Vermont appearance at the club. Mavodones ended up paying for the posters out of pocket. “We just handed them out at the end of the show, and I just paid for it because I thought, This seems really cool.”
At the time, Tick Tick was known around town for its hand-drawn design aesthetic and for booking small, highly creative bands, often at underground venues. It wasn’t long before Mavodones helped the collective book songwriter Micah Blue Smaldone and indie-folk band Brown Bird at the Monkey. After the show, Tick Tick’s Dale Donaldson and Julia Lewandoski asked Mavodones if he wanted to book for them on a regular basis.
That summer, Mavodones had lunch with Alex Steed, an old acquaintance from Maine. Steed had created a brand called Angioplasty Media in 1999 as a high school student. He printed and distributed ’zines in Portland, tried to get a vinyl release of local music off the ground, and started a blog. But with plans to move to New York City, the future of his brand was up in the air.
“We sit down to lunch and he’s, like, ‘I’m moving to Brooklyn to be with my girlfriend,’” says Mavodones. “‘Here’s 100 buttons I just made for Angioplasty.’”
“It was like that saying, ‘If you love someone, set them free,’” Steed recalls via email from Maine. “I knew Nick and I knew this group he was hanging with — the Tick Tick folks — and I was, like, Fuck, this dude is way more put together than I am to make this brand great. So I just handed it all over to him.”
Over the next year and a half, Mavodones ran Angioplasty Media not as a booking outlet but as an online resource for locals who wanted to know when and where cool shows were happening. He posted info about Tick Tick shows and other local music, along with photos, links and videos.
In the spring of 2009, Tick Tick dissolved. So Mavodones asked Reagan if he wanted to contribute to the Angioplasty website. Then, one day, as Reagan was sorting out logistics to book Vetiver at the Monkey House, Mavodones had an idea: Why not bill it as an Angioplasty show?
“I liked the concept of what Tick Tick had been doing,” says Mavodones. And as the founding members of that collective departed for larger cities, he realized he wanted to continue to book shows, and that he had made enough connections to do so.
Since then, Mavodones and Reagan have acted as low-key tastemakers, consistently bringing to Burlington musicians who stretch their genres of folk, pop, noise, experimental, country, soul, drone, rock and roll, and more. Brainy music with a rock-and-roll attitude. And now, Angioplasty is not alone. Burlington has a burgeoning promotion scene that includes Matt Mayer and Toby Aronson of NNA Tapes, experimental composer Greg Davis, Matt Rogers of MSR Presents, and Brian Nagle, aka DJ Disco Phantom.
At this point, Angioplasty Media is able to book about half of its shows through requests. The other half results from old-fashioned research into what bands are traveling between Boston and Montréal, and the occasional email from friends. A recent missive was the catalyst for a Saturday night show by Nashville’s Jeff the Brotherhood, which had played in Hanover, N.H., the night before.
As with most DIY endeavors, Angioplasty isn’t a big moneymaker. While its owners have the taste, connections and savvy to pull off shows that no one else in town is booking, attendance is still a crapshoot. Some bands bring in 10 people, others 10 times as many. Ticket sales often cover the band’s guarantee, but occasionally Mavodones and Reagan have to pull out their wallets to come up with the difference. That begs the question: Why do it?
“I really enjoy just pushing something,” says Mavodones, sitting on a plastic chair surrounded by instruments at Reagan’s studio. “It feels like an accomplishment when it all comes together, be it 10 people or a hundred people.”
And, according to Reagan, when they do hit the jackpot with an act, there’s magic in the air that makes all the work worthwhile.
“There are usually three shows a year that we present that I walk away from being, like, Holy shit. I can’t believe that I’m alive right now,” says Reagan. “I’m just floating from the energy of how it happened. Those are the nights when it doesn’t thin out at 12 o’clock and people just feel like they want to hang on to that thing for just a little bit longer.”
Angioplasty Media presents Sharon Van Etten with Maryse Smith, and DJ Disco Phantom, Brett Hughes, on Wednesday, November 3, at the Monkey House in Winooski.