It is easy to take the music community for granted. Familiarity even sometimes breeds contempt — or at least apathy. But if that closeness can be suffocating, it is also an asset. It’s what makes Burlington, well, Burlington. And sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us of that.
Last Thursday, June 13, Radio Bean hosted a memorial for local musician Mike Deutsch, who passed away unexpectedly a few days earlier. Deutsch, 41, had been an active musician in town for close to 20 years and played in a number of notable bands, including Outer Mongolia, the Fiddleheads, Black Sea Quartet, Cccome? and, most recently, Space Tiger — the last with his young son, Aidan Patterson Deutsch, on lead vocals and guitar.
I can’t claim to have known Deutsch well. I remember him as an energetic stalwart in BSQ around the time I returned home to Burlington from Boston to rekindle my own music career years ago. I didn’t even know his first name was Mike and not his more commonly used nickname, Meistah, for several years after meeting him. But as he noted in his poignant and funny eulogy that night, his old BSQ bandmate, drummer Jeff Campoli, didn’t, either. I’m guessing we weren’t the only ones. Though I didn’t know Mike Deutsch well, the ripples his life created impacted mine and probably yours as well — even if you didn’t realize it.
It’s said that no man is an island. That sentiment rang true at Radio Bean on that gray Thursday evening. The cozy café was packed with people from all walks of Burlington life who had come to say good bye to a dear friend. Old bandmates came from as far as New Orleans to speak to his intense passion and skill. Longtime coworkers came from Healthy Living, including one who told us that Deutsch helped her grow from an angry teenager into a balanced and happy young woman. There was an old friend who had lost touch but said he could count on seeing Deutsch whenever David Grisman was playing in town.
And there were newer Bean regulars, who have taken the places of older ones as the latter have grown up. Radio Bean owner Lee Anderson said that Meistah’s contributions were essential to his coffee shop, now a vital hub of Burlington’s arts and music scenes. (It’s a long story, but Deutsch almost single-handedly saved Radio Bean with his financial savvy a few years ago.) There were people who, like me, only knew him a little bit. Others, such as a young woman who had written a poem admiring Deutsch from afar, barely knew him at all. There was music, laughter and tears. And later, there was dancing.
It was the kind of night when Burlington’s close community becomes a family, and you think that it can only happen in a place like ours. We might not always get along, we might even resent being stuck together sometimes. But when tragedy strikes — and for the young family he leaves behind, Deutsch’s death can be called nothing less — we come together to support and care for one another the best we can. And we can take a moment to appreciate the lives that surround us and be grateful for the fleeting time we have together.
On a lighter note, Kelly Riel, bassist for local riot-grrrl punk band Doll Fight!, is launching a new record label, Stick Shift Records. In a recent email to Seven Days, Riel writes that the new DIY imprint aims to “more actively promote women’s presence in the punk scene in Vermont” and beyond. The first SSR project is a compilation for which Riel is currently soliciting tracks from “feminist punk bands” from around New England, New York and Canada. She adds that neither the label nor the comp is necessarily exclusive to women, only that interested acts share feminist ideals. In fact, the first band tabbed for the comp, Rhode Island’s the Bitchin’ Aardvarks — Best. Band name. Ever. — is all male. (Connecticut’s 404Error is all female, not all male as originally stated in this article.) For info on the label and how to submit music for the comp, check out facebook.com/stickshiftrecords.
Actually, Stick Shift Records, meet Burlington duo Shark Victim. Shark Victim, Stick Shift Records. Now that we’re well met, Shark Victim have a killer EP due out this week, Scenes on the Outside, that would probably make a gnarly little addition to the comp. It’s bruising, deliciously sludgy lo-fi stuff — SV call it “chaos pop,” which is about right. We’ll have a review of the EP in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, tune in to the band’s release show on 105.9 FM the Radiator this Friday, June 21, at 11:15 a.m. Or grab the cassette version at local record stores or online at sharkvictim.bandcamp.com.
Welcome back, Thompson Gunner. It’s been a while since we last heard from this band, a spin-off of on-hiatus alt-country favorites Split Tongue Crow. TG’s brand of twang is darker and more brooding than STC’s pretty, harmony-laden fare. But their debut, Station Wagons & Empty Parking Lots, was one of my personal favorite local records in 2012. I do love me some cow punk, so take that with the requisite salt lick. Then head over to Nectar’s this Friday, June 21, when the band opens for another ace local group of country-fried rockers, Waylon Speed.
Last but not least, the swank digs at Juniper, the bar at Hotel Vermont in Burlington, got a little hipper when it was announced that local DJ and promoter Luis Calderin has signed on as the bar’s music director. To start with, Calderin is curating a weekly Friday residency he’s dubbed the Carnival. It will feature an eclectic mix of DJs and bands from week to week, including Calderin himself this Friday, June 21. Additionally, the bar will host local jazz giant Ray Vega every Wednesday and more live music on Saturdays.