Well, here we are, folks, smack in the middle of installment number 25 of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. And man, oh, man, it's pretty awesome. So in honor of the bop, be-bop, post-bop, hip-bop and not-so-hip-bop currently coursing through the veins of our fair hamlet, I'm not going to write a damn thing about jazz in this issue of Soundbites. No, really. Not a word. (Except for the cover story on Ornette Coleman)
At this point you're probably saying to yourself, "What the hell, Dan Bolles?" or some variation on the theme, many of which are likely not suitable for print. To be perfectly honest, if you're not aware of the incredible array of "horny-ness" on the wind at this stage of the game, there's not much I can do for you. You can't walk out your front door this week without tripping over a saxophone.
Rather, let's focus on the breadth of options available for those who may be a tad jazzed out by week's end. Hey, it happens to the best of us, and there's some really cool stuff happening outside the seemingly all-encompassing realm of "jazz." So, without further ado . . .
ROCK OUT WITH YOUR BLOCK OUT
Just because I won't write about jazz this week doesn't mean I won't write about events happening under the umbrella of the jazz fest. To wit, one of my favorite annual B-town events: "The Magic Hat Block Party," or, as it's been renamed this year, "The Magic Hat Street Bizarre" on the Church Street Marketplace.
Pop quiz: Do you know the full name of our hometown not-so-microbrewery? Technically, it is The Magic Hat Brewing Company and Performing Arts Center. True story. While the ever-expanding brew-meisters are obviously better known for their forays into the civil union of apricots and pale ale, a commitment to local arts has always been a cornerstone of the company's vision. Well, that and taking beer-league softball waaay too seriously. But I digress.
This year, the Hat has simply outdone itself with a remarkable lineup of rock, pop and hip-hop showcasing some of the best and brightest acts on the local landscape. Peep this: Farm, The Smittens, The Cush, Led LO/CO, The Aztext, Phish, Grace Potter . . . OK, I lied about those last two. Just wanted to make sure you're paying attention.
In addition to that rock-block of awesome, this Saturday night's festivities will offer not one but two acts as yet unheard in our cozy little scene.
Truck-stop-rock fans the world over are likely still mourning the recent hiatus of denim-fueled speed-western ingénues Chuch. While no one from the band will specifically use the word "break-up," it's safe to say the boys won't be "gettin' the band back together, man" anytime soon. But don't torch those Canadian tuxedos just yet — that's denim-on-denim, for the uninitiated.
The fallout from the quartet's decision to take some time apart has produced two new local bands just a-brimming with promise. The first is Jésus Vanacho, featuring brotherly Chuch rhythm section Justin and Noah Crowther, on drums and bass, respectively. Rounding out the lineup are Lighting Ridge axeman Ethan Ryea and Turkey Bouillon Mafia's Adam King on keys. That band made its debut a few weeks ago at Nectar's, and I'm told it went swimmingly. Definitely a group to watch out for.
The other act to emerge from the ashes will make its debut this Saturday night. The Marsten Lot consists of ex-Chuch members Matt Hayes on pedal steel and Motorhead acolyte Chad "Chitter" Haymaker on electric guitar, ex-Zola Turn bassist Julia Austin and Sambatucada's Bruce McKenzie manning the skins.
So what do they sound like? Well, Chuch, actually. In a classic case of "if it ain't broke don't fix it," Hayes is bringing a few of his old Chuch tunes to the new group and penning fresh ditties along similar lines. So, like I said, don't toss those jean jackets just yet. There's plenty of dirty rockin' still to be done.
Moving down the street a bit, the cobblestone block between Bank and Cherry Streets will turn into "Cabaret Corridor" as Lee Anderson's The Unbearable Light takes to the street for: "A Revue Nu(e) Variety Show Spectacular! Incredibly unimportant! Accordions! Half-naked flying ladies! The world's smallest mandolinist playing the world's loudest mandolin! Societal saturations! Puppet theater! Sobbing armies! Interpretive ballooning! Vaudevillian high-jinx! Beatnik brutalities! Uncomfortably organic! Reassuring mustaches! Damn the torpedos! Damn the floodwaters! Damn everything but the circus!"
Seriously, that was (most of) the press release. Catch 'em now before they head to Bonnaroo later this month with Cccome? Yes, that Bonnaroo.
And I'll pass this along as well: while you're perusing the peculiarities on the Marketplace this Saturday, swing by Red Square and check out up-and-coming funk-soul diva Stephanie McKay, who is as easy on the ears as she is on the eyes. No kidding.
MONKEY SEE, MONKEY (TO) DO
In other news, The Monkey House has a couple of shows in coming days that should please the ears and warm the hearts of local audiophiles.
Friday night, the hipster hot spot hosts a benefit show for Althea Freeman-Miller, a Monkey House barkeep who will spend five months in Brazil teaching water-purification techniques, workshops on agriculture and cultivation, and basic English skills.
Rockin' for the cause will be ex-Lucy Vincent front man Kelly Ravin, up-and-coming songstress Maryse Smith, alt-country troubadour Lowell Thompson, endearingly quirky songwriter Paddy Reagan and his Cannon Fodder cohorts. Expect giveaways, raffles, a whole lot of singer-songwriterin' and, I'm guessing, a "We Are the World"-esque jam session when Cannon Fodder takes the stage.
Wednesday, June 11, the Monkey gets its pop on as Tick Tick presents Pacific Northwest twee icons Tullycraft, with local twee-ty birds The Smittens. The two bands just released a split 7-inch and, though I haven't heard it yet, it's safe to say the record will make you deliriously, infectiously — and perhaps borderline obnoxiously — happy.
TAKE BACK VERMONT (DIVE BARS)!
Lastly, if you were going to set up a summer-long series of punk-rock shows in Burlington, where would you do it? 242 Main? That's the obvious choice, but the "substance-free" policy is a bit of a downer — though it's very commendable! How about Higher Ground? Great rooms, but a bit pricey in the booze department, and punks are a thrifty lot. The same could be said of Nectar's and Club Metronome, though the PB Army seems to do OK there. That really only leaves one option . . .
All summer long, the Main Street bastion of cheap wings and cheaper pickups will be the site of "PBR Punk Nite." Featuring local and regional punk acts, such as Y69, Four on the Floor and the newly minted Slurred Speech — and, of course, Pabst specials — the notorious college dive will transform into Burlington's answer to the late, great Beantown punk Mecca The Rathskeller. Shows are the second Sunday of every month — including this Sunday, praise the Lord.
I recently had a conversation with an old friend who, after waiting in line at a certain local dive — on a freaking Wednesday! — lamented the fact that iconic watering holes such as Esox and The OP have largely become the stomping grounds of drunk college kids. His solution: Strike back and commandeer a college bar. To which I say, let the revolution begin!