One of these years, I want to run the Radio Bean marathon. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, that’s because I just invented it right now. Essentially, it entails showing up at the annual Bean birthday bash and staying from the opening gun at 8:00 in the morning, crossing the finish line at 2 a.m., and taking in every single act that plays in between — this year, that would have been close to 70 bands.
One, I think it would make for a cool story — or at least an epic live-blog session. Two, it would be a grueling test of rock-and-roll endurance. And three, by doing so, I wouldn’t subject myself to disgruntled musicians being upset that I missed their band playing because I left for a bit to — gasp! — eat dinner and recharge my batteries.
This year I popped in and out of the Bean birthday party a few times over the course of the day and well into the evening. And much as Lee Anderson had promised, I can say it was probably the most enjoyable Bean birthday I’ve been to. I’ve lost count of exactly how many that is, but I’ve attended most of them, whether as a fan, performer or, in recent years, That Guy From Seven Days.
The highlights from the day — and night — are almost too numerous to mention, which will happen when you’ve got bands playing every 15 minutes. But I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share. In no particular order…
› Rebekah Whitehurst of the Cave Bees provided perhaps the most punk-rock thing I’ve ever seen when she stepped to the stage with her infant daughter strapped to her back, and the band proceeded to play just about the rockingest set of the day. (Chill out, uppity parents. The kid was wearing industrial-strength ear protection. F-35s coulda blown through the Bean and she wouldn’t have heard a thing.)
A few people I spoke to remarked about the increased number of kids and babies at the party this year. I guess, as a collective scene, we’re getting a little older. So it’s nice to be reminded that growing up and rocking out aren’t mutually exclusive. Also, that kid is probably gonna be the coolest person you or I will ever know. Unless she rebels against her rock-and-roll parents and becomes, well, something else.
› Josh Panda. Hot damn. This was my first chance to see Panda’s newly constituted outfit, Joshua Panda and the Hot Damned — see what I did there? The new four piece — guitar, drums, vox and keys — provides the Kung Fu Panda with a decidedly leaner, pop-centric aesthetic. Though still soulful as hell, he seems to be moving away from the rootsy Americana sound he’s best known for and into gutsier rock and roll. It’s an interesting move and one that could pay off beyond the cozy confines of the Green Mountains. There have been whispers of big things on the horizon for Panda. Judging by what I heard, it wouldn’t surprise me to see those rumors materialize. Stay tuned.
› Speaking of new acts, I might have a new local favorite in Panty Town — that’s the name of the band, not a creepy derivation of Burlington’s “Girlington” nickname. A local all-star group, the rocksteady band is fronted by Miriam Bernardo and Kat Wright and includes Doll Fight!’s Jane Boxall and Christine Mathias — on drums and sax, respectively — Linda Bassick on guitar, Caroline O’Connor (Vedora) on bass and Danielle Koplinka-Loehr on trumpet.
Rude and reckless in my younger days, I’ll always have a soft spot for ska and, by extension, its laid-back cousin, rocksteady. (Bonus points to you if you caught the Slackers reference there.) Playing only their second show, Panty Town were remarkably polished and delivered an instantly likable and soulful rocksteady groove that had me longing for my old skinny tie and checkered suspenders. The band is a side project and all of its members have main gigs that will likely keep them busy. So who knows how often they’ll play live? But they’re worth seeking out when they do — such as when they play an acoustic set at the Bean this Sunday, November 11, as part of the Girls Rock VT showcase.
This week, Burlington will say goodbye to one of its longest-running and most highly regarded bands, Pulse Prophets. The reggae outfit is calling it a career after about a decade with a show at Nectar’s this Friday, November 9. And I, for one, will be sorry to see them go.
That last statement may come as a surprise to regular readers. This column has something of reputation for being harsh to irie-island music. Perhaps you’re thinking, Isn’t this the guy who hates reggae?
Nope. I really dig reggae — see “ska, rocksteady” above. This is the guy who hates bad reggae and gets pissy when the genre is co-opted by bands who think it’s just music to get blazed to or a vehicle through which to spout disingenuous mystical shit. It’s a complicated relationship, I know.
Anyway, I’ve always found Pulse Prophets to be one of the most genuine reggae acts working in the region. It’s “higher conscious” stuff, which can be a little suspect in the wrong hands. But the Prophets seem to come by their worldview honestly and are positive without being preachy. It’s a fine line that Pulse Prophets have navigated deftly over the years. Plus, they can throw down some serious roots-reggae grooves, which never hurts.
Happy trails, guys.
Since we’re on the birthday beat, bonne anniversaire to the folks over at local online radio station WBKM.org — tagline: “Burlington’s kinda music.” The station celebrates in style at Nectar’s this Saturday, November 10, with an all-star band led by my favorite ginger axe man — apologies to Trey — Bob Wagner. I’m told dudes will be tearing through some Derek and the Dominos tunes, including, obviously, “Layla.”
› Word on the street is that the opening rounds of the Funniest Comic in Vermont contest at Levity last weekend were simply riotous. I couldn’t attend — see “Radio Bean,” above — but I’ll do my best to drop by the semifinal and final rounds at Club Metronome this Friday and Saturday, November 9 and 10, when the 14 comics who advanced — out of 37 — square off for the right to represent Vermont at the Funniest Comic in New England competition next year. And you should, too.
› Last but not least, the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction is now fully operational after a weird hiatus this summer. The venue is throwing a grand reopening party this Saturday, November 10, featuring R&B act Dixie Dee and the Diamonds and a fancy new bar. Here’s hoping TMH 2.0 fares better than the beta version. But either way, at least there’s booze.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Each Other, Heavily Spaced
You Won’t, Skeptic Goodbye
Bleeding Rainbow, Yeah Right
Social Studies, Developer
The Slackers, Redlight