Jeez, you people are slipping. After last week’s — admittedly mostly tongue-in-cheek — admission that I was having a hard time getting worked up for the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival this year, I expected the usual flood of emails from prickly jazz heads accusing me of anti-hepcat bias. But my inbox remained eerily quiet, suggesting you’ve either stopped reading this column (uh-oh) or, perhaps worse, you were feeling the same way.
Whatever the case, I’m happy to report I’m rounding into mid-festival form. After a weekend of bopping, bebopping and post-bopping in and out of various concert halls and clubs — with a brief detour to keep tabs on the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Go BROOOONS!) — I’m getting my groove back. And judging from the crowds crawling all over downtown Burlington, you are, too.
Friday’s block party was, as usual, a great night to be out and about. Though I could have handled a little more in the way of actual jazz on the marketplace stages and maybe a smidge less on the funk, reggae and funk-reggae — and reggae-funk — end of the spectrum, there is always an undeniable energy in the air on the fest’s opening night. Which reminds me…
Hey, people in charge of Burlington’s comically uptight liquor laws: Would it kill you to allow one or two nights per year when adults are allowed to do adult things in public? I’m not saying we need to turn Church Street into Bourbon Street — though I’m not not saying that. But wouldn’t a beer garden or two in view of the Church Street stages be a nice — and, frankly, obvious — addition to the evening’s festivities? Especially since said festivities are sponsored by a friggin’ beer company. It seems to work out OK at every other major jazz festival on the planet. Just a thought.
Where was I? Oh, right. Jazz.
Another highlight of the weekend was catching local all-female all-star band Steady Betty (formerly Panty Town) at American Flatbread. And, yes, I realize the irony in wanting more jazz at the block party and then claiming a rocksteady band as a high point of the weekend. I think that actually says more about how good Steady Betty are than it is a critique of any jazz I saw. They are quickly rising among the ranks of my favorite local acts.
For my next trick, I’m going to review a show I haven’t actually seen yet, since it falls on the night after I write this column. This is called “futu-reviewing,” folks, and it’s high-level music-crit stuff. Don’t try it at home. Anyway, the Saturn People’s Sound Collective’s set at the FlynnSpace on Tuesday was simply transcendent, not merely a local highlight, but a festival topper, period.
And that just about brings us up to date. So, with the BDJF’s opening act in the books, let’s take a look at some potential highlights in the second half, shall we?
The big ticket on Thursday, June 6, is obviously Dumpstaphunk and the Soul Rebels at Waterfront Park — see the interview with Dumpstaphunk founder Ivan Neville this week. But there are a few good low-ticket — and no-ticket — shows on the books that night, too. I’d say porn-prog mavens Japhy Ryder at Halvorson’s should be a scorcher, as should local soul man Josh Panda at Red Square. As for more straight-ahead jazz, Shane Hardiman’s beefed-up “supertrio” at Radio Bean is highly recommended. Actually, his weekly Thursday residency at the Bean comes recommended regardless.
Friday’s underground highlight has got to be keyboardist STRONG>Marco Benevento playing a solo piano set at Radio Bean. And if you’ve caught any of his previous gigs there, you probably already know he’s worth squeezing into the Bean’s cozy confines to see. I’d suggest showing up early, catching Michael Chorney’s revived avant-garde jazz outfit Orchid and camping out for the night. Or you could chill at Flatbread and catch up with our old pal Parker Shper, who comes back to the festival from Montréal every year to remind us that he’s one of the more innovative and talented young jazz musicians to ever call Vermont home. Also, it’s worth pointing out that local blues man Seth Yacovone has reconstituted the Seth Yacovone Band. You can check ’em out at Nectar’s, opening for funksters — and, presumably, fans of the underrated hip-hop spoof Fear of a Black Hat — Bootyjuice.
I’m not going to lie, Saturday is going to prove problematic, as two of the fest’s marquee shows line up against one another, with reggae superstar Barrington Levy at the Waterfront Tent and last week’s cover girl, Gretchen Parlato, at the FlynnSpace. Fortunately, Parlato is playing two shows. My plan is to go the Waterfront early and then sneak up the hill for Gretchen’s late set. Sweet, sweet Gretchen…
If you get shut out of the FlynnSpace, I’d point you to Nectar’s, where Barika will be throwing down some serious n’goni grooves. You could also drop by the newly minted Hotel Vermont for an evening with sax monster Brian McCarthy, who recently released one of the best local jazz albums in years, This Just In.
The closing Sunday of jazz fest is always a pretty low-key day as strung-out hepcats emerge from a 10-day jazz bender. So how about a gypsy-jazz brunch at the Bean with the Bohemian Blues Quartet to take the edge off? Or, for later risers, maybe get a look at Honky Tonky Tuesday offshoot Belle Pines, a collaboration between Brett Hughes and Lesley Grant, who are playing an afternoon set at Flatbread. Later in the day, I’d recommend the neobop stylings of the Greg Tardy Quartet at FlynnSpace, since the next time they come around they’ll probably be headlining the MainStage. Or, if you’re feeling jazzed out, dig on the delightful weirdness of ex-Modern Lovers frontman Jonathan Richman at Club Metronome
Whatever you do and whomever you see, have fun out there. Because, as some guy from some band whose name I can’t remember playing the block party last Friday put it, “This is a really special festival. You guys are lucky to have it. Jazz is so cool, man. Now, here’s a Stevie Wonder song!”
In non-jazz news, the lineup for this year’s Valley Stage Festival in Huntington was recently announced, and it’s a good’un, including the DuPont Brothers, Modern Grass Quintet, Joy Kills Sorrow, the Stray Birds and headliners Red Tail Ring. If you’re curious about that last band, you can catch them this Saturday, June 8, at On the Rise Bakery in Richmond. And for more on the Valley Stage, check out valleystage.net.
Last but not least, we’ve been running this little contest on ye olde internet in which fans can vote for their favorite local band to play this year’s Grand Point North Festival. And it’s had a pretty overwhelming response. The voting closes this Wednesday, June 5, at 5 p.m. So if you haven’t already, log onto 7dvt.com and let your voice be heard. As of press time, it seems two bands, the DuPont Brothers and the Al Moore Blues Band, have begun to run away from the field. But there is plenty of time left for a dark horse or three to make a run. So be sure to tune in this Friday, June 7, when we announce the winner.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.
Four Tet, Rounds
Mount Kimbie, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
Surfer Blood, Pythons
Barrington Levy, Here I Come