For Vermont music fans, there’s not much left to say about Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. As the song goes, “If you don’t know me by now . . .” While the rest of the world is only now discovering our leggy siren and her merry band of insomniacs, at this point, local folks either love ’em or they don’t. So the band’s upcoming three-night New Year’s Eve stint at the Higher Ground Ballroom isn’t exactly newsworthy ’round these parts. Fans have likely had the dates circled on their calendars since last year’s run. Everyone else, not so much.
But hang on a second. While Potterheads might know what to expect from a GPN show, as was the case last year, the draw for those on the fence about attending this time around might just be the opening acts.
Sunday night, New York City-based experimental indie-folk outfit Phonograph warm up the crowd. Thus far, the band has been largely an underground sensation. But recently they’ve started to gain national notoriety from music mags such as Paste, Magnet and Uncut. Prevailing critical “wisdom” paints them as something of a Tom Petty-meets-Lou Reed-at-Wilco’s-Summerteeth-recording-sessions hybrid. And that’s actually not too far off the mark. Fans of any of the three aforementioned acts will likely find something to dig here.
The following evening might make for the most interesting clash of styles — especially from a people-watching standpoint — as experimental indie collective Akron/Family take the stage. While the band’s heady psych-pop forays may prove too much for the average middle-aged, Subaru-driving GPN fan, the band has an absolutely rabid fan base amongst the local hipster set — many of whom also drive Subarus. And yes, I realize I’m painting in very broad strokes here. And no, the generalizations probably aren’t fair. Still, Akron/Family are about as deliciously cutting-edge as it gets in “indie” music these days. Just ask local experimental provocateur Greg Davis, who frequently moonlights with the group.
And finally, we have the ball-droppin’ Main Event, New Year’s Eve. This night, GPN will be joined by Bill Mullins’ “surf-noir” chameleons Barbacoa — a personal favorite of yours truly, dating back to the late 1990s. What, exactly is surf-noir, you ask? Tough to say, really. Picture Dick Dale dropping acid with David Lynch and you’re warm. Or maybe Ennio Morricone composing for Link Wray. On acid.
Also of New Year’s note is that GPN will once again perform music from a “classic” film — in costume, no less. Last year, they reimagined Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. This year, band manager Cado Burr will say only that they guarantee a “Royal” New Year. I’m thinking The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement. But I’ve been wrong before.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S, NEW YEAR’S EVE?
Of course, “our little Gracie” ain’t the only game in town — or the state — on NYE. Pretty much every joint has a little something cooking on the big night. And, maybe because the economy is in shambles and hometown acts are easier to come by, most of the better options are localvore.
First up, we have Dead Sessions at Club Metronome. If you’re unfamiliar, this is an ongoing “session” focusing on the “Dead.” Any questions? Essentially a local all-star band featuring members of Turkey Bouillon Mafia and a cast of (roughly) thousands, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished group of young musicians. If it’s a Grateful Dead tribute you seek, accept no substitutes.
Downstairs, Nectar’s has The Dave Grippo Funk Band. Another local all-star outfit, this is pretty much Dave Grippo. Playing funk. With a band. Man, this column is writing itself! Seriously, though, these guys are a local institution, and rightly so.
Just up the street, 242 Main has what might amount to the most rockin’ New Year’s this side of Dick Clark with — get comfortable — River City Rebels, Dux, Behavior of Moths, War Elephants, New & Very Welcome, Forever They Said, Young Denver, Jeksel Trio, Pandas Eat Pandas, Phantoms and Even the Score. Now that’s a lineup.
Down the road apiece in Montpeculiar, Langdon Street Café hosts indie-folk darlings Rusty Belle and fellow Northampton psych-jazz outfit The Primate Fiasco, who will apparently join forces for an apocalyptic indie-folk-psych-jazz jam. OK, so it’s not strictly local. But the Golden Dome may never be the same.
Meanwhile, at Charlie O’s . . . does it matter? Best bar ever, remember? In case you need another reason, though, they’ve got rockers Generous Thieves.
If you haven’t heard Lendway’s The Low Red End yet, I highly recommend it — see 7D Top 10 Albums of 2008 list (p. 17B). To hear what all the fuss is about, tune in to “Off the Deep End with Mike Wilhide” on Champ 101.3 FM this Sunday at 8 p.m. The boys will make an in-studio appearance to play cuts from the album and talk about their upcoming show at Red Square the following night. Local rockers Zuzu’s Petals will stop by the studio at 9 p.m. in advance of their January 3 (2009!) gig at Nectar’s.
Word is that Wilhide has been working plenty of local music into his weekly non-formatted show, so it might not be a bad idea to start tuning in anyway.
After compiling the holiday/New Year’s wishes of local musicians and other scene folks (p. 14B), I got to thinking about some of my own. So, if you’ll indulge me — c’mon, it’s my last column of the year — here are a few things I’m hoping for in 2009.