I write this column on Monday morning. Before I come into the office I try to formulate some idea of how it will flow, over a cup of coffee and a stroll through Battery Park with my half-crazy, half-pit bull, Buckley. And, yes, he’s named after Jeff Buckley. But I didn’t name him.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken to leading my columns with a series of rants. It hasn’t been a calculated move, simply a product of the ebb and flow of my email inbox. Plus, rants are fun to write — and I hope, to read. It seems you folks have had a lot on your minds lately, and it’s proved fertile column fodder.
Anyway, as Buck and I made our daily rounds this particular morning, past lampposts, bushes, park benches and other assorted objects of interest/in need of peeing upon (by the dog), I realized that, for the first time in weeks, I had nothing to rant about. Nada. I felt an eerie calm as I stared out into the crisp fall air, while a flock of geese made their way south, brassy early morning light glinted off an increasingly snowy Whiteface Mountain and mirrored in a still Lake Champlain. All seemed truly, gloriously right with the world.
And then it hit me. Instead of music views, I was going to have to lead with … music news. Oh, the horrors!
So it was that I strolled to work this morning, mentally cobbling together a fluid narrative for this week’s choicest bites. I settled into my chair, fired up the ol’ MacBook and put my game face on. But just as I was set to begin writing, an email with this provocative subject heading appeared in my inbox: “Your Mojo.”
In a word, jackpot.
The missive was sent by reader Jonny Adler — of The Skinny Pancake Adlers. In it, he wonders if I have “lost my mojo,” since, despite my best column-ly efforts, the recent performance by kickass San Fran outfit Or, the Whale at Club Metronome seemed, in his estimation, woefully unattended.
“I thought you had SERIOUS pull,” writes Adler, bemoaning the evening’s paltry turnout — which he put at less than one-third capacity. He goes on to suggest that I scold you, loyal readers, for not following my advice and catching the show — though he worries that you may stop being my readers if I did. (That part doesn’t worry me so much. You folks know I scold because I love, right?)
Well, I can’t very well chew you out for not going to that show, mostly because I missed it, too — see “Monday morning, write column” above. But Adler, in his own button-pushing way, brings up an interesting point. I occasionally wonder how much “pull,” for lack of a better term, this column really has. You know that saying that you’re never as good or as bad as anyone tells you? There’s a corollary. Is a mention here hugely important for a band’s success on a given night? Sometimes. And sometimes it’s not. Though you have to wonder how a relatively unknown, out-of-town band playing a Sunday-night show at Metronome would have fared had I not mentioned them. My guess: worse.
The point is that this column is merely a filter. Chances are, you don’t have the time to comb through the club listings each week and research every band in order to plan your live music itinerary. But I do. And this little corner of the music section is simply where I tell you what I’ve found. What you then do with that info is entirely up to you. Just know that if I’m mentioning a band or show here, it’s because I’m pretty sure a good percentage of you will find it interesting. For example, the New Familiars and local tunesmith Josh Panda at the ’cake this Thursday. Just sayin’…
So there you go, Jonny. Test the theory. But if that show does well and I retain my mojo, I demand my own crêpe.
Speaking of The Skinny Pancake, the remainder of its calendar this weekend is similarly stellar. Friday, the crêperie presents Asheville songwriter Utah Green, who is equal parts Appalachian hillbilly and Feist-ian chanteuse. Really. Then, on Saturday, they welcome Rhode Island’s Brown Bird, about whom, according to the ’cake website, I recently wrote, “I love this band. Like, a lot.” And I do. (And no, I didn’t just pimp those two shows to boost the odds of a Dan Bolles Crêpe.)
In non-crêpe-related news, local pop prince Gregory Douglass seems to have taken local neo-soul siren Myra Flynn under his wing. In a recent email, Flynn marveled at his sage guidance, summing up the experience with this line: “He rocks.” Agreed. And few local songwriters know the ins and outs of the music-biz wringer like Douglass does, so Flynn could do worse for a mentor. This Saturday, the dynamic duo — who have been cowriting some new tunes — splits a bill at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge.
In other local-songstress news, Montpeculiar’s Sara Grace has a big weekend lined up. Friday night she rocks Burlington’s Red Square, with an assist from ace trombonist Andrew Moroz. The following night she’s throwing a special benefit at the Langdon Street Café to benefit, well, herself. Sound a little fishy? Maybe. But she’s a good cause. Grace needs the cash to finish a long-awaited new album. Giovanni Rovetto’s newly reconfigured outfit Pnuema opens.
Sticking with the cozy capital café, local blues man Dave Keller hosts an all-star jam there this Sunday, following a screening of Queen of the Blues: A Portrait of Koko Taylor at the Savoy Theater. The hour-long doc gets up close and personal with the legendary blueswoman, who died in June. Keller’s jam will focus on the Grammy-winning singer’s tunes and will reportedly feature a load of local divas — though precisely who is not known as of press time. Proceeds from the screening and the show benefit the Koko Taylor Celebrity Aid Foundation.
One more Montpelier plug: It’s nice to see Positive Pie 2 back in the live music game after a recent hiatus. And this Saturday the venue hosts a killer, excuse me, killah show, once again courtesy of those industrious lads at Halogen Media: one time Wu-Tang Clansman Killah Priest. I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that the dude doesn’t play many pizzerias, so this show could be something special.
Sliding over to Middlebury, local songwriter Patrick Fitzsimmons has a big show coming up at the Town Hall Theater this Friday. And who knows? Maybe he’ll dish the dirt on the recently announced reunion shows for his old band, 1990s alt-rock darlings From Good Homes.
Last but not least, welcome home, Greg Davis. The Burlington-based experimental music auteur has spent the last few weeks in the land of the rising sun — that would be Japan — and is home for a cup of tea before heading west with Sun Circle in a couple of weeks. Despite the hectic schedule, he’s managed to put together a typically intriguing show at the Firehouse Gallery on Wednesday, October 21— aka the day this paper comes out. Slated to appear — Greg’s descriptions in quotes — are Josef Van Wissem (“palindromic lute music from the Netherlands”), Che Chen and Robbie Lee (“new music from old instruments”) and Myrmyr (“strings and electro-acoustic music from Oakland”).