We knew this day would come eventually. But, like any sad news, even when it's inevitable and we've been given time to prepare for it, when it finally comes it's still a shock to the system. So here it is: 242 Main will host its final show on Saturday, December 3.
In case you haven't been following along, this past summer the City of Burlington ordered all tenants of Memorial Auditorium out, citing legitimate safety concerns. Memorial is, to use a technical term, a shithole. But it just so happens to be the shithole that has housed 242 since 1985, making it the oldest all-ages punk-rock club in the country. Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the building, the fate of 242 has weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of many in the local scene, past and present.
Uncertainty is really nothing new for 242. The club is operated by city government and has been a bureaucratic misfit for decades. It was originally founded as a teen center under mayor Bernie Sanders' administration as an extension of the Mayor's Youth Office. It was later handed off to Burlington City Arts, then to Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront. Most recently, 242 — the program, not the space — has come under the stewardship of the Fletcher Free Library. Essentially, 242 is like a troubled orphan bouncing around from foster home to foster home. Nobody really seems to know what to do with it.
Perhaps that's because it's hard to identify what, exactly, 242 is. Is it still a teen center? Is it strictly a punk club? Is 242 really just an idea that has more value as nostalgia to aging generations of punk rockers than it does to the current crop of kids it's supposed to serve? In other words, is it still relevant? If it is, might 242 be able to exist elsewhere? What would that look like?
These are big questions. And the answers deserve more space and thought than this li'l column allows. They really require something like an in-depth documentary helmed by a talented local filmmaker...
Oh, hey! This just in: Talented local filmmaker Bill Simmon — of the excellent film High Water Mark: The Rise and Fall of the Pants — is helming a doc intended to preserve and celebrate the legacy of 242 Main. In a press release sent out this week, Simmon announced that production is beginning, well, right now.
To produce the film, Simmon is teaming up with BTV Parks & Rec, local noble do-gooders Big Heavy World and Vermont Community Access Media. Simmon is VCAM's director of media services.
In the press release, BTV Parks & Rec director Jesse Bridges is quoted as saying that making the doc will "help us reflect on the values that are at the foundation of the city's youth programming." He adds: "We should all celebrate the success of 242 Main, learn from it and put that understanding at the center of what we accomplish for Burlington's teens in the future."
BHW founder Jim Lockridge, perhaps the city's most vocal champion for 242, states, "242 Main is the city's voice for diversity in art and the human experience, fostering social bonds and confidence. It's launched many young people on creative paths that led to fulfilling lives. It has a treasured history of inclusivity and a triumphant legacy of being the nation's oldest, longest-running all-ages punk-rock venue."
Truth. Look for Simmon's doc in 2017. (Disclosure: I've agreed to be interviewed for the film.)
For now, mark December 3 on your calendar. As of this writing, no lineup details have been announced, other than that the show will double as local heavy metal superfan Gary Lane's 50th birthday party. Because of course it will.
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If 242 Main really does go the way of CBGB in December, the club's closure will create a void in the local punk and hardcore scene. So here's yet another question: How to fill it?
The punk scene is pretty resourceful and, by nature, insular. I suspect for the most part, its members will be fine playing basement shows and other teen centers in the area. But it wouldn't hurt if other local clubs opened their doors to more heavy music. Like, for example, Nectar's.
This Tuesday, October 25, the House That Phish Built hosts a punk-rock hat trick featuring three excellent local punk bands: "Scooby doom punk" outfit Doom Service, alt-punks Mr. Doubtfire and pop-punk wunderkinds Better Things.
I know, I know. Especially given its rep for funk and jam, Nectar's seems an unlikely fit as the new home for local punk rock. And maybe that won't happen. But the club's programming is more eclectic than it sometimes gets credit for. And it's already had success in the heavy music scene with the long-running Metal Monday series. True, "Punk Rock Tuesday" doesn't have quite the same alliterative ring as MM, but I could see it catching on. Just spitballin' here...
In other news, the contemporary chamber music series TURNmusic returns this week with a pair of shows: Friday, October 21, at ArtsRiot in Burlington and Sunday, October 23, at the Green Mountain Club in Waterbury Center.
If you're unfamiliar, TURNmusic is a project helmed by local conductor Anne Decker. The concerts feature small ensembles performing contemporary music not typically associated with chamber music. To wit, the upcoming performances are billed as "Music to inspire your Halloween" and include "Murder Ballades" by the National's Bryce Dessner, a suite by RandyWoolf called "Where the Wild Things Are" and Missy Mazzoli's "A Door Into the Dark." The ensemble will also perform some new works by local composer and bandleader Brian Boyes (viperHouse, Big bang Bhangra Brass Band.)
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Speaking of Halloween, our old friend Dan Blakeslee is back in town this week touring as his delightfully spooky alter ego, Doctor Gasp. The New Hampshire-based songwriter will be at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington this Friday, October 21.
If you've never seen Blakeslee's spooktacular, I recommend it. It's a goofy throwback to the likes of Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" and other old-time horror faves. Doctor Gasp and the Eeks' 2013 record, Vampire Fish for Two!, is a regional Halloween classic featuring a mix of campy originals and cult favorites — the band's take on Michael Hurley's "The Werewolf" is especially well done.
Last but not least, I recently conducted an email interview with the great Mike Birbiglia ahead of his Flynn MainStage show this Sunday, October 23. I'm a big fan, so having the chance to pick the comedian's brain, even via email, was a pleasure. But the really cool part was that I had the rare treat of including one of my oldest and dearest friends in the interview.
Steve Waltien is a Shelburne native who has gone on to become a successful improv comedian with Second City in Chicago. Currently, he's a writer for Jon Stewart's new HBO show. More germane to this bit, he was also in Birbiglia's latest film, Don't Think Twice. So I asked Steve to whip up a few questions for Birbiglia, which he happily did. I don't mind telling you, his questions were far more entertaining than mine. Look for that interview on our arts blog, Live Culture, this Thursday, October 20.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc. this week. Follow sevendaysvt on Spotify for weekly playlists with tunes by artists featured in the music section.