Following last week's epic, maybe even historic, rock-and-roll blowout, the live music slate this week seems downright tame in comparison. True, the volume ain't cranked up quite as loud. But we were at a solid 11 last week, which rarely happens. So the bar is set awfully high.
Speaking of awfully high, it's a good weekend to be a jam-music fan. (Rimshot! I'm here all night, folks. Tip your bartender.) This is primarily due to the organizers of the 2015 Lake Champlain Maritime Festival going all-in on the groove-oriented improvisational wiggle rock at Burlington's Waterfront Park. With the presumed exception of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," the fest's marquee acts are all titans of the jam-band circuit. They include local jam torchbearers Twiddle with organ-funk outfit Soule Monde (Friday, August 7); veteran psychedelic jam band moe. with local-ish progressive bluegrass band Cabinet (Saturday, August 8); and Allman Brothers Band guitarist and Gov't Mule founder Warren Haynes with RailroadEarth (Sunday, August 9). By the way, Cabinet are "local-ish" becuase their excellent banjo player, Pappy Biondo, now calls Vermont home. The rest of the band, however, still hails from Pennsylvania.
Here's an interesting side note: Since Higher Ground Presents is producing the concerts, both moe. and Twiddle will play late-night sets at the Higher Ground Ballroom this weekend on the (relative) cheap. Moe. play HG on Friday, Twiddle on Saturday. But here's thing: To buy a ticket to either of those shows, you also have to have a ticket to the band's LCMF show. It's like a combo meal. But if you're a fan of either band, it's actually not a bad deal.
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Courtesy of Moe
Jamming right along, Sunday, August 9, marks the 20th anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death. Not coincidentally, it's also the date of Jerryfest 20, the annual tribute concert at Club Metronome in Burlington organized by the cats from local Dead acolytes Blues for Breakfast. In a recent email, B4B founder and award-winning WIZN radio jock "Mr. Charlie" Frazier writes that this year's show will be a blowout on a fittingly grand scale. He hints at some very special guests in the works but has sworn me to secrecy for now since said guests are not 100 percent confirmed. But if he pulls it off, it will be a major score. (Hint: Hologram Jerry!)
But wait, there's more! Teasing out this extended jam even further, if you still haven't gotten your fix by Sunday, try to hold on until Wednesday, August 12. That night, acclaimed Dead tribute band Jazz Is Dead, recently reunited after a 10-year hiatus to cash in on, er, celebrate the Grateful Dead's 50th anniversary, will play the Rusty Nail in Stowe.
Now that I've fulfilled my annual quota for jam-band writings, let's circle back to some other music at the LCMF, specifically of the free variety.
While the headliners justifiably draw the most attention, the LCMF is traditionally a nifty showcase for local acts. This year is no exception. So you could do worse than amble along the waterfront in the afternoon this weekend to soak in the sounds.
Friday's slate includes ace local folk duo the Beerworth Sisters, who kick things off with an early afternoon set. They're followed by Big Heavy World's "Rocket Shop" Showcase, which features songwriter Patrick Crowley's Americana band, Deep River Saints and fiery fiddler IdaMae Specker. Rowdy and rambunctious, Specker is a hoot live and definitely brings some rock-and-roll swagger to the stage. And as a fiddler, she's the real deal. That's in part due to the tutelage of her dad, renowned fiddler John Specker, who might just have the best press quote in the history of the genre: "The Mick Jagger of old-time music."
On Saturday, catch venerable songwriter Steve Hartmann, who has the distinction of having played every LCMF since its inception. Neat. Also appearing that day are Franklin County bluegrass group Missisquoi River Band, jazz chanteuse Tiffany Pfeiffer and the Discarnate Band, and country rockers Hovey Otis.
Sunday, local indie promotions outfit Malletts Bay Music takes over, presenting a daylong showcase jam- packed with local talent. Performers include Aaron Flinn, the Phil Henry AcousticTrio, Sam Creigh, Adlai Waxman, Emily Nyman, Hartmann, Casey Dubie, the ChristineMalcolm Band and Bow Thayer. Closing out the showcase are gothic folkabilly stalwarts Crazyhearse.
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Courtesy of Michael Cote-Wurzler
In other news, it's time once again for the Vermont Music Fest, which, to refresh your memory, is a music festival. In Vermont.
The sixth annual VMF goes down this Saturday, August 8, at the Lareau Farm in Waitsfield — home of the original American Flatbread, BTW. And as in previous years, the lineup includes a winning mix of local and regional talent. Some highlights include songwriter Marina Evans, Soule Monde, Mad River Valley psych band Main Street Syndicate, Boston-based organ funk trio Po Boyz, California country crooner Chris Cotta and freshly minted Seven Daysies winners the Starline Rhythm Boys, to name a few.
Oh, also, there's a Wiffle ball tournament, which is something I really think more festivals should consider.
Meanwhile, in Morrisville, the annual Hammer Jam festival at Moog's Place is slated for this Sunday, August 9. If you're unfamiliar, the daylong fest is a benefit for the Lamoille County Habitat for Humanity — hence, "Hammer Jam" — and features, well, pretty much every band in that part of the state. Some notable acts rocking the fest's two stages this year include DeadSessions, Sweet and Lowdown, Blue Fox, Eames Brothers Band, Mark LeGrand, SethYacovone, Lesley Grant, the John Lackard Blues Band and Allen Church's String Ensemble with — I'm not making this up — MC Rusty DeWees.
Now, it's unclear from the press release whether the Logger will be MCing as in hosting or rapping. But since the festival runs for, like, 14 hours, I'm inclined to think it could actually be the latter. In which case ... wow.
Last but not least, best wishes to Joe Adler. The longtime music guru at Radio Bean let it be known last week that he has decided to move on from the coffee shop and take a position with Charlotte-based world-music label Cumbancha.
Adler has been the music man behind the Bean since 2011. Prior to that, he handled booking at the now-defunct Thai restaurant Parima — presently the home of Three Needs. When he came on, the Bean was already well established as a local-music hot spot. But I think it's safe to say that under his watch, the joint grew up a little bit. It retained its spunky, eclectic charm, but the quality and quantity of music gracing its tiny stage increased noticeably.
I've long thought of Radio Bean as the local scene's artistic melting pot. Adler embraced that notion, filling its calendar with an incredibly wide array of music that bolstered the shop's special, revered place in the hearts and minds of local music fans. And that's to say nothing of his work organizing and curating the Precipice, which might just be the crowning achievement of his tenure.
More importantly, Adler is a just a good dude and one of my favorite people to work with in the scene. His enthusiasm and genuine passion for Burlington music is infectious and second to none — well, maybe save superfan Tim Lewis. Adler's departure leaves a notable void. And whoever steps in to fill his shoes will find them quite roomy. But they'll also find a venue that's a much better place for having had him there. Thanks, Joe.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable, eight-track player, etc., this week.