Last week, the local music scene was abuzz when national online media outlet Paste published a list of "10 Vermont Bands You Should Listen to Now." The post, written by a Boston and New York-based freelance writer named Chris Leo Palermino, was part of an ongoing series highlighting lesser-known musical acts in all 50 states. Here's that list:
Caroline Rose, Carton, Cricket Blue, Coquette, Gang of Thieves, MissionCreep, SamMoss, the Vacant Lots, Villanelles and the Write Brothers.
Because the internet is a nurturing and positive place, Palermino's picks were met with warm feelings and gratitude for helping to shine a national spotlight on our vibrant little scene. Differences of opinion were articulated thoughtfully and respectfully, adding vitality, context and insight to the larger conversation on Vermont music.
Juuuust kidding. Y'all tore that sucker to pieces.
Local reaction on Facebook and Twitter could mostly be summed up thusly: "What the fuck?" Also, "How could you not include [insert your favorite egregiously overlooked band here]?" A number of readers emailed in to alert yours truly to the list, most expressing sentiments along those same lines — with a few more persnickety folks noting that not all of the bands listed are currently based in Vermont. Perhaps my favorite email of the bunch came from Brian in Burlington, who wrote, "I assume you've seen this by now. It's so dumb at first I thought you wrote it."
Uh ... thanks?
Anyway, here's my take on the Paste list: I think it's great.
I'm in favor of anything that helps introduce Vermont music to wider audiences. Would my list have been different from Palermino's? Definitely. But I don't have a problem with any of his picks. In fact, I like that he strayed somewhat from conventional local wisdom on the current cream of the crop to include underrated bands such as Carton, Mission Creep and Coquette. I also appreciate that he looked beyond Burlington. There's cool music being made all over the state, not just in the Queen City.
Here's the thing. I could make about a dozen lists of Vermont bands that you should listen to now, from acts that didn't make Paste's list, and any of them is deserving of national exposure. Waylon Speed, Swale, Rough Francis, Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band, Madaila, Maryse Smith, Eric George, Wooden Dinosaur, Paper Castles, argonaut&wasp, Dwight& Nicole, Smooth Antics, Lynguistic Civilians, the DuPont Brothers, Heavy Plains, Phil Yates& the Affiliates, Pours, Ryan Power, Vultures of Cult, Anachronist, HollarGeneral, LowellThompson, Chris Weisman, the High Breaks, Francesca Blanchard...
I could go on. And on. And on. (By the way, go listen to some of those bands right now. I'll wait...)
The point is that no list of the top Vermont bands, especially one limited to a scant 10 names, could possibly get it right, let alone please everyone. That's because there is no right answer — also, there is no pleasing anyone on the internet. (Why are we trying to save the internet again?) Music is a subjective pursuit, so our opinions are always going to differ. That's part of the fun. I mean, imagine if there really were only 10 local bands that we universally agreed were the best. How boring would that be? That there are several times that many artists who belong in the discussion is remarkable and yet another testament to just how lucky we are as local music fans.
In other news, spring is coming. No, really. It is. I know this not because of meteorologically predictive rodents or inside info from my old pal Tom Messner, but because of a local tradition that's as sure a sign of impending spring in Vermont as the running of sap and idiots in shorts on a 35-degree day: the first artist announcements from the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.
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courtesy of alex lalli
Recently the hepcats from the BDJF announced a smattering of headliners for the 2015 fest in June. These included Flynn MainStage shows with Wayne Shorter Quartet (June 5) and trumpeter Chris Botti (June 14), as well as a pair of FlynnSpace shows with the ChristianMcBride Trio (June 13) and the Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (June 10). If you want to remove your mittens to bust out some jazz hands right now, I don't blame you. Tickets for all of those shows are on sale now.
But another interesting announcement from the BDJF is that this year the festival will have its own television show broadcast on Vermont PBS. The series will feature live recordings of eight FlynnSpace shows as well as behind-the-scenes artist interviews. The episodes will be broadcast throughout the year and will be made available to the national Public Broadcasting Service.
In most years, the shows at FlynnSpace offer some of the festival's most transcendent moments. The venue's lineup usually features cutting-edge and up-and-coming acts from across the jazz spectrum — often with some locals thrown in for good measure. That means the BDJF TV show has the potential to be exceptionally cool. Stay tuned...
In other news, the Signal Kitchen empire has expanded. In a recent email, SK owner and creative director Alex Lalli announced that he and his pals have opened a new recording studio and artists' retreat in the Northeast Kingdom dubbed Rebel Yell. The solar-powered facility sits on a large chunk of land in Craftsbury. The main building is a three-bedroom house that features a state-of-the-art analog and digital recording studio. There's also a smaller, satellite cabin for even more seclusion. The remainder of the property's 140 acres has logging trails, ponds and woods.
While the new venture is primarily geared toward recording artists, Lalli views the property as an escape for creative types in any medium. He describes RY as a "unique space for musicians, visual artists and writers to create in an idyllic setting, less the distractions of everyday life." Honestly, that sounds amazing. One question: Does it apply to snarky music editors, too?
There's an intriguing show on tap at Radio Bean ... well, pretty much all of the time. But in particular, the trio of acts slated for the cozy café on Wednesday, March 11, are especially interesting: Ron Gallo, the Lawsuits and Happiness.
Gallo might be familiar to readers as the onetime lead singer of Toy Soldiers, an excellent and critically acclaimed Philly-based rock band that made Burlington a semi-frequent tour stop back in the day. Gallo's solo stuff carries similar appeal, but with a warm degree of earnest, and at times bizarre, whimsy. The Lawsuits, also from Philly, have scored some serious critical acclaim of their own recently, including from the likes of Rolling Stone, Spin and the aforementioned Paste.
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courtesy of happiness
But the band I'm most curious about is Happiness. That's because three of the band's members are also members of Providence art-rockers Deer Tick. I love me some Deer Tick. The band's fourth member and front man is Rafay Rashid, who's also the front man of nifty Rhode Island garage-pop band Ravi Shavi. Based on that pedigree alone, I'm intrigued.
Last but not least, thanks to everyone who wrote in last week, whether via email, Facebook or Twitter, to offer condolences on the recent passing of my mother, Carolyn Wood. The outpouring of support was simply overwhelming, and I couldn't respond to everyone individually. But please know it was deeply appreciated. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
A peek at what was on my iPod, turntable,
eight-track player, etc., this week.