With the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival set to kick off in little more than a week, excitement is building over the impending 10-day jazzenanny. So naturally we begin this week with ... comedy.
Relax, hepcats. We'll have loads of BDJF stuff for the next two weeks — and even a jazzy little tidbit later in this very column. But two Burlington-area comedy happenings this week deserve your attention.
First is the welcome return of standup comedian Hannibal Buress, who headlines a three-night run at the Higher Ground Ballroom Wednesday through Friday, May 25 to 27. That Buress is pulling the rarely seen HG triple play should give you some indication of just how big the comic has become.
I interviewed Buress back in 2014, ahead of a one-night stand at HG, just before he truly broke out. At the time he described himself as "bar famous," meaning he could generally walk the streets without being pestered by fans, but that he would sometimes be recognized at bars. "Drunks know me," he said. It seems drunks were ahead of the curve.
The next time he played Burlington, in 2015, Buress sold out the Flynn MainStage. And now he's back for the kind of three-night Ballroom run typically reserved for New Year's Eve or the occasional Dark Star Orchestra stint. Dude is now among the most recognizable comedians on the planet — and, in my humble opinion, for good reason.
Speaking of fame and comedy, this Thursday, May 26, the Vermont Comedy Club in Burlington hosts the next installment of its monthly Vermont Famous improv series. If you're unfamiliar, here's the gist:
Each month the show features a local celebrity — someone who is "Vermont famous," get it? As the show begins, said celeb is interviewed about his or her life and career. Then the local long-form improv team the Unmentionables improvises a series of scenes based on the answers. Hilarity ensues. No, really. It's often hysterically funny. And I suspect the Unmentionables will have plenty of material for funny fodder this week.
Sitting in the hot seat this Thursday is none other than Guster front man Ryan Miller. In truth, Miller is probably a little more than Vermont famous. He might just be famous famous. He's also an incredibly interesting guy. In a cover story I wrote about him in 2014, Miller referred to himself as a "high-functioning weirdo," which is pretty much spot on. So, if you're a fan of improv — or Guster — or have just been meaning to check out the comedy club, Thursday would be a good night to find yourself at VCC.
Lending a (Jazz) Hand
As noted earlier, the BDJF is set to begin on Friday, June 3. But if you just can't wait that long to dig into some serious grooves, I've got good news! On Wednesday, June 1, your rent is probably due. Also that night, new local all-star band Soule Indomitable begin a four-week Wednesday residency at Nectar's in Burlington.
If you're a particularly savvy fan of local music, you likely have figured out that SI are a hybrid of two venerable Vermont acts: organ groovesters Soule Monde and R&B heavyweights the Indomitable Soul Band. The quartet features Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski of SM and Bob Wagner and Josh Weinstein from ISB. Those, by the way, are four of the most badass players Vermont presently has to offer.
Joining the band for the opening night of their residency is another fairly new entrant to the local scene, art-groove ensemble Tyler Mast & Paradise Divide. Their recent debut EP, Stereo Esteria, is one of the most exciting recordings to come out of the local jazz sphere in a while. Residency guests in future weeks include New Orleans funky bunch Naughty Professor (June 8, and headlining the show for BDJF), local funk rockers B.U.M.F. (June 15) and the Family NightBand (June 25).
I have to admit, I'm rather smitten with Soule Indomitable's clever hybrid name. And it got me thinking about some other local band mashups I'd like to see — or ones that are at least kinda funny when you put them together. For example...
Swalen Speed (Swale and Waylon Speed), Black Button (BlackRabbit and Blue Button), Apartment 37 (Apartment 3 and rapper Thirtyseven), Mad Francis (Madaila and Rough Francis), the Mountain Says Blah (the Mountain Says No and Blahvocado) and, my personal favorite, the Spittens (Spit Jack and the Smittens).
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In other news, after kind of a quiet stretch, Pine Street secondhand shop Speaking Volumes has begun hosting live music on a more regular basis. This week brings the next installment of the Not So Secret Show series on Thursday, May 26. The lineup features local rockers Phantom Suns, Boston's Diane Jean & the Clever Girls and Nashville-based noise-punk band Ground Water Mafia.
Staying in the South End Arts District for a minute, another cool local series is making its second appearance: Funky Town at ArtsRiot on Saturday, May 28. Hosted by DJs Wobblyhead and Mean Martin, this show is designed to be something like an early after-party — in other words, where you want to end up after hitting the bars or seeing other shows. There's even a "disco bus" departing from the corner of Church and Main streets to whisk you safely from downtown to ArtsRiot.
When you get there, you'll find dance floor-shaking cuts courtesy of Wobblyhead and Mean Martin. Oh, and the kitchen will be open late, meaning you can skip the 2 a.m. Rise and Shiner from Kountry Kart for once.
In other ArtsRiot news, on Wednesday, May 25 — aka the day this paper comes out — the hip South End haunt is hosting A Devastation Celebration: Come Together (Right Now). The show is a benefit for the victims of the house fire on Hyde Street in Burlington on Wednesday, May 18. The blaze displaced six people, among them Katy Hellman, who is a member of the local band Karavan.
Cumbancha's Joe Adler is organizing the event and, utilizing the skillz he honed booking for Radio Bean and Parima, has corraled quite a lineup. Bands slated to appear include Rumblecat, Binger (see the review of their new album here), Phantom Airwave, the Original Q, Shane and the Apothecaries, Leatherbound Books, and the North End Honeys. Adler also hints at a "very special guest" that he can't announce. Who that might be is anyone's guess, but, knowing Adler, you can bet the mystery act will be a gem.
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Last but not least, I need to stress that I am not making up any of the following, OK? Here we go.
For the past several weeks, the folks at the Champlain Valley Fair have been rolling out show announcements highlighting some of the bigger acts that will grace the fair's main stage at the end of the summer. So far it's been a fairly typical blend of classic rock, pop-country and mainstream pop, which is all well and good. But earlier this week, the fair folks sent a press release that I'm still not sure I believe. Again, I'm not making this up.
On Sunday, September 4, the I Love the '90s Tour will close out the 2016 Champlain Valley Fair. The show is a nostalgic throwback to high-top fades and parachute pants. Here is the lineup — which I am still not making up: Salt-N-Pepa (with Spinderella), Vanilla Ice, Coolio, Tone Loc, Color Me Badd and Young MC.
Yes, really. And tickets go on sale this Friday, May 27.
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.